Using vintage scissors for both decorating and their intended purpose is a great way to combine style and practicality. I’ll show you my small collection of scissors and give you ideas to get started.
The beginnings of my collection
I never had any intentions to collect vintage scissors. However, I do use scissors regularly in all my crafty hobbies, and their unique form and function has always appealed to me. I already owned many pairs of modern scissors, but I didn’t have plans for more.
But that all changed. On our honeymoon, we spent a morning at the Portobello Road Market in London, which is a very large flea market. We didn’t buy much that day, but one of the items we did buy was a really neat pair of vintage scissors. We didn’t know anything about them, other than we liked the shape and the patina they had.
They have a maker’s mark on them – a V (with a crown symbol) R, followed by Hall & Colley. It is difficult to find out much information about Hall and Colley. They existed from 1845 to about the late 1860s, and were located on Eyre Lane in Sheffield, England. Hall and Colley made scissors, razors and table blades. The VR mark was for Queen Victoria, and it functioned as a sort of royal approval for the quality of the product.
When we got home, I didn’t use the scissors. They just sat on display in my sewing room, a neat souvenir but nothing more.
To read more about vintage items we like to collect on our travels, check out Meaningful Souvenirs: My Top 5 Things to Collect While Travelling.
My collection grows
Some years after our scissors purchase in London, my in-laws gifted me with two other pairs of smaller vintage scissors. By coincidence, they are both a very similar shape and style to the first pair.
The smallest pair also has a maker’s mark on it. It reads United Cutlery Co, Germany. I couldn’t find out much of anything about that company. But I did learn that the funny notch in them means they are button-hole scissors.
I had to look up how they work, but they’re actually really ingenious. When you need to cut a button-hole open, you can safely put the fabric that’s between the button hole and the edge of the garment into the notch (which prevents it from being cut) while you cut open the buttonhole with the tips.
The medium sized, darker pair of scissors only contain one small marking, which I believe to the imprint of a spade. I haven’t yet made any progress in identifying the maker of these scissors.
Using my vintage scissors
Anybody who sews knows that you only cut fabric with your fabric scissors. Cutting paper with them will make them dull, and there’s many internet jokes about what happens when husbands and kids use mom’s fabric scissors for paper.
I had a pair of scissors that I loved that were my multiple purpose, non-fabric, and paper cutting scissors. At least, they were my favourite until one time I tried to cut some thick wire with them and put a huge knick in one blade. After that, they wouldn’t open and close correctly. Oops! Let that be a warning to you – apparently there’s a good reason to not be lazy and go get the wire cutters from the basement.
Because of that mistake, I’ve needed a pair of scissors to cut out my paper sewing patterns, and in a moment of frustration one day, I grabbed my large vintage Hall and Colley scissors. And I was amazed! They cut paper really well. Since then I’ve used them to cut paper and am quite pleased that something that was decorative has now become useful. It’s even more mind blowing knowing that I’m using scissors that are between 155 and 175 years old. Hall and Colley created scissors to last.
The button-hole scissors still cut well and work for their intended purpose. But until I researched them for this blog post, I hadn’t known what they were and therefore I haven’t used them. I might try them out in the future instead of a seam ripper. They would benefit from a thorough cleaning first though.
The other unidentified scissors also cut cleanly, but are slightly misaligned and tight at the end of the blades. I need to bend them back into shape.
Other kinds of scissors to think about
There are so many different sizes, styles and purposes of scissors out there to collect and use. There are extremely elaborate small sewing scissors, and old school scissors. One item I’ve come close to buying and would still like to buy one day is a pair of very large tailor’s shears. Any that I’ve come across have been quite expensive, however.
An interesting fact: I learned that scissors are no longer called scissors, but instead called shears when they are more than 10 inches long and have one hole that is more oval for multiple fingers. Therefore, scissors were typically symmetrical with equal holes and shears were not. (Nowadays, many scissors are not symmetrical so I’m not sure this rule holds true in present day).
How to display vintage scissors
I currently display my scissors in a vintage cage-style flower frog. Because the bottom is open, I have to make sure that the tips of my scissors are not scratching the table. But I like that I can see the whole shape of the scissors. The grouping becomes almost sculptural.
Other ideas include storing scissors in a vintage teacup, mug, short vase or crock.
I also love the idea of displaying scissors on a big peg board among other crafting tools, or in a workshop. This would work well for an oversized pair of tailor’s shears. I would rest them horizontally on hooks to emphasize the non-symmetrical shape.
You can also hang scissors from the pegs of a peg rail. Another idea is to hang vintage garden shears from a hook near a potting station, or hang them in the kitchen for trimming herbs.
Improving or maintaining the function of vintage scissors
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Recently, I’ve been using and cutting printable Sulky Sticky Fabri-Solvy Stabilizer a lot for felt embroider projects. It’s a great product that cuts like paper, and I’d be tempted to use my vintage scissors to cut it. However, the stabilizer is an adhesive stabilizer layer stuck onto a removable backing, and it can leave a sticky residue on scissors that are used to cut it. For this reason, I don’t use my good fabric scissors for these tasks. But I’m also careful not to use my vintage scissors either, instead saving them for dry, non-sticky cutting tasks. If I needed to use Goo-Gone to clean them, I might ruin their beautiful patina.
In order to make my other two pairs of vintage scissors more functional, I will need to put in a little bit of effort. The unidentified scissors need someone to carefully bend the tip of one blade. And I am also going to attempt to clean my button-hole scissors before using them. But that’s a project for another day.
For more practical vintage, check out the post: Old Wood Boxes and Drawers for Practical Storage Solutions.
To read about my favourite modern scissors for sewing and crafting, check out “Perfect Scissors”.
Would you use vintage scissors?
Using vintage scissors can be a great way to reuse a vintage item, while also having a beautiful object that’s worth displaying.
I love being able to use and decorate with my vintage scissors. But nonetheless, that doesn’t mean I’m going to get rid of all my modern scissors. They all have a purpose, and I say, the more scissors the merrier! Just be sure not to run with them 🙂
Would you use vintage scissors in your own home? What other kinds of vintage tools do you love to use? Let me know in the comments below.
All the best,
I’ve got my great grandma’s shears and pinking shears ( 1910). I use them for most of my quilt making. Had them sharpened and the man tried to buy them off me. Love the fact that they have made generations of wedding dresses and regular clothes.
That’s so wonderful Beth! It’s even more meaningful that you have vintage scissors that belonged to your great grandma, who also used them for sewing. I’m sure your great grandma would be just thrilled that you’re using them to make quilts. Thanks for sharing! 🙂
I love antiques, this post makes me so happy to see vintage scissors not only reclaimed, but used in modern day life!
Thanks Emma – I’m so glad you enjoy antiques and being able to use them too.