Cutting Paper with Scissors

Diane Helentjaris
4 min readMar 23

Is it as bad as they say?

Photo by author.

My aunt, at ninety-one, broached the subject of my great-grandmother Rosalie’s sewing cabinet more than once. She wanted me to have it when she passed away. I did. My cousin Dennis pulled it out of the estate sale. He said, “I don’t know, Diane, if you really want this. It’s well, you’ll see.” He stowed it away till my brother Greg could drive fifty miles to fetch it. My brother kept it in his shed till I drove through four states and brought the little cabinet home. Humble and rickety, it sits in my garage awaiting my husband’s ministrations to return it to functionality. Along with Rosalie’s cabinet came wooden spools of shiny silk thread, embroidered patches, fancy ribbon, odd-ball sewing gizmos, a bushel basket of still-in-the-wrapper 1970s Talon zippers, and three beat-up pairs of scissors. The scissors, their cutting days over for decades, likely belonged to Rosalie or her mother, treasured like the cabinet for sentimental reasons.

Scissors. For most of us, they are the first tool with any complexity that we use. By three or four years of age, pudgy fingers slip into the holes of round-tipped scissors to cut paper — or maybe a younger sibling’s hair. Scissors are ubiquitous and come in an infinite variety, which should be no surprise for a tool dating back at least four thousand years. Particular groups claim their own variety of scissors: curved Mayo, straight Mayo, and Metzenbaum scissors are for surgeons, (hair) shears are for barbers, pinking shears are for seamstresses, and craft scissors are for hobbyists.

Compliments of the Graphics Fairy

There are rules for scissors. Surgical scissors must be sterilized or tossed out after one use. Running with scissors is generally discouraged. Rock beats scissors; scissors beat paper. But the biggest no-no, if all the snarky cartoons posted by my quilting friends are true, is cutting paper with fabric scissors.

I long wondered if it were true. Did picking up your mother’s scissors she used to cut corduroy magically cast an evil spell if you, for instance, cut out your paper science project with them? How could that be? What’s the story with sewing scissors?

Diane Helentjaris

Writer with a love of the overlooked. Author of the new historical fiction novel The Indenture of Ivy O’Neill,