The Sound of Shears Delight

January 1, 2010 at 2:09 am 32 comments

I have two really strong memories about scissors. When I was very young I remember that my mother kept her sewing scraps in the bottom drawer that was built into the wall of our hallway, between the kitchen and the bathroom. The three built-in drawers were always a mystery to me. Where did they go when they closed?!

The contents were a mystery too, filled with a jumble of colorful fabrics of every texture. Mom took in sewing to help ends meet. She fixed zippers, hemmed pants, and let out waistbands for families in the neighborhood. She also made all her clothes and all of my clothes.

I was allowed to play in the scrap drawer whenever I wanted. When I was about three I remember taking her scissors and hacking off a chunk beautiful pink fabric to play with. I hadn’t taken the fabric all the way out of the drawer, I just pulled and some came out. I remember feeling so proud that I opened the heavy drawer as far as I had all by myself (it didn’t slide easily) and negotiated the cutting with Mom’s big shears.  Turned out I cut a rather large piece of out of my favorite pink dress!  Mom had put in the drawer until she had time to lengthen the hem.

It’s funny that I remember that as a “good” memory. I can imagine how Mom must have felt, but she barely scolded me. She just held up the dress to examine the hole, and pretty much that was that. I remember being way more disappointed than she was; I had really liked the dress. Mom had an extraordinary sense of perspective. If she had made a big deal about it, I may never have gone on to sew my first garment a decade later, making a Superman outfit for one of the cats, complete with cape, hat (plus ear holes) and tail cozy. (But that’s a whole other story!)

The second scissor memory is not a particular eve nt, but rather a sound. It’s the sound made by a heavy pair of scissors cutting fabric on a wooden table. What an amazing sound! I love it for the melodious rumble it makes and for the anticipation it triggers. To me that particular sound is filled with promise, excitement, and challenge for what will come next:  SEWING!

Maybe that’s why I thought of it this morning. It’s a great sound with which to begin the New Year. So, put down your rotary cutter for a minute, find the big scissors, and cut something on a wooden table. Enjoy the memories it conjures for you and savor the excitement to come.

Happy New Year, Everyone!

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Entry filed under: Miscellaneous Musings, Quilting.

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32 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Jenny Jones  |  January 1, 2010 at 10:19 am

    Mom always had her “good” pair of scissors that we were not supposed to touch. Inevitably, the “good” pair would have to be replaced because her little girls would find them and “forget” that we weren’t supposed to use them. At 48 years of age, I moved back to be near Mom and I still heard “Oh, don’t use those, they are my good scissors”. I have my own “good” scissors now and try to keep the one pair for just fabric. Sometimes, I succeed.
    I too, love the sound of scissors cutting fabric on a wooden table. I forgot about that sound and feel. Thank you for the memory!

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  • 2. Sheryl  |  January 1, 2010 at 10:28 am

    You know, as I read that part about using scissors on a wooden table, that suddenly brought back memories of that sound. My mom sewed all our clothes. She was a wonderful seamstress – she could just look at a dress and make one like it. She cut all her garments out on this large Duncan Phyfe dining room table, and I can still hear the sound! That table sits in my dining room today. I may just go grab a piece of fabric and scissors to bring back those wonderful memories! (smile) Thanks for reminding me of those days.

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  • 3. Ruth Langdon  |  January 1, 2010 at 10:40 am

    The memory of sound is wonderful. My DH put a new wooden screen door up last year. He was going to put a stopper on so that that wood to wood sound would be gone. I said, “NO,” I love the sound. It was like going to the corner store for my penny candy, or returning a bottle for the 2 cent return. Oh, the memory of sound. Thank you.

    Ruthie

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  • 4. Elizabeth Pearson  |  January 1, 2010 at 10:50 am

    Thank you for bringing back the memory. I remember my Grandmother & later my Mother cutting out fabric, for a new dress for me. At least I hoped it was for me! That was a good sound, or dare I say, great?

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  • 5. Mutti  |  January 1, 2010 at 11:01 am

    Happy New Year, Ami! It is so good to hear from you and share that memory. I still prefer scissors to my rotary cutter!

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  • 6. Sandy  |  January 1, 2010 at 11:21 am

    I am definitely going to cut some fabric today on my wooden kitchen table with my shears….oh my wonderful memories….I love them too!

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  • 7. Cindy  |  January 1, 2010 at 11:28 am

    My daughter (now 20) used to sit beside my sewing space, and ask if she could snip – colored paper and little paper scissors. Although one day, she used those scissors to cut a curl in the middle of her bangs that was ‘in her way’. She knows the benefits of ‘good’ scissors, and asked for a pair of her own this year to take to college. I also use the dining room table and listen to the rumble of scissors.

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  • 8. Marsha Burwash  |  January 1, 2010 at 11:56 am

    Oooooohhhh, great memories! I also played in my Mom’s sewing scraps. I made dresses for my little dolls. In fact, I made a whole bedroom in a shoe box complete with curtains and embroideried bedspread for one of those dolls. My Mom also had her good sewing scissors which we were not allowed to use unless it was to cut fabric, never for paper! Now, I guard my own scissors, too. Mom made all of the clothes for herself, my two sisters and myself and occasionally a shirt for my brother and Dad. There were always lots of hand-me-downs since we were all different sizes. Mom once made matching dresses for the three of us girls and matching shirts for my Dad and brother all out of the same blue plaid fabric. They were really nice but once she finished, she was sick of the fabric and my little sister wore those dresses year after year until she outgrew all three! ! !
    Thanks for the wonderful memories and I also love that sound the scissors make, it is great!

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  • 9. Jacki  |  January 1, 2010 at 12:03 pm

    I recall being sick in bed and cutting out paper dolls with my scissors. The sheets had nice tatted lace that my grandmother had made and I thought I’d be creative and cut out the designs…… Thank you for bringing back fond memories.

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  • 10. Nora J  |  January 1, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    Oh, Ami, thanks for the memories! I had forgotten about the sound of scissors cutting fabric on a wooden table. My Mom also sewed all her clothes and mine. She even made my winter coat with matching hat and muff. She’s been gone 8 years now, so those memories are very precious.

    Hope your New Year is full of good health and happiness.

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  • 11. Betsy  |  January 1, 2010 at 1:10 pm

    “My” seamstress was my beloved Aunt Mimi who made sure each of her nieces learned to sew shortly after we learned to walk. It wasn’t until I went to college that I had a “store bought” dress. To this day, all of us sew and have Mimi to thank for sharing her love of fabric. While I use a rotary cutter more frequently than not, I do still use my shears (on a wooden table) and thank you for the reminder of a sound which has been part of my heritage. Happy New Year, thanks for wonderful stories throughout the year, and give Madison a few pets from this currently dogless fan!

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  • 12. Marjorie  |  January 1, 2010 at 3:14 pm

    Love the sound of scissors on a table. Mom used to sew for others and would cut out garments after the seven of us were in bed. We had matching McLeod (Yellow) tartan skirts – mom and 4 girls and brother had shorts. It never ceases to amaze me how much my mother accomplished in a day ( and still does at 83).

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  • 13. Susan Gardner  |  January 1, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    Great story! Don’t all kids do something like that that they never forget and neither will mom! My daughter wanted to “Make a needle” so she grabbed by good scissors and cut off the head of a pin. I just looked at her and asked her how she was going to thread her “new needle!” That was when she realized she had really goofed! LOL! Well I may have said a few other things! I had just gotten the scissors sharpened. Maybe I did damag her, she can’t sew a lick!
    Susan G

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  • 14. Christine Thresh  |  January 1, 2010 at 4:15 pm

    Yes, yes I remember that sound. A whole wave of memories washes over me when I hear the sound of scissors cutting through fabric on a wooden table. I still love that sound. Every so often I cut fabric on my big wood table in our workway-hall-room. I remember my first sewing adventures at home with my mother.

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  • 15. Laura Ningen  |  January 1, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    Sounds like you are not alone Ami, I’m another who loves that sound. It brings me right back to my childhood and watching my Mom’s hands cut out clothing for both of us. I use my wooden dining room table to cut fabric and cherish the sound. It’s amazing what sounds and smells can do for our memories. One I hope to hang onto happened on Monday this week as our 4 grandsons walked into our home for a belated Christmas dinner one by one they said…”wow, it smells so good in here..is that blueberry muffins? Is that Cinnamon Bread”. I hope they take that with them into their lives and remember that Grammy baked for them when they were children. ( I also sew for them, but as they are all boys they mostly get sleep pants and of course Halloween Costumes…but that’s another post for another day) laura

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  • 16. Sharon  |  January 1, 2010 at 5:11 pm

    Ami, Thanks for sharing! Hugs & a Great 2010 to you.

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  • 17. Lori Bates  |  January 1, 2010 at 5:18 pm

    Amazing what a sound can do…scissors on a wooden table is the sound of my grandmother giving me my first sewing lessons (my mother couldn’t sew anything but buttons, but she still had her “do not touch” scissors.)
    I, too, cut out large projects on my Duncan Fyfe table. It’s such a satisfying sound.

    Ami, about those inches of little strings on your washed fabric…do you clip off all four corners through the selvedge? [Yes, I do!~Ami] Guaranteed to keep the threads to a minimum.
    Happy New Year to all!

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  • 18. Sue Andrus  |  January 1, 2010 at 6:53 pm

    I always think back to sewing with my Mom when I hear that wonderful sound, too. Mom taught me to sew and I helped her in the “Marriott Shirt Factory” every early summer once my skills were good enough, beginning with just cutting and then sharing the sewing task. We would make summer outfits for her and the 5 of us kids. We showed cattle in 4-H, so also made new white shirts for the whole club. We would both cut out stacks of pieces, then do the stitching in an assembly line fashion. It was very satisfying to see the piles of finished items.

    Growing up, my sisters and I mostly had matching dresses, with Mom matching occasionally, too. When I left home and married, I only got boys, but did make outfits for them when they were little,and made a few of my own clothes until I caught the art quilting bug…. Now I use a rotary cutter or tiny sharp scissors most of the time, and have not made anything to wear for years…. My sons did learn early that my good scissors were off limits, the same as I was taught…
    Sue A

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  • 19. Ann  |  January 1, 2010 at 7:22 pm

    Ami, Thanks for the scissors story. My mother also made all of my clothes when I was a child, not that she really enjoyed doing that, but we didn’t have much money! My scissors story about her is after she went to live in a nursing home, the staff asked me to take her scissors away. She had wanted to unbutton her blouse sleeves, but because of Alzheimer’s no longer knew how to do that, so took her scissors and cut off the cuffs! We learned to enjoy those stories and strange remarks she would make, after she became bed bound and died several years later, in late stages of Alzheimer’s Disease.

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  • 20. quilterjan  |  January 1, 2010 at 7:46 pm

    My mother taught me to sew at the age of 12, and I still treasure the sound of the “good” scissors cutting out some article of clothing on the wooden dining room table. However, the last time I heard that sound on my mother’s dining room table is more memorable than all the other times, because it was my father doing the cutting. My mother was hospitalized and had emergency surgery just 2 weeks prior to my wedding, and her mother-of-the-bride dress was still a large piece of fabric. Dad spent an evening pinning the pattern onto the fabric, and then carefully cut out the dress under mom’s supervision. Two days later, she was able to sew the dress, and hemmed it the day before my wedding. (When my daughter got married 3 years ago, I finished the final bridesmaid dress mere hours before the ceremony – maybe it’s in my genes!)
    Thank you for bringing that wonderful memory back to mind! Hope you have a wonderful year!

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  • 21. Jean Forrester  |  January 1, 2010 at 9:37 pm

    Funny, my early memories of drawers that slid into walls was from life at my grandfather’s house which were right next to my crib.
    Sewing scissors memories were formed much later, when it was made very clear that our WISS shears were never to be used on anything but fabric! That reverence for a quality tool has stayed with me throughout my art and quilting pursuits since.

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  • 22. Marcella Sharp  |  January 2, 2010 at 12:58 am

    My mother did all of our sewing when we were growing up also and us kids knew not to touch her good scissors. She moved in with me at the age of 83, after she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and she was still making quilts and hand quilting them. It finally got to the point where a scissors was just something to use to cut anything. I finally tied my good scissors to my sewing machine with elastic so she wouldn’t use it and not return it. What memories.
    Marcella S

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  • 23. Jenny Jones  |  January 3, 2010 at 11:13 am

    OOh, just remembered a Grandmom story. She was in Hospital with a broken hip and because of the pain meds, she would forget she couldn’t get up, so they put a vest restraint on her when I couldn’t be there. I had left my little purse scissors there for her to cut out coupons from the Sunday paper. The nurses had to take the scissors away because she was just inches from cutting the vest off. Ever the resourceful lady. They decided if she was that with it, she didn’t need the vest. Hurrah

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  • 24. Katie  |  January 3, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    Oh my Ami! That’s a sound I grew up with too and haven’t thought about in years. How sad is that!

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  • 25. Georgia Moncada  |  January 3, 2010 at 2:06 pm

    I love the memories of scissors’ sounds, too. I also loved the sound of the spoon in batter as it hit the side of the bowl. My sister named it a “thick” sound!
    I tried to sew long before Mother let me use the machine. I even chose the fabric in Kress’s basement fabric dept and made a pair of pajamas with red and yellow elephants on a blue background. Then, in 7th grade, she discovered yo-yo quilts and she and my aunt cut out thousands of circles. I still have that quilt, and it has a yo-yo of blue with red and yellow elephants on it!

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  • 26. judy  |  January 4, 2010 at 11:26 am

    I also remember the sound of the gold-plated Ginger (or was it Weiss) scissors cutting fabric on the maple kitchen table. In later years, we cut fabric on the living room floor – just wasn’t the same, but it provided more room.

    I have the old maple table up in my sewing room now but it holds my sewing machine. I use a “cutting table” because the height is better, but now I mostly quilt so I use the rotary mats & cutters.

    Thanks for bringing back the memories.

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  • 27. Becky Preston  |  January 5, 2010 at 9:25 am

    My mother once tied the good scissors to the peg board so that htey would not get lost. I used the scissors to cut the tie and took them off to wherever I was working! But I did learn to sew!

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  • 28. Judy McClendon  |  January 5, 2010 at 11:53 am

    Seems as though many of us carry the sound of scissors, mom, wooden table and fabric with us. My mother used to listen to her radio programs (One Man’s Family, The Arthur Godfrey Breakfast Club, Stella Deller[??]) while she cut fabric. Late summer would find her making my school clothes–and matching clothes for the doll Santa would be bringing. She kept me occupied by allowing me to use the machine to hem teatowels or makie clothes for my “storybook” dolls. I’m even fortunate enough to have THE wooden table in my diningroom today.

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  • 29. rusty  |  February 1, 2010 at 4:46 pm

    I remember that sound! My grandmother cut fabric with a pair of Wiss scissors that her mother handed down to her, and that ‘Granny’ gave to me in the early 1950’s. The points don’t quite fit together now, from all the sharpening they’ve had over the years, but every sewing/quilt project I’ve begun has always had at least one piece cut with them. Now my daughter uses them in her home in Melbourne Australia, and is continuing the tradition. They have to be from the early 1900’s at least; my Granny died in the mid 50’s at the age of 76 and she had them all her married life–

    Judy, it was Stella “Dallas” :)

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  • 30. Aunt Elaine (Gottesman)  |  February 1, 2010 at 11:34 pm

    Dear Ami,

    How wonderful to share your reader’s memories of scissors cutting on a wooden surface. I also shared those moments with my mother. She was still cutting patterns at age 90 plus. Some were dolls or animals already printed on fabric. She would sew them by hand and stuff them and be so pleased with herself that she could still create useful toys. I still have her pinking shears that make a really rumbling wonderful sound on a wood surface.

    Some little scissors are very quiet and special. Embroidery scissors, sharp and pointed concealed in an inherited needlepoint bag; then passed on to a unique, talented granddaughter. The scissors are engraved with the loved name “Jennie” ! Love you more than you will ever know.

    Aunt E

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  • 31. Uncle Bud  |  February 2, 2010 at 12:06 am

    Dear Ami,

    Just so others will know, your mother was my sister. Beebe and I grew up in a household that resembled a clothing factory. Even as a boy, I remember that wonderful sound of scissors cutting on our wooden dining room table. It was also a mahogany Duncan Phyfe. My grandmother did the cutting. There must have been a lot of those tables.

    That may have been my first sound memory and perhaps it helped me to admire other sounds that came later in life. The sound of a bat hitting the ball on it’s sweet spot, the hum of my first tiny outboard motor were etched into my memory but the greatest sound came late in life as I became mesmerized with the sound of my twin engines in my 35 foot Chris Craft cruiser. The mufflers had a distinct sound like no other. I could listen to them idle all day long. You reminded me how wonderful and important sounds can be.

    Thanks,
    Uncle Bud

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  • 32. Joye  |  January 2, 2011 at 10:48 am

    Thanks for posting this scissor memory. My favorite scissor sound is from the Captain Kangaroo TV show. I loved the sound of blunt scissors cutting construction paper. I guess the microphones intensified the sound somewhat, but that is a strong childhood memory that I recall every time I use the “paper” scissors.

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