In the pink

Nearly eight years ago I tried some embroidery scissors at a Knitting & Stitching Show workshop (before I started teaching there) and I was so impressed with them that I put them on my Christmas wish list. Small, sharp, manoeuvrable, and with very pointy blades, they were the perfect complement to the squissors I mostly used for Hardanger. I was given two pairs, in two different colours so I could keep one for goldwork and one for general embroidery. They turned out to be particularly effective for cutting around the buttonhole edging of projects like Windows on the World; that they came with a useful protective cap and in pretty colours was a bonus!

My small, sharp embroidery scissors Buttonhole edging on a pair of bookmarks

Three years later I wanted some spares and for various reasons ended up stocking them in Mabel’s Fancies’ shop. When the order came in I was pleasantly surprised to see that the new scissors came with pretty floral caps! No blue ones, though – the only ones I could get were purple and turquoise (or what the supplier called “green”).

Scissors with floral caps

Fast-forward several years and suddenly the company I always ordered these from no longer supplies them. I got the last few pairs they had, including some blue ones with plain caps, but then the search was on for a new supplier. Unfortunately I could only find retailers in America and Australia, and with the postage and import duty they were simply not an affordable option. I decided to try the manufacturer, hoping that they would be willing to stretch the definition of “wholesale” for a small outfit like mine. Their initial suggestion of a minimum order of 600 pairs nearly made me lose heart, but after a week’s email correspondence we managed to find a quantity we were both happy with.

But no turquoise. Which is a shame because it really is a very pretty colour. No blue either. Purple, yes. And pink. Any orders placed would be half purple, half pink.

Now I know Mabel’s logo is pale pink and turquoise, but oddly enough I’m not really a pink girl myself. Still, that was the only option and I did want to keep stocking these useful little scissors, so the order was placed and late last week there arrived on our doorstep a box full of purple and pink floral snippers. And the pink turned out to be quite a robust fuchsia colour which is definitely growing on me!

Which means that if you want to get yourself a pair of these pretty 4″ embroidery scissors, for the time being you’ve got a choice of no fewer than four colours. Of the floral-capped ones we have purple and pink in quantity, and a limited number of turquoise; plus a small number of blue with plain caps.

Scissors in four colours

And they all cut equally well smiley.

Scissors

I love my squissors, as you all know. Especially for Hardanger, but they can be used quite effectively as all-round embroidery scissors as well, snipping threads and waste knots with as much ease and accuracy as cutting fabric threads surrounded by Kloster blocks. There is, however, one thing that they aren’t very good at – cutting very closely around a buttonhole edging or other type of hem. For that I’ve got the small, very sharp, very pointy scissors I mentioned a few years ago, and I love them nearly as much as my squissors. So sharp and pointy are they that they could probably be used for Hardanger as well, although I haven’t tried it. And they look attractive with their coloured finger holes and protective cover. Together, this pretty pair of rainbow-coloured squissors and transparently coloured scissors are all I need as far as cutting is concerned. (When stitching, I mean; I don’t count the scissors needed for cutting the fabric to size beforehand, although these scissors could probably do the job perfectly well for small to medium-sized projects.)

My favourite tool, squissors My small, sharp embroidery scissors

Because I like to have spares of any tool that I find really useful (as you never know when these things may get discontinued or changed or “improved” or whatever) and because I always like to have spare scissors around, preferably one per project (and I am, as you may have realised by now, a multiple-project girl) I decided to see if I could find some more of these. I did, but unfortunately postage for one or two pairs was rather prohibitive. Postage for sixteen pairs, however, was quite reasonable, so I said to myself, “if I like them that much, mightn’t other stitchers like them too? And if so, wouldn’t it be a good idea to have them on Mabel’s Fancies?” Myself thought this was a spiffing idea, and so here they are for your delight: useful, accurate and pretty embroidery scissors!

A pile of scissors Pretty and useful

Scissors and Tamar threads

Did you get any stitchy presents this year? I got these – two pairs of very sharp, very pointy scissors. I saw them at a goldwork workshop I did at the Knitting & Stitching show, and was rather taken with them. One pair I will keep for goldwork (of which I hope to do more in future); I haven’t quite decided what the other pair will be used for, but they are a lovely bit of kit, aren’t they? Incidentally, the fact that I specifically asked for one blue and one purple pair puzzled my husband no end. When they arrived, and before they got wrapped, he studied them closely, trying to work out what the difference between them was. Both pointy, both sharp, one a fraction of an inch longer than the other but otherwise identical. My explanation was less than sensational: I simply wanted different colours so it would be easier to remember which were the goldwork ones …

very sharp scissors!

I managed to play with my Tamar Embroideries threads quite a bit, which was fun and in some ways surprising. From the descriptions on their website I had expected the four types of thread I ordered to be one equivalent to perle #5, two equivalents to perle #8, and one equivalent to perle #12. (I’m leaving out the ribbon for the moment, as it is a completely different thing and not suitable for Hardanger, but I will come back to it at a later date.) When the threads arrived and I compared them with DMC perles, one of the #8 equivalents seemed a lot closer to a #5.

Tamar threads and DMC perles

But however informative the look and feel of a thread can be, there’s really only one way to find out how they behave in action, and that is to stitch with them! So I stitched 5 of my little Hardanger trial motifs in different combinations on 25ct Lugana. The blur in the bottom right-hand corner is a little experiment I am keeping secret for the moment smiley.

Tamar thread experiments

The first combination is Combed Cotton for the Kloster blocks and Matt cotton for everything else. The Combed Cotton works well, it gives good coverage and has a perle-like texture. It is quite twisty, however – if you don’t dangle your needle frequently the thread is likely to curl up and work itself into a tight spiral as you try to pull it through the fabric. Nevertheless, I like it; with a bit of care it stitches up well and the look is good. As you can see the Matt is almost the same thickness as the Combed, but with less texture. It is just about all right for the woven bars, although they are quite thick, but the backstitch and especially the dove’s eye lose all definition.

Tamar Combed Cotton and Matt Cotton

Here Combed Cotton is combined with Brodery Cotton. This is much more perle-like, and it works well for the woven bars. It’s still a little thick for backstitch (it definitely feels a little heavier than a standard perle #8) but the dove’s eye looks fine. This pair seems closest in look and feel to a standard perle #5 / perle #8 combination.

Tamar Combed Cotton and Brodery Cotton

Combed Cotton paired with Fine Cotton Perle gives an airier look. The backstitch and dove’s eye are well-defined and delicate, and the Fine Cotton Perle handles much like a standard #12 perle. It takes about 9 weaves to cover a bar; in comparison, the Brodery Cotton takes 6, and when I use a standard perle #8 I tend to do 7 weaves.

Tamar Combed Cotton and Fine Cotton Perle

Because the Matt Cotton was so much heavier than I expected I tried using it for Kloster blocks. Coverage was unexpectedly good (it is not quite as thick as a standard #5) although occasionally it was difficult to poke in the cut ends so that they stayed put. The texture is much smoother than that of the Combed Cotton. Used with the Brodery Cotton I found there wasn’t enough contrast between the two threads.

Tamar Matt Cotton and Brodery Cotton

Matt Cotton combined with Fine Cotton Perle has more contrast, and I like the additional contrast between the matt Kloster blocks and the shiny bars and dove’s eye. This combination of threads may work rather well on a 28ct fabric.

Tamar Matt Cotton and Fine Cotton Perle

So will I be buying more of these threads? Definitely! Which ones? That’s a bit more difficult. I like the look of the Fine Cotton Perle but I don’t like having to do lots of weaves or wraps for the bars. For the Kloster blocks I am almost sure I’ll go for the Combed Cotton rather than the Matt, simply because the Combed Cotton gives slightly better coverage and has more texture to it; it also works better with the Brodery Cotton which would be my choice for a #8 substitute. What will probably happen is that I’ll get the Combed, Brodery and Fine Perle in most colours, so I can vary the thickness of the bars and filling stitches. I may even use three threads per project: Combed Cotton for the Kloster blocks, Brodery Cotton for the bars, and Fine Cotton Perle for the filling stitches and any backstitch. Now how many shades can I afford to get …