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  • Writer's pictureRhona Norrie

Why are embroidery scissors shaped like storks?

Two gold antique pairs of embroidery scissors.

Love 'em or loathe 'em, stork shaped scissors are the quintessential stitcher's tool. Although you can find hundreds of different shaped scissors, the stork shaped ones are classic.

I always wondered why embroidery scissors were shaped like this. Storks seem to have nothing to do with embroidery or cross stitch. Storks are, however, associated with babies and childbirth... so why the stork for stitching scissors?

After much hunting about (thank heavens for Google!) - the connection is quite simple and rather fascinating.

Turns out that the stork shaped scissors didn't actually start their life as scissors at all... they were part of a 19th century midwife's toolkit (although they looked a bit different from how they do today) and were used as umbilical clamps. The stork clamps were about 4-6 inches long with the stork head and beak at about a 45 degree angle. Originally quite plain, over time they became more intricately decorated and some even had small babies hidden inside the beak that would show when the clamps were opened.

This still doesn't explain why we use stork shaped scissors, though, does it? Well since babies can take a long time to make their appearance, many midwives kept their embroidery basket close by so that they had something to do while waiting for a baby to be born. Gradually, the clamps changed from a birthing tool to a stitching tool, with the head and beak moved to become a scissor shape.

So if you have a pair of stork embroidery scissors, you are continuing an age-old tradition! Although, my daughter thought that they were shaped like hummingbirds, not storks... not sure if that's a reflection on the detail of the scissors or on my daughter's bird-identification abilities!

I have to admit that I was never really a fan of stork scissors, but now that I know the history of them, I'm looking at them in a different light - and don't tell my husband, but I'm off to buy a pair!

- Rhona

PS. You may be interested in these stork scissors:

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