Searching for a pin in my wife’s needlework box today, I came across a vintage tool, which had somehow mysteriously stayed out of sight for a good 3 decades or so.
Circa 1980, my then GF decided to take up sewing lessons from her neighbouring Aunty. So she acquired a good-size needlework box, with a full complement of scissors, measuring tape, a small box of pins and needles, a triangular piece of marking chalk, etc, and of course, this Tracing Wheel.
A paper pattern would be drawn, and then a piece of carbon paper placed in between this pattern and the underlying cloth. The tracing wheel was then used to roll along the lines drawn on the pattern — producing a matching string of dots onto the cloth. Stitching was then done along these dots, after removing the papers.
So, what’s the big deal about this pair of scissors? To cut to the chase for this case, this “Eye” Brand pair of scissors was made by Carl Schlieper of Solingen, Germany – a company established in the 18th century. Sadly, the company went bankrupt in 1993.
My late grandmother had a pair, and I remember she vigorously endorsed it as “the finest in the world” – being able to maintain its keen edge cut after cut..after cut.
After her passing in 1984, her belongings were divided and given to her children (my father, my uncle and my aunties). Am not sure where the pair of scissors is now. Perhaps it was thrown away, as the Chinese (at least in those days) have superstitions about giving away items like knives, scissors, etc.
I think it is a collectors’ item now.
It was a strange-looking pair of scissors that my late mum and other senior female relatives used frequently to impart a zig-zag boundary around the pieces of cloth they used to make their dresses.
I later found out that it was called “Pinking Shears”. Apparently it was invented by one Samuel Briskman in 1931 (there are other claims), to help minimise fraying of textile along cut edges. Doubtful initially, I was later convinced that this gadget could let the dressmakers Stop Worrying & Start Living (happily, I think) as they turned fabric into garments.
But I suspect in these days and times, many youngsters would be confounded by an encounter with this vintage but ingenious tool.
By the way, in Penang we called it 马齿剪刀 (horse-teeth scissors)