Sashiko Tools: Black Masamune Tailor's Shears

low- and zero-waste stitching tools Jul 01, 2024
A pair of black scissors lays on a teal piece of fabric. There are bobbins of colour embroidered floss in the lower right corner. There is text superimposed that says

Disclaimer: This blog post was written in collaboration with Shokunin Store, a sponsor for the Making Zen Online Retreat. The opinions in this post are my own.

As a slow stitcher and Sashiko enthusiast, I have a soft spot for history and traditional methods. That's one of the reasons I love Shokunin Store; they provide access to beautiful, high-quality products that are made using traditional techniques - plus, they are made to last!

Today, I want to tell you all about the story of the Black Masamune Tailor's Shears, and explore why they are the perfect tool for folks who value hand sewing, sustainability, and mindful craftsmanship.

Before we get into the specifics of the Black Masamune Tailor's Shears, let's talk about what makes a really good pair of scissors:

Sharpness: High-quality scissors should cut smoothly through fabric without fraying or bending the material.
Precision: The blades should meet accurately, providing a clean cut from the base to the tip.
Durability: Good scissors retain their sharpness over time and withstand frequent use, and can be sharpened should they ever become dull.
Comfort: Ergonomic handles that reduce strain during extended use are a sign of well-designed scissors.

Now that we know what we're looking for in a good pair of scissors, let's talk about what makes these particular shears so special.

A Legacy of Craftsmanship

In an age of mass production, there’s something special about using a tool that’s been hand-forged and sharpened by master artisans - tools that stand the test of time and are crafted with care. The Black Masamune Tailors Shears carry with them a rich history of Japanese metalworking, passed down through generations of artisans experienced enough to know which metals they are using just based on the colour of the sparks.

To really understand how special these shears really are, we must consider that the standards for steel in Japan are quite high. While there is no global governing body that grades steel, Japan has the JIS, or Japanese Industrial Standards, that they must adhere to. Steel was a very precious material in Japan for a long time, and because of this, recycling steel was essential. This lead to events like the Hari-Kuyo, or Festival of Broken Needles, where bent and broken needles are thanked for their service and laid to rest in blocks of tofu at shrines to later be collected and recycled.



According to Shokunin Store, the Japanese use steel materials called Hagane to make blade tools.  They are the only people who have traditionally used these alloy steel (Hagane and other carbon steel) or twin layered steel, specifically to make blade tools. Others can use this material and forge it, but if they do not have the knowledge and skills for the other processing that's required like heat treatment, sharpening, making back-blades, etc., they won't be able to make blade tools that work.

These particular shears are made one by one from Hitachi Yasugi Blue Paper steel, a material famed for its sharpness and durability. This steel is one of the best quality steels and requires the deep expertise of skilled artisans to work with. Many artisans shy away from this blue-grade steel because it is so expensive that it's difficult to make it commercially viable.

Because these shears are crafted by hand from skilled artisans, there is also the possibility for customisation. Artists and crafters can actually reach out to the folks at Shokunin Store and have scissors made to fit their needs - for example, you can have them made to fit special measurements. These customisations can be done much more cost effectively in these hand-made products than if they were machine-made.

Sustainability in Every Cut

For those of us who are deeply committed to sustainability, these shears represent a meaningful choice. Their durability means they are quite likely they will outlast us which means fewer replacements, reducing waste - the same way that fixing our clothes to extend their lives reduces waste. You can get them re-sharpened if you ever feel the need, and even if you drop them and chip the blades, that can be fixed too. Investing in long-lasting tools is a fantastic way to support sustainable practices that align with our values of caring for the environment!

Yuko from Shokunin Store, who promotes these handcrafted tools, tells me that she still uses her grandmother’s snips, which have been in her family for three generations and are now ready to be passed on to the fourth. I love that one pair of scissors can carry the stories of so many generations, making these beautiful scissors not only a sustainable investment, but also a potential family heirloom!

Elevating Everyday Craft

For those passionate about hand sewing and Sashiko, you know that it's more than a hobby. It's little pockets of mindfulness in your day. I love to tune into my sense while I stitch, listening to the pen draw the pattern on my fabric, the needle drawing my thread through, and of course, my scissors snipping. Combining traditional craftsmanship with modern functionality, these shears make even those little moments that much better.

If you've ever struggled with scissors that don’t cut well at the tips, you likely know that it's not a very Zen experience - frayed edges and uneven cuts are so frustrating! The Black Masamune Shears address this with their unique back-blade design. The blades are concave and sharpened to give a slight twist, ensuring they always intersect at one point as you close the blades to cut. This is incredibly difficult for the artisans to master, but results in smooth, clean cuts and happy stitchers!

Preserving Tradition

Advancements in technology have their pros and cons - and one of the cons is the risk of losing some of our traditions. One of the goals of Shokunin Store is to revive rich cultural traditions and preserve these traditional crafts. Not only does Yuko want to share these beautiful tools with artists - she wants the artists to embrace the traditions they represent.

Investing in quality products like the Black Masamune Tailor's Shears helps support this preservation. The techniques used to create these shears are at risk of being lost, with only a few people in Japan carrying on these traditional methods. By valuing and using these tools, you help keep these skills alive, ensuring that future generations can also appreciate and benefit from the world’s best scissors. Using these shears is one way to connect with this heritage and bring a piece of that tradition into your own creative projects.

In a world where convenience often trumps quality, the Black Masamune Tailors Shears remind us of the enduring value of true craftsmanship. They invite us to slow down, appreciate the process, and create with intention, honouring the past while crafting a sustainable and mindful future.

If you enjoyed this article, you may like the conversation I had with Yuko about these scissors over on Instagram - you can listen to it here!

We also have a blog post about Shokunin Store's Kenshi Grip Scissors that you can read here


Hi, I'm Kate!

I am a strong believer in starting where you are and using what you have, wherever and whatever that may be.

Everyone should get to experience the joy of connecting to others through learning, experimenting, and creating.

Creativity doesn’t have to be expensive or wasteful. Whether we’re using natural materials, reusing materials, or shopping our own stashes first, creating mindfully goes beyond being present in the moment - it extends to being mindful of our environment and the other communities around us, too.