April 25, 1684: A patent is granted for a thimble. These handy gadgets have been around for eons. They were used to protect the fingers as a needle was pushed through fabric or leather while sewing. As long as 30,000 years ago early mastodon hunters were using the ivory tusks to create buttons by drilling holes through disks of the substance. They then used bone rings to protect hands while attaching the buttons to heavy leather garments.
The miniature cup-shaped item that we call thimbles today first made an appearance in the Etruscan area of what is modern day Italy. About 2,500 years ago, as the Etruscans moved north into the area that is now Germany, they took their technology with them and it eventually spread across Europe.
Thimbles can be made out of any strong element. Metals, leather, rubber, wood, glass, China, bone, horn, ivory, marble, bog oak, and mother of pearl have been used. They have been decorated with diamonds, sapphires, rubies, cinnabar, agate, moonstone, and amber. In pre Industrial Revolution times they were hand made and the dimples on them were less uniform.
In the 15th century, most thimbles were made of copper and the metal would stain the cloth as one sewed. In Germany it was discovered that adding a special soil to the copper made a metal that was a beautiful color and stain resistant. It also stank to high heaven. The metallurgists were moved out of the city. An industrious unnamed scientist figured out that the ingredient in the soil that made the difference was zinc. Copper and zinc make the alloy known as brass. The secret stayed in Nuremburg for 200 years where most of the European thimbles were made. Today with mills pressing out sheets of metal, and machines making thimbles in mass quantities, they are standardized and very inexpensive.
” A stitch in time, saves nine.” – American proverb
“And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.” – Bible
“I think sewing is a stress release. I’m not sure people are born quilters, but I do think it’s in their make up to get such joy from it. It’s a way to express yourself.” – Connie Baker
“Buttons and patches and the cold wind blowing,
The days pass quickly when I am sewing.” – unknown
“Veni, Vidi, Velcro. I came, I saw, I stuck around.” – unknown
Also on this day:
“Off With Their Heads” – The Queen of Hearts – In 1792 the first person is executed by the more humane method of guillotine.
Semiconductor – In 1961, Robert Noyce patented the semiconductor and opened the computer age.