Posted in 20th Century History, History of Sewing, The History Of Dressmaking, Vintage Fashion Blog

Sewing History: Keep The Thimble In The Monopoly Board Game, Hasbro!

It’s happened. Hasbro, the owners of the property board game favourite Monopoly have decided it needs updating.

In a nod to reality TV shows they put the pieces we know and love to the vote and one was going to be ‘evicted.’

Which one would it be? the Scottish Terrier, the battleship, automobile, top hat, thimble, boot, wheelbarrow or cat….

In the game since 1935 when dressmaking skills were as widespread as cooking, yes, you’ve guessed it, this year the thimble was out.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, it follows the disappearance of another dressmaking staple – the iron. It was replaced by the cat in 2013.

Readers of my blog already know that I have a connection to sewing that means I see these objects woven into the fabric of the collective history of dressmakers, fashion designers and sewists.

Commentators on this decision are pointing out that as those voting didn’t recognise the thimble it signifies the cultural decline of sewing over the last 40 years.

Aside from how strange I find it that people don’t recognise a thimble, there are other reasons why I disagree with their insight into why.

Sewing dipped between the 80s and 90s but in the new century, it’s on the up again…

Make Do and Mend, the wartime movement installed by the UK government to save essential resources  is being practiced left right and center and 5 years ago while magazine readership globally was struggling the amount of people buying the craft title Prima was up by 4.9%. 

Massive websites like Sew Daily  have over 78,000 Facebook followers and crafting groups and crafting cafes are benefiting from the upsurge in interest.

Let’s not forget The Great British Sewing Bee hitting our screens in 2013.

A lot of people are riding the curve and the engine is powered by You Tube and Social Media

I belong to an online crafting group which is truly international. There are members who live in New Zealand, Canada, the UK, Europe and America.

We are online ( sorry folks, it’s a private group ) and there we do what makers have done for generations- we share crafting projects, we post photos as we go along, we ask each other’s advice, discuss patterns, problem solve and produce our ta daa! moments too.

Bi-craftual 

We are a group of knitters, sewists and off-shoot crafters. We all have a primary skill – mine is sewing – but we cross over often.

When we try one of the other crafts we use the fun hashtag #bicraftual 🙂

It’s my online Workroom 

Sewing workrooms were historically places that women gathered together, employed to produce sewing work.

Workrooms would be attached to department stores, businesses or fashion houses like The House of Mirelle in Hull.

The Workroom girls were employed as skilled ‘hands’ i.e. they had been trained and / or apprenticed and had sewing skills necessary to carry out couture dressmaking, ‘making up’ designs or doing alterations.

In my experience of interviewing people for The House of Mirelle book, The Workroom girls had many expert sewing skills.

They may have one area that they specialised in, chiffons or heavy fabrics for instance, but could transfer across and do lots of other types of work too – they were #bicraftual, if you like.

The sewing thimble 

This is where the humble thimble comes in…

The thimble wasn’t an optional extra, something you see in your grandmother’s button tin or tucked away in family mementos, it was absolutely essential to carrying out sewing work, and it still is…

Anatomy of a sewing thimble 

I use a thimble, I can’t hand sew without it.

I put it on the middle finger of my right hand and I use it to guide and push the needles as I hand stitch things like buttons, seams or hems.

The little round dents stops the needle from slipping across the surface and aside from stopping my fingers from hardening or bleeding ( needles are sharp at both ends ) it’s part of the essential sewing kit that was passed on to me when I was taught how to sew.

All the women in traditional sewing workrooms used them too, as couturiers or members of my crafting group do also.

Sometimes the thimble had no lid, so you can see your finger tip through the end, but the use of them was as important to sewing as the iron or the treadle.

Although small, thimbles are terribly important to the culture and history of sewing

I think it’s time for protest on behalf of all sewists across the generations.

Save the Monopoly thimble, Hasbro – it’s not defunct. It’s as alive and kicking as ever and in use around the world today!

© Carrie Henderson 2017

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Author:

Researching and writing a book about a Hull fashion house called The House Of Mirelle. Our Facebook page is called The House Of Mirelle, join us! Lives in London. Is a social and fashion history researcher and writer of creative non fiction. Runs the Surbiton Writers Group. Loves multi-media, fashion history and film. Collects vintage clothing and vintage clothing patterns and is an avid home dressmaker. On a TV game show my specialist subject would be the history of fashion in the UK. Twitter @carriejourno. Facebook Carrie Henderson Journalist. Email carrie@carriehendersonjournalist.com.

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