Thursday, October 4, 2012


I got home today after a much-longer-than-usual commute (final baseball game of the season in the stadium near where I work; shuttle stuck in traffic).  Yesterday, it was a "suspicious package."  I just need to give up on getting home & concentrate on the journey (or think of it as extra reading time).

Anyway, I got home & a new issue of Saudi Aramco World was waiting.  I do love this magazine, which comes out every other month and is free.  Sure, it's propaganda, trying to show the positive side of the Arab/Muslim world, focusing on history, the arts, and society.  I know that, but it doesn't mean the articles aren't beautifully illustrated, well-researched and always educational.  And do you really need to read about another mortar-bomb attack or protests over cartoons?  I spend the day at work researching topics like Hamas & its tactics since the Arab Spring, so no, when I get home, I'm happy to read about art or culture or history, especially as it's a part of the world the Roommate & I spent a lot of time in.
Photographs by William Isbister

Which is a very meandering way to say that an article in the latest issue is about a thimble collection!  Cool, huh?   Check out Little Thimble Big Journey for some great history & wonderful photos.  Written & photographed by William Isbister, who lived in Saudi Arabia for 11 years and obviously had the sense to collect an almost perfect souvenir.  Why perfect?  Small, used by individuals, not mass-produced, and a variety of styles & decorations means they look great on display.  And of course as textile collectors, I love the sewing connection.

Some things I learned: Crusaders brought thimbles from the Levant when they returned to Europe. The first thimbles were more like rings that fit over the first joint on the finger.  Thimbles used to have a little loop that could be attached to a chain.  Those are the first few facts that stuck!  Read the article to find out more...

Photograph by William Isbister
Now, this photo is quite interesting.  First of all, it's a man sewing in the Middle East.  Second, he's using a ring-like thimble.  And he's using a tension hook attached to his toe to sew.  I've seen these toe loops used in Oman, but for weaving (working the heddles).  I can't quite figure out how it would help you sew?  

Any ideas/comments?  Let me know...


  1. How interesting Karen. I haven't read the original article, as yours has caused enough food for thought. I can understand how thimbles would be great souvenirs for the travelling textile enthusiast, but it's that picture that intrigues me....just how does the toe help? I can't figure it out, as the thread he's using doesn't look like the type prone to tangling......hmmm!

  2. I'll have to do more research! I just haven't had time. We have quite a few books & I haven't checked them yet either.

    A mystery! :-)

  3. Stops the thread from tacking and knotting onto itself. You can get the same effect by running your fingers down the thread (between two fingers) about 20 times and then looping it through the needle (i.e. put a loop through the eye and the thread ends through the loop) before knotting off but his way is more 'foolproof' if you're doing a lot of hand sewing. Works better for embroidery and drawn-work as well-reduces unwanted puckering...
    Also, this is the fourth recaptcha I've typed in (incorrectly XP). Please install disqus so I don't have to deal with the blindness inducing hideousness that is recaptcha, everytime I want to comment. Disqus handles spam blocking for you (it uses Akismet, the same algorithm that's built into Wordpress) and enables cross platform commenting while keeping tabs on comments, responses, pings and trackbacks. This means people from wordpress, typepad, livejournal, overblog etc will be able to keep track of responses without having to get a Google ID (OpenID is supposed to facilitate this but it doesn't actually work for non-Google IDs XS).

  4. G I A N T thank-you going out to Melbourne! Super info, thanks so much. Now that you've explained it, it makes perfect sense. As one who would rather cut one LONG piece of thread & use it over & over to sew on buttons, rather than cutting a short piece for each button, and then has to deal w/ curling thread issues, I totally get it now.

    I will try to get disqus to work now, too; thanks. My mom can't comment here for the same reason (she's a yahoo, not google, person).

  5. This is a test! I think I may have it (disqus/captcha) figured out, Dear PerfectNose!

  6. How cool to read about the toe hook! Ingenious


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