For some reason the word ‘thimble’ popped into my head, and along with it an image of my mum sewing, biting off a thread. Why didn’t she use scissors for that thread? I have no idea, but maybe it was just quicker and she did things quickly. When I say quickly I don’t mean she rushed or hurried, she was just quick and efficient at any task. I actually have her thimble – I have a strange feeling it might have been her mum’s, my grandma’s. It is slightly bent, not because it got accidentally trodden on or squashed, but because that too was bitten – squeezed between her teeth so it stayed on her finger. Does this make her sound weird, that she was keen on biting things?

Back to the thimble – it’s just a standard little thing, with a pattern of indented dots on it, like most thimbles. I somehow always thought the words thimble and thumb are connected and apparently they are, it was originally a Þymel, a thumb-el, a ‘tool’ covering the thumb. If you think about other words with an -el /le ending, they have a work connection, for example treadle, ladle, handle, spindle, girdle.

My mum was amazing in so many ways, and made most of our clothes, including my dad’s pyjamas, but I never had any interest in  that creative side, and in fact I had no interest in cooking when I was young. We had to learn sewing and knitting at junior school – all of us, boys included, and we made things out of felt, and I think we sewed a handkerchief to practice hemming. Did we have thimbles? Maybe we did, and maybe I bit mine to stay on my finger. I can’t imagine the teacher was thrilled with people squashing her thimbles, but maybe she didn’t know or didn’t notice. Do I wish I had learnt to sew more than the basics of sewing on a button or turning up a hem? No, not really. I know how to knit and follow a basic pattern, but have no desire to do it, although I do wish I had some creative activity which produces a physical product, a thing, an artefact. Or maybe I’ll just embark on a different sort of writing creation!

My featured image is of me and my sister in party frocks and boleros that mum made for us, no doubt with her thimble on her finger.


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