Tag Archives: embroidery

Do I Need A Thimble? I Guess So.

23 Oct

When I first started sewing and doing needle work like embroidery, my paternal grandmother gifted me two thimbles. One was hers and well worn, the other was brand new and silver. She told me that I needed a thimble because it would make sewing much easier and would protect my fingers from calluses and cuts.  She was probably right.

I still have these two thimbles, but to be honest, I actually hated using one.  I tried for the longest time to get comfortable having a metal hat on my finger.  I usually did not wear the thimble all the time, rather I just put it on for a moment when I had a tough, stubborn stitch to get through layers of fabric.

My paternal grandparents are the ones who nurtured my interest in the sewing/knitting/crocheting arts.  Grandma taught me how to knit and crochet.  Grandpa was a tailor who helped me with the intricate details of sewing like the best way to match plaids, especially around pockets.

He also taught me how to cut/design a pattern to fit a specific person.   This came in handy as my maternal grandmother had scoliosis, so when I made her dresses, I had to make one side of the dress two to three inches shorter than the other side without it looking weird. Thanks to my grandfather, I was able to accomplish these designs. I have written about my grandfather’s tailor shop on Delancey Street.  See blog below.)

The gifts of the two thimbles were part of that nurturing and encouragement.  I kept them close in my sewing basket for those times when I did need them.  But after a while, I put them in a safe place, because I did not want to lose them.

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My printer’s box and almost all my thimbles.

Eventually the two thimbles became the start of my thimble collection.  It is not large, about 60 thimbles in all.  Although I have not purchased a thimble in years, I still have them on display in my kitchen’s printer’s box – the perfect spot for tiny collections.

Printer’s boxes were popular about 35 years ago, when printers went from hot type to computer generated type.  As a journalism student, I actually learned to set type and had to memorize where the different letters and spacers and numbers were kept in this box.  I still remember some.  My first cousin gave me my printer’s box as a gift.  It was the perfect for me for my journalism background and for my thimbles.

Most of my thimbles came from places I visited.  They were the perfect item to remember a trip, as they did not cost too much and were convenient to carry.  I have thimbles with Disney characters; others showing famous sites like Golden Gate Bridge or the Alamo or Mount Vernon; some depict cities like New Orleans.  Most are from different states in the USA that I visited, but others come from other countries like Budapest, Hungary; Dominica; Spain.  I even have three thimbles from NASA! Two depict the space shuttle, and one shows an astronaut floating in Space.

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A close up of my printer’s box, you can see my three Nasa thimbles and the top left is my limoges one.

Some thimbles are so lovely with hand painted landscapes or designs.  One is made of cloisonné, another is from Limoges.  I actually have a little sewing machine from Limoges in my printer’s box. I am sure my Mom got them for me as they are pink and red.  I would have purchased blue!  But my Mom often got me items in the warm tones.

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The case holding my Spanish scissors and thimble.

I do have one other special thimble purchased for me by my parents.  It is housed in a red leather box with a pair of scissors. Inside the box is marked with the words, Artes De Toledo.  I believe my parents purchased this set for me when they went to Spain about 30 years ago. Toledo has a history of making both swords and damascene metal inlay.

My scissors and thimble are definitely Spanish!  They have the look of damascene metal inlaying, but with colored inlay.  I know that Toledo is famous for its steel work. But I  have never seen anything else like it, so I googled Spanish scissors and found scissors very similar to mine.  They were labeled “Toledo antique embroidery scissors”.  Makes sense, as I used my set for embroidering as well.  I will say that  mine is in much better shape than the ones shown on Pinterest!  There were even four cases with matching scissors and thimbles, similar to mine!  All from the 1920s and 1930s.  Which makes me wonder, where exactly this set came from!

I have not looked at my thimble collection for years.  I see them in the printer’s box, but I don’t really look at them and remember when I purchased them.  The special case from Toledo, I keep up in my sewing room, closed and put away.  Thus, I must say thank you to AtticSister and her blog post about a thimble case, which sparked my search for my red leather box and to look more closely at my thimbles.  You can read her blog here:  https://atticsister.wordpress.com/2018/10/12/antique-walnut-thimble-case/

Earlier blogs I wrote about sewing.

https://zicharonot.com/2015/10/10/12-delancey-street-and-my-family/

https://zicharonot.com/2014/01/29/my-birthday-sewing-machines/

https://zicharonot.com/2015/12/27/why-i-gave-away-a-bit-of-my-moms-memory/

 

Watching Antiques Roadshow Inspired Me to Donate My Great-Grandmother’s Matzah Cover

12 Jun

 

Matzah cover made by my Great Grandmother Chava.

Matzah cover made by my Great Grandmother Chava.

Watching the Antiques Roadshow, a PBS show, is one of my favorite television experiences.   I started watching it with my parents years ago. Whenever they came to visit, this was one of their favorite shows. They got me hooked on it!

I love learning about different items of furniture, jewelry and knick knacks. It is a history lesson along with seeing the beautiful items. But every once in a while, someone brings in a special ephemeral item: photos, letters, a diary. In my opinion, these items should really be in a museum, some place where researchers and students and others can see the items and learn from them.

It drives me crazy. I even say it out loud. Occasionally we find out that the family did donate the item. Like when a family had the musical notations of the “Star Spangled Banner.” They donated it to a museum, and that made me feel good!

I often wondered: would I be able to do that. Would I be able to donate a family treasure to a museum? The answer is yes.

When my siblings and I were cleaning out our parents’ apartment we found two items that my brother, sister and I all wanted, but knew something special had to be done with them. One was a program from the 1930s for a benefit to help the Jews of Europe, the other was a cookbook in English and Yiddish to help immigrants learn to cook American meals.

My sister contacted the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Battery Park and asked if they would want these documents. The answer was a resounding yes. So we donated them. This way they will survive, and others who might be doing research or want to know about life for immigrant women would have these items. They will be protected. The curator told us that they had only seen one other program like ours, but it was from a Chicago event. Ours was from a New York City event.

The three of us were glad that we made this decision.

I recently made another decision to donate.

I am donating the matzah cover my great-grandmother Chava made in 1901 to the same museum. I have thought about this for several years, and decided it was the best choice for this family heirloom.

The matzah cover is made of beige linen and a teal silk. I think the silk was originally blue. On the matzah cover my great grandmother embroidered the date she made it in Hebrew letters and the words: “Seder shel Pesach” (Seder of Passover) in Hebrew. It has beautiful cut work embroidery made into a Jewish star (Mogan Dovid) with embroidered roses along the edge.

My mother gave it to me about 25 years ago for several reasons: first because I was named for my great grandmother; second, because I also do embroidery; third because my parents would come and spend the second night of Pesach with me; fourth because my daughter is the oldest grandchild. I think they thought I would pass it on to her.

But I will not.

The matzah cover was made in Galicia before the First World War. I think it was made for my grandfather’s first birthday, as he was born in 1900 on the first of Nissan. It came to the USA in 1932. My Grandmother took my mother, then age 2, and her brother, age 5, to Europe for six months. They stayed with my great grandparents. And my great grandmother gave the matzah cover and some other family items to my grandmother to bring back to the United States with her family.

At some point my grandmother gave the matzah cover to my mother. And then it became mine.

I used it every year for Passover. I would cover the matzah on the table before the meal. But as soon as the food and wine came out, I would switch to a matzah cover that I made. I did not want anything to happen to this cover because I was not sure how I could ever clean it without destroying it.

As the years have passed, it has become more and more fragile. I want it to survive. My great grandmother did not survive. She and most of my grandfather’s family perished in the Shoah. This is the only religious item she made that remains.

I also thought about donating my matzah cover because I had a mild infestation of fabric eating bugs. Ugh. They are gone now. And the matzah cover is safe. But part of me was worried. What if they had reached the cover? Perhaps there is something better I can do with this item?

First I asked my daughter how she felt about my donating this item. She thought it was a great idea.

So I contacted the museum and the woman who helped us with the other donations. She asked for photos.

And then she said yes, they would like the matzah cover for their collection. She told me that the matzah covers they had that were that old were all stained and in disrepair, while mine was in wonderful shape. Which is true.

I told her I wanted to use it for one more Passover before I donated it.

2014 Passover Seder.  Matzah cover in the middle of the table.

2014 Passover Seder. Matzah cover in the middle of the table.

She asked that I take photos of it in use. Which I did and you can see here.

She promised me that anyone in my family would always have the right to come and see it privately when it was not on display, although we would never be able to touch it again. (Probably a good thing as fabric decays.)

In August I will take my matzah cover from Kansas back to New Jersey, and then to its new home at the museum. I hope by sharing it with so many people, it will have continued life, and perhaps help people understand how extraordinary Jewish life was in Europe before the Shoah.

I donated the matzah cover on August 12, 2014.