5 fun facts every sewing enthusiast should know

Sewing supplies as we know them today are easy enough to come by. But what was done in ancient times? What are their origins? Here's some facts about sewing supplies that shed some light on modern sewing.

5 fun facts every sewing enthusiast should know

1. Needles are ancient technology, and weren't always metal

  • About 27,000 years ago, people protected themselves against the cold with furs they had stitched together using bone needles pierced with a hole.
  • Pins were made from fish bones, as well as from long thorns.
  • Later, horn and ivory were used, the needles having a round hole at one end or in the middle.

2. Metal needles were used by the ancient Egyptians

  • From 4000BC, the Egyptians were fastening clothes with copper pins.
  • Metal needles and pins, the wire bent over to form the head, were made in Europe during the Bronze Age.
  • Steel needles were brought to Europe in the 14th century from the Middle East.
  • The first European steel needles, which were produced in Germany in 1370, held the thread in a hook at one end.
  • Metal needles with closed "eyes" were being made in the Netherlands by the 15th century.
  • In the Middle Ages, pins of the best quality were made of bronze.
  • Iron or brass pins were once luxury items, hence the term "pin money." Originally, the money given to a woman by her father or husband to spend on small items, such as pins.

3. Cushions and cases were made by hand until very recently

  • To protect their delicate points, pins were being stored in cases from the 1300s. Pincushions appeared in the mid 1500s.
  • Pins continued to be made by hand until the 1820s, when Lemnel Wright, an American, developed a machine to do the job.

4. Thread has transformed with time

  • Early sewers used thread made from leather thongs, gut and grasses. Nowadays, we mostly use linen, wool, silk and cotton yarns.
  • In Britain, thread of silk or linen, thought superior to cotton, was sold loose in hanks until spools were introduced in the mid-1700s.
  • In 1844, John Mercer invented the mercerization process, which strengthens cotton threads and gives them a sheen.

5. We have thimbles from Ancient Rome

  • Thimbles were worn on fingers or thumbs, hence the Old English name "thymel," or "thumb stall."
  • The first thimbles were conical and fashioned from leather.
  • Later, simple bands that left the fingertip exposed were also made — examples of these have been found in the Roman ruins of Herculaneum and Pompeii.
  • The English were making dome-shaped thimbles from the early 1500s.

Sometimes, learning some history is the best way to advance your knowledge and skills in a hobby. Sewing has a deep, rich and varied history that's studied all over the world.

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