What do you get if you don't use a thimble? A "D". And this dress.


1930s dot dress

Jody (from Couture Allure Vintage) sent me this link to one of her auctions, and it's adorable. Even better is the backstory — check it out!


1930s dot dress

That's right. Some horrible sewing instructor gave poor Dorrice a "D" on this gorgeous dress, all because she didn't use a thimble. Come on! This is an "A" dress, no question.

This kind of thing (nonsensical rules-for-rules'-sake thinking) really gets on my nerves. Sure, you can, as a teacher, make students prove they know how to use a thimble. But that should be a ten-minute observation, at best, not a whole dress! (I have never used a thimble for dressmaking — quilting, sure, but not dressmaking. If I want to stab my finger repeatedly with a needle, that's my right as an American.)

When you demand that everyone do something one way and one way only, you completely stifle innovation, AND you instill a knee-jerk distaste for the methods you're teaching. If your way is really the right way (or, more rarely, the ONLY way) then people will naturally gravitate to it, but you have to give them the chance to do things their own half-assed way. What is obligatory is usually disdained.

You can certainly say "I've always done X this way, and it works for me," but unless you're teaching your clone army to sew, other people are going to have different techniques: some from random chance, some from sheer pigheadedness, and some from outright brilliance. People who gave out "D"s for lack of a thimble probably never got to see the outright brilliance. Good thing the dress survived, so we could!

0 thoughts on “What do you get if you don't use a thimble? A "D". And this dress.

  1. Hopefully, we’ve come a long way since the 1930s. Although, I would have given her a B for not having the plaids match at the front seam, especially if she was in an advanced home ec class.

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  2. Dear Erin,Aside from being an eclectic lexicographer, you appear to understand that the fifties were the apex, the pinnacle, zenith, summit, vertiginous dizzying extremely way-up-there high place, of women’s fashion, and that what has occurred since may not be be quite as tragic as the Holocaust or Slavery, but surpasses all else in melancholy (“leggings” being the rough equivalent in moral/political terms of the “dirty bomb”). This more than any other single point moves me to suspect that you are a perfect human being.I’m not telling you who I am, but if truth is written, does the source matter?

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  3. I learned to sew at a young age so I took home ec in high school thinking I could breeze through the class with little effort. Wrong! I nearly failed because I didn’t do all the required hand basting.

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  4. I used to work in a very large theatre wardrobe, which was run like a couture atelier- almost everything was sewn by hand. And I had a horrible First Hand on my team , who made us not only use certain colours of thread for each step of basting, and hold our hands a certain way while sewing (never touch the table!) but we also were forbidden to talk. Yeah, seriously.That was many years ago, and I still remember her with complete loathing, even though I learned some valuable techniques under her draconian rule. And thimbles? We were taught how to use them in costume studies at University, and told that any decent wardrobe supervisor would ask to see one’s thimble in an interview! I don’t know if that’s true, but I definitely use one whenever I’m handsewing: it feels somehow naughty and wrong to sew with a bare index finger, the habit’s so ingrained!

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  5. I remember the bitter witch that taught sewing at my high school. One assignment was for a dress with a zipper on the side, and I picked out a Vogue pattern, some cotton plaid, and halfway through the construction, I realized the gathers that Vogue instructed looked awful in the cotton, so I opted for flat pleats (this was along the front of the shoulder, easing…)The instructor read me the riot act, and wouldn’t allow me to redo it, she gave me an F for the assignment and called my mother in for a conference as to my ‘terrible attitude, and thumbing my nose to the rules’.My mother listened to the teacher and when the teacher asked Mother what she would do to set me straight, my mother laughed her ass off.

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  6. Hmph. That dress project should have got a B+ – higher if the inside is well-finished.We have a tiny,tiny, girl in Grade 6 at my school who is capable of making 20 baskets in a row. She has to do this weird little jump move to do so, but she’s fantastic. Using correct form she doesn’t have the power to reach the basket. Being a sensible person and a decent human being, our gym teacher has her demonstrate correct form, then actually shoot her own way. And now that kid is going to a regional shooting competition.

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  7. In my classes today I run into similar things, though generally my Professors are a bit more lenient. In one class we do things one way, and call things oen thing (“dress form” for heaven’s sake not “dummy”), and do things completely differently and call things different things in another class. I screw up fairly regularily between the requirements for each of the classes (2″ seam allowance for CF for -DRAPING drat it, and 1/2″ for Studio…) that gets me in trouble. Somethings are universal, but generally I end up with an odd hodgepodge of what works the best for me. (Folding corners rather than clipping makes a really nice edge without the possibility of a hole, and patterning with a .03 pencil looks really nice.)

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  8. My problem is that whenever I try to use a thimble for hand-sewing in an effort to stop the gouges and broken layers of skin that not using one produces, my hand automatically avoids offering up the thimbled finger to push the needle with, and instead volunteers a non-thimbled one. It’s as though my hand thinks the thimble thing is an obstacle in the way of getting things done. I always notice this after too long, when the substitute finger is getting sore from being poked! It even happens with the leather ones. I think I need to FEEL everything I’m doing.

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  9. I knit ‘incorrectly.’ I developed a habit, and now I just do it that way. I slump on the couch, and seat the ends of the needles into my abdomen and knit away. I don’t hold them up like normal people do. I should. I won’t. The projects move along. Live goes on. I’m a dork. I don’t care.

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  10. A normal school is a teacher’s college. Perhaps she received a poor grade for failing to internalize an important skill for her teaching rather than for the dress itself. Which is a pretty cool dress, all in all.Camillelurker and former teacher, but not of sewing

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  11. Brava! I tend to be a stickler for the rules in things like sewing and knitting. Unfortunately, this tendency has kept me from making a lot of things because I can’t do them the “proper” way.

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  12. That reminds me of the scene in “Like Water for Chocolate” where the mother made the daughter rip apart her entire perfect embroidered garment because she hadn’t basted the stitches first… even after the mother admitted it was beautifully done and better than her sisters’.

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  13. 1. I’ve never understood what a thimble is for. I think I’ve used one maybe five times in my life, when I was trying to force a needle through the thickest part of a seam, but have the problem oracle does–if I put a thimble on my finger, I automatically start using a bare finger to push the needle.2. Iopine, I knit like that, too! Or, at least, the righthand knitting needle has to be braced against me; the left one moves. And I throw the yarn in some nonstandard way. Whatever; it works. And I can knit faster and more evenly than a lot of friends who knit “correctly.”3. That dress is hecka cute.

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  14. Thought you might like to know that Dorrice Trickey is alive and well and living in Sarasota, FL. She would probably get a kick out of seeing this dress again.And I love this dress. It gives me the warm fuzzies as it reminds me of house dresses my mother wore in the 50’s. I love perusing your site, but I would never, ever wear a dress to do housework!

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  15. Haha, that reminded me of my maths teacher. She chastised me for solving the equation the way I did and not in “the way it’s been written on the board”. Duh, as if I’m gonna take 2 extra minutes writing down useless lines!

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  16. For those that knit by holding the needles with their bodies– you might want to look into the traditional method of knitting using a “knitting sheath” to hold the needles. It was once used by production hand knitters because it allows greater knitting speed.

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  17. This seems to be an appeal to pity to me. Yes it is sad that it got a D and yes it is worth more. However, the story does not state whether or not the usage of a thimble was required or not. Could it have been more an issue of following instruction? The story does not say.

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