Studio Tour: Bernie Brown – Thimblelina & Me

Modern Creative Life Presents Studio Tours

The floor is the best surface ever invented for cutting fabric. Nothing falls off it.  There is always more room.  The only drawback is pins end up sticking into the carpet as well as my pattern pieces.

My sweet little Viking sewing machine has been my trusty soldier for over thirty years.  The last time I took it in for its yearly tune up, oiling and timing—which synchs the bobbin thread and the needle thread to form a clean stitch —the repairman said, “Don’t you ever use it? It’s perfectly clean.”

I replied, “I use it all the time and clean it after every project.”

And he said, “It’s a good thing because if it ever breaks, I can’t get parts for it anymore.” If that day ever came, I would weep and moan. I would tear my hair. Emergency vehicles may need to be summoned.

My sewing things live in a loft corner of our third floor family room. The arrangement has never varied for thirty years. Everything is positioned where I can reach for it without even looking or knocking it over.

I learned to sew by watching my mom, who used a thimble like a natural extension of her finger. I never mastered the use of this little tool with the funny name. I kept one at my house for Mom’s visits, and now that she’s gone, I keep it because it reminds me of her. The charmingly ugly little figurine with a thimble for a hat is called Thimblelina. During a brief stint as a stock boy at Hallmark, my middle-school-aged son bought her for me, a spontaneous gift I treasure.

My high school stone-age curriculum required Home Ec for girls. We struggled with our basic shirtwaists with varying degrees of success. Mrs. A, our beloved teacher, scolded me, “You press things to death.” I’m afraid Mrs. A never cured me of that. I can’t sew without an iron by my side. A skillful press job hides many a sewing sin. Near my workaday iron are two beautifully carved and etched antique irons from a Dutch flea market. They are from the era when hot coals put inside them provided the heat. Next to them sits a doll size ironing board and iron that my dad made for me in his woodshop. I love it not only because he made it, but because he got the pleasing angles of the ironing board legs exactly right. And the small iron is crafted of layers of wood, which give it character and interest. So, my sewing area includes not only working tools, but decorative models of them, too, which add a whimsical touch for me to admire as I work.

I have an accordion rack where I hang a number of scissors. Not sure how I acquired so many pairs. And there is all the other stuff a seamstress accumulates: elastic, pins, needles, measuring tape, thread, bobbins and a drawer overflowing with fabric scraps and dress patterns.

Thimblelina and I welcome you to my sewing corner. Just be on the lookout for pins on the floor. They tend to stick in the carpet.


My antique Viking. Long may she reign.


Bernie Scissorhands.


One woman’s thimble is another woman’s hat.


Iron’s plain and fancy.


This darling model would make any dress look good.


I wonder if the naked lady in the background would like for me to make her a dress.

About the Author: Bernie Brown

berniebrownI live in Raleigh, NC where I write, read, and watch birds. My stories have appeared in several magazines, most recently Every Writer’s Resource, Still Crazy and the Raleigh News and Observer. I am a Writer in Residence at the Weymouth Center. Get to know me better my website and connect with me on Facebook.