Thimble stays nimble while iconic iron loses steam

“Pressing Matters,” a quilt by Laura Wasilowski of Chicago, pays tribute to the iron, an essential component in her fused art specialty.

Another quilt in Laura Wasilowski’s “Tools of the Trade” series features a thimble. Her patterns are available at

As a rule, I don’t share my family’s dirty laundry. But, I’m certainly not averse to sharing someone else’s.

I learned how — to do laundry, that is — at my grandmother’s knee when I was what now is known as a tween. She had many jobs around our small town, trying to make ends meet, and “taking in ironing” was one of them.

Soon, she turned over those chores to me, teaching me how to properly press a man’s large dress shirt and to correctly fold a fitted sheet. It was one of my first paying jobs: We charged a nickel per piece and a dime for a man’s shirt. Those prices included pickup and delivery.

You may find it hard to believe, but to this day, ironing clothes remains one of my favorite household duties. I am more likely now to press fabric quilt blocks than hankies and pillowcases, though. I’ve also upgraded from whatever brand Grandma plugged in to a high-end Rowenta steam iron, roundly acclaimed by the quilt industry.

So when Hasbro Inc., maker of the Monopoly game, recently allowed 10 million Facebook fans to unplug the tiny iron token from its seven board game counterparts and replace it with a cat, I was dismayed. I do like cats, but why couldn’t they dump that musty top hat or that rickety old wheelbarrow instead of the iron?

Despite permanent press and wrinkle-free clothing, irons still play an important role in fashion, crafts and quilting. In fact, sales of steam generator irons — the most high-powered and speedy — totaled $368 million last year.

It’s an especially sad day at the Chicago School of Fusing, where Laura Wasilowski and her fellow faculty members create magical art quilts with paper-backed glue webbing that bonds fabrics together with heat.

“The demise of the iron token has taken us all by surprise,” she laments. “As an essential tool in the composition of fused art quilts, the iron is both necessary and revered.

“Although we were able to save the thimble token from elimination, our friend the iron has been tossed aside. You know that’s gotta hurt.”

Oh yes, the tiny metal thimble token was threatened as well. In fact, the International Quilt Association took the Monopoly voting so seriously that it sponsored a Save the Thimble campaign, with its logo printed on T-shirts and other products.

Again, Wasilowski rushed to protect the thimble on her blog, She’s a big fan of “the tools of our trade” and employs a comfy thimble when adding hand embroidery stitches to her whimsical quilts, she writes.

Patterns and hand-dyed fabrics and threads for her quilt series on sewing tools — thimble, iron, scissors, spool of thread, pincushion­ — can be purchased on her website.

In April, Wasilowski will be one of the featured artists at the annual Alegre quilt retreat at Gateway Canyons Resort here in Mesa County. She’ll teach “Couching Threads, Hidden Needle” on April 13–14. Participants will make several small fused art quilts, then add hand stitchery to enliven the designs. For details, go to

Another thimble devotee, who lobbied hard to keep the sewing icon on the board, is Richard Marinaccio, 30, a corporate lawyer in Buffalo, N.Y.

Offering more than a token defense, he formed and led a media campaign called “Thumbs Up for the Thimble.”

Marinaccio is the reigning U.S. Monopoly champion, a title he won with his favorite game piece, the humble thimble.

Some players may think it’s an outdated symbol, but Marinaccio says in a Buffalo News interview that he prefers the thimble because it’s the tallest token, it’s symmetrical and it’s the easiest to move around the board. Now, he’s happy he won’t have to play without his good luck charm.

I haven’t played Monopoly since I was a child, when my younger cousins came to visit and brought their game with them. One was a wheeler-
dealer, buying property with every move and always insisting on being the banker.

Somewhat annoying at the time, but he did grow up to be successful in the real estate business, come to think of it.

For those of you who still enjoy the board game, champion Marinaccio shares his top advice: Learn what your opponents’ interests are, find their weaknesses and expose them.

That sounds rather calculating, doesn’t it?

Thanks, but I’d rather put my full-size iron and thimble to use in my quilt studio.

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