Sewing Notions at the Rolfe Library
From mini sewing kits and thimble holders to old irons and buttons the new display features some of the museum's sewing notions.
A basket of pearl buttons reminds us that Iowa was once known as the button capital of the world. The buttons were made from mussel shells caught in the Mississippi. In 1889, a button maker names Johann Bopple came from Germany and designed a machine to punch what were called pearl buttons out of mussel shells from the Mississippi River. Within 10 years there were sixty button factories located in the Mississippi River valley. Muscatine became known as the the "Pearl City." In 1898 Iowa turned out 138 million mother of pearl buttons. The story doesn't end well. By 1900, the mussels were almost gone around Muscatine. Mussels shells were then imported to the Iowa factories from the Arkansas, Ohio, and Tennessee Rivers until plastic buttons took over.
A flat iron, a Coleman kerosene iron, and an early electric iron make us thankful for "wash and wear" fabrics.The electric iron was first invented in the 1880's, but the early models were were too dangerous to use. It took until the 1900's to design a safe electric iron. In Iowa, rural farms didn't get electricity until the 1930's so flat irons heated on a cook stove or kerosene irons were used.
Perhaps the strangest item in the display is a thimble holder crocheted around a wishbone. Creative minds never rest!