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Marian and the Magic Thimble

Product Review and Inventor Profile: Marian's Magic Quilting Thimble
By Lynn Holland


Here at Planet Patchwork we are particularly fond of clever designs by quilters for quilters. Many of you have enjoyed Cheryl Ann’s portable design wall, the Supreme Slider, the Sidewinder and Quilt in a Cup, just to name a few.

So we were quite intrigued when a little blue, clear plastic item showed up in our mailbox a few weeks ago. It was Ma Joy’s Magic Thimble, the creation of now-deceased Marian Joy. This thimble is intended to support the underside of the quilting sandwich, and protect the “under” (or “off” as the package terms it) hand during the quilting or sewing process. Although it took a bit of getting used to and practice to get a stitch rhythm going, this is quite a clever device and well worth the $4.95 retail price. But of course, we wanted to know the story behind the thimble.

Since we couldn’t interview Marian herself, we contacted her son, Eric Joy, who is currently marketing Marian’s Magic Thimble. Eric, the sixth of her seven children, was quite happy to share some of his favorite recollections of his clever mother, whose creativity manifested itself in more than just quilts.

“My mother was very innovative. She was always trying to come up with new ideas for everything she did.” According to Eric, she was going to patent a measuring device that would be marketed as sort of an heirloom growth chart. A juvenile character face was mounted exactly 5 feet off the floor. Its tape measure tongue pulled down for children shorter than 5 feet and up for those that are taller than 5 feet. The tape itself was wide enough to write on in permanent marker and the tape could be replaced so that it could be stored for posterity and a new tape installed so the device can be handed down to another generation. The device would come with multiple permanent markers so that everyone could have their own color. She was even mentioned in the ‘Who’s Who of American Inventors.’”

Talking about his mother’s creative interests, Joy recalled, “I remember her sitting for hours doing some sort of craft… she knitted, crocheted, quilted, all kinds of crafts. She was very knowledgeable in many types of sewing arts. She taught me how to sew and while I was in the US Navy there were many times where I would sew on my own patches and even [those of] some others.

“The thimble was not originally intended to be an ‘invention’. She wanted my Dad to make her one that she thought would do a certain thing and he did. Later she decided that it should be marketed and that’s when they started ‘Ma Joy Company’. By the time I was born (second to last child of seven born) she had all but given up the quilting, but still ran the thimble business.”

Interestingly, there are not many other quilters or crafters in the family, according to Eric. “Most of her siblings did not get into the crafts the way she did. My wife did learn to crochet from my mother before she died, but unfortunately before my wife could learn the craft of quilting from her she passed. In fact the next big quilter in the family is my Aunt (who is my Dad’s sister). They all grew up together on farms in Farmington Michigan and were all childhood friends. My Aunt took up quilting and in fact still quilts a lot to this day. She also uses the Magic Thimble.”

Eric has other unique memories of his mother:

“I think the most interesting thing about my mother is the fact that she had the strongest intuition of any person I knew and she was a very generous spirit. She would have given anyone ANYTHING if she could. I remember one time my mother had a headache. She tried to get rid of it but could not. One thing she loved to do was go to garage sales and so she thought if she did she could relax. The first garage sale she came across was an elderly woman who was selling all of her worldly goods because she could not afford to pay her utilities. My mother wanted a gravy boat set that was there that was priced at like $10 and my mother knew it was worth more. She told the lady that she would give her $50 for the gravy boat and then the lady was thankful and agreed. My mother walked away and forgot the gravy boat (on purpose). Her headache was gone. She always used to tell us that story and say that she was ‘guided there’”.
Even though she had seven children, Marian kept the business going.
“She was running the thimble business is some form or another all the way up until shortly before she passed. After she passed, my father and sister tried keeping the thimble business together.”

Although initially inherited by his sister, it was passed on to Eric and his wife for several reasons. “My sister felt that my wife (who was very close to my mother, like a daughter to her) should have it since I have the skills to possibly get it back to market. I am mostly marketing it because I want to see my mother’s legacy go somewhere. She was very smart and I think she needs to be recognized for her contribution to society and the world. I am SO GLAD my mother’s soul and I met.”

You can find out more about Ma Joy's Magic Thimble, and purchase it, at their website.

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