Friday, January 27, 2012


My father was a multi-talented man. When my brother and I were youngsters he cut our hair, re-soled our shoes, built an addition on our house, repaired the plumbing and electric wiring when needed, installed new brake shoes on the car...whatever needed to be done. When he had something heavy to sew (a canvas hammock, ripped blue jeans, a duffel bag) he would get out his "pam."

Only later in life did I realize that this leather device had probably belonged to his father; maybe had even been passed down from his grandfather. It was a popular tool among sailors and sail makers. This "sewing palm" as it is usually called, is made of leather, and designed to be strapped around the hand. A metal "thimble" is embedded in the section that covers the base of the thumb. With the aid of the "pam" you can push a heavy needle through several layers of heavy canvas.

My father's pam is old, and the leather is brittle, but it is a small reminder of Ocracoke's days of sailing vessels and seafaring traditions.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Ocracoke Joe Bell flowers. You can read it here:


  1. Anonymous5:48 AM

    Pretty neat!

  2. You could open your own museum

  3. debbie s.8:45 AM

    out of need comes ingenuity! very cool!

    on the other hand, i cant even sew a straight line (no kidding, i made my son a blanket when he was born. its really cute, if not more than a little lopsided lololol)

  4. Anonymous11:33 AM

    Thank goodness for search engines I have found a Sailors palm video on the net to learn more... Phillip have you heard of Pinterest it is a app ? web page?? that one creates with their favorite images maybe Lou Ann has a Pinterest page ??? that I don't know--- thought you would like to know sharing is caring XXXOOO

  5. I remember from my Navy days (no, I wasn't aboard a square-rigger), how the boatswain's mates used similar tools for the needlework they did. The nomenclature was different, if I recall correctly -- which I probably don't.

  6. Anonymous3:54 PM

    Still used by sailmakers and sailors for hand sewing and ropework. I use mine a few times a year.