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Sow's Ear

Posted by SR on April 21, 2004

In Reply to: Sow's Ear posted by Kelly on April 20, 2004

: My great-grandmother always used to say:

: "You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear"

: Any idea of the origin?

: "You can't make a Silk Purse out of a Sow's Ear."
- Jonathan Swift (1667 - 1745)

: A Silk Purse From a Sow's Ear
: Taking up Swift's challenge
Massachusetts industrialist Arthur D. Little liked a challenge. In 1921, after hearing someone quote Jonathan Swift's adage, "You can't make a silk purse of a sow's ear," Little decided to try to do just that. From a meat-packer he obtained a form of glue made from the skin and gristle of sows' ears. Taking an amount roughly equivalent to one sow's ear, he had it filtered and forced through a spinneret into a mixture of formaldehyde and acetone. The glue emerged as 16 fine, colorless streams that hardened and then combined to form a single composite fiber. Little soaked the fiber in dyed glycerin. Then he wove the resulting thread into cloth on a handloom-and fashioned the cloth into the elegant purse shown here, the kind of item carried by ladies of the Middle Ages.
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