Thursday, May 31, 2007

Catching up on some eBay silver thimble auctions. . .

Peter Swingler Girl In A Straw Hat enamel & silver thimble.
Reserve not met: Highest Bid: US$204.06; 9 bids, starting at US$10.45.
17 April 2007

Simons Bros. Sterling Silver thimble: Washington, D.C., 1893 original.
US$305.99; 10 bids starting at US$12.01.
30 April 2007.

Webster Sterling Silver Cherub/Angels thimble.
US$255.01; 14 bids, starting at US$35.09.
2 May 2007.
Erroneously identified in listing as from Wallace; from description of mark it is Webster.

French Garlands, Flowers, and Bows Sterling Silver thimble.
US $150.00; 7 bids, starting at US$9.99.
30 April 2007.

A Stitch in Time Save Nine thimble.
US$245.93; 24 bids, starting at US $25.37.
3 May 2007.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Two Upcoming Auctions

Bonhams, Knightsbridge:
12 June 2007: The Knightsbridge Sale
Lot No.: 192; Sale No.: 14903
"A good collection of late 19th / early 20th century Mauchlinware items all with printed views of seaside and touring towns and cities, comprising a large egg shaped wool or string holder printed with views of Southport, another small egg shaped holder for Shakespeare's House, a barrel money box for Walton-on-Naze, a castle money box for Victorian Pier, Folkstone, a rectangular castle money box for Hyde Pier, a plain rectangular money box printed with a Highlander, a large medicine glass holder for Totland Bay, Isle of Wight, two smaller holders for Burns Cottage and Hunstanton Pier, a mushroom darner for Burns Cottage, a reel holder for the Jetty, Yarmouth, a miniature reel holder for Stirling Castle, two thimble cases for the Dripping Well and Shakespeare's House, a reel holder for Thirlstone Castle, an egg shaped reel holder for Stirling Castle, a pin cushion for Harbour Bridge, a thimble box for Lovers Seat, a needle case for Kirk Bradden, five variouus pin holders, two needle books, a hexagonal reel box, a minature tazza for Alloway Kirk, six napkin rings and three other pieces, (38 approximately)"
Estimate: £1,200 - 1,500

Christie's, Amsterdam:
Lot No.: 0153; Sale No.: 2743
A collection of various silver and silver-mounted boxes, snuff-boxes and other objects.
"Various makers and dates, 19th and 20th Century, mainly Dutch, some unmarked.
Comprising eleven boxes of various shapes and with different decoration, two silver-mounted tortoiseshell boxes, six pincases, three thimbles and various other objects, marked on bodies, bases and covers."
13.5 cm. long and smaller.
690 gr. (37).

Monday, May 28, 2007

Frankly, my dear. . .

This scene from the film Gone With the Wind shows Gerald O'Hara (Thomas Mitchell) looking through his late wife, Ellen's, sewing box, holding up her earbobs, right after we first hear him speak of her as still being alive. Scarlett has just figured out that her father has become mentally unstable. He has her gold thimble on his left-hand pinkie. This scene in the book is different, with no reference to Ellen's thimble. There are only four thimble references in the novel, quoted below.
A lot of the sociological writings I've read regarding references to thimbles in art and film and literature take a feminist stance as to what thimble-wearing in represents: Patriarchy feels Woman is weak and must be protected by its own contrived devices. Or: Patriarchy is dulling the sensation of Woman's finger in the guise of protecting her but really just controlling her sexuality (Huh?). Or: Woman is either (A) oppressed and recoiling from her life into a capitalist-male-created thimble-shell, or (B) empowered and seizing control of her life by "donning her armor" and seizing economic opportunities in the workforce. Of course, an artist can use any symbol for any reason, including any of the foregoing. I don't think that Margaret Mitchell or Victor Fleming or David O. Selznick had such things in mind.
I do think Ellen O'Hara's gold thimble sort of posthumously personifies her, in both the book and the film. Practical and dutiful, yet elegant and uncommon. But then again, sometimes a thimble is just a thimble.
Chapter 3, p. 41. [Scarlett has just returned to Tara from Atlanta, to find that her mother has died.]:
Scarlett had never seen her mother's back touch the back of any chair on which she sat. Nor had she ever seen her sit down without a bit of needlework in her hands, except at mealtime, while attending the sick or while working at the bookkeeping of the plantation. It was delicate embroidery if company were present, but at other times her hands were occupied with Gerald's ruffled shirts, the girls' dresses or garments for the slaves. Scarlett could not imagine her mother's hands without her gold thimble or her rustling figure unaccompanied by the small negro girl whose sole function in life was to remove basting threads and carry the rosewood sewing box from room to room, as Ellen moved about the house superintending the cooking, the cleaning and the wholesale clothes-making for the plantation.
Chapter 26, p. 440. [A Union soldier has just arrived at Tara and has found Ellen O'Hara's sewing box.]:
"Who's there?" cried a nasal voice and she stopped on the middle of the stairs, the blood thudding in her ears so loudly she could hardly hear him. "Halt or I'll shoot!" came the voice.
He stood in the door of the dining room, crouched tensely, his pistol in one hand and, in the other, the small rosewood sewing box fitted with gold thimble, gold-handled scissors and tiny gold-topped acorn of emery. Scarlett's legs felt cold to the knees but rage scorched her face. Ellen's sewing box in his hands. She wanted to cry: "Put it down! Put it down, you dirty--" but words would not come. She could only stare over the banisters at him and watch his face change from harsh tenseness to a half-contemptuous, half-ingratiating smile.
Chapter 26, p. 443. [Scarlett has killed the Union soldier; Scarlett and Melanie are looking through the dead soldier's belongings.]:
The trouser pockets yielded nothing except a candle end, a jackknife, a plug of tobacco and a bit of twine. Melanie removed from the knapsack a small package of coffee which she sniffed as if it were the sweetest of perfumes, hardtack and, her face changing, a miniature of a little girl in a gold frame set with seed pearls, a garnet brooch, two broad gold bracelets with tiny dangling gold chains, a gold thimble, a small silver baby's cup, gold embroidery scissors, a diamond solitaire ring and a pair of earrings with pendant pear-shaped diamonds, which even their unpracticed eyes could tell were well over a carat each.
"A thief!" whispered Melanie, recoiling from the still body. "Scarlett, he must have stolen all of this!"
"Of course," said Scarlett. "And he came here hoping to steal more from us."
Chapter 27, p. 467. [Union soldiers are at Tara, scavenging for food and items of value.]:
"Nothin' but cotton in the cabins. We set fire to it."
For a brief instant Scarlett saw the long hot days in the cotton field, felt again the terrible ache in her back, the raw bruised flesh of her shoulders. All for nothing. The cotton was gone.
"You ain't got much, for a fac', have you, lady?"
"Your army has been here before," she said coolly.
"That's a fac'. We were in this neighborhood in September," said one of the men, turning something in his hand.
"I'd forgot."
Scarlett saw it was Ellen's gold thimble that he held. How often she had seen it gleaming in and out of Ellen's fancy work. The sight of it brought back too many hurting memories of the slender hand which had worn it. There it lay in this stranger's calloused dirty palm and soon it would find its way North and onto the finger of some Yankee woman who would be proud to wear stolen things. Ellen's thimble!
I appreciate Scarlett's sentimentality about her mother's thimble, but she might want to consider her own pride in wearing things acquired from the proceeds of stolen labor.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

What's the deal?

A while back I mentioned some eBay listings that were supposedly auctions for silver Fabergé thimbles from the former Bulgarian royal court (one of which is pictured at right). I wrote that I didn't know much about Fabergé, but that the thimbles didn't have the fine detail that I associated with Fabergé. So now, there is a listing from another seller for a thimble similar to the "Fabergé" silver fox thimble, except that it's sloppier in its detail and the "КФ" and "84" marks are missing (see below). The listing does not referece Fabergé at all, just that the thimble is "19th Century European" and depicts a wolf. Wolf or fox, you decide. Anyway, I still can't say what the story is with these thimbles, but I bet we see a bunch more of them floating around.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Gold Thimble for Jessie

New York Times, 23 August 1856, p. 4.

The Jessie in question is Jessie Benton Fremont (1824-1902), wife of the 1856 Republican presidential candidate, John C. Fremont. The words in the inscription are from the campaign slogan, "Free soil, free men, free speech, Fremont."
The above article was shortly followed by this article in the Brooklyn Eagle, 23 August 1856:

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Ye Knight of Ye Silver Thimble

Vexed and perplexed, when knot and kink
Conspired to daze my weary head
And nearly make me frantic,
I bless the friend who said, "I think
You'll find the only perfect thread
'Twas sound advice, I followed it,
And saved a world of bother,
So good, so smooth, so strong, so free,
The best is good enough for me,
From then to now I never yet
Have wished for any other.

Willamantic thread trade card. Poem is printed on reverse of card.

Sunday, May 20, 2007


This is my favorite magazine.
It is full of well-illustrated, well-researched articles on all sorts of needlework crafts from a large variety of cultures. There are lovely projects to try that are related to the articles in each issue. There is also a calendar of national needlework and textile events (the magazine's web page has a link to a PDF file of its most recent calendar).
You can subscribe through the Interweave Press web page or Amazon, or probably get the current month's issue at your local Barnes & Noble.
Other Interweave Press magazines that I love include Spin Off, Handwoven, Quilting Arts Magazine, and Cloth Paper Scissors.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Don't put pins in your mouth!

Click to on article enlarge.
New York Daily Times,
25 February 1854.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

(Insert your own Congressional middle finger joke here.)*

New York Times, 28 July 1939, page 2.

*The middle finger is, of course, the thimble finger.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

This, and world peace.

My birthday is coming up.
I don't believe in expecting people to read my mind. None of that "If he really loves me he'll know" business. That's silly. That's irrational. That's impractical.
I am not silly. Not irrational. Not impractical.
Not me. Pale blue guilloché enamel over rose gold thimble with wavy band of fine yellow gold filigree, set with white stone top.
Michael Perchin, Fabergé, St. Petersburg, c. 1890.

John Atzbach Antiques, Redmond, WA.

I don't think they have sales tax in the state of Washington.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Mrs. Wilson's Thimble

New York Times, 5 May 1918, p. 18.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Recipe: White Chocolate Chip Cookies

White Chocolate Chip Cookies
½ c. white sugar
½ c. brown sugar
½ c. cold butter
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1¼ c. flour, unsifted
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1 c. white chocolate chips (or your preferred chips)
1 c. walnuts (optional: I don't use them. . .)

  • Preheat oven to 300 °F.
  • Cream together sugars and butter.
  • Add to creamed mixture: egg, vanilla, flour, baking soda, salt. Mix at low speed until crumbly and floury. Don't over mix. Crumbly and floury.
  • Stir in by hand: chips and walnuts.
  • Using size 30 ice cream scoop, pressing dough into scoop, scoop dough onto ungreased cookie sheet. Don't worry too much about the scoop. Use what you have. But the dough ball would be about the size of a regular scoop of ice cream.
  • Bake 15 min., 300°F.

What do white chocolate chip cookies have to do with thimbles? You put them in the Spool of Thread Cookie Jar, of course.
Silly question!

"Spool Of Thread" cookie jar, produced by American Bisque Pottery of Williamstown, West Virginia, ca. 1950.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Where you can put your thimble. . .

Some recent eBay auctions:

Vintage Black Forest Hand Carved Sewing Kit w/Thimble.
US $66.99, 14 bids starting at US $12.78.
4 May 2007.
"A vintage hand carved sewing kit from the Black Forest region. Dark lovely wood is carved grapes and grape leaves and the top is a stylized eastern castle top. The top pulls off to reveal a very old plain brass thimble which sits atop a bone stem which is both a needlecase and a spool holding two colours of threads: pink and blue. The needlecase/spool measures almost 3" in length and the entire sewing kit measures just a bit over 4" in length. Very beautiful carvings hand wrought into the dark lovely wood. Very special. From a private collection."
I was planning in bidding on this--it would have made a great conversation piece among my non-thimble-collecting friends--but it was getting a little higher than I wanted to pay.

Sterling Silver Antique repoussé sewing case with thimble.
US$284.99 seller's minimum bid: no bids.
2 May 2007.

Antique Hand Carved Vegetable Ivory Barrel Thimble Holder: about 2¼" high and 1¾" in diameter, no chips, or cracks.
US$51.50; 7 bids starting at US$12.00.
1 May 2007.
Vegetable ivory is derived from any of a variety ivory-palm seeds, or nuts, including the Coquilla and Corozo, both native to South America. The seeds are carefully dried, after which the white, dried endosperm inside becomes very hard and dense and can be carved or polished like stones or elephant tusks. Vegetable ivory has become a desirable alternative to animal ivory not only for its beauty, but because (1) the trees are not killed in the harvest their seeds, (2) the trees produce seeds throughout their lives and are thus a renewable resource, and (3) an increased demand for everyday items made from vegetable ivory can help protect the ivory-palm trees in the rain forest from being leveled for either cattle grazing or the planting of less profitable crops.

1898 Iroquois Bead Work Thimble & Bead Holder.
US$53.00; 5 bids, starting at US$25.00.
26 April 2007.
Beaded on silk with glass beads and metal sequins, 9" by 6" with an 8-inch hanger, very clean silk with no damage or wear, three loops of fringe missing.

French Palais Royal Jeweled Ormolu Thimble Basket.
Reserve not met. High Bid: US$104.50; 8 bids, starting at US$46.00.
25 April 2007.
Napoleon III era, ca. 1860; lined with original silk, paste stones; 4" high x 3" wide.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Woman Sewing

Woman Sewing
William McGregor Paxton, c. 1913.
Detroit Institute of Arts.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Colonel Mustard, in the Library, with a thimble.

(Click on article to enlarge.)
The Los Angeles Times,
2 March 1919, page I4.

First tchotchke, now trinket?

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Lord Weatherill Dies at 86.

I'm not all that up on the British Parliament, but I noticed the obit for Lord Weatherill because of the wig. I sort of vaguely knew that some official types over in England had worn wigs during my lifetime, but hadn't really given it much thought. Weatherill was the last speaker of the House of Commons to wear one. Reminds me of that movie, Witness For the Prosecution, with Tyrone Power and Marlene Dietrich: Charles Laughton wore a poofy white wig. Anyway, that's what caught my eye.
Then, the sentence: "The son of a Savile Row tailor, he carried a thimble in his pocket because his mother had said it would keep him humble."
How sweet. Listened to Mom; carried a thimble. Must have been a nice man.

It makes me think that there's a good number of people who could use thimbles in their pockets. They might not have the same modest origins as Lord Weatherill, but perhaps the question, "Is that a thimble in your pocket...?" could take their egos down a few pegs.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Patent: No. D42978: Design for a Sewing Thimble

Patent No. D42978, Lorentz M. Seybold, New York, NY,
assignor to Ketcham & McDougall of New York, NY, a firm.,
Sept. 3, 1912

Monday, May 07, 2007

Eggs, Marbles, and Thimble

Eggs, Marbles, and Thimble
Karl Priebe (1914-1976). 1959.
Gouache, mixed media.
Private collection.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

The Golden Gate Bridge

This pewter Golden Gate Bridge thimble is available through the Golden Gate Online Store for $8.99 plus S/H. They have a whole lot of other GGB stuff there. The usual souvenirs, plus some unusual things: a four-inch piece of Original Golden Gate Bridge Cable ($174.99), in all its International Orange loveliness; a Golden Gate Bridge Rivet ($19.99: make your friends guess what it is before you tell them); and various Cancelled Series bonds.
I am trying to remember as I write this if I have one like this. I know I have one with a little dangly bridge, but I don't remember where exactly it's from. Sausalito? I have several GGB thimbles because I live just outside San Francisco. Some of them are from friends, but three different ones are from the little gift shop at the south end of the bridge. I purchased them the first, and--as God is my witness--LAST, time I walked across the bridge.
A lot of travel guides to SF highly recommend a little stroll across the Bridge. The writers of such guidebooks (A) have never walked it, or (B) are nuts.
Herein I detail my reasons why you, gentle reader, should not walk across the Golden Gate Bridge:
  1. It's really, really high and if you chance to look over the side at the bay below you will get woozy.
  2. It's really, really windy and between the wind and the traffic whooshing by you are always in mortal danger of being blown off the bridge. If you must walk across, DO NOT wear your Sister Bertrille hat.
  3. Again, the wind. It's always blowing against you. Into your face. Making your nose run. And you won't remember to bring any tissue.
  4. Smart-ass bicyclers from Marin County riding to San Francisco.
  5. Smart-ass bicyclers from San Francisco riding to Marin County.
  6. Wherever you are on the bridge, whichever direction you're heading, you have to walk uphill.
  7. The public tranportation to the bridge just sucks. You have to transfer a zillion times to different buses in these little neighborhoods where, depending what end of what block you're on, can be pretty sketchy.
  8. The alternate to public transportation: fighting for a parking spot in the dinky tourist lot near the toll booth/tourist center/gift shop, which will drain you of the your energy to walk across and/or will to live.
  9. The kind soul you've conned into walking with you will have permanent scarring where you've dug your fingernails into his/her arms.
  10. Once you make it--nose dripping, calves throbbing, tummy churning--to the other side, you pretty much have to walk back.
Also, back when I walked across, they didn't have a railing between the sidewalk and the traffic speeding by, just this little mid-calf-high concrete barrier, on the other side of which was this six-inch-wide gap running the length of the bridge. You could see straight down to the Bay. I think at some point a little toddler (from Germany?) fell through. They've fixed that, but still. . .
Drive, yes. Bike, if you want. Walk, no.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

The Secret of Taming Horses

Click on image to enlarge.

The Farmers' Cabinet, Amherst, New Hampshire,
Vol. 59, issue 26, page 4.
25 January 1861

Friday, May 04, 2007

Thimble Wine Charms

Let me say right off that I'm not a big wine drinker.
This is one of those little charms that one wraps around the stem of one's wine glass to claim said glass as one's own and not the glass of the big sweaty guy who came with Cousin Eulalie. It is from a company called Wine Charm Themes, which has all kinds of different wine charms. To be a complete sewing geek I could get the set of four different sewing-related charms (thimble, tape measure, sewing machine, and button) for $14.95. Or, I could customize my own set by selecting any of 345 different charms at $4.00 a pop, then choosing my favorite color beads for $2.00 extra. Gosh! that's almost too many options for a simple small-town thimble collector.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

A thimble for Queen Wilhelmina

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 1 February 1901, p. 13.

If you, as did I, have no idea who these people are, see for Oom Paul Kruger and Queen Wilhelmina. I wish I had a photo of the thimble. I'll have to research the Vernon thimbles a bit and see if anything fits the description.

Update: Apparently there is some controversy in the Annals of Thimble Lore as to whether Paul Krueger actually gave Queen Wilhelmina a thimble for her wedding. Some have cited a reference refuting Gertrude Whiting's assertion in her book, Old-Time Tools & Toys of Needlework, that a particular thimble was the wedding gift, claiming that his gift was actually an inkwell. One article in particular admonishes researchers to confirm stories with contemporary sources before publishing "Fairy Tales" as facts.
The above clipping was published 6 days before the wedding of Queen Wilhelmina to Prince Hendrik, and pretty much describes the thimble Ms. Whiting referenced.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Find the Thimble

Find the Thimble
John Morgan (1823-1886)