A Thimble’s Worth of Advice

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Some of the best things in life are also the smallest! A hopeless collector, I adore thimbles! I’ve picked thimbles up as inexpensive souvenirs and at flea markets. However, I had no idea that one day a chance meeting at a tag sale and a cigar box of thimbles would lead to a surprise and a life lesson!

Protecting the fingertips from injury during sewing, thimbles have been used for thousands of years, even found among the ruins of Pompeii. Utilitarian in purpose, early examples were made from leather or bone. The first-known metal thimble, made in the late 1600’s, was called a “thumb bell”. Thimbles were later made from all sort of material – from ivory to silver (which is soft and resulted in needle-pricked fingers) to porcelain, plastic and more. Before, a thimble would’ve been found in every home (along with a rolling pin and well-worn apron); some people today don’t even know what a thimble is!

Thimbles were often a promotional "give away", like these early metal ones...

Thimbles were often a promotional “give away”, like these early metal ones…

 

...or these plastic ones.

…or these plastic ones.

A porcelain example from one of my favorite vintage companies, "Lefton"

A bone china example from a favorite vintage company, “Lefton”

As a little girl, during the hottest part of the day in the hot Texas summer, I would happily play next to Momma while she used her sewing machine under the cool of the air conditioning. Above her sewing machine was a little rack of thimbles.

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I remember shopping with Daddy for that special Mother’s Day, 1970-something, at a local gift shop, owned by the nicest, always-perfectly-coiffed-and-perfumed shopkeeper who loved to chat with all her customers. She knew them well, and could suggest perfect gifts for each. I was thrilled to present Momma that little wooden thimble rack, hand-painted with strawberries, complete with a matching strawberry-painted thimble. We’d add thimbles to it on road trips, mostly to the Texas hill country.

The thimble on the left is from my mom - it has her nail polish on it from when she was in high school home ec. class in the 50's! The one on the left we picked up in the 70's in New Braunfels, TX at a German restaurant/gift shop.

The thimble on the left is from my mom – it has her nail polish on it from when she was in a high school home economics class in the 1950’s! The one on the right we picked up in the 70’s in New Braunfels, TX at a German restaurant/gift shop.

Another one from the early 80's that my mom had

Another one from the early 80’s from England

I made these two that my mom kept on her thimble rack when I was around seven in a ceramics class. Raw art there!

I made these two (top shelf) that my mom kept on her thimble rack when I was around seven in a ceramics class. Raw art there!

Later, when I took up sewing as an adult, Momma gave me the rack and thimbles she’d packed away years before. Not very large, it couldn’t hold all the thimbles I had, so some stayed tucked in a drawer.

From some of my travels through the years...

From some of my travels through the years…

Fun to find at flea markets, thimbles give clues to their age. Rounded tops are older, while flat-topped one are more "modern"

Fun to find at flea markets, thimbles give clues to their age. Rounded tops are older, while flat-topped one are more “modern”

This bake-lite thimble top shows years of use.

This bake-lite thimble top shows years of use.

Awhile ago, my  guest/sewing room had become messy with my tools and patterns. One day, I noticed an old, dusty little sewing cabinet for sale on an online tag sale. Just what I needed to get my sewing supplies organized and out of the way of guests, I decided to purchase it.

Ever met someone and “connected” immediately? The seller was lovely – an empty-nester who was downsizing and soon embarking on an out-of-state move. The sweet little cabinet just wasn’t something she could take with her; she was happy I would put it to good use. We chatted on and on about how hobbies like sewing were disappearing nowadays. She told me about her beloved mother, whom the cabinet had once belonged to. Her mother was a very talented lady with a giant smile that I know I would’ve enjoyed meeting, as well.

After polishing it and organizing my notions, I later texted the sweet lady a photo of the cabinet, thanking her again for selling it to me. Before moving away, she then contacted me, asking if I liked thimbles. She had some of her mother’s and thought I would like them, so we met up once more. Chatting again, I was sad my new friend was moving.

Treasure inside!

Treasure inside!

At home I unwrapped the thimbles, meticulously packed in a cigar box. I was amazed at all the different thimbles…so beautiful. It was then I noticed paper inside some. Unfolding the slips of paper, I was touched by the sentimentality of the lady who they’d once belonged to. There were little notes about where she had acquired her thimbles. Some were from trips, others gifted to her like the one whose yellowed strip of paper reads, “Old – from Mom’s friend”.

Notes like this were tucked inside many of the thimbles!

Notes like this were tucked inside many of the thimbles.

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This unique "moat" thimble has its own castle!

This unique “moat” thimble has its own castle!

For awhile, I kept them all in the box, until I found the perfect little velvet-lined hanging shelf that I fixed up and stained, to hang next to the rack from my childhood. With them, I put all the thimbles I’d collected through the years, as well.

The little velvet-lined shelf was in disrepair that I found for $2.00. After fixing and staining it, I found it perfect to hold thimbles!

The little velvet-lined shelf was in disrepair that I found for $2.00. After fixing and staining it, I found it perfect to hold thimbles!

I feel a kinship to the lady who had liked to do many of the same things I do now, who was so sentimental she tucked notes like hidden treasure in her thimbles. She inspired me to go back and put little notes in as many of mine as I could. A recent addition to my thimbles is from Washington DC. It’s note reads, “Acquired as a parent chaperone on the fun Eighth Grade field trip with Newtown Middle School, April 2016.”

Two thimbles from trips with my daughter the past year now hold their own notes.

Two thimbles from trips with my daughter the past year now hold their own notes.

I love sewing at my sewing machine, and glimpsing at the thimbles on the wall.

No longer just “souvenir thimbles”, I’m reminded life isn’t just “big” life moments. Some of the best, most special memories we hold dear are also the simplest times spent with those we love.

Until Next Time…Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

Leave a comment 34 Comments

  1. Barbara Purvine says:

    Simply WONDERFUL!!

  2. Krista says:

    Oh how I love thimbles! My grandmother use to collect them. She had so many and they were displayed on beautiful wood shelves for everyone to see. I remember as a child admiring her thimbles and trying them on. In fact many of her thimbles had pieces of tape inside stating where the thimble came from and what year. It’s wonderful to learn about her experience and places she went. One day if I ever take up sewing (which I hope is soon) I will invest in my first thimble and hope to pass its memories down to my grandchildren. Thanks for sharing your lovely story!

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Krista, what a wonderful memory of your grandmother! Thank you for sharing. I think you will love to sew. My daughter sews a bit, too, and I hope this summer we can do more of it together. Like you, I hope she passes that love of all things creative on to her children she may have some day. Sewing is a wonderful skill…start small and build from there. Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  3. janet says:

    thank you for sharing your story…I think that was one of the sweetest blogposts I have ever read. you never know who will cross your path each day and how lucky you were. the good news about your story is that it started my day today with joy…..the bad was that you may have sparked me to start collecting THIMBLES :) ….perfect with my quilts.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Janet, Thank you for your sweet comment…you’ve made my day. Hmmm…thimbles and quilts…sounds like a perfect match! Happy Collecting! 😉 Thank you so much for “stopping by” the blog. Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  4. Denise says:

    A beautiful collection! I adore collecting thimbles. I have been doing it for many years. I just think some of them are so unique in their decoration. I have one from Dusseldorf and it is so pretty. One of my favories.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Denise! Thank you…I bet yours is a beautiful collection, as well! It’s funny, too, you never know where you might find a new addition! Thank you for reading and commenting. Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  5. Joan says:

    GREAT story! What wonderful memories!

  6. Becky says:

    What a treasure that cigar box was! Now you’ve started the same tradition…for you to pass on.
    Happy sewing!!!

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Becky, Wasn’t it? I could not believe how many thimbles fit into that cigar box! I would have loved to have met the lady that had them…I know we would have been friends even though we were generations apart. My daughter likes to sew too, and just like when I was a kid, she will hang out with me while I sew. Happy Days! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  7. Beverly Battaglia says:

    Nicole, I did not realize how many thimbles you have now! I forgot you gave the little wooden thimble holder to me for Mother’s Day. And which thimble did I accidentally drop and break when I was at your house? I have three collectible thimbles left, one you gave to me from Denmark, a wooden one with Texas and blue bonnets on it, and one from Galveston Texas which I think my mother gave to me. Your story of the notes in the thimbles is so wonderful and I love the castle thimble. Very interesting to read.
    Love, Mother

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Mom! I am so glad you still have a few thimbles left! I remember you breaking one of the ones from when I was a kid, but I don’t remember which one now. Audrey loves the thimbles so she will have them someday. Thanks for starting a great tradition! Love you! ~Nicole

  8. Mary Rauch says:

    Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful! Thank you for sharing this with us!…Most enjoyable.

  9. Joann says:

    Loved reading this. While I have a few thimbles, this made me remember my late friend Joyce who collected them and belonged to a thimble club. She also belonged to our button club. Miss her still. Enjoyed the stories about your collection.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Joann, what a sweet comment; thank you for sharing your memory of your friend Joyce. A thimble and a button club?!? How FUN! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  10. Vivian Monroe says:

    Oh I love this post. I collect thimbles as well from yard sales, estate sales, thrift shops, trips, etc. but my favorite one is one my mother in law gave me that belonged to her grandmother, and it was a silver one with the top half cut out, I am told they are used for quilting, but also, I read where women were gifted silver thimbles as wedding gifts and then they would cut the top off and wear as a wedding band when they couldnt afford rings. :) I too love meeting the people with the stories behind the thimbles. Be Blessed.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Neta! Oh my goodness…what a treasure you have! I did not know that about thimbles, how wonderful! Thank you so much for sharing! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  11. Lynn says:

    I loved this story, thank you for sharing it with us. I also have a thimble collection. I have mine, my Mother’s, my Grandmother’s and her Mother’s, all under a little dome. I am going to go back now and put little notes in many of them. My everyday thimble I wear in a cage around my neck. It is a conversation starter. I have met many wonderful people.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Lynn, I’m so glad you enjoyed this post! How blessed you are to have those thimbles. What another great idea – displaying thimbles under a dome, and as a necklace. Thanks for sharing with us. Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  12. Margaret Taffi says:

    I put my thimbles away a long time ago and since I will be downsizing, I can’t wait to unearth them and share them with members of my quilt guild! Such small things but some carry great stories! So glad you are loving and caring for your new thimbles! So few folks even know what they are! Enjoy!

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Margaret, How much fun will that be for your quilt guild…how special! Thank you for reading and commenting! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  13. Joan H says:

    Wow, what a great story! I don’t have a thimble collection, just one that I got for high school Home Ec class (in the ’70s, including a dab of red nail polish!) and the ones from my mother’s sewing box. But I love hearing the personal stories about how your collection came to be. Thanks for sharing.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Joan, Love that your thimble has a dab of nail polish, too! I am so glad you enjoyed this post…thanks for reading and sharing. Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  14. Ulla Christensen says:

    So Nice Nicole

  15. Sheila says:

    I got my Mom’s thimbles after she died. Included with the ones we kids bought her as gifts and the ones she had purchased herself were the ones that had once belonged to her Mom and her Grandma. All the ladies in the family were stitchers. As I look at these thimbles, I can only imagine which ones were used during the construction of the patchwork quilts, which ones were used in the sewing of my Mom’s satin wedding dress, and which were used in the sewing and repair of our clothes when we were children. So many stories. I am glad that your thimbles came with a written history!

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Sheila, How wonderful that you have your mom’s thimbles! Thank you for sharing with us today…your thimbles sound like they speak their history on their own! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  16. Rowena Philbeck says:

    Love the thimbles…they are really cool and love the notes in some of them and the cute castle. My mother-in-law collects them and they are very cool.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Rowena, Thanks! I just got a cute one in the mail from my favorite aunt. It’s a thimble with a gardening trowel and basket on it. I put a note in it, of course! That’s awesome that your MIL collects them, too! Thanks for commenting! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  17. Dolores Anthis says:

    Thank you for your loving stories. I started my thimble collection when I was in high
    school a long long long time ago. I have enjoyed sharing them with my friends’ now
    it’s time to let them go. I’m downsizing and soon to move. Does anyone know where
    I can sell them?
    Thank you for all the wonderful stories on a little thing known as a “thimble”!

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Dolores, I’m so glad you like the blog. Thank you for reading. As for selling your collection, a facebook tag sale or ebay might be a good place. Good luck! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

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