19th-century English and American thimbles had a dome cap, but the English were taller in proportion. Most French thimbles had waffle indentation patterns along sides. Norwegian tend to be smooth sided, with indentations only on the cap.
American thimbles are known for scenic decorations, especially of farms and waterfronts. The French favored highly elaborate gold thimbles embellished with enamel or semi-precious stones, while the Norwegians were often enameled over guilloche.
But most were made of more durable materials, such as gold, silver, pewter, and brass.
Women considered to be in the “genteel” society let other people do their practical sewing while they passed leisure time doing fancy needlework with their embellished thimbles of precious metal, but the majority of thimbles were used by hardworking women. And like the plain sewing done in their homes, their tools were also plain. When pierced from constant use, thimbles were taken to silversmiths for repair. Metal thimbles were being made abroad over a hundred years before Columbus set sail.
Thimble-clad young girls were taught sewing by darning and mending. Today’s collections can have origins from faraway places or within our borders. English and French marks normally appear on the band; German are usually on the second row of the indentations.
Thimbles for children were often sold in sets of three graduating sizes.
Since children usually outgrew thimbles, a pierced one would have likely been passed down.
Materials Needle pushers have helped sew everything from animal skins to silk.
Porcelain, wood, glass, ivory, bone, tortoiseshell, mother-of-pearl, leather, tropical nuts, plastic, celluloid, and Bakelite are some materials used for thimbles.
By the mid-1800s, brass and other common metal thimbles, such as copper and pewter, were made by the millions for the average homemakers who couldn’t afford precious metals. American companies American thimble factories came into existence in the 1830s.
In 1832, Ketcham and Mc Dougall was established in New York.
Many reproductions of sewing items are marked simple, “STERLING.” Gadgets There were thimbles with replaceable caps, collapsible thimbles, finger guards, magnetic ones to pick dropped needles out of floor cracks, and even thimbles to accommodate long fingernails. Magnifying glasses are thimble collectors’ best friends. Zalkin writes that finding them is “like looking for a thimble in a haystack.” “If it is a known pattern that would be recognized by its name, it will bring a higher price,” notes Froebel, giving Seated Cherubs, Pike’s Peak, Dolly Varden, Golden Spike, and Salem Witch as American-made examples.
Some were quacks advertising to cure their users from ailments. Froebel’s husband, Dick, fashioned a “Thimblescope” enabling her to better see inside caps. While silver, gold, brass, aluminum advertising pieces, and some pewter materials are worthy investments, condition is critical, regardless of material or age. A Dolly Varden sold at auction for ,000 during the 2006 Thimble Collectors International (TCI) convention.
Many were unused because they didn’t fit or were considered too special for mundane sewing. American companies used similar, but not always identical, systems.