Saturday, November 28, 2009

I Can't Even Sew & I Have All These Freaking Thimbles!! Plus A Little Family History

(yeah, I drew this)

I hate sewing.  I flunked Home Ec (the sewing part--I ACED the food part) in Junior High back when it was a required class.  We had to make things like gym bags and aprons and put zippers in skirts and I just had no skill in this area.  I don't believe any of my sisters can sew other than a quick baste or two and the extent of Mom's sewing ability was to create Halloween costumes.  So apparently the sewing gene got lost somewhere at my grandmother.  And I'm not the only female who lacks that gene--I found out today that if you Google "I can't sew" you'll find a slew of other women like me!

Why, then, do I  have all these thimbles?  I just wanted the cabinet a garage sale lady was selling for $10 but since she offered to throw in her thimble collection, oh well. 

There are bluejay thimbles and owl thimbles and shamrock thimbles and thimbles with hearts and some with flowers, and even a big one with a windmill.

Five cute little holiday season thimbles.

This is a family thimble that belonged to my grandmother.  It's a cheapo but IS stamped England.

Another family thimble came in this little red velvet box.  A very tired red velvet box.  There's some
detailed engraving on the latch.

The thimble inside has a little maker's mark, three bells inside a shield.  Research showed it was made in England by the Charles Iles company in the early part of the 20th century.  Probably made of nickel silver.  One of  millions.

Here's a closeup of the mark.

This last thimble means so much to me.  I have not been able to determine the name on the box but whoever it was, was a Jeweler AND Optometrist in the small northern Wisconsin town of Phillips.
  My great-grandmother Margaret moved from Canada to Phillips.  I always thought my natural great-grandfather was Orville, but nope--great-grandma McK had been married previously and that's when she begat my grandmother Nettie, who I believe was their only child.  (Note: when Margaret married second hubby Orville, she was 8 years older than he was.  That cougar!) 

Nettie married a local Phillips dentist who turned out to be a raging alcoholic and she divorced him (quite scandalous for the time) and moved back with Margaret until she met Walter.  He was her reward for having to go through the hell of her first marriage.  Judging from stories Mom used to tell us about her grandmother tying her to a tree in the backyard and whacking her with a branch that Mom had to pick out, I'm pretty sure she was MORE than happy to get out of there.  Back in those days, though, it wasn't child abuse--just teaching the kid a lesson. 

Nettie's initials in lovely script.

The thimble must have been given to her when she was quite young since it's only a size 6 and she was NOT a small woman in her later years.

What's written inside the lid is what I find both charming and confusing.  "Nettie's Thimble"  "1873 (5?)".  My great-grandmother Margaret was born in 1864 and my grandmother Nettie in 1898 (whew--having a kid at 34 was pretty late in life for those days!).   So I'm clueless about the date, and sadly, there's no one left who would know what it signified.

This is what I love about collecting.  Just doing a post about a thimble collection started me down the road to researching information about my family.  It's not easy when you're looking for records from the 1800's and early 1900's, but that's part of the fun!


  1. Oh Chris!! What a wonderful post. I loved reading about your maternal ancestors. And those thimbles are wonderful. The little red box made me sigh-it is so precious. And the box that says Nettie's thimble that too is precious.
    I took Home Ec and was very good at sewing and very poor at cooking (and still am). I could still sew if I could just find the foot pedal and cord for my sewing machine that disappeared when we moved..and I'm pretty lazy too...

  2. I can sit down in front of a sewing machine and it will jam before I even touch the thing and I can hardly get a needle threaded. I do know my way around a kitchen though. Very nice collection of thimbles. You don't have to sew to appreciate those little beauties.

  3. I don't collect thimbles, but they are little miniature pieces of art. You have some great ones.

    I hate sewing too, and for me it also relates back to Home Ec. I had a bright teacher who instead of suggesting I make something like a potholder or apron, let me forge ahead with a corduroy vest.

    Needless to say I hated working with corduroy (I threw that vest across the room more than once), I ended up hating sewing, and I hated that vest (even though I kept it for years afterwards).

    I still sew every now and again (and still lose my temper), but not like I could have if I had been taught correctly. I think I could have been really good at it given the right circumstances.

  4. Wow, I never knew that thimbles had boxes, those are really sweet!
    Oh how I wish I could sew. I heard it takes patience & practice though and I'm smart enough to not even bother. Heat bond Hem-tape is my version of sewing.

  5. I love that you have your grandmothers' thimbles. I was the only granddaughter who knew how to sew, so I got Granny's thimbles when she died. I love them! My mother in law even sent hers to me. They are nothing special, just a silver metal. One has a dent that wasn't there when it was made. I like to think someone was making an extra-thick quilt and had to bang the needle through with the thimble! I think I've been watching too many action movies this weekend and applying them to my imagination and your post!

  6. Welcome to My Thimble Collection blog at Greetings from Poland!

  7. Wow you and I have a story that is almost the same. My granny gave me her thimble 30 years ago, and I have collected since. I also have a online shop on Etsy called Grannysthimble.