Antique Walnut Thimble Case

Do people even use thimbles anymore?  A thimble for those unfamiliar is a sewing aid used when sewing by hand.  Most commonly made of metal, there are also thimbles made of porcelain, sterling silver, gold, brass, bone, mother of pearl, stone, plastic and sometimes heavy leather. Shaped like a small cup with a rounded dimpled end, a thimble is used on the second fingertip to protect the sewer when pushing a needle through cloth when hand sewing.  Most thimbles are adorned with decoration around the base and dimples on the top and upper sides to help steady the needle when pushing it through the fabric.

As a child, my grandmother taught me to sew and I labored over using a thimble. I distinctly remember putting on my first thimble and feeling completely handicapped while learning to use that thimble.  Putting the thimble on my middle finger, I began using the next finger to push the needle through the fabric.  So I put the thimble on my ring finger and pushed the needle with my middle finger.  It went on like this for a while switching back and forth between my fingers until I got the hang of it.  Grandma thought it was quite comical and she and I had a hearty laugh. After years and years of torturous hand sewing, I found a leather thimble the easiest to use; maybe because it bends with my finger when I try pushing the needle.

Beyond aiding in sewing, throughout history thimbles proved a bit of a status symbol for the owner.  Fine thimbles with cases were the envy of most seamstresses but when made of precious metals, these thimbles were unusually costly and only owned by the very wealthy.  Today, these examples of Victorian excess do not appear often.  In fact, in over 30 years of selling antique sewing items, I have never had a sterling silver thimble and case as beautiful as this walnut shaped case.

For a few minutes last month, I held this thimble and case.  Notice I did not own this thimble and case, only held it; the owner decided the memories she associated with this thimble and case made it too precious to sell at this time.  I must say it was one of the finest thimble cases, I’ve ever seen.

The true-to-size silver walnut was crafted of sterling silver and had the look, size and all the crevasses of a real walnut.  When opened, the walnut revealed a gold washed interior with just enough room for a silver thimble.  The interior thimble holder hinged outward to allow one to remove the thimble without any trouble.  The thimble, also sterling silver embossed with a beautiful decorative border of houses, trees and fences fit the holder snugly so as not to rattle inside when the walnut was closed.  The thimble was the only part of this set that showed any wear; all honest wear from years of use. At the top of the walnut case, a small bail allowed the owner to attach the case to a chatelaine or a chain.

The mark inside; “Sterling 925” which leads me to believe it was American made.  If it were English, it would also have date stamps which it did not.  As to value? I cannot find any like it with a sterling case as well as a sterling thimble and since the owner was unwilling to part with it at this time, value is based on her love of this piece…..priceless to her.

I feel honored to have held and photographed this charming piece of history to share with my readers.  Enjoy!

15 comments

  1. Enjoyed reading about this and had never heard of a leather thimble and glad it worked for you! I did learn to sew in the 1980s and thimbles were in our basket of supplies and I vaguely recall trying to sew with one – but the little bit of sewing we did allowed us to not need it (used my thumb to push the needle – lol)
    Anyhow – very cool how this piece allows the thimble to close tightly – and glad the owner treasures this so much !
    Seems museum quality

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A beautiful thing. In a way it’s a pity that it’s not English as apart from being able to date it from the marks you would probably be able to identify the maker too. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a thimble case or, more likely, not noticed one, though of course I’ve seen many silver thimbles as I’ve peered in antique shops.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. […] I have not looked at my thimble collection for years.  I see them in the printer’s box, but I don’t really look at them and remember when I purchased them.  The special case from Toledo, I keep up in my sewing room, closed and put away.  Thus, I must say thank you to AtticSister and her blog post about a thimble case, which sparked my search for my red leather box and to look more closely at my thimbles.  You can read her blog here:  https://atticsister.wordpress.com/2018/10/12/antique-walnut-thimble-case/ […]

    Liked by 1 person

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