At Coco Barclay we love to use products that have an interesting past.
The thimble has great history, we use it in many different ways, especially the cloisonné thimble.
The thimble is a small pitted cup worn on the finger to protect when sewing and aids pushing a needle through when sewing.
The Old English word þȳmel, the ancestor of thimble, is derived from Old English þūma, the ancestor of our word thumb.
The earliest known thimble which was a simple ring dates back to the Han Dynasty ancient China and was discovered during the Cultural Revolution of the People's Republic of China in a dignitary's tomb. Thimbles dating back to the 10th century have been found in England, and thimbles were in widespread use there by the 14th century.
There are some examples of thimbles made of precious metals, Elizabeth I is said to have given one of her ladies-in-waiting a thimble set with precious stones, most metal thimbles were made of brass. Medieval thimbles were either cast brass or made from hammered sheet and bone or horn.
18th Century keepsake thimble
In 1693, a Dutch thimble manufacturer named John Lofting established a thimble manufacturer in Islington, expanding British thimble production to new heights. He later moved his mill to Buckinghamshire to take advantage of water-powered production, resulting in a capacity to produce more than two million thimbles per year!
By the end of the 18th century, thimble making had moved to Birmingham, and shifted to the "deep drawing" method of manufacture, which alternated hammering of sheet metals with annealing, and produced a thinner-skinned thimble with a taller shape. At the same time, cheaper sources of silver from the Americas made silver thimbles a popular item for the first time.
Cast 14th Century thimble
Originally, thimbles were used solely for pushing a needle through fabric or leather as it was being sewn. Since then however, they have gained many other uses. From the 16th century onwards silver thimbles were regarded as an ideal gift for ladies, and of course to make a Coco Barclay bag look special and beautiful!
Early American thimbles made of whale bone or tooth featuring miniature scrimshaw designs are considered valuable collectibles. Such rare thimbles are prominently featured in a number of New England Whaling Museums.
During the First World War, silver thimbles were collected from "those who had nothing to give" by the British government and melted down to buy hospital equipment.
A 9-foot high sculpture of a giant thimble resting on a stack of buttons, commemorating the garment district in Toronto!
We love to use Cloisonné thimbles.
We use the thimble on bag fastenings and leather tassel key rings making the product one of a kind as no two vintage thimbles are the same.
Pop into the Coco Barclay shop in Greenwich, London to see for yourself!