This summer we will offer several 'short stories',
dedicated to those who are attempting home-schooling & 'home-camping' :
'SUMMER STORIES' For Sharing With Our
and those just 'Young at Heart'
In 1970, Graham Nash released the now-classic song
"Teach Your Children Well".
This year has provided a comparatively short time to do just that :
to feed young minds with curiosity, beauty, small bits of history and heritage
that might never come from a classroom...
...yet give more delight in the tactile and sensory world around them.
Thus this newsletter is written to be shared,
and with hopes there are moments of discovery that will feed you right back.
"A TALE OF THIMBLES"
It is said that "Tom Thumb" wore a thimble for his hat :
"A taylor's needle was his sword.
His headpiece was a thimble.
And when he fought, upon my word,
He made the Giants tremble."
By strange coincidence, the word
comes from the
"olde English" (Anglo-Saxon)
"thymel", meaning ..."thumb stall"!
Thimbles protect thumbs (and fingers) from harm when sewing with needles.
They help push needles through cloth - for bedding, furniture coverings, draperies,
tapestries, needlework of all kinds - even ship sails...
and... the latest "adult - and children's - fashions" of the day.
The earliest thimbles were usually of leather, then bronze,
and during the 16th century (500 years ago) of silver or gold.
As time went on, thimbles were made from all manner of materials - from shells to steel.
The small holes (dimples) on the outside kept the needle from slipping.
(A small bronze thimble, said to be Roman, 1st century AD - about 2000 years ago)
These early thimbles were very personal - a bit like today's toothbrush!
There was once a very powerful King whose name was Henry.
He was the 8th King Henry in England, and he had, over time, 6 wives.
But he only had one son -
Edward - who was his pride and joy.
Edward even looked like his mother, Jane, who had sadly died.
So Henry gave to Edward two small but very special pieces
to remind him always of his mother :
a locket with her picture inside ... and her thimble.
Henry also had a daughter - who later became Queen.
Her name was Elizabeth.
And so special did Queen Elizabeth find the small thimble,
that she gave to each of her ladies-in-waiting
the gift of a thimble, set with precious stones.
Ever after, thimbles have been regarded as the "ideal gift for a lady" -
whether very young, very old ... or anywhere in between.
Der Fingerhüter (Thimblemaker)
from 'Das Ständebuch' (Book of Trades)
Jost Amman, 1568,
depicting craftsmen making and punching small holes in thimbles.
We have 5 EARLY SILVER THIMBLES to show you, dating from about 1620, to c1776 :
A "James I"* Silver Thimble, c1620, inscribed "LOVE GOD", and the first owner's initials "AB",
This earliest of our thimbles was made in London, England, by John Saunders.
(That is 400 years ago...just about the time the time Pilgrims arrived in America).
And it has square "dimples".
We know Mr. Saunders made it and when, as inside is his "mark" - small initials uniquely his :
The picture below is what a needle, thread, and maybe this very this thimble might have sewn.
You see, in 1620, boys did not wear "breeches" (pants) until they were at least 8 years old.
Young boys wore "dresses"!
A thimble was used to sew up this dress - and hat, make the lace, and sew on the buttons.
The skirt even had stitched tucks (small stitched folds) that could be opened up as he grew taller.
A "Charles I"* Silver Thimble, c1635, London, "Maker's Mark" L.I above a flower,
the 1635 owner's initials "M" and "H",
within hearts held up by two winged angels.
And this thimble, just slightly younger, and has round "dimples" (as the next ones).
(In America in 1635, the first public school was founded in Boston - The Boston Latin School).
Below is a 1637 portrait of the 5 oldest children of England's "King Charles I" -
two boys and three girls - in their finest "thimble-sewn" clothing.
In the center (with his pet mastiff) is the eldest son, Charles -
a future king, and now old enough to wear "breeches" -
knee-length, moderately-fitted, and worn with stockings and boots.
Beside is his younger brother James (also a future king),
still wearing a handmade dress,
just as his three sisters. He has on the short red jacket.
A thimble would have been used to sew all not only all of this fine silk clothing,
but the lace trims, as well as the draperies and chair covering.
There were NO sewing machines then!
A Dutch Silver "Open-Top" Thimble, Late 1600s / Early 1700s, from Holland
This thimble is a bit different. It has an open top and is worn a bit like a ring.
It is a little more than 300 years old, and also with round "dimples".
The lower band is cast with lymers (hounds) chasing otters.
In the 17th century (1600s), otters (shown
with fish on the left thimble) were considered pests.
They ate far too many fish that people needed for food.
So hunters trained hounds called lymers (or limers) to track them.
The lymers would follow the otter's scent until the animal was found...
...but then remain absolutely still and quiet until the hunters arrived
This thimble carries a picture of that custom for us to see today.
A 1720-35 "Early Georgian"** Silver Thimble, with "Maker's Mark" SB within a heart,
this mark "not attributed" - which means we know the approximate age (
about 300 years old)
only by the heart-shape of the "punch", plus the form of the thimble.
During the 1700s, all sewing, mending and needlework still continued by hand,
with needle, thread...and thimble.
Therefore all young ladies - and many boys (tailors!) - learned to sew.
Below is "The Sewing School", a c1720 painting
of young - and still younger - ladies learning to make lace - so prized by all.
(And by 1720 in America, 13 British colonies had been established along the eastern shoreline).
A c1770-80 "George III"* Silver Thimble, with owner's initials 'AK', also made in England
"Georgian" English thimble was made,
it might be sewing such fluffy young ladies' dresses as above -
sometimes the skirts with large frames beneath, to hold them out to the sides.
And whilst the 1770s' ladies' fashion often became fancier (and broader),
boys' and men's became fashion more casual - "tailored" - as in the picture below.
All stitchery, again, was made by hand, either by mothers, seamstress, or tailors,
with needle, thread, cloth - and thimble.
This large painting, however, is not from England. It is from America.
At this time - in the year 1776 - America was just separating from England,
'sewing together' a young nation,
and signing the "Declaration of Independence", which we celebrate on July 4th.
That's all the thimbles we have right now.
The "sewing machine" was introduced and perfected in the 1800s,
making it easier for some thumbs and fingers.
But as long as we have cloth, needles and thread, (and buttons) there will always be the need for
"THIMBLES!" There is even a GIANT THIMBLE statue in Canada :
It is 9 feet tall, resting on a stack of giant buttons - big enough to climb!
It is a tribute to the garment district of Toronto.
Artist : Stephen Cruise, 1997
Additional Notes :
The song, "Teach Your Children",
was written by Graham Nash.
Although written when Nash was a member of the Hollies,
it was never recorded by that group in studio.
It first appeared on the 1970 album
Déjà Vu by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.
The recording features Jerry Garcia on pedal steel guitar.
From the 'Famous History of Tom Thumb', The Boyd Smith Mother Goose, pub. 1920, p. 189.
Paintings, In Order Shown (All Public Domain) :
'Portrait of Henry VIII'
(cropped), Hans Holbein the Younger, 1540,
Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica, Rome, Italy
'Edward VI as a Child'
(cropped), Hans Holbein the Younger, probably 1538,
National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, United States
'Elizabeth I, Coronation Robes'
(detail), Artist Unknown, 1600 and 1610 copy of a lost c1559 original,
National Portrait Gallery, London, England
'Young Boy in a Dress'
(c1625), with sewn in tucks to both layers of the skirt to allow for his growth.
However, the hair and hat are distinctively masculine, and he wears a sword or dagger.
He also red coral beads - which were used for teething. Artist Unknown
'The Five Eldest Children of Charles I of England',
Sir Anthony Van Dyke, 1637,
Royal Collection, London, England
'The Sewing School', Giacomo Ceruti, 1720s, Private Collection
'The Two Sisters', Jean Honoré Fragonard French , c1769-70, Metropolitan Museum, NYC
'Declaration of Independence', John Trumbull,
depicting the five-man drafting committee of the Declaration of Independence
presenting their work to the Second Continental Congress, August 2, 1776,
Independence Hall, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; United States Capitol
'Painter's Wife Slovenscina'
(detail), Matevz Langus, 1855, National Gallery of Slovenia
* The first is thimble is titled 'James I', and second one, 'Charles I',
one 'Early Georgian' and one 'George III'.
Often furniture and decorations are referred to,
using name of the ruler at the time they were made - thus the king's names.
Then, we know how old things are - like measuring height on doorsills.
began 116 years of George's as kings of England.
There was George I, George II, George III, and George IV. George IV died in 1830.
Queen Elizabeth II, and Princes William and Harry are all descended from the 'Georgian' kings.
'The Painter's Wife', sewing, a golden thimble on her middle finger