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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

A thimbleful

Parable of the Thimble

A being dedicated a life to words, to art, and to the great transcendentals of beauty, truth, love, and goodness. One morning, the being woke up and looked about at an apocalyptic landscape of toddler-slaying fanatics and Kardashian idol-worshippers and flashy, trendy drek. The being took up a thimble, pouring sparkling drops of cleanness into the oily, crimson, trash-islanded sea.

* * *


The thimble at right was found at "There's More to Thimbles Than You Think," where I learned that the oldest known thimble was in the form of a Han dynasty ring. Before that, we mortals evidently made use of "press stones." And those little dimples? Knurlings. Isn't that a wonderful word? You can tell an old dimple because the knurlings are not tidy and even, not machined.

* * *

To be of use

The thimble to the left is Meissen, 18th Century. (Wikipedia. For some Fabergé thimbles, go here.)

Like so many small, charming things, thimbles eventually became souvenirs and keepsakes and collectibles. They have been made out of many materials--gold, silver, steel, mother-of-pearl, porcelain, whalebone with scrimshaw designs. What does it mean to be of use if you are a thimble made of soft silver or breakable porcelain? Another parable, perhaps. Many, of course, are still made for the needle's use.



  1. Those Faberge thimbles remind me of fur-lined teacups.
    Thanks for these small elegant musings.

    1. Heh. Yes, fur-lined teacups! Of course, all of us with cats are familiar with a less arty, more mundane version of tea with fur.

      The morning doodle and dawdle--now off!

  2. Windows is now behind us, as are restrictions about this and that. Let us enter the wider world of thimbles.

    I'm a user, or was. Why? Because frequently I needed to push a needle loaded with thickish linen thread (breaking strength measured in kilos rather than grams) through the multi layers of cloth to be found in the waist area of trousers. Why again? In order to convert a pair of trousers from belt security to braces (you call them
    suspenders or, occasionally, galluses). How is this done? By attaching six buttons appropriately. Why is this done? Old-fashioned hangings involved the use of a self-tightening noose; it is almost as unhealthy to subject one's stomach to the same ordeal with a belt.

    Why no longer? VR opined that whereas my work was effective and enduring, it was not pretty to look at.

    A thimble increased the needle-pushing pain threshold almost to infinity. Knurling ensured the needle enjoyed a fixed relationship with the thimble; thus it didn't slip and wreak havoc on this too solid flesh.

    But thimbles are sexist, anti-man, made for elegant E. Bennett type fingers. They are also endlessly symbolic hinting at preclusion, minimalism, non-functional decoration, the past, harmless agglomeration and other uses, none of which have yet been revealed. One gets the feeling they formed part of Queen Mab's conveyance but they don't, I've just checked. Though you could say there was a near-miss:

    Her chariot is an empty hazelnut,
    Made by the joiner squirrel or old grub

    It was a good choice of topic. Tis my belief most people react positively to thimbles. Except, perhaps, Donald Trump.

    1. Our grandparents said "braces," at least down South. My men wear them as well! Even my son of 19 wears the occasional red Time Lord suspenders....

      We have various sorts of thimbles lying about, including the leather ones. Among my husband's incredibly varied hobbies and interests is (well, it's in abeyance now) the pursuit of hand piecing and quilting. All the children have quilts he has made, and there are any number of tops rolled up waiting to be quilted for when he next feels inspired, and there is a quilt frame under the guest bed.

      All small and cunning objects belong to the fairies, I imagine. They probably have wondrous uses for thimbles. Decanters. Bathtubs for fairy fry. Helmets for the tall and bold. Vases for extravagant fairy florists.

      Who knows, maybe Trump has a secret thimble collection? Maybe he secretly calls them his little Trumbles. Or Trumples. Or thimps!

    2. Haha!! And I didn't know that about your husband. They never fail to surprise!

    3. Haha!! And I didn't know that about your husband. They never fail to surprise!

    4. I think that I have a particularly surprising one--his hobbies are so wildly varied, and he has so many!

  3. Utility married to beauty. What a splendid Romantic notion.

    I recall my mother's collection of thimbles. I thought it odd that anyone would collect anything that was ostensibly useable but taken out of circulation and preserved for aesthetic (?) reasons.

    But now I suddenly think of a comparison: words, everyday tools for everyday use, can be redeployed into art (novels, stories, poems, and more), constructs that puzzle many people (just as I was puzzled by my mother's thimbles).

    1. Ah, a thimble collector! And the son who can't fathom the fascination. Excellent.

      Beauty plus utility. I wonder if William Morris ever produced thimbles, as he certainly produced textiles...

      Words are certainly flexible instruments! And Genesis says the world was spoken into being, after all.

  4. "the world is so full of a number of things..."/ fascinating and enchanting something else to look for in my thrift shop tours...

  5. "I''m sure we should all be as happy as kings!" Lovely Stevenson. Back when I was little, that was one of the books I owned. Probably had more influence on me than I know.

    The world's thrifty flotsam and jetsam is always curious and interesting.... Perhaps you'll find a thimble made from a whale's tooth, with a clipper ship and a paradise isle!

  6. What a soothing and charming post and comments!

    Something I was reading extolling the virtues of sewing and mending lamented a conversation overheard between a mother and child about thimbles, the former explaining them as collectable objects, but when the child asked their actual purpose she didn't know.

    When I was travelling in NY with my parents as a youngster, a taxi driver glimpsed my dad's braces under his jacket, he hooted with delight at 'suspenders!' and punctuated his funny monologue for the English family with snapping the elastic straps throughout the ride.

    Alas, I doubt William Morris was very aware of the need of thimbles, but poor daughter May must have been, since she it was who embroidered the entirety of the Bed at Kelmscott poem onto the hangings of that piece of furniture, her father was too busy being Utopian and her mother being stunning. That was before falling uselessly in love with Bernard Shaw and finally finding happiness late in life with another woman, thank goodness!

    Exit smiling at the thought of Donald Trump's thimble collection...

    1. How lovely that you came by, Lucy, and on just the right day (the one with all the miserable appointments.) I'm glad we're still holding the fort on thimbles and suspenders around here!

      I'm afraid it must be hard to be the child of a famous person. Must give the rest of us who are parents good consolation for not being famous, if we weren't sensible enough to feel good about it already!

      And now, off to a woeful appointment! Thanks for dropping in, Lucy.


Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.