Thursday, 10 November 2011

What's in a Name...

Hi There,

According to the back of the thimble these two comic characters are Arthur Stanley Jefferson and Oliver Norvell Hardy.  Better known to millions as Laurel and Hardy or even more simply as Stan and Ollie.

I have some fond childhood memories of watching re-runs of Laurel and Hardy on the TV with my family.  They had an innocent comical magic that could appeal to all ages. Slapstick at its very best. 

Oliver is probably the most famous Ollie that I know of and is one of the reasons why I am called Olly.  When I first started school, my friends caught on to the fact that my proper name, Olwen, is very similar to Oliver.  It didn't take long for everyone to start calling me Olly and it stuck.

Now there are a few things about Stan and Ollie that I didn't know until I bought this thimble.  The first one is that Stan's surname was Jefferson, Laurel was just his stage name. The second is that Oliver was born Norvell Hardy so wasn't really an Ollie at all.  But then what's in a name?  If this comic duo had gone by any other name, they would still have been unique, funny and completely irreplacable... dread to think what my nickname would have ended up being though. 

Bye for now


Saturday, 15 October 2011


Hi there,

I'm finally starting to get settled again after moving for the second time in 6 months! 

I've picked up a few thimbles over the last few weeks, all of which went straight into a box and I've only just had the chance to take a good look at them and to take photos of them.

This first one is a Morris Minor, also known as a "Moggie".

The Moggie was designed by Alex Issigonis and went on sale for the first time back in 1948.  Alex Issigonis also developed my favourite car, the Mini in 1959.

I'm not sure why the Morris Minor got the nickname of moggie but it was so popular that in 1961 it became the first British car to reach 1,000,000.  This milestone was celebrated by the production of a limited number of Lilac moggies. What a cool colour for a car. I think that's really sweet.

Sticking with the Moggies theme, this thimble is also really sweet.

As long as you are not the little chick...

Bye for now


Sunday, 7 August 2011

A Stanhope Thimble

I found this thimble at a local car boot sale for 50p. Well, technically it was T who spotted it first. He pointed it out to me as he thought it looked wierd.

It’s made from metal, possibly brass, and has a small round hole at the top. 

It's a peephole thimble, otherwise known as a Stanhope thimble. It has an inbuilt lens for viewing micro pictures. You put the top of the thimble up to your eye, tilt towards the light and you can view the little tiny picture inside.

The pictures inside could be of famous people, historic events, seaside resorts. Some could even have been a touch risqué. Basically, they are souvenirs or novelties. Unfortunately, the picture in this one has been lost so I can only guess at what it might have been.

The name Stanhope refers to the lens on the inside and is named after the 3rd Earl of Stanhope who is generally accepted as being the inventor of this style of lens. He didn’t invent it for looking at micro pictures in souvenirs though. He died in 1816 before Microphotography was even thought of.

Microphotography was invented around 1839 by John Benjamin Dancer. Although innovative, Dancer’s microphotography had a bit of a drawback. It needed a microscope to view it.

In 1859 René Dagron had a flash of inspiration. He put Stanhope’s lens and the microphotography together which made it possible for the pictures to be viewed without the need for a microscope. Simply brilliant!

Bye for now


Friday, 22 July 2011

Madam Butterfly and the Missing Thimbles

We have an exchange student from Japan staying with us at the moment and one of the things that she wanted to see whilst here in Cornwall was the Minack theatre.  It's an open air theatre perched on the side of a cliff just a little way up the coast from Lands End near a little village called Porthcurno.

T, Eldest, Youngest and I have never been to the Minack Theatre so we thought this would be a prime opportunity to put that right.

We went to see Madam Butterfly.
A very sad tale of betrayal and lost love.  Now, the play itself was pretty good.  I couldn't understand all the singing.  It was a bit high pitched and the sound kept dropping out if the actors moved away from centre stage, but that didn't really matter as you can pick up the general idea of what is going on by just watching.

I can't really say that I was impressed by The Minack Theatre though.  There are signs as you enter the Theatre part which say that the site can be a bit dangerous.  If you ever go there - they are not kidding. The walkways are steep.  The terraces that you sit on are narrow.  There is no room for bags and don't take a picnic - you won't have room to eat it.  They pack as many people as possible onto each terrace so that you are literally touching shoulders. If you move your feet too far forward, you run the risk of kicking the person in front of you in the back of the head. Nice.

But it isn't the cramped conditions that have left me feeling betrayed.  It wasn't even the chilly sea breeze or the lump of cold granite we were sitting on. Oh yes - you will need to take your warm winter woolies or better still some arctic proof clothing.  Sorry but, an open air theatre in the UK?  Really?  With our summer weather?

No, my woe and dispair was caused by something far simpler. I always check out the gift shops for thimbles whenever I visit somewhere new.  Well I walked round the gift shop at Minack 3 times and never saw one. Plenty of pens, book marks and sweatshirts but no thimbles.  I think this must be the very first place I have ever visited where I couldn't buy a thimble.  I feel so betrayed.  *sob* *sniff*

Anyway, even though I don't have a Minack Theatre thimble, I do have some butterflies to share with you:

Yep. That did the trick.  I feel so much better now.
Bye for now


Thursday, 9 June 2011


I find pewter amazing.  It's such a workable material, made up from 90% tin mixed with copper and a few other things that I have never heard of such as Antimony and Bismuth. I had to look those last two up on Google.  Apparently they are chemical elements.   

Anyway, pewter designs can be really detailed.  

Like this narrowboat...

Or this dragon...

Or these swans...

Bye for now


Monday, 2 May 2011

Windmills and Thimbles

"I saw a Mouse.
There on the stair.
Where on the stair?
Right there!
A little Mouse with cloggs on.
Well I declare!
Going clipp clippity clop on the stair."

The words above are from the song "Windmill in Old Amsterdam" sung by Ronnie Hilton back in the 1960's.  Now, I don't remember him singing it - no, really - I'm not that old!  But, I do remember singing the song in music lessons at school.   

There's something about a traditional style windmill that just conjours up peace, tranquility and a little bit of good old romantic nostalgia of childhood and the lazy, hazy days of summers long gone. 

I found this pewtar windmill on Ebay for 99p.  I seem to be getting a lot of thimbles for 99p just lately!  I thought it was just adorable so had to go for it.  I just love the way the little sails turn round. It's so sweet.

Anyway, like the rest of the pewtar thimbles I have, this one is purely decorative and not really a true thimble as such. It hasn't got any dimbles and although it can be put on a finger or a thumb, the sails going around all the time would make sewing a little tricky.  It's what I like to call thimble-esque.   

Windmills like this one are a bit thin on the ground in the UK now. We have lots of modern ones though...

Ummm.... Yeah... don't think you'll find many mice wearing cloggs in these.  They just don't have the same appeal do they?

Bye for now


Sunday, 17 April 2011

What a bargain!

Have I mentioned that I love a bargain?  Well, I was browsing in one of our local second-hand shops when I came across a bargain that I just couldn't pass by.  Twenty Dollars for 99p. What a brilliant exchange rate.  Te He. 

Bye for now


Tuesday, 22 February 2011

A tale of Two Thimbles

A friend of mine recently returned from a trip to Scotland and gave me this thimble.  I've never been to Scotland and this thimble has given me another place to add to my "what to visit in Scotland one day list".    

Although I have heard of Glencoe, I thought it was a skiing resort.  Well, it is but there is a lot more to it than that.  It is situated on the west side of Scotland, overlooking Loch Leven.  Fort William and Ben Nevis are to the North and Oban to the South. It's stunning scenery has led to it being used as the backdrop in a few movies - "The Highlander" "Rob Roy" and more recently the "Harry Potter" series.   

This thimble, also from Scotland, came in a bulk purchase of thimbles from Ebay a couple of years ago.
Old Leanach Cottage is on Culloden Moor which is near Inverness. Culloden is the location of a very famous battle from the Jacobite uprising.  The Jacobites were supporters of Bonnie Prince Charlie and the House of Stuart.  The House of Stuart lost the British throne when James VII of Scotland & II of England was exiled to France.  The Jacobites wanted the throne returned to the Stuarts.    

The Battle of Culloden took place in April 1746 and was where Jacobites came to blows with the supporters of the reigning House of Hanover in a fierce and gory battle.  The battle raged all around the cottage and yet when the fighting was over, it was left standing.  Unfortunately, the same can't be said about the Jacobites.  They lost close to 2,000 men and the Battle of Culloden was their last stand.  

The cottage is still there and is one of the places that I have on my list of things to see in Scotland.  Along with Glencoe, Ben Nevis, Loch Ness... I think I'm going to need a bit longer than a day!

Bye for now


Monday, 31 January 2011

Learning Something New

If there is one thing that I like better than buying a thimble, it's finding out more about it. Where it was made, what it was made from, has it got signs of use.  The history behind every thimble is just fascinating.

A few weeks ago I was contacted by a lady who was keen to find out about a thimble that she had inherited. The thimble had been passed down through the female line for at least three generations.

There wasn't too much to go on, but using the little bits that she had sent through and my trusty research tool, the internet, I was able to track down the thimble's origins.

The thimble was from Taxco in Mexico and very similar to the one shown here.  Now, up until that point I hadn't heard of Taxco so researching the information for her was an absolute joy. It opened up a whole new world of thimbles that I didn't know existed.

Back in the 1920s an American called William Spratling moved to Taxco de Alarcon in Mexico.  He found out that the area had once had a thriving silver industry thanks to the ample supply of silver deposits.

In the 1930s he set up workshops and began teaching the art of silversmithing to apprentices from the local area.  Once trained, the apprentices could go on to set up their own jewellery workshops to continue their new trade.   The silver industry and the economy of the area was rejuvenated. 

I managed to purchase my own Taxco thimble on Ebay last week. As the picture above shows, it has an all over decorative filigree design and is also stamped with the following markings:

The circle in the centre reads "Sterling, Taxco, Mexico".  The initials in the centre are the maker's mark.  I'm not sure what the splodge is to the right of the circle as its too small to decipher properly. So I'll give it my best guess and say that it could be the eagle mark.  If it is, then it would date this thimble to between 1948 and the 1970s, ish or thereabouts. 

Unfortunately, the drawback of buying thimbles second hand is that you don't tend to find out the human side of the story.  I don't know if this one was ever handed down from mother to daughter, or even if the daughter used it to learn sewing at her mother's knee.  One thing I do know is that the lady who contacted me has a very precious link to her own personal history through her thimble.  A link which is just simply priceless.  

Bye for now


Sunday, 9 January 2011

Advertising Thimbles

There have been lots of different ways of advertising products or services over the years.  These days the most powerful methods are probably the television and the internet. Both tend to get taken for granted and its hard for us living in a technology driven world to imagine what life was like before the internet or even the good old Telly.

The first electronically transmitted television pictures were sent in 1926 but it wasn't until much later, probably the 1950s/1960s when most households would be able to get a TV.  The world wide web has only been in public use since the 1990s. 

Now advertising has been around a lot longer than that, so what did people use? Newspapers?  Radio?  Well, why not pop your product on a thimble?

This thimble is brass and has the wording "Use Hudson's Soaps" right around the base.  The vertical lines surrounding the wording, could indicate that this was possibly made by Charles Iles of Birmingham, a thimble maker who specialised in base metals.

 Now, I think this is quite clever advertising. What better way to highlight your product then by popping it on an item used to possibly mend or make a piece of clothing which would need washing at some point.  What do you need to wash clothes - soap, or in this case dry soap powder.  Hudson's was founded by Robert Spear Hudson in 1837.  He began grinding down the course soap available at the time to make finer flakes. Today, we would know this product as washing powder.   Hudson's Soap was eventually sold to Lever Brothers in 1908, who in turn merged with Margarine Unie and became Unilever in 1930.  The name Hudson's was in use until 1935. 

 Just goes to show that advertising is always at it's best when it's simple but effective!

Bye for Now