learn more about thimblefuls
I have done a thorough search of all my thimble books and the internet and I was surprised to find how little information there is on thimblefuls. There are two photos in one of McConnel's thimbles books, which confirm my findings that the Thimble Society of London has rarely had any of these for sale. There are no examples in the book on Settmacher in Austria, but there is record of a German advertising thimbleful, made by Gabler. Where there are brief mentions in the literature, I have included the photos. Johnson lists them under 'Novelties and Oddities'. The exception to scant information is Holmes who has an entire chapter entitled 'Just a Thimbleful', which lends credence to collecting them. Gaussen maintains that thimblefuls are collected with sewing accessories because of their thimble shape.
As early as 1617 the thimbleful was accepted as an indication of measure. From then on there is a clear association of thimble shapes and drinking measures. The internet is peppered with references to 'Just a Thimbleful' but rather as a figure of speech, indicating a small amount.
Spirit or tot measures have been made in the shape of thimbles since Victorian times as popular novelties. They are known by a variety of names: shot glasses, jiggers, stirrup cups and thimble cups. They replicate thimbles, down to the indentations and when placed with the open side up, the height measures, on average, 50mm. The base should be flat or able to stand on its own without wobbling. Some have indented bases, others are smooth. The traditional measure for a spirit measure is one ounce [1 oz]. Some have this measurement lettered on the base of the thimbleful. Thimblefuls can have a metal or enamel badge affixed for various events, tourist attractions or towns. Some of the Scottish thimblefuls are thistle-shaped.
AMERICAN JIGGERS [Gullers]
Thimblefuls are made of glass, brass, aluminium, china or porcelain, copper, chromium or chromed metal, nickel silver, silver-plate, silver, pewter, plastic, wood and gold. In fact they "come in any material you can pour drinks out of".
The lettering varies considerably; from Thimble Full [usually over two lines] - Thimbleful - Just a Thimbleful - Just a Thimble Full [most common form] - Only a Thimbleful or Only a Thimble Full [this appears to be American terminology] - A Stitch in Time Saves Nine - the four Scottish forms A Wee Drappie - For Auld Lang Syne - A Wee Deoch and Doris - A Wee Deoch and Dorius - and a newly discovered terms of Just a Swallow - all lettered across the top of the thimble when the thimbles are placed on the apex, with the open end upwards. The German lettering is Nur ein Fingerhut Voll. In my opinion, the lettering is what makes a thimbleful. Without it, does it just become a spirit measure or jigger? and therefore outside the scope of this thimble topic. I have tried not to include any thimblefuls in shape, when there is no lettering to indicate them as such.
Some would have been handmade. The rims are not commonly rolled, but examples exist with rolled rims. Most have the indentations going under across the base, a few are smooth.
In 1970, Cartier initiated a 'Gold Thimble' award for outstanding fashion designers. It is about three inches tall and made of silver gilt.
Johnson has a good selection of thimblefuls, showing the variety available, in both material, height and style.
I have not included large-sized china thimbles that usually stand on their open side, with no lettering of 'Thimblefuls'. The exception is the crested china thimbles that Edwin Holmes included in his chapter on Thimblefuls.
It is interesting to find that some thimblefuls have their own thimble cases. They would be particularly useful for the fragile glass thimblefuls. It was rare to find one with a case but they are becoming available now thru eBay. The cases are made of cardboard or leather. The shapes vary from cylindrical boxes or those that are fitted to the thimble shape and that open sideways. I have included photos of the thimbleful containers where possible.
L-R: PEWTER WITH A THICK ROLLED-BACK RIM; SILVER-PLATED; NICKEL WITH ENAMEL SOUVENIR PLAQUE;
GREEN GLASS; PEWTER; ANOTHER SOUVENIR; SILVER-PLATED; BLACKBERRY AND CREAM SLAG GLASS [Johnson]
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This listing of Thimblefuls does not purport to be complete or accurate in all aspects.
Rather it invites comment and contribution to add to our knowledge.
My thanks to the contributors.
Cecile Dreesman - Een vingerhoedje…A thimble full… - 1981
Feldmann catalogues - no 8 (Germany)
Elaine Gaussen - Sewing accessories; a collectors guide - 2001
Susan Jean Gowan - Thimbles of Australia - 1998
Barbara Gullers - Antique sewing tools and tales - 1992
Edwin Holmes - A history of thimbles - 1985
Anne Jansen - Just a thimbleful - Only a Thimble full - thimble shapes - TCI Bulletin summer 2004
Denise Jenkins - James Dixon & Sons thimbleful TCI Bulletin fall 2005
Eleanor Johnson - Thimbles and thimble cases. 2nd ed (Shire) - 1999
Tom Lawson - Charles Horner of Halifax - 2002
Averil Mathis - Antique & collectible thimbles and accessories - 1986
Bridget McConnel - The story of the thimble - 1997
Norma Spicer - James Fenton: silversmith and thimble maker etc - 1995
Norma Spicer - Iles: a family of thimble makers - 2001
Barbara Acchino | Barbara Allen | Dot Andrews | Christine Bailiff | Clarice Birch | Jenny Scharff Bockel | Pat Brown | Sue Burt | Sue Caesar | Sue Christensen | Lynne Clark
Susan Cook | Helen Cunningham | George Dean | Susan Dempster | Paul Edwards | Eric | Marion Fagan | Gray | Peggy Green | Nan Hackney | Delma Hagen | Laurie Hansen
John Hean | Margaret Hendriksen | Margaret Hickling | William Isbister | Anne Jansen | Jeanette | Denise Jenkins | Alix Jetton | Melissa Johnson | Wayne Johnson | Gladys Junge
Mary Keyser | Nicola Kissane | Linda | Michael McMahon | Ray Nimmo | Ro Olbricht | Moyra Peckston | Gordon Phillips | Elaine Pollard | Mabel Rogers | Marilyn S
Wolf-Dieter Scholz | Irene Schwall | norma Shattock | Helen Shyers | Norma Spicer | Tom Suttie | Erin Titmus | Bas van de Group | Rosalie Webb | Sue Wilson | David Wiscombe |Sandy Woodyard | Thomas James Wylie
© Sue Gowan
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DO YOU HAVE ANY OTHER THIMBLEFULS NOT MENTIONED?
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