I've been addicted to collecting thimbles for almost forty years. In the beginning, as most new collectors do, I reasoned "they're small, they won't take up much room, and they don't cost much" Ha! Little did I dream how these tiny treasures would someday take over my life. I am an active member of Thimble Collectors International, having served on the Executive Board as First Vice President, Bulletin Liaison, Associate Editor of the TCI Bulletin, and currently Education Chairman. For more information about TCI, click here:Thimble Collectors InternationalI'm also co-founder of "Thimbles on Wheels" a traveling thimble group. Click here for more information on this organization: Thimbles On Wheels
Since childhood, I have collected "old stuff" -- toys, old furniture, household furnishings, etc. -- anything older than me.(These days, anything "older than me" is an antique.)In 1978, I overheard a co-worker say that she "collected thimbles."I do not know what kind she collected nor how serious she was, as I lost touch with her very soon thereafter before it occurred to me to ask.But her statement piqued my interest and I soon began noticing them in Lillian Vernon's catalogs.And so I ordered my first thimble from Lillian Vernon -- a "deep-drawn pewter, hand-chased and engraved with my initials," and a wooden thimble case to hang on the wall which would hold six (6) thimbles.My mother gave me her old thimble and I was off!I considered this a unique hobby and it never occurred to me that there might be other thimble collectors until I bought John vonHoelle's Thimble Collector's Encyclopedia (also from Lillian Vernon's catalog).That book opened a new world for me.I found the address for Thimble Collectors International there and joined.I bought Myrtle Lundquist's books and those, combined with vonHoelle's, created a thirst for knowledge and information about thimbles that I have never been able to quench.Over the years I've met so many wonderful collectors, forged friendships that will last a lifetime, and traveled all over the world -- all because of thimbles.
My husband is a rancher.He collects cows -- real ones.He is a genial man who tolerates my insanity with a smile and a twinkle in his eye.Often, when I would come home with my latest purchases clutched in my hand, he would wink andsay jokingly "Well . . . I guess I'll have to sell a cow to pay for those thimbles."Because of that, one day I happened to refer to the cows as "thimbles on the hoof."He burst into laughter and somehow the phrase stuck.We, and our friends, have had many chuckles about it since then. From the time when it seemed that I would never fill that first 6-compartment holder, thimbles came to occupy my whole home.They are everywhere - in cabinets, boxes, and frames; on tables and walls; in every room. I wear them as jewelry and photograph them for my Christmas cards.When they were young, my grandchildren used plastic ones as pretend cakes and pies in their tea parties.(You haven't lived until you've tasted pretend fried thimbles.)
Although the reasons people collect things are as varied as the collectors themselves, for me the lure of collecting thimbles is their link to the past.I hold one in my hand and try to imagine the person who once owned and used it.Who was she?Was she old or young, rich or poor, happy or sad?Was she a mother, grandmother, or "Old Maid"?Did she sew on fine silk or home-growncotton?Every thimble holds a forgotten story.
Collecting thimbles can be referred to as a passion, a weakness, a calling, a sickness, an obsession.....Whatever you call it, its FUN and I'm glad it happened to me!
"Thimbles On The Hoof"
Speaking at South African Thimble Club Convention in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1999
Speaking at South African Thimble Club "Indaba" (Zulu word for Gathering) at Kwalata Game Reserve near Johannesburg, South Africa in 2015
Solvang, California - 2009
Over the years, I have been privileged to speak on my favorite subject to fellow collectors in twelve different states in the U.S. from California to Delaware (some multiple times), and twice on foreign soil. Now, if I only had a thimble for every mile . . . .