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Tools of the Trade: Thimbles

I didn’t know it until just this morning – I am a digitabulist. You may ask yourself: What in the world is that? A digitabulist is what you call a person who collects thimbles. Well, my collection is rather smallish. In the photo you can see all four of them. I keep the 3 useful ones in my sewing box.

The German word for thimble is Fingerhut. In translation that means  fingerhat – a hat for your finger. This is my humble collection of fingerhats.

Number one is made of leather. Number two of ceramic. Number three brass. Number four is made of plastic.

The ceramic one was given to me by a friend who brought it back from a visit to the UK or Ireland. It’s really pretty but probably the most useless of the lot. It usually hangs out on my windowsill. Long before I knew about the hobby of digitabulism, I actually tried to slip the ceramic thimble on my finger to help push a needle through thick fabric. The thing slipped right off my finger and fell to the floor. Luckily it didn’t break. I suppose it was never meant to be used.

On Wikipedia you can learn many interesting facts about thimbles.

Besides learning a new big word and that this tool has been around since Roman times, approximately 1 AD,  I discovered that people didn’t just use them to push needles through fabric. Thimbles were used for some other interesting purposes – if you want to believe Wikipedia:

In the 19th century they were used to measure spirits, which brought rise to the phrase “just a thimbleful”. Prostitutes used them in the practice of thimble-knocking where they would tap on a window to announce their presence. Thimble-knocking also refers to the practice of Victorian schoolmistresses who would tap on the heads of unruly pupils with dames thimbles.

Well, maybe I’ll gift the ceramic thimble to my husband who is a teacher. He says it might help his students think a bit better in class…

You can find very cool pictures of antique thimbles via this link. Kind of puts my collection to shame.


3 thoughts on “Tools of the Trade: Thimbles

  1. I never knew that word. digitabulist. how funny. I like the german word/translation for thimble. My Mom collects thimbles. She has many of them and is always looking for new ones.

    1. You should tell her that she is one. She probably doesn’t know it either. =)

  2. How cool! I know of people who collects them, but I dont think I have a single one. Yet. 😉

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