A small jar of old thimbles
A thimble is a small hard pitted cup worn for protection on the finger that pushes the needle in sewing. Usually, thimbles with a closed top are used by dressmakers but special thimbles with an opening at the end are used by tailors as this allows them to manipulate the cloth more easily. Finger guards differ from tailors' thimbles in that they often have a top but are open on one side. Some finger guards are little more than a finger shield attached to a ring to maintain the guard in place. The Old English word þȳmel, the ancestor of thimble, is derived from Old English þūma, the ancestor of the English word ‘thumb’.
In 1693, a Dutch thimble manufacturer named John Lofting established a thimble manufactory in Islington, in London, England, expanding British thimble production to new heights. He later moved his mill to Buckinghamshire to take advantage of water-powered production, resulting in a capacity to produce more than two million thimbles per year. By the end of the 18th century, thimble making had moved to Birmingham, and shifted to the "deep drawing" method of manufacture, which alternated hammering of sheet metals with annealing, and produced a thinner-skinned thimble with a taller shape. At the same time, cheaper sources of silver from the Americas made silver thimbles a popular item for the first time.
Thimbles are usually made from metal, leather, rubber, and wood, and even glass or china. Early thimbles were sometimes made from whale bone, horn, or ivory. Natural sources were also utilized such as Connemara marble, bog oak, or mother of pearl. Rarer works from thimble makers utilized diamonds, sapphires, or rubies.