Just the other day, a thimble arrived at Grandma’s Attic. It has a small piece of extra metal attached to it, which made it a curiosity to us. The thimble also has the word “Vernon” on it. We started searching under gadget thimbles and came across the Lillian Vernon thimble. This explained the “Vernon” but now, how was it used?
It was described as a gilded brass thimble with a needle gripper or pusher horizontally on the band. Mathis refers to it as the 'Magic Thimble'. Some brass examples have © Vernon on the band. This is not the maker's name, rather the name of the retailer - Lilian Vernon - in New York. There are diamond patterns on the gripper.
I saw little information as to how the thimble was used and what made it special, so I went on the search for more information.
One of the ads I saw had the word “grippers” in it.
When I searched for thimbles with grippers I found this patented thimble's details appear in Greif - the patent was taken out in Germany by Walter Schultz, the Patent No. is 577590. "It is a thimble with a device to pull the needle. A small spring, double barred, rough on one side, about three millimeters wide, is attached to the side of the thimble. A needle is clamped lightly between the spring and thimble. This aids in withdrawing the needle from tough material".
It was patented [No. 562,730 of 23 June 1896] by Uriah A. Knauss of Pennsylvania, USA
A similar gripper was patented [no 193257], in the USA on 25 December 1962, by Henry Burbig [Burig] of New York.
A third version is made in Germany but marketed in the USA by the Heddy Corporation of New Jersey as the Heddy Handy Thimble.
There appears to be several different designs of the “gadget” or “gripper” thimbles.
After reading the “Heddy” Thimble instructions, and some help from my employee, I finally understood how the thimble was used.
Having learned to quilt with wool cloth and having patched a few pairs of jeans, I can see the genius of this item! “Tough” was the key word in the ad. You would insert the “eye end” of the needle into the “gripper” and that would give you the extra grip to pull the needle through the tough material. It’s pretty neat once you get the hang of it!
This is an example of a search on the internet producing a satisfactory find. It makes you feel as if you have achieved something. If your search is unfruitful it can be pretty frustrating. Here at GA, we have discovered that sometimes putting the item aside for a while and returning to your search on another day will help you to be more successful in your discovery.
-The GA Gang