The first thimble seen in England was made in London, about two hundred years ago, by a metal worker named John Lofting. He is said to have acquired a large fortune in the manufacture of this new accessory to the needle worker's art. This tool was at first called a thumb bell, and was worn on the thumb.
These early thimbles were made of either iron or brass, and many specimens of them are preserved as curiosities. The best thimbles used at the present time are made in France. In China, the ladies of high class use very dainty thimbles. Some are carved from immense pearls, with bands of fine gold, on which are engraved all sorts of fantastic things, the etching of which serves for catching the eye of the needle.
The Queen of Siam has a thimble presented to her by her royal husband. It is made of gold in the form of a lotus bud, the lotus being the royal flower, and is thickly studded with diamonds, so arranged as to form her name and the date of her marriage. This gift was equal to an order that the ladies of Siam should use thimbles.
The shape of the thimble has changed very little. The majority of sewers prefer what is generally known as the closed thimble; while tailors and those who sew very steadily prefer the open thimble (that is, one without a top) ; and sailors' thimbles take the form of a broad ring, with indentations on one side, and worn, as was the custom in primitive times, on the thumb.
Gold, silver, iron, steel, pearl, celluloid, and sometimes glass are utilized in making thimbles at the present time. In manufacturing thimbles, the metal is rolled out into thin sheets and cut into round disks. These are put upon a die of the desired size and pressed into shape. The edge is then rolled up or otherwise finished, and the semi-perforations, intended to hold the eye of the needle firmly, are made upon the top and part way down the sides. They are then tempered and polished in very much the same manner as needles.
Thimbles made of celluloid are molded,