My lovely Mum collected thimbles – over 400 in all – in sizes from child to man-size, all materials from leather to silver to serpentine, all types from sewing to sailors’ and from wherever she and Dad travelled. She displayed them on the walls in old print drawers. Her collection is wonderful and unique and I still have it. We tried to offer it to the Royal Cornwall Museum but they weren’t interested! Not enough of the thimbles were Cornish.
Among the thimbles are several thimble holders but today I want to focus, not on the thimbles themselves, but on the beautiful and unique Chatelaine that is amongst this treasure trove.
A Chatelaine, according to Wikipedia, is “a decorative belt hook or clasp worn at the waist with a series of chains suspended from it. Each chain is mounted with a useful household appendage such as scissors, thimble, watch, key, vinaigrette, household seal, etc.”
As you can see, ours has the belt clasp with five chains hanging from it. Each of the items is detachable with a little spring hook holding them in place. From left to right here are – a sheath for a tiny pair of scissors, a notebook, a pencil, a tiny bucket to hold a thimble and a pin / needle cushion. The little buckets are lined with dark blue velvet and the edge of the pin cushion in the same fabric. The metal is silvery in colour and beautifully tooled. Each of the links of the chain is like a little leaf and the clasp has a tiny five petalled flower in the middle. Do click on the gallery photos to see all the glorious detail.
The name Chatelaine comes from the French, chatelaine meaning Lady of the Manor. Chatelaine came to mean this gorgeous ‘tool belt’ that the woman of the house needed to have on her so as to be able to carry out running repairs as she strolled about the Manor! Spot a frayed edge on a curtain? Make a note for someone else to do it or trim it there and then and stitch it up!
I like to think that this one is for the seamstress of the house, containing all one would need to be doing the mending or embroidering something beautiful.
The Chatelaine polishes up well but tarnishes very quickly Much of the silvering has been polished away over the years. I don’t know how old it is or how my Mum came to have it. She didn’t use it but had it hanging on the wall and in my mind’s eye I am taken back to the sitting room where it was, where the Grandfather clock was nearby and can see my Mum and Dad sitting with a cup of coffee each and doing the crossword together.
If anyone out there knows any more about Chatelaines, I’d love to hear from you.