Hi friends and collectors. Hopefully this blog will encourage an exchange of information and gossip that we can enjoy. It is amazing to see the David Anderson enamel thimbles fetched around a thousand pounds each [including premium] in Bleasedales Auction last month. Have a look in your collections, you might have bought one a long time ago. They need to be the older variety with moonstone tops and typical Scandinavian scenes in enamel on silver gilt. they will have DA stamped inside the top.
The Alexander McQueen show has set a record at the V&A Museum. Design/sewing has risen to inclusion in the realm of Art. Maybe sewing tools will be better appreciated in the future
Hey Bidget, what a nice site. Your comments about the McQuuen show ring true. When I was there I overheard a young woman talking about one of the outfits and how some of its miles of stitching were part of her degree course. I love to find the craftspeople behind theatre costumes that are part of my work, or for that matter in any garment I see that attracts me. And fascinating to learn the “technology” of sewing, past and present
Bravo for the site and best wishes,
The creativity in sewing is rarely given it’s due. So many beautiful patterns are created every day. In Portobello on Saturday, there was a Cobra basket, the whole basket and it’s lid was beadwork showing a snake coiling around it. It was gorgeous.
Thanks Millicent. Theatre costumes have to help the performer project the character to the audience, so they need to be very creative. A couple from Moscow who collected beadwork, recommended Elena Yurova’s book on Russian bead work and embroidery. Amazon have second hand copies as it is expensive. Portobello Antiques Market struggles on amidst cheap food and slogan tee shirts. You need to go inside the arcades to find the antiques, only open Saturdays.
Well done Bridget,a very interesting site,it is good to be reminded about how much goes into the designing and needle work that is required for a lot of these costumes.It takes me back to all those costume fittings we had to take part in and the dedication of the wardrobe staff who so often created works of art. Good luck Bridget
In August, some London auctions shut down for a month. They will re-open in September. Portobello is open all year. Luckily we get interesting collectors from abroad. A charming couple collecting bead work arrived from Moscow. They recommended a book by Elena Yurova on traditional Russian beadwork and embroidery. Amazon have some second hand copies as it costs over £100.
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Portobello was packed with people as usual. It is said that 25,000 go through every Saturday. Unfortunately not to buy antiques. As a dealer I am often tempted to buy more than I sell, as said by Dicken’s Mr Micawber ‘Income £19, expenditure £18 result happiness. Income £19 expenditure £20 result misery.’ Most antiques dealers belong to the second variety because they love, enjoy and appreciate the items. Opposite me a vintage clothes stand had the most delicately tatted trimming. Exquisitely fine and so cheap. Of course I sell antique tatting shuttles. Knotting shuttles of the utmost refinement are in the Boudoir room tall boy upstairs in the Wallace Collection Manchester Sq London W!.
I have only recently started collecting thimbles and have been looking for a good quality stand that I can display them on at home. I only have a few so far so I don’t want it to be too big and cumbersome. Do you have any recommendations please.
Hello Salli. Thanks for your enquiry. I don’t know any thimble stand makers. They are a modern invention and do not work well with more delicate antique thimbles. Modern thimble are nearly always larger. You could try Google, there maybe a craft designer who can help you. If you intend to buy antique thimbles you might get a carpenter to use a picture frame putting glass shelves in it and hinge the glass front.Bridget.
Thanks Bridget, I will look into that. Which stands do you use when displaying the thimbles on your stall in Portobello Road?
I have two standing glass show cases bought from Ikea about £90 each. They have three shelves on which I put acrylic cubes and ladders. You can buy cubes etc from any on line firm. I used Dolphin accessories or try Morplan office equipment.
The acrylic ladders.
The LAPADA Art and ANTIQUES FAIR is 22-27 September in Berkeley square. If you want to keep abreast of all the antiques fairs buy the Antiques Trade Gazette an excellent weekly publication containing every auction and fair. When you attend a fair, remember to fill in the invitation with your name and address. that way you will receive a free ticket each fair. If you want free parking in the Portobello, free up to 8.30 and after 1.30. then you may park on single yellow lines.
If you have a spare bit of wall in your kitchen or sitting room, painted tin trays used as pictures, look lovely put up on your wall. They are as good as paintings and cheaper. I saw a collection on an orange wall. Many of the trays were painted black then covered in bright painted flowers
Hello, I have an unusual silver & enamel Gabler thimble. I have
been collecting for years and never found one like this one. Hand painted
iron cross on enamel with the words Durch Kampf zum Sieg. Translates to
Through Struggle to Victory. Gabler star on top and stamped 800. Excellent
condition. Gold wash inside. I have checked on Google, Ebay, Etsy, Kovel’s
Book and Sewing Tools book. Thank you, Laura
Thanks for that interesting description of a thimble I have never seen before. I can’t print pictures on my blog unfortunately.This thimble must have been made during World War Two for the German people. Maybe some one else has seen or has got one? Please let us know.
There was a delicious tape measure made like an old car in the Portobello. Correct in every detail, including tiny buttoned leather back seat. It was priced at £450. From what I have observed recently, certain sewing tools are being viewed as beautifully made objects in there own right. Not just collected by sewing tool collectors. They have been under valued for too long.
http://www.dianefitzgerald.com is the website of Diane Fitzgerald with articles and photos of several bead work examples and a painting cir 1830, of a woman wearing a word ribbon. ‘Word ribbons’ were made with beadwork. Diana has a fascinating website showing lots of bead work ribbons with mottos such as ‘read your bible and follow the ways of God’ which was the bead work bible marker ribbon she bought from me. The interest in word ribbons started cir 1830 and continued into the 19th century.
Last Friday there was an auction of thimbles in Sussex. It was a private collection and extensive. There were thimbles in the collection that have rarely been seen before which made it exciting. The only draw back was the condition of many items. It was hard to comprehend why a collector who had a good knowledge of her subject, had not been more careful regarding holes in silver thimbles, wear and chips and cracks in porcelain and enamel? It prevented high prices being reached because of the visible flaws. It is always better to pay more for a thimble in crisp condition unless it is very rare.
Amongst the rare silver thimbles, there was the ‘train’ item Richard Trevithick’s the ‘Novelty’. Then a child’s thimble with tiny carriages containing people around the border. Another silver one with ‘Free Trade’ motto above a two masted ship. The Norwegian enamel scenic thimbles did not reach the vertiginous heights at Bleasedales auction.
In spite of the bad weather, Portobello antiques market was lively last Saturday. Unfortunately we still get women asking for ‘Blue Door, where is it?’ The film ‘Notting Hill has a lot to answer for. There never was a bookshop with a blue door, it was just a film, the two Spanish girls looked crestfallen. Parking is a problem for dealers because our car park has been sold off for property development. Portobello has become too smart. Dealers keep running out to find metres. Parking is free after 1.30. Saturdays will be colder but a lot less crowded so a good time to buy. It means a dealer has the time to tell you something of the cultural climate surrounding an item you are interested in. We all love sharing our small passions.
The antiques business in general is going through a transition. People are travelling less, so more buying and selling takes place on the Internet. This internet activity makes it difficult for dealers who have premises to finance. The property in central London is going up every year , which means the business rents and council tax is also escalating. Dealers are looking at giving up renting premises because they cannot make enough profit to pay the yearly increases. Markets such as Portobello Rd is losing it’s specialised dealers because of rent raises. The dealers who are surviving do so on the profits from their websites. The sad thing is the older dealers are not willing or able to use the web so all their expertise will soon disappear. Even the big fairs are feeling the pinch. Their rents have gone up, plus staying in London for out-of-town dealers is nearly prohibitive. We are all having to have a re-think.
Needle work tools may be making the transition from being niche, to being advertised in general sale where they fetch good prices. When bidding for a sewing tool it is infuriating to being challenged by a dealer only interested in the look of the box, hardly bothering to check out the tools inside. Same goes for gold thimbles set with jewels being snaffled in high bids by jewellery dealers. Palais Royale mother-of pearl sewing tools are now being recognised as significant collector’s items in vertu sales. The only drawback is due to lack of experience, damage is not reported correctly. Of course recognition and appreciation will cause prices to rise.
My emails have become very temperamental. I apologise for any one who either did not receive a reply to a query, or received three at one! Since changing from my PC system to an Apple Mac computer system, all hell broke loose. I am only just getting it rectified. Hope you all had a good Christmas holiday. I had to send a fragile sewing box to Florida USA. My goodness it was complicated
February. My advice if you are posting to the states. Se if you can send your parcel from the post office. If you decide your item is too fragile send it by a courier. Do not state your item is Antique , the courier and customs may refuse it. Make sure you describe it, including what it is made of. My sewing box took nearly 3 weeks to get released from US Customs.
We had a few charming Chinese ladies who came to buy something antique from Britain. They were all exceptionally well dressed and polite. It makes such a difference when a customer is genuinely interested in your speciality.
February 25th 2016. This is by way of a warning to dealers selling at certain USA fairs. If you are showing antique items containing ivory, feathers, and even some mother-of-pearl, make sure you have the correct paper work. Something awful happened to dealers from the UK who had to remove finials of ivory on silver hall marked tea pots, ivory hands and faces from figures, and even some mother-of-pearl items. These were all crushed to dust. The dealers were not allowed to keep them and were fined. Feathers were plucked out of bird automata musical boxes and destroyed incase they were an endangered species. An ivory ruler was broken and cases of sewing sets. This happened at the Miami Beach Show. It was a barbaric act with a totally misconceived application of the law.
March 2016. The light is becoming brighter the sun has come out and an energy runs through collectors and dealers alike. There is an air of excitement in the Portobello inspite of a sharp east wind. An excellent new book arrived by post ‘A History and guide to collecting ladies antique skirt lifters’ by Carole Walker. Wold’s publishing Heronsbridge, little Knowle, Burleigh Salterton Devon EX9 6QS. email books@woldspublishing co.uk. web:wolds publishing.co.uk. Price £18 50 plus postage. I was given a copy, but I do not have any copies for sale. I found it an excellent detailed history of those charming items to secure a ladies long skirt when she danced or performed sports. Clear pictures and old catalogues make this a joy as a reference.
There was a gold and enamel posy holder in a London salesroom last week, which reached the high price of £2000 plus auction fees. There were some nice vinaigrettes selling for over £300 each, and card cases with raised scenes on them always in the £1000 bracket. It is good to know objets de vertu are holding their prices. Silver thimble cases often fetch more than thimbles. There are several interesting items in the Thimble Society pipeline so tune in regularly. Collectors don’t always appreciate the careful restoration and preservation needing to be done, tiny cracks or tears have to be stopped, stains gently removed and polishing done. Do not use silver wadding to clean as it removes silver, especially on silver plate.
May 2016. Web sites are temperamental. Every time I think it is going well, no glitches, one appears. If you don’t receive a reply to an email enquiry, my apologies, try again. Restoring is an under appreciated craft. It is not carried out to deceive but to restore the item near enough to it’s original form, without making it look new. That is a difficult thing to access and everyone’s idea is different. In Europe there is no desire to remove signs of wear because that proves an items age. Recently a customer asked for an antique silver duck pincushion but with a new velvet pad. She thought the old velvet looked dirty. It’s a pity but hard to persuade some buyers of the romance contained in an old piece of textile.
Having bought some delightful vintage bags for the Thimble Society to sell, I could not resist keeping one as my summer hand bag. That is a pitfall of buying antiques you like, some never seem to go up for sale. New handbags have become so expensive, and all look a bit the same, I decided to go vintage. At least I won’t see anyone with the same bag as me.
June. 2016. Until the referendum vote is over, there is a hiatus in all business. To non Europeans, the referendum is a call to vote, for the entire UK, to remain or leave the European Union.
Which ever way it goes, let us keep the peaceful camaraderie that the EU has engendered during the last decades. June is usually a good month in the Portobello as it sees the start of the season of big Antiques fairs in England. When you hunt for your antiques, do you like to rummage in an untidy stand or are you attracted to a well presented stand? Male dealers often have broken chairs and old newspapers with lost items to attract other men. It’s a clever ruse!
July 2016. Well the referendum is over and the majority of UK citizens voted to leave. Personally I wanted to remain in the EU but I am half French. Both Olympia and Masterpiece are nearly over. People are still catching their breath after the vote as no-one is sure what our financial future may be. However, London still seems packed and the low pound means cheaper prices for foreigners. Top end property has also benefited by the low pound, let us hope some of the buyers are into antiques. There are some excellent restorers in the Portobello, if you are a client and can wait a week, you can get most small antiques restored. Remember to bring a ring size if you want to buy for a friend.
August 2016. We had a lot of rain in England but that did not deter thousands of visitors probably taking advantage of the weak pound. At lease some good came out of the exit EU vote, but most dealers will have voted to remain. One of the big arcades called ‘Jones’ has been sold to a developer which is a pity. But many of the best dealers have arrived in my arcade-The Admiral Vernon-it has two floors, first and basement. It is now nearly up to ‘Olympia’ standard. With a variety of proper antiques. Well worth a visit.
September 5 2016.
It used to be the best month for sales in the Portobello but that has changed. Because of the fall in the pound many foreign families and collectors here, on holiday, have made August a good month. Paris closes down in august, but i would advice dealers to holiday in September instead.
In general, art and antiques seem to be on the up. Dealers were comparing their tax returns with last year and found figures slightly up on 2015. May it continue. Possibly Britain is proving cheaper than the rest of Europe owing to the falling pound. The pound has now steadied but buying continues to be reasonable.
There is a new Art Antiques and Interiors Fair opening in January 2017 on 13,14,15th in the Excel Exhibition Centre, Canary Wharf, East London. Run by Clarion, who mount Olympia and the N.E.C in Birmingham, it will be of a high standard, but with many smaller specialist stands included for collectors. Put it is your diaries because there will be new and exciting exhibitors.
As usual, happy to say that Christmas brought in many of our oldest [not in age just in collecting years] customers buying their presents. Some husbands are very generous, they stress how they want something beautiful for their wife/partner and they don’t mind if it is expensive because it will be so appreciated. Generally wives complain that husbands/partners are difficult to buy for and never seem to know what they want! My partner received a cardigan which he pulled on reluctantly saying he already had one. If only he collected something, it’s much easier.
Happy New Year to all our friends. The Portobello shop is getting an update. Having just returned from doing an Art, Antiques Interiors Fair, all the antiques are in boxes so now is the best time to redecorate. The blue felt on the walls looks dated, a ‘stone white’ paint will lighten us up for the Spring and the new LED lights are excellent. Very low cost and a soft daylight which is not that blue white you see on stands selling silver. Too harsh, especially if they light you, not just the antiques.
July Those of you who read The Sunday Telegraph, last Sunday July 16th in the ‘Life Style-Sunday’ section on p.13, will have seen yours truly listed under ‘Thimbles-5 minute Expert’ with a quarter page article plus picture of a jewelled Worcester thimble c.1880 [since sold]
Very glad to see continued interest in our branch of sewing tools. The journalist asked informed questions without any condescension, which is not always the case when it comes to ‘womens collectables’.
> On 30/04/2018 11:00, patrick donnelly wrote:
> Hi Bridget
> I’ve been trying to buy a very nice ancient thimble on eBay but was having difficulty with the Spanish website. Turns out that a couple in Cádiz have been selling artefacts from archeological digs which is of course, illegal. Thank goodness I didn’t get caught up in all that! Just goes to show how careful you have to be.
> Sent from my iPad
Photos as promised. Bad one of some of my collection and couple of the lead object that I mentioned to you with the Roman brooch that I dug up in the same hole. Beside that is the one I made using the lost wax process..I have asked the local chief archeologist to get his teams to look out for flattened lead of the same shape as a flattened brass thimble especially on grave digs. If one of these shapes were to be found in a Roman grave then history might be changed!
I’ve included one of the Turkish boots I mentioned, just for your interest.
Do you recall me telling you that job, before I retired, was a lead worker? Will send you another photo of a piece I did, it might interest you.
Thanks . Will try to copy and paste your photos. We used to receive more interesting thimbles and sewing tools from ‘Mudlarks’ and ‘Detectorists’ but not for a long time. Is that because there are less thimbles/sewing items being found now?
Author: Patrick (IP address: 22.214.171.124, cpc81067-colc8-2-0-cust279.7-4.cable.virginm.net)
In answer to your question, yes, detectorists are their own worst enemy. The more we find, the less there is to find. In some ways it’s good because having been found it can be returned to its former glory and not left to completely dissolve away.. However, “stuff” is still being found and only yesterday I found a brass thimble although it is beyond saving. I’ll put it in the post to you.
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