If you prefer to pay BY INSTALLMENTS or lay away scheme, it is possible for orders over £200. Please enquire for details. We aim to help customers in difficult times.
We can offer a GIFT WRAP service free of charge. Please specify. The Thimble Society was started in 1981, mainly for collectors who wanted information and to buy, sewing tools and related items. The membership is free, members can send in photos of items for identification and if they send their email contact details, to receive notice of interesting items coming up in their particular sphere. If you don’t see what you are looking for on our website, let us know and we will try to find it for you.
Portobello Rd shop is open every Saturday. The Portobello antiques market is only open on Saturdays. Apart from antique thimbles and other sewing tools, shuttles, winders, needle cases, reel holders, pin cushions, tape measures, pin holders, sewing sets, boxes, emery, clamps, scissors, thimbles, thimble holders, hat pins, card cases, samplers, purses, and we have branched out into art. Especially paintings from the 20th and 21st century with decorative subjects.
The sewing tools auction held by Robert Bleasdale in Warwick in December was a success, so much so that he is having another sale of collectables in July/August. Check out his website for details.
Olympia antiques fair looked beautiful as usual, with a greater representation of Italian dealers. Talking to one, he told me there was so little business in Italy, it was worth paying the costs to come to London. The good news is owing to fewer dealers being able to afford big stands this year-in fact the entire upstairs section was closed-smaller stands will be re-introduced. it always seemed short sighted to get rid of the smaller, popular collector’s stands. Not all of us are searching for the big decorators items.
Buying and Selling. We are always interested in buying any antique collectors items. We only deal in antique objects so we don’t buy or sell items from the second half of the 20th century or the 21st century. If you have a collection of modern thimbles or modern sewing items to sell, my advice is get in touch with your local aution room or advertise in your local paper. If you have a special antique thimble or collectors item please email with a photo.
Phone. If you want to telephone me , try 07941-455-259. The former land line 0207419-9562 is defunct from August 18th 2013. FOREIGN CURRENCY EXCHANGE RATES.
The following might help foreign buyers. To translate prices from pound sterling to USA dollars, do the following proceedure. Currently [July 2011]it is 1.55 dollars to the pound. with your calculator, put in the sterling price , example £30 times 1.61=48$. The euro is currently at 1.41 to the pound. Put £30 on your calculator, times 1.41=42 euros.
Research facility. If you click onto ‘Archives’ you will be able to access the back magazines published by the Thimble Society. In their pages, you will find information, articles, and photos with prices. If you are a serious collector and want more in depth information with several hundred colour plates with price guides, then buy the two books ‘The Story of the Thimble’ and ‘The History of Antique Needlework Tools’ both by Bridget McConnel. You can buy the books from our website, or from your local book shop if the postage out of the UK is too expensive. You can buy back copies of all the Thimble Society magazines for £4 a copy plus postage. Magazine binders £6 plus postage.
FACEBOOK You can join the thimble and sewing tool collectors on Face Book. You can put in thimbles and my name and you should see the page. Suggest you ‘like’ or ‘Friend’ me. Hope to see you there, Bridget. I will put in bits of extra news and be glad to chat to members
Page updated on 2-7-2013 Looking forward to Wednesday-tomorrow-I will be on the train to Sheffield. Not exactly the Riviera, but the huge antiques fair is held in Newark on Thursday, which is why I will be staying in Grenocide over night.I love going to Newark and this year it promises to be sunny. You can drive, esy parking in a field. Or take the train and courtesy bus. There used to be a special coach as well. It is huge about two miles across with enormous tents bursting with antiques. it is tiring but fun. Good hunting, see you.
Newark was great as always. The weather was perfect, sunny but with a breeze. The only thing missing was the American Doughnut stand? That stop for three doughnuts [shared] with a coffee, was the high light of the morning. I can’t believe they have gone forever. The fair covers about 40 acres, it is huge. I think you need two days to cover it properly. It is like a holiday, if you find a nearby B&B, treat yourself to an over night stay and enjoy the fair in leisure. If you buy anything big, you can get it delivered to one of the main gates. Then you can drive into the gate and get it loaded into your car. If you are car-less, there is a very good shipping service. More later, I have just returned.
I noticed a general drying up of supplies of small collectables, especially made of silver. Having quite a few orders for silver pincushions, I found a few but noted how much the prices had risen. Demand outstripped supply in this case. Pretty silver sewing tools pre 1900 were at a premium, if found. Because of the lack of ‘objets de Vertu’ specialist dealers are dying out, we have had to start selling a broader range. In my case, art and jewellery. Evidence of a strong chinese market is everywhere. The problem with breaking into the chinese world of antiques is there are so many clever copies coming out of China! The Japanese market may be cooling down owing to the stagnation of the Japanese economy. Shabby chic painted furniture continues a favourite, though less of the real and more of ‘if you can’t sell it-paint it’ variety. Went to the antiques fair at Alexandra Palace on Sunday. A good attendance, nearly all the stalls were taken and a fair crowd. Speaking to dealer friend, they all remarked they were having to work extra hard just to meet costs. Partly due to council’s shop rates being so high, pushing up rents on stands, and now an added VAT charge, some dealers are giving up. Every obstacle seems to be thrown into the path to recovery! I still found some delightful objects, made contact with collectors who wanted to sell some duplicates and had a good day.
October 6th 2013. Am getting ready for Newark this Thursday. Always exciting, especially as I have goods that have been saved for me. Problem is I will have to do the queue and then gallop to my meeting place to leave plenty of time for my contact to sell to the next client if I do not want to buy everything. I say ‘want’ I really mean afford! How ever tempting the items, my bank manager is horribly stringent and will only allow me so much lee way even though I tell him I am single handedly boosting the economy.
Portobello was decent this Saturday, a delightful young man looking for an engagement ring was my last customer. He had taken so long to make up his mind the Admiral Vernon was closing. I don’t fancy being shut in for the night. This afternoon I went to the last day of the Decorative art and Antiques fair in Battersea. Gorgeous as usual, still showing the soft French shabby chic look alongside the sharper lines of teak 50s furniture. The steel industrial style lighting is still hanging up overhead of a scrubbed wood farm house furniture, the look is eclectic. More on Newark next week. October 12th 2013. Returned from Newark with some interesting sewing items which had been saved for me. That is the up side of being a specialist and having been dealing a long time. Stuff is saved for you by other dealers. I think it is the only job where age is an advantage! You can see the beautiful sewing box now on my website. I always enjoy Newark, but my goodness it is a lot of walking. Atleast 5 miles during the day. It was a better attended fair than the summer and more dealers stalling out. There was a healthy buzz.
October 15th. 2013. Saturday in the Portobello was pretty good again. allthough most of the dealers had returned to foreign parts after Newark, there were a few left to brighten our day.I have been doing some jewellery to cater for customers who do not collect sewing tools. Of course I have much to learn, but i am beginning to find the subject of gem stones fascinating. I sold some charming rings to dealers from Europe and Japan.
Oct 30th 2013 update. To see what is going on in the Portobello Rd Antiques Market every two weeks, tune in to my blog ‘Portobello Rd Diary’ on the website www.art-antiques-design.com . You can read about recent global developments in the antiques world. Last Saturday was dull owing to half term. Public holidays make a difference to buying patterns. About 20 years ago no one went abroad for half term, you were lucky to get a day trip to Brighton, or up to London. Now parents take their little darlings to Bermuda!Now rail fares are so expensive, it may be cheaper than a family trip to London.We do get day trippers from France and Belgium on the Eurostar.
Nov 3rd 2013. update. This week sees the opening of the Winter Olympia Art and Antiques fair. Followed next week by the NEC winter antiques fair in Birmingham. these two winter fair mark the end of the big antiques fairs calender until the Spring. There is a race envisaged for the dealers who are doing both fairs as they will have to pack from Olympia and speed up the motorway to set up in Birmingham. Now the clocks have changed it means alot of travelling in the dark from 4pm onwards. Oh why do we have to have this silly time change left over from the war! November 22nd 2013. The main important antiques fairs in London and Birmingham are now over. Winter Olympia had shrunk a little though full of beautiful items but very few small collectables. Because it is so expensive to stand at a major fair it becomes harder for sellers of small items to make enough profit to pay expenses. The NEC Birmingham Winter Art and Antiques fair suffers from the same problem of shrinkage due to high expenses and the difficulty of finding top class stock at affordable prices. If any of you want to follow my @Portobello Diary’ join me every two weeks on www.art-antiques-design.com Please leave a comment in the ‘replies’ box at the end of the blog.
Dec 15th 2013. Just a quick happy Xmas message or happy holiday wishes to everyone. If you have time, look at the new little boxed set in sewing sets-stock number D196. It contains such delicious items. The tape was made to celebrate the wedding to queen Victoria to Prince Albert in 1840. The emery is Windsor castle. The thimble is rare. I have never seen Lincoln Cathedral on a thimble before. This one sparkles with exquisite detail, in silver made cir 1840. The interesting thing is it has a tiny ‘crab’ punch on the rim. The crab is usually the French punch for silver from the provinces. It was sometimes used on imported items, to prove the quality of the silver conformed to French standards. The original owner may have travelled to England and bought some souvenirs including a thimble from Lincoln Cathedral beloved by the French as it was originally built by the Norman, Hugh of Burgundy. Dec 20th 2013. A fantastic collection of sweing tools is coming up for auction on Sunday Jan 12th 2014. It is the collection of Hanne Buktas, auction house Theriault’s Marquis auction weekend in Newport Beach California USA. . www.theriaults.com get a catalogue and drool all over the holidays.
Jan 30th 2014. Happy New Year to everyone. January is a mixed month in the Portobello. the weather has been terrible but usually that does not deter late holiday makers, dedicated collectors or dealers who have been bored over the holidays and need a fix of antiques. However, this January was not as busy as most, maybe the weather was worse? But last year we had deep snow, freezing cold and yet more sales? Always hard to read the runes correctly. Matters of display comes up quite often. If you have an ultra modern decor then a few antiques add an exciting contrast. It is like watching living history. If you don’t mix your periods it can look impersonal, just the work of a clever designer rather than personal to you. There can be a sense of inpermanence without the odd antique as if you are waiting for the Estate agent. I love the Art and Antiques fair at Battersea, it is always an inspiration. I believe in [asking permission] taking photos of any ‘look’ you like and keeping it for inspiration. I am clearing out every drawer and cupboard in our home to de-clutter so I can add in a few more lovely objects. Have an enjoyable Spring clean.
March 1st 2014. We are booked in to the Newark Antiques Fair on Thursday April 3rd 2014. We will be standing in the Lady Eastwood arcade , as you enter we will be on the left hand side facing the windows. Hope to see as many of you there as possible. Please come and say hello to myself and Annie-my assistant. i have been to Newark to buy but never before to sell. It is the biggest antiques fair in Europe at least a mile across. Situated in Nottinghamshire, near Lincoln Castle, there is plenty to see if the weather is good. The fair opens at 9am for a fee of £20, if you come on the second day I think it is only 35. There is so much to see, people attend on both days. Wear your walking shoes!
March 12th 2014. The sale of sewing tools in February in the United States drew some big spenders. The prices achieved were very high indeed,sewing tools and thimbles are holding their own. The problem is , their continuing popularity is making them so hard to find. Good items are rare in the auction rooms and when they do come up, boy, the prices are much higher than the estimates. I have missed several items owing to low estimates.
March 16th 2014. A letter regarding the maker of the ‘Hong Kong’ silver thimble made to commemorate the handing over of Hong-Kong to the Chinese. The information kindly supplied by Wynneth from the American ‘Thimble Guild’. Dear Bridget, I contacted the Birmingham Assay Office for the information about the silversmith initials of HAJ. I received a reply this morning. HAJ is Henley Associated Jewellers. I thought you might like to have the information in case someone else asked you. Again, I do appreciate your help. You have always been very kind to help in these matters. I also wanted to mention to you, I have your book The Story of the Thimble. I just love this book because the pictures are just perfect and the information is so helpful. You did a wonderful job and I just wanted to thank you. I do hope all is well. Thank you again. Wynneth Mullins. USA.
April 1st. 2014. Tomorrow Annie and I are off to a village three miles from Newark, ready to set up on Thursday April 3rd in the Lady Eastwood hall at the huge Antiques fair in Newark showground Nottinghampshire. It would be lovely to see some of you there, please come and say hello. it is a very large fair, about a mile across so wear comfortable shoes. I have often been to buy but this is the first time we will have stalled out [having a table] as the term is amongst dealers. The weather will be sunny and we have a delightful B&B with a full English breakfast. the entry fee is £20 on Thursday and £5 on Friday. I will report back when we return on Friday.
May 1st 2014. Happy May Day, though here in London it is pouring with rain with a forecast of storms, hardly the weather to dance around a Maypole! I hope some of you will have received the new mailchimp letter with the exclusive items on sale to members for one week. Please let me have any feedback of services or information that you would find helpful. Tomorrow, Friday May 2nd we shall be open from 10.30am until 4.30 pm in the Admiral Vernon Arcade in the Portobello Antiques Market. The management are trying out trading on three days a week instead of just on Saturdays. This weekend we will be open Friday, Saturday [usual time] and Sunday at 11am-4.30pm. The experiment will continue for two months then we all take stock and compare notes and decide whether to continue opening on three days Do come if you want to miss the Saturday crowds, see details on the home page. So many people are away at the weekend that these new days may be a help to locals. Don’t forget free parking on Sundays. Hope to see you, Bridget.
June 15th, Sorry this is a late update but my computer suffered from problems that took a long time to sort out. i was also unable to load up any new pictures of interesting items. However, you will see some delicious new comers now. There will be an addition of a delightful enamel etui over the weekend. We did the Newark Antiques fair on June 5th but the weather was grey and rainy and there was not a buoyant buying mood. The general feeling was April had been a lot better. Attendance could have been affected by the opening of Olympia Art and Antiques fair was on the same day. I went to Olympia fair on Sunday and admired some of the beautiful art and antiques there were for sale. The standard is high, but you can buy if you really know your field. I did! The recent prices realised in the US for a magnificent sewing tool collection were high indeed. I issue a word of warning when buying from auction without viewing. There is a growing habit of not mentioning damage unless you ask specifically.
July 28th 2014. The Bleasedale auction of sewing tools went well and some very high prices realised.If you want to see the prices, go on to the auction website and scroll down until you find ‘results’ in a pdf file. Click on ‘results’ and then print the list off. You will need a catalogue to go with the list as the lots are in numbers only without any descriptions. I found it strange to see items I had once sold in my shop coming under the hammer. I am happy to say that on larger single items owners received profits. I would suggest to collectors that excellent as auctions are, you may pay more because you are bidding against other collectors. Of course this is excellent if you are selling! Collectors should remember that by striking up a good working relationship with a dealer, items from private collections may come their way at competitive prices owing to not having to pay the 25% added by most auctions. Dealers rely on their reputations, it is a world of honour, which can be valuable to any collector. There is a personal responsibility from vendor, to dealer, to buyer which you won’t find elsewhere. That three link chain has formed most of the great collections in art and antiques.
August 2014 was quiet in the Portobello but Newark August Antiques Fair was very well attended and busy with UK buyers as well as from overseas. No one was sure why it was better attended than usual but all the dealers were pleased. Most of the auctions are closed in August so maybe more collectors visit fairs and perhaps less UK residents went abroad this summer. I went to the North of England over the bank holiday and was able to buy some very nice items. We tend to forget the North has some rich cities with wonderful old stately homes crammed full of collections to visit and excellent little fairs to attend. Most of the dealers I know don’t have websites and tend only to buy and sell items they have personally vetted.
September 2014. The season has started again, Portobello was fuller this Saturday, there was an air of bustling curiosity with collectors eager to see what had been purchased during the holidays. Some lucky dealers are still at the fairs in the South of France which finish this week. What a wonderful holiday combined with business. Many of them book their favourite cafes to be sure of gourmet delights as well as the best French antiques. Many of the dealers have to make the often difficult choice of who to offer their best buys to. If you have several collectors in competition it is hard to please and keep friends with everyone. I actually witnessed a collector hit another over a rare object! October 6th. I have not written my monthly newsletter from ‘Mailchimp’ yet, I am waiting for some interesting new items to arrive for members to see. Anyone who wants to receive the monthly letter, just email me your address and I will add in your name. Portobello has been quiet, I think in anticipation of Newark this week. Last week was the Decorative Arts fair as well as the magnificent antiques fair held in Berkeley Square. What a great way to spend an entire day. There is so much to see and so much to learn. I wanted to know how a deep, high polish on a wood table was achieved without French Polishing which I find too modern and glassy. It is a matter of heating the wood using a flame thrower tool turned low and held at a fair distance. The warmth allows the wood to absorb the applied beeswax. Then you polish up with more warm bees wax on a soft duster. You can do this several times, it gives your arms a good work out! The effect is magical and brings the dullest surface to life but you need to practice to achieve the correct distance as you might burn the wood.
October 26th 2014. Has anyone tried the new Ecloths for cleaning? They are marvellous and seem to clean anything and everything. Especially good on glass. I am sorry I have had to remove the free postage on some items. It becasme complicated for two reasons. First, postage is quite expensive now and on smaller items it really eats into the small profit margins and we never charge for time or stationary used such as post office boxes or padded envelopes. Second, it makes the paypal calculations very complicated as the postage is automatic.
November 3rd. 2014. If you look at records left by chroniclers interested in the enamel trade, you can see how hard the makers of enamel articles worked. In an excerpt quoted in Susan Benjamin’s book ‘English Enamel Boxes’ there is an excerpt from 1747 ‘A General Description of all Trades’on enamellers. ‘Their hours of business are from six in the morning to eight at night’. ‘A good hand will get three to four shillings.’ Looking at the delightful items, so intimate and personal, we can imagine them at their work and appreciate their legacy even more. How amazed they would be at prices charged today! Have a look at the delicious etui in rose enamel under the heading of ‘sewing sets’.
November 12th 2014. Update. Lust is one of the 7 deadly sins, to be avoided especially in what is meant to be wise older age!! Well, i personally experienced it’s pangs on Saturday morning at dawn, clutching a cup of tea hanging over my counter to see if everything was out. The wicked voice of temptation came over my tired bent head ‘thought this might be for you’. From that moment, Juliet had nothing on me. It was the most beautiful, complete, pristine, elegantly 18th century sewing set in 18ct gold, you could wish for. Drop dead gorgeous with the biggest ‘Wow’ factor ever. Unfortunately so was the price. I know where it lives. I know it’s proud owner. But dare not even contemplate it’s purchase-as yet!! My passion will have to remain un-requited, which as you all know, makes it even more tempting.
December 3rd. 2014. Hopefully you are all enjoying the beginning of the festive season. This year I am getting some easy options for presents because Oxford St is like a battlefield, so I am staying local. It is more rewarding to buy from your local shops because otherwise our high streets will be devoid of all the little convenience shops. There is an excellent local book shop, it may be a tiny bit more than buying on line, but I am looking to the future of my High St. Maybe it is the same everywhere but all the junk shops have closed. People are probably too well off to but the kind of second hand junk we started with. You could furnish a flat with £100, you had to style it up yourself, but it was fun January 2015. well, this is always a quiet month, the cold weather doesn’t make you want to go out buying. There are very few auctions or fairs. Keep your powder dry for the spring.
February 2015. The biggest change in the world of Antique collecting is how many auctions are now conducted on line. My local auction is now held on line. I miss hearing the auctioneers repartee. But buyers are all over the world.It is still a quiet time, the trade will wake up with the spring.
March 2015. The antiques trade is still in hibernation. Masses of tourists but not looking for antiques.However we have been lucky meeting two new serious collectors. Always a pleasure to introduce new people to an area we are fond of. Small passions give one considerable pleasure. We are hoping the rents won’t go up in the Portobello. This is not the time as trade is still tentative.
April 2015. Well, the weather is good but we have all had a rent rise in our arcade. Finances are a conundrum because property in Nottinghill Gate, central London, is rising all the time. It has now become very smart. When the Portobello started Nottinhill was a slum. But now our area commands high residential rents but turn over in the shops and arcades is low.
May 16th 2015. Some gorgeous weather, so a few regular collectors are putting their heads above the duvet early enough to harvest their treasures in the Portobello Rd Antiques market. There is not much business being down, but as the earth warms up, so do peoples wallets. The main fairs start up in June, along with the Royal Academy ed al. A charming woman brought me a delightful small sewing box and another charming woman brought some exciting thimbles. Hopefully these items will be on the website end of middle to May.
June 2015. Apologies for this tardy letter. I am in the midst of changing over my webpage soft ware. It takes a long time to transfer every image onto my new site. There seem to be 20 clicks to move thimble.Olympia was gorgeous as usual, but less exhibitors than usual. I believe there were 140 stands. It used to be 300 at least. The upper floor has been given a lift by having stands at a more reasonable rent instead of making it the Gold Section. I saw a delightful stand called The Old Corkscrew manned by charming Jeremy Astfalck from South Africa. He was selling affordable small objets de vertu. If there could be more small stands with specialities it would be more fun. The furniture on display, though magnificent is often too large to fit in the urban flats of today. I have added some new items at last the scene is upon us. With the problem of Greece with such an uncertain future which will affect the rest of Europe, fingers crossed for this years trading.
July 2015. My website has been updated because the soft ware was no longer supported, so please excuse delay and any glitches. Please send me your comments in the new ‘Blog’ section. Access along the top bar of choices. My original diary entry for July got lost in the transfer so I am going straight to August 2015.
August 2015. The new website is now launched. My goodness it was much more difficult and took longer than estimated. Previously the website was on a PC but transferring to Apple Mac made it easier for my website arranger. When he told me it was easy I should not have believed him so easily. It was as easy as changing your Bank. You know what I mean. A charming couple from Moscow came into the Portobello on Saturday. The wife collected bead work and bought a beadwork purse cir 1850. She told me to get a book on Russian bead work and embroidery designs, by Elena Yurova. Amazon have second hand copies, new it is over £100. The high price may be due to lots of colour illustrations and a small print run. August is the holiday month, where ever you are going, bring back some news on Museums visited, antiques found, fairs etc. Put them on the blog. Bridget
The season starts, always an exciting time. The auction rooms are saving their best items for September-October. Of course as so much is now sold on line and is not dependant on peoples holidays it means there has been business being done from laptops on all the best beaches. Sand and sandwiches have not stopped goodies being snapped up. The annoying thing is very few bargains are available because everyone is aware of sales globally. This should be better for vendors but it doesn’t seem to be. It has made people greedy. Because so many buyers tend to put off buying until the last minute, hoping to find the best deal, the best item, they end up buying nothing. The excitement of finding something delightful at your local market or auction happens less. That same buyer will sit for hours in front of the computer instead. Bridget.
If you want inspiration and a gorgeous day out, go to the Decorative Antiques and Textiles Autumn fair in Battersea Park Sep 29th to Oct 4th. There is also the Lapada fair on the horizon the week after next, 24th-27th.