The Art and Technique of Inuit Clothing

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M21015.1-2 ME930.20 M4936 ME982X.99.1-6 ME982X.157.4 ME982X.187.1-2 ME988.127.1 ME987X.71 PERS-26
 
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Thimble
Anonyme - Anonymous
Central Arctic
Inuit: Inuinnaq (Kilusiktormiut)
1910-1915, 20th century
Bone, pigment
2 x 2 cm
Gift of J. J. O'Neill
ME982X.157.4
© McCord Museum
Description
Keywords:  Thimble (8)
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Keys to History

The Inuit seamstress wears the thimble on the index finger and pushes the needle from underneath the skin toward her, employing the side of the thimble. At one time thimbles were made of a semi-circular piece of dehaired sealskin with a loop to encircle the digit. Another form was a cap of dehaired skin, preferably from the bearded seal or walrus, which covered the end of the finger. An open-ended thimble was made from a caribou's small circular toe bone or muskox horn. Often one side is flattened to accommodate the finger pad.

Metal thimbles with or without closed tips were greatly in demand from traders. Users first took the tip off metal thimbles themselves to make them open-ended; however, according to Dr. Lydia T. Black, professor emerita, University of Alaska Fairbanks, eventually this modification was done by traders themselves.

  • What

    A caribou toe-bone has been hollowed, shaped and polished to make this thimble. It is open-ended, unclosed on one side and triangular in shape. Etched lines encircle the thimble, and a band of vertical lines runs around the base. A dark pigment pressed into the graving makes the design more visible.

  • Where

    The thimble comes from Qurluqtuuq (Coppermine), Nunavut, situated on Coronation Gulf or from groups near the coasts of Dolphin and Union Strait.

  • When

    The donor, Dr. J. J. O'Neill (1886-1965), with the Geology Department of McGill University, was a member of the Canadian Arctic Expedition in 1913-1918. The expedition was the first group of outsiders to make contact with the Kilusiktormiut, who inhabit the area around Qurluqtuuq.

  • Who

    This thimble was made and used by a member of the Kilusiktormiut, who inhabit the area around Qurluqtuuq. While out on the land, men will take along a sewing kit that includes a thimble by storing it in their quiver or rifle case.