One of my favorite Instagram accounts is @onebouquetperday. Its administrator, Juliane Solvång, is a Berlin native who resides in Sweden. Her gallery is devoted entirely to wildflowers and vintage dresses. Each day of the growing season, Juliane wanders garden, woodland and field to pick a sweet bouquet. Her photographs focus on the graceful blooms she holds, with glimpses of her charming vintage clothing in the background.
On May 10th, I quite literally gasped aloud when I came across Juliane’s bouquet of the day. It was a tiny thimble filled with delicate flowers, a bouquet to make Thumbelina clap her hands! Suddenly, I knew just what I was going to do. I pulled on my shoes, scooped up my garden shears and headed out to the garden. There, I picked a blossom of “Jack Frost” brunnera, a tiny stem of sweet woodruff, two stems of ‘Basket of Gold’ sweet alyssum, and a pink blossom from the plant in our rock garden whose name I’m ashamed to confess I’ve forgotten.
Coming back inside, I selected the largest of my great-grandmother’s silver thimbles, filled it with a few drops of water, and arranged my tiny bouquet. I was so smitten with the result that I decided to write this post and share a few photos.
As it often happens in families, my mother had next to nothing of her mother’s and grandmother’s special keepsakes. In fact, all she had of my great-grandmother’s was a sterling silver-over-copper hinged walnut, inside of which were two small silver thimbles. Here is the larger of the two, with the tiny bouquet I picked.
The other thimble is so petite that I can only fit it on the very tip of my little finger. It’s my favorite, decorated with three plump cherubs holding garlands of flowers.
To take these photos, I placed this little collection on a hand-tatted lace doily my mother had been working on.
The silver walnut was part of a chatelaine my great-grandmother once wore. Chatelaines were hugely popular from the 1860’s through the end of the 19th century. (I’ve seen a photo of Mary Todd Lincoln wearing one.) A chatelaine (pronounced SHAT-uh-lenn) is a set of short, decorative chains worn on a belt. Suspended from the chains might be a thimble, a pair of scissors, a tiny notebook, a watch. I used to think chatelaines were worn by embroiderers only, but an article I read online recently informed me that chatelaines were worn by nurses, painters, golfers, even by women attending a ball. The items that dangled from chatelaines were remarkably diverse. The word chatelaine is French and refers to a woman who owns or controls a large estate. (“La chatelaine” probably wore the keys to her grand château on a chain hooked over her belt!)
I like to think my great-grandmother wore her silver walnut suspended from an elegant chatelaine that also was fitted with a pair of embroidery scissors, a tiny needle case, perhaps a vinaigrette filled with a tincture of lavender. I’m grateful my mother was able to pass this treasure down to me.
My thimble bouquet still sits on the sill, reminding me of my heritage and days gone by. I wonder what my great-grandmother might have made with the help of her trusty thimbles. I imagine her sweeping into the parlor in a rustle of long skirts, her silver chatelaine jingling in dulcet tones. Pleasant thoughts, these –a thimble of dreams, really… I discover again and again the truth that, often, the very smallest of things can mean the most.