My turkey wishbone “merrythought” sewing kit
March is the time o’ the year to be dwellin’ on Celtic traditions and luck. Did ye save your lucky wishbone from your winter holiday turkey? Well, save the wishbone from your spring holiday duck or goose, too! Even the chicken wishbone is lucky. Finding leprechauns in the dells of Celtic lands is one way to have your wish granted, but the remnants of a tasty poultry feast are easier to come by.
Rituals involving goose bones are as old as ancient Etruscan and Roman culture where dried goose or chicken bones were stroked, not broken, while a wish was brought to mind. The Etruscans believed that the hen was a “soothsayer” because her squawk foretold the laying of an egg, and the cock as well, because his crow heralded the coming of the dawn. The Romans brought the tradition of the lucky wishbone (which is the bird’s clavicle) to Great Britain, and from there it traveled to America, where it was adapted to the native turkey.
A wishbone paperweight
Wishbones were called “merrythoughts” in the British Isles, and they are one of a group of three traditional lucky charms there; the others being the horseshoe and the four leaf clover. The term “wishbone” is American, and came into use around 1850, about the same time that President Lincoln made Thanksgiving a national holiday. Merrythought was still the more common term until around 1900.
Somewhere along the way, our creative domestic forebears figured out how to make a useful sewing accessory from the “merrythought,” as a way to keep it beautiful and close at hand. I first saw a photo of a vintage crocheted wishbone thimble holder in Mary Jane’s Farm magazine. I then searched for a crochet pattern to make one, and found the pattern to be rather elusive. That’s when I went to my crochet border pattern resources and found that I could easily make it up. I am quite happy with the way my lucky “merrythought” crochet wishbone thimble holder and pincushion turned out!
Variations of wishbone thimble holders. One on a turkey wishbone, and one on a chicken wishbone.
A colorful one with ribbon insert on possibly a duck wishbone.
This one is copied from a vintage pattern with instructions, and seems to use yarn rather than crochet cotton in its construction on a smaller chicken wishbone.
A small chicken wishbone with a large heart pincushion.
A dainty one on a chicken wishbone.
I encourage you to try this easy and charming project for your own sewing corner. Any wishbone can be used; however, a turkey wishbone is large enough to easily accommodate the thimble between its arms. The dried bone becomes brittle, so be gentle with it as you are working with it.
Here are some instructions to help you on your way to making your own “merrythought” thimble holder. I am not including crochet terms or explanations, so these instructions are recommended for intermediate crocheters.
My Wishbone Thimble Holder
The Wishbone Border:
Use one light and one dark colored size 10 crochet cotton thread and a size 5 or 6 steel crochet hook. I used ecru and dark green thread.
(For the border: multiples of six plus one)
Row 1: With light color thread, and with the back side of the wishbone facing you, cast on sc’s. I put 73 sc onto my wishbone, with 37 on the first arm, and continuing in FRONT of the knob, 36 on the second arm.
Row 2: Ch 5 (counts as first dc plus ch 2), turn; skip next 2 sc, dc in next sc, * ch 2, skip next 2 sc, dc in next sc; repeat from * across: 24 ch 2 spaces.
Row 3: Ch 3 (Counts as first dc), turn: *2 dc in next ch 2 sp, dc in next dc; repeat from * across: 73 dc.
Change to dark thread.
Row 4: Ch 1, turn: sc in first dc * ch 2, skip next 2 dc, (tr, ch4, slip st in fourth ch from hook) 4 times in next dc, ch 2, skip next 2 dc, sc in next dc; repeat from * across. DO NOT finish off.
Handle: Sl st across edge of work to the cast-on sc near the bone; ch 10, dc in 3rd ch from hook; * ch 6, dc in 3rd ch from hook; continue from * until handle is as long as you want it; ch 3; attach with sl st to opposite side near the bone. Finish off.
With dark thread, ch 4, join with sl st to beginning ch.
Rnd 1: ch 3 (counts as first dc, now and throughout), 17 dc in ring, join to top of first dc.
Rnd 2: ch 3, 17 dc in back loop only of each dc around. Join.
Rnd 3: ch 2, dc in next dc, ch 1, * make 2 dc cluster in next 2 dc, ch 1 around, join. (9 clusters)
Rnd 4: ch 3, 2 dc in next ch 1 sp, I dc in top of next cluster, around. (18 dc)
Rnd 5: Change to light thread. Ch 1, 1 sc in each dc around. Join.
Rnd 6: Ch 1, * sc in first sc, ch 3, skip next sc, 2 dc and one hdc in next sc from * around.
Before fastening off, make a chain the right length to suspend the thimble holder between the two arms of the wishbone. Attach at the same place as the handles on each side.
The crochet heart
With dark thread, ch 8.
Rnd 1: 3 tr in fourth ch from hook, tr in next ch, dc in next ch, hdc in next ch, 3 sc in last ch; working in free loops of beginning ch, hdc in next ch, dc in next ch, tr in next ch, (3 tr, ch 3, sl st) in same ch as first tr. 16 sts and 2 ch 3 spaces.
Rnd 2: Ch1, sc in same ch as last sl st made, ch 1, dc in next ch 3 sp, ch 1, (tr, ch 1) 4 times in next tr, tr in next tr, ch 1, skip next tr, (dc in next st, ch 1, skip next st ) twice, (dc, ch 4 dc) in next sc, ch 1, skip next sc, (dc in next st, ch 1, skip next st) twice, tr in next tr, ch 1, (tr, ch 1) 4 times in next tr, dc in last ch 3 sp, ch 1; join with sl st to first sc: 19 sts and 19 sps.
[For Rnd 3, Scallop: Ch3, dc in third ch from hook.]
Rnd 3: Ch 1, turn; (skip next ch 1 sp, sl st in next st, work scallop) 8 times, skip next dc, (sl st, work scallop) twice in next ch 4 sp, skip next dc, sl st in next dc, (work scallop, skip next ch 1 sp, sl st in next st) 7 times, ch 1; join with sl st in same st as previous joining. DO NOT finish off.
Make dc-chain same as for Handle, the length you want to loop through the wishbone, and attach at joining. Finish off.
Optional: you may want to make a stuffed felt heart to sew your crochet heart onto for a pincushion.
My apologies in advance for any mistakes in this pattern. I wanted to offer these instructions, since I had a hard time finding any for a wishbone thimble holder like the vintage ones I found photos of. Part of these instructions are adapted from other crochet projects, and part is my design. I am not experienced in transcribing instructions. I do hope it works for you.
Enjoy your crocheted Merrythought Sewing Wishbone!
This is a vintage lucky postcard that I found at the Portland Doll Show.