Isn't it lovely? It's an antique 'knitting pin gauge.' Even the term 'knitting pin' just sounds so wonderfully old fashioned.
I remember from childhood my mother's knitting needles and in amongst her collection were the old steel needles that were probably in the old sizes and would have been just perfect for this little device.
A little research a few minutes ago showed me that this is a rather well known bell gauge by Abel Morrall made in England up til the 1930s. Apparently 'the collector' of these will find that this particular model, with the Cross Fox trademark, is not as easy to find so it seems I got myself a nice little almost-rarity. They're not impossible to find, just not as plentiful as some others.
I tried it on a few needles and they slotted in nicely. I had thought those slots might not be as user friendly as the holey models we're used to today, but it was just fine. My 4mm needle fitted nicely into the #8 slot.
I rather like the gauge slot, too. I'm going to try it next time I need to check gauge, or tension. I've started saying gauge because that's what is most commonly said on the internet, but tension is one of those things that also reminds me of the knitting I grew up with. My mum always said 'tension square' instead of 'gauge swatch' I still like it.
I did kinda wonder if this was a useless purchase. I was looking at it on the bus and thinking, yeah, it's nice, and makes me think of my grandmother, who I never met, knitting baby layettes or something, but so what?
A few years ago I bought some bone crochet hooks and you know, I can't even find them. So much for that little dip into the world of craft-related antiques.
But this is nice and I think it'll just live in my knitting bibs and bobs bag and remind me of the connection to women before me.