Put a thimble on it!

Hand quilting tumbling blocks.

Hand piecing tumbling blocks.

The thimble has become an indispensable sewing tool to me through the years although that wasn’t always so.  I never remember learning to sew.  I’ve been doing it all my life.  As a child, I never used a thimble.  In fact, as an adult, I pieced my first quilt top without one.  That all changed one day when the eye end of a needle went through my finger.  (If you have ever done this, you know how much it hurts.)  Ever since then, I have worn a thimble to protect my finger from the eye-end of the needle.  Wearing one has become so natural to me that I often don’t realize I have it on.  I will never forget finding a “lost” thimble in the freezer.  I must have forgotten I was wearing it and it fell off when I was preparing dinner.

Finding the perfect thimble is like finding the perfect pair of shoes.  What fits for one may not be right for another.  Sometimes the hunt is brief but sometimes it seems to take forever to find a good fit.  Here, then, are some things to consider when you are on the hunt for your perfect thimble.

Which finger do you use?  Most use the middle finger of their dominant hand.  Others use their thumb which requires a totally different type of thimble.  The motion of your finger and whether you are piecing or quilting also affects your choice.  Do you push with the tip of your finger or the side?

Closed & Open Thimble

Closed & Open Thimble

Are your fingernails long?  If so, you will probably opt for an open thimble over a closed one.

Thimbles are made with a wide variety of materials.  Metal, plastic, leather, rubber and even porcelain are popular. Some cause fingers to sweat and some wear out quickly.  There are even pads which stick on your finger. Of course, different materials have different costs which is also a consideration.

Various thimblesHow do you find the right fit?  It’s a little like the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears.  You want a thimble which is not too tight, not too loose.  Put the thimble on your finger, hold your hand down at your side, move your hand around a little.  The tip of your finger should rest gently at the top and the base should fit comfortably on the sides of the finger with no pinching. The thimble should stay on but be comfortable enough that you don’t really notice it is there. (Remember the freezer story?)

Also, at different times of the year you may need to change sizes. We have many customers who use two different sizes of thimbles—a larger in summer when fingers swell and a smaller size for cold winter months.

It seems like a lot of fuss over a humble little thimble, doesn’t it?  But if you wear one for hours and hours, you will soon realize how important it is. As with so many of our quilting tools, it may take a lot of trial and error before you find what works for you. Next time, I’ll talk about the thimble I use and love.

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13 comments

  1. Cynthia

    So I should keep looking for the right thimble. I have tried over the years to use one but I always give up. I will try again.

  2. Kate Mattingly

    Love the article! I, too, am an avid thimble person. My problem is that I’m between sizes. My favorite has a recessed brass tip but is too big. Next size down is too small. I have found that if I moisten my fingertip, the loose thimble stays on. Another thing to consider is arthritis. A shorter thimble would “bump” against my enlarged joint rather than trying to cover it. I suppose someone makes a custom fit thimble but the price would probably be more than I would care to pay.

    And the freezer story, I have reached for my wallet only to find I’ve worn my thimble to the store. It seems to be part of my finger and most times I don’t know it’s there.

    • Donna Hornberger

      I moisten my finger too! It really works well for me.

  3. Kitty

    i, too, don’t remember learning to sew…nor do I remember not wearing a thimble. I love the feel of a silver thimble, but in the summer, those soft plastic thimbles are awesome!

  4. Melissa

    I have a silicone thimble that fits just right, I can just never find the darn thing when I need it! =)

  5. Koroleva Lena

    I am 7 years looking for a suitable thimble until I was presented with a thimble designer Tommie Jane Lane. It is very convenient and quality thimble. Only I have a very problem, when I use a thimble. I have a thread breaks, it frays thimble. And this problem I do not know how to fight.

  6. Linda

    I can’t use thimbles, they always feel strange, but the thimble pads are the winner for me :)

  7. Elese

    I have two sizes of the Roxanne thimble and love them. Took some getting used to as they are heavy (sterling silver). They also let you “push” from the pad of your finger helping relieve the stress from pushing with the end of your finger – less arthritis pain. They are expensive but I have had mine for over 10 years. Cost per annum is less than most “disposables”.

  8. Barb S in Texas

    I wear a brass thimble that was in my grandmother’s stuff. I know she didn’t use it because she had tiny fingers but it helps me feel connected to her. I too, moisten to keep it on. Can’t count the number of quilts I have quilted with it!

  9. Cathey

    Yes, I have stuck the needle eye into my finger and I wish I could wear one of the many beautiful thimbles I have purchased to keep my finger safe from harm. But I sew only a few stitches before the thread breaks at the needle eye. I can’t figure out how to sew without breaking the thread. I have studied how you hold your needle from videos, but nothing helps. I have learned how to sew without making holes in my fingers for the most part but I still would like to be able to use a thimble and speed up my sewing.

  10. Fran Rasweiler

    I have my grandmothers’ thimble. It has my grandfather’s initials CWC to ABC. I was told that this beautiful ring was his engagement present instead of a ring as we do. I use a thimble but never that one because of size. Good sharing. Thank you.

  11. Nancy

    I have short small hands, add to that a writer’s bump which makes thimbles really hard to fit for me

    • Tommie Jane Lane’s “Lacy Heart” thimble is shorter and is good for people with arthritis in that first knuckle. That type is what I would recommend.

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