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?
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.
How 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.