Thimbles for hand quilting can be a big and sometimes expensive decision. Bonnie did a post recently about hand quilting which elicited a number of questions about thimbles and she challenged those of us who have a favorite thimble to post about it.
When I started hand quilting I hadn’t ever used a thimble. My mom never sewed with a thimble. When I took sewing in school the teacher never used a thimble or mentioned that people used such a thing. Then I signed up for a quilting class and “thimble” was on the supply list. I went to the sewing store which had exactly one type of thimble and bought it.
It was awful.
It felt weird to have something on my finger while I was trying to hand quilt, which is a weird enough thing on its own. It fell off because it was too big. It tipped and dug into the side of my finger and left a blister because it was the wrong shape for my finger. It was discouraging!
Finally the desire to hand quilt became stronger than my thimble aversion and I started hunting thimbles. Like kissing frogs to find a prince I ended up buying a lot of thimbles that didn’t work for me. However, once I started teaching and sharing my thimbles it ended up that just about every thimble I had became somebody’s favorite.
Besides style there is also the matter of fit. A thimble should fit snugly. You should be able to move your hand around including letting it hang down at your side without the thimble falling off. If the thimble falls off it is either too big or the wrong shape for your finger – with one thimble exception we’ll get to later.
Finally there’s the oddity of wearing a thimble if you aren’t used to it. It frankly can feel weird and awkward to have something on your finger getting in they way of your quilting! The best way to deal with it is to wear it. Wear it around the house – while you do laundry or chores, while you put away the groceries, while you read or watch tv or even read blogs on the computer. Wear it until you don’t notice it anymore. Then you’re ready to start quilting with a thimble!
So, here’s my collection with a few notes. Hopefully it will help the thimble seekers among you to find the right type of thimble.
These are what I call the “low profile” thimbles:
Low profile thimbles are a great starting place. When someone is not used to wearing a thimble these are less obtrusive than the standard thimble. Some quilters stick with them and others get used to the feeling and move on to sturdier thimble versions.
Top left is textured first aid tape. Some hand quilters like to wrap their quilting finger with this or electrical tape or even a bandaid and quilt that way. Just a couple words of caution: the needle will wear through all of these tapes eventually so keep an eye on things and add more tape or replace it before the back end of the needle stabs your finger; second if your finger is already sore say from sewing thimble-less wait until it heals before trying a sticky option or it will really hurt to remove (does it sound like I’ve had that problem before?)
Bottom left is a soft leather thimble with a metal disc in the front. This one is made by Clover but several manufacturers make them. They are soft and less annoying to wear than a hard metal thimble but some people find they twist and turn on their finger. This is the exception to the snug thimble that does not fall off rule.
Sticky thimbles. The two pictured are technically for the “under the quilt” hand, however I’ve had students try and like these for their needle hand. The left one the “under thimble” is a metal disc and round double sided tape to stick it on with. The disc is smooth but some quilters liked to wear it and put a piece of tape over it to keep the needle from slipping. This solved the wear through problem of tape alone. The other is thin tape ovals. I’d often have an anti-thimble student try these only to discover that they’d change sewing fingers to an un-taped finger. It was not uncommon to have one or more students with tape on every finger of their quilting hand just trying to get used to dealing with something on their finger. There are also little leather sticky dots that can be purchased that work like those pictured but are far more sturdy.
What all of these thimbles have in common besides their lower profile is that they require the quilter to push the needle with the pad of their finger rather than the tip of their finger. The more you quilt, you will find that you likely prefer pushing with one spot on your finger. Once you know where that is, you can narrow down your search by pad of the finger thimbles or top of the finger thimbles.
Here’s my collection of pad of the finger thimbles:
Left is a “nimble thimble” these are soft leather thimbles with a metal disc hidden under the leather at the pad of your finger. They, like most of this type of thimble have an opening for someone with a long fingernail. Because these are leather they do eventually wear out and you will know it when the metal disc moves and the needle enters your finger tip.
Near left is an adjustable thimble made by Clover. This one has nice deep groves for the end of the needle to sit in. The back of the thimble can be squeezed, just like a ring from the gum ball machine, to fit snugly.
Center is a tailors thimble which is also made by Clover. It can also be squeezed to fit snugly around the finger closer to the first joint rather than centered on the pad of the finger.
Inner right is a Roxanne thimble. These are nice, heavy duty thimbles that are sized like jewelry to fit just right. They come in brass (shown) or sterling which some quilters really love. They are a bit heavier at the tip than other brands which may take getting used to. The metal is hefty for long wear and the price is hefty too.
Right is a Diamond thimble. It’s made out of some sort of flexible plastic. The pad of the thimble is textured to help reduce needle slip.
Tip of the finger thimbles:
I think these are what people typically think of when they think of a thimble. Notice that none of these are porcelain with little dancing ladies painted on them. Those painted ones are decorative, not really designed for quilting. When shopping for these, really look at the shape of your fingers. Some fingers are tapered and others are the same diameter from tip to hand. Thimbles are the same and if you fingers taper than you will likely want a thimble that tapers too. If your fingers are straight (like mine) than you want a straighter sided thimble to avoid the thimble tipping and moving on your finger. If you love long fingernails these are not the thimble style for you.
Left is the basic Dritz metal thimble widely available in virtually every single sewing store on the planet. They come in about four sizes. Try them on and choose one that fits snugly.
Near left is a leather thimble with a metal top. My local quilt shop had these but there isn’t a brand on it. The leather is actually pretty stiff so it’s not really any more comfortable than a well fitting metal thimble.
Nearly center is a latex dipped metal thimble called a “ladyfinger thimble.” The latex coating helps stop needle slip.
Nearly center right is a custom thimble made by T.J. Lane. She makes many styles of thimbles and they are each a little work of art besides being really well made. They are sized like jewelry so you can get one that fits you exactly.
Inner right is a “flexible thimble” made of hard plastic. It’s a bit slick but some people like how light it is to wear. Others hate how sweaty a plastic thimble is.
Right is a “raised edge thimble”. It has a reinforced top with nice deep grooves to hold the needle securely.
Try on as many thimbles as you can and get one that really fits you securely. Then wear it and get used to the feeling of a thimble on your finger. It might just surprise you the difference a well fitting thimble will make to your quilting stitches.
See what the creative ladies have up on their design walls over at Judy’s.
Check out other thimble opinions over at Bonnie’s.
- – marcella