Do You Use A Thimble?


Do you use one of these? I don’t know why, but I suspect this might be a divisive question!

For ages, I thought thimbles were an affectation with no genuine sewing use. Then I began hand sewing with some incredibly small and slender Japanese needles. With each stitch, I’d push the needle through the fabric with the pad of my middle finger. Over time, the finger began to get sore. Then the skin broke. Then a scarlet dot blossomed.

It was time to reach for the thimble.

I felt ashamed of my prior scorn. How naive I was! How little I knew about the hazards of hand sewing! Do you use a thimble? Or do you laugh,Β It’s health and safety gone mad!Β I’m dying to know.

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74 Responses to Do You Use A Thimble?

  1. Mrs.Smith says:

    I am actively evading hand sewing as much as possible πŸ™‚ However, I was hand hemming the sleeves of my daughter’s band ensemble gown and really wished I had a thimble to get through those layers of velvet.

    Drats. Guess I am naΓ―ve too!

  2. sew2pro says:

    I bought a thimble back when I was a novice but had no idea how to use it/what it was for. I bought it to fit my thumb. What a wally πŸ™„

    • I think that’s the issue at the start of your sewing career, though – you just don’t quite know how to use this object! It was only through trial and error that my thimble stopped my digits from being shredded.

  3. Ruth says:

    I use one. I have my granny’s thimble. It’s very small and fits my ring finger neatly. I have used it for years.

  4. I use one when I’m handsewing — which isn’t a lot. I try to use industrial sewing techniques to avoid as much hand stitching as possible. But I do appreciate having the thimble when I use it!

  5. My mother uses them when she hand quilts. She gets these leather ones that have a little metal disk in the pad. They mold to you finger!

  6. Ann Johnston says:

    I have my Grandmother’s thimble, which I kept for sentimental reasons only until I ran into Alabama Chanin – go poke around here: Natalie Chanin’s designs are gorgeous, and all hand sewn, and after a very short time I dug that thimble out and now can’t live without it. I think that if you do any quantity of hand sewing you end up using one or bleeding all over your project!

  7. Chris says:

    I have one such leather quilting thimble as well. I rarely use it as I try to avoid handsewing wherever I can. But on the one hand quilted project I ever made my fingers could not have done without hte thimble.

  8. Karyl says:

    I do use it and it works well but it makes my finger feel all sweaty and hot! πŸ™‚

  9. I could do with one right now! I’m sewing handles onto a bag and it’s a bit heavy going on my fingertips. Whilst tidying up the loose ends I was mortified that I had to use a needle threader. When did I lose my hand eye co-ordination?!

  10. helen says:

    I use one most of the time when hand sewing. I much prefer the ones with an open top like your photo in the post. It took a while to get used to and now it feels odd if I don’t wear it.

  11. Marianne says:

    For me a thimble is the symbol for sewing. My grandmother always used one and I remember sitting next to her as a little girl, watching her hands making incredible things. Now I’m using her 85 years old thimble (which inspired my blog name), specially on projects with lots of hand sewing.

  12. Fwaire says:

    I tried to use one but i found it too fiddly. (It kept falling off!) I do think they’re a good idea, maybe one day i’ll get the hang of them…

  13. MarrieB says:

    I’ve got a couple, but I don’t use them very often. I think it’s my own user error, but I find them fiddly and I feel like I lose control over my stitching. I guess I like to feel what I’m doing, even if ends up hurting. πŸ™‚

  14. Philippa says:

    This is a serious question as my friend had to go to the doctors with a sewing related injury. The needle pierced the skin on her finger and she ended up on antibiotics! True story!

  15. sewsable says:

    I use them for some hand sewing projects; when I was binding my eighteenth century stays a thimble was a must!

  16. Bluenines says:

    Yes I use a thimble when I hand sew, I have purchased a few , but the ones that I use the most belonged to my grandmother and great grandmother , I like that I have these and use them, happy sewing to all

  17. Catherine says:

    Thimbles come in different sizes.. and once you get used to using one (that fits).. well I can’t hand sew without one now..
    Even my dad used one… when mending a sail (and the needle was so heavy he pierced a hole in my mother’s silver thimble… he was NOT popular πŸ˜€

    Like someone else said sewing = thimble to me πŸ™‚

  18. susew says:

    I have a thimble but avoid using it when I can when doing hand sewing- find it more awkward doing hand sewing with it on. I only use it if sewing on heavy or tightly woven fabric.
    My mother was thrilled when I found a tailor’s thimble (open top like the one in your photo) to replace the one that she had lost- she hated not having a thimble

  19. Chuleenan says:

    Yes, I do! When I was hand embroidering a whole lotta spirals, I found that I really needed one for the very reason you mention. But it took me a while to find one that felt comfortable on my finger. I even wrote a post about that:

  20. mandymunroe says:

    I always use a thimble (now) – “Elaines leather thimbles” – they’re soft but durable as they’re double thickness. I can’t get on with the metal ones, they end up flying across the room.

  21. I have quite a lot of them… I was never able to learn to use them. I am still looking for perfect one. You may see my collection on my blog πŸ™‚

  22. suth2 says:

    I am definitely a thimble user. I feel undressed if I hand sew without one πŸ™‚

  23. mepellymelly says:

    I’m a convert to thimble using, I also was sustaining hand sewing related injuries!! It’s so much better.

  24. Julia says:

    I can’t sew without a thimble but before I started sewing with one, it did feel cumbersome and uncomfortable. There is a knack. I wrote a blog about it a long time ago: Now I am a thimble geek.

  25. lauriesannie says:

    I keep a serious callous on one hand and punctures on the right!

  26. As a quilter, for me a thimble is a must – can’t sew without one!!

  27. Joanne says:

    I definitely use a thimble when I’m hand sewing, especially through thick layers (and when my boys aren’t actively pretending they’re mini-microphones.)

  28. booketta says:

    Yes, I use a thimble when necessary on some hand sewing projects. It does save the fingers πŸ™‚

  29. I wear one to hand stitch now, like you too many sore fingers! Mine has a metal top and silicon sides as I found keeping an old fashioned metal version difficult. Its also bright pink so I can not loose it.

  30. Jen (NY) says:

    It depends… It is an absolute necessity to use a thimble with Japanese sashiko stitching. While experimenting with sashiko a few years ago, I discovered Japanese style thimbles. Japanese thimbles (or whatever they are called) are either metal, or traditionally, leather. They fit like a ring around the middle finger and have a little metal disk or leather pad that rests just below the finger on the upper part of the palm. The pad is used for pushing the needle through the fabric. Takes some getting used to, but it works quite well and seems more efficient. I don’t like to use the regular sewing thimbles–they just seem awkward to me.

    • Sewer from Across the Pond says:

      I have a Sashiko thimble for that craft, and varieties of dressmaker’s and tailor’s thimbles. I prefer the tailor’s thimbles for regular sewing and tailoring because they’re open at the end and therefore less hot, but I don’t have the form down for pushing from the side.

  31. Like you I did not use one … then in the second year of my costuming course we did tailoring. No fusible interfacing and hours of pad stitching came to make me prize my thimble. I have a little collection now and no blood on garments is always a bonus.

  32. Stephanie says:

    This is interesting. I don’t generally use one, but I have in the past. I spend a lot of time in Florence, Italy and was in a little tailor’s shop in the spring talking with the elderly owners when the subject turned to thimbles! They are a lovely elderly couple and their shop a true piece of history (oh the sewing machines and jumbles of interesting things!). My boyfriend asked if they would be willing to take on an apprentice (at least a short-term one) and the man responded that they had recently had a fashion design student from the Polymoda attempt a brief internship with them. He had sent her away when she admitted that she had never even heard of a thimble! πŸ™‚ He really is a lovely man though and said that she could return once she had an idea. πŸ™‚

  33. Karen says:

    Always for quilting which I don’t do much of anymore; sometimes for sewing on buttons. That’s about it, but I love the idea of a thimble – it seems very nostalgic and wholesome.

  34. Sewer from Across the Pond says:

    Yes, I always try to sew with a thimble. My first sewing teacher said she’d developed nerve damage because she hadn’t used one. One day, a friend needed help basting a heavy coat muslin. I didn’t have my thimble with me. The next two days I awoke in the night from the tingling in my fingers.

  35. I use one when I hand sew. Sometimes I think I should wear more than one, though, as I seem to change up which fingers I am using to push the needle through.

  36. Elyse says:

    What little hand sewing I’ve done, I haven’t used a thimble. But the last time I was hand sewing, I was having trouble getting the needle through the fabric, and when it finally went through, it completely punctured through my nail right above my skin. Quite the hole it made, too!

    I can now say I own a thimble and I will use it every time I hand sew.

  37. laulipopnz says:

    I have several thimbles all given to me by people who know I sew and think it is a cool gift, most of them are souvenir type ones from around the world! but do I use one? very rarely, most of the ones I have don’t fit very well and I have just seemed to develop a way of handsewing or embroidering where I don’t need to use one! One day I might get the hang of them!

  38. Stephanie says:

    Depends on the garment. If it is light material, then usually no thimble. Thick material, a thimble. I have never found one though that fits my big fingers properly.
    Also good for keeping a cat entertained. πŸ™‚

  39. I made a simple leather thimble years ago. I can’t even remember why I needed it, but now it’s one of my all-time favorite sewing tools. It stays on my finger better, and doesn’t get sweaty like the metal ones, and it fits perfectly, it’s like my finger grows an extra tough pad when necessary.

  40. I wouldn’t be without mine. It once belonged to my grandmother and it advertises Terai Tea and Coffee (perhaps it came as a free gift with some tea or perhaps it was the equivalent of today’s promotional ballpoint pen; I couldn’t say for sure). I have a little, yellow, plastic one that’s useful too, but Granny’s is the one that I usually reach for. That’s the one I used today when I was handsewing a patch onto my son’s jeans. Even with the tubular bed freed up, I couldn’t manage to get that skinny leg sitting properly under the presser foot.

  41. Bethan says:

    Sometimes, but not always, with hand sewing. My thimble was my great-great I grandmother’s, who was a seamstress, and passed on to me by my grandmother, so it always feels nice to use it for that reason. I’m just about to start a baby quilt for a friend, so I’m expecting a lot more thimble action in the near future!

  42. I do now – and I wish I had before I gave myself a callous on the finger that takes all the punishment when hand sewing. Cautionary tale here!

  43. chris says:

    When I first learnt to sew many years ago It was with a thimble ,and I have always used one , a couple of years ago I bought a lovely soft leather one , I love it .

  44. Amy says:

    Yes they’re vital! I used to have a rubber thimble I got from the supply cupboard at work but then I lost it, boo! I could get a great grip on my needle as it was a little more flexible than a metal thimble. Just my two pence πŸ™‚

  45. Sonia says:

    I do quite a bit of hand-sewing (patchwork and hand-finishing hems, I’m a sucker for a slow finish!) and I was recommended reusable sticky leather Thimble Pads – they’re so awesome! You stick them to wherever on your finger you need them and then when you’re finished you can stick it in your sewing kit ready for next time. They’re so comfortable I almost went to bed wearing mine the other night…..!!!!!!!

  46. Gaenor says:

    Depends what I’m sewing… If I am just hemming school trousers I don’t bother, but when I am patching denim I have to use a thimble otherwise I curse and bleed all over the jeans.

  47. Suzie says:

    A very timely post! I haven’t really used a thimble in the past for my handsewing, mainly because I found the awkward with my nails and they wouldn’t stay on very well. I am about to embark on making my first quilt though, so I thought I should invest in a decent thimble and have bought one that is open-ended, and thus should be OK with nails (not that my nails are ridiculously long btw!). We shall see!

  48. Daniela M. says:

    I have a plastic thimble and tried to use it once, but it always so uncomfy on my finger and I also have problems to grab the needle properly. So, I have given up for the moment. But should I ever do loads of hand sewing, I might try again πŸ™‚

  49. Ally B says:

    I made a 1970s coat that required hand sewing for the lining. I neer used a thimble but by the end of the project I really wish I had. I love sewing coats and think maybe I should just wear a thimble around my neck to remind me I actually have one next time. Maybe one of those pretty vintage old ones would help πŸ™‚

  50. Ally B says:

    That was suppose to be “never”. That is what I get for posting at 5am Pacific Time!

  51. black label says:

    I used to think I could get away without needing one….until I made a coat!!!
    I actually wear a thimble on the wrong finger just because I hand stitch differently. I remember going into the store & ‘fitting’ a thimble onto MY finger & the lady so politely said ‘no, no little one…you using the wrong finger’…haha, once i explained how i handstitch she understood but i still think she wasnt entirely convinced i knew what i was doing. πŸ™‚

  52. Sally says:

    I’ve always been quite fascinated by thimbles – my Gran has a huge collection of them that were on display in her living room as I was growing up. Unfortunately I just can’t get on with them – I try to use them (a lot) but always seem to end up pushing the needle through with a different finger to the one with the thimble, it just feels so awkward using one. I keep meaning to get Gran to teach me how to use one.

  53. Sheila Gwilliam says:

    I would love to use a thimble and have several but they are all too big and I was born with my fingers in wrong place i.e. tallest not in the middle but tallest finger is my ring finger and also only got one joint on all my fingers so find it really difficult to wear one but think they are good

  54. Tina Claydon says:

    My late Mum was a professional seamstress and trained in the sewing rooms of Swan & Edgar in London in the late 1940’s to early 1950’s. She always used a thimble and I still have it. It is a metal thimble that was used so much over the years that it is slightly flat and shaped to the finger she wore it on! I use it myself sometimes and shall always treasure it along with her dressmaking scissors.

  55. Colleen says:

    I understand the purpose of thimbles, but find them annoying to use. Instead, I keep a piece of leather handy for pushing the needle through the fabric. The needle is much less likely to slip than it is on the surface of a thimble.

  56. Sheree says:

    Do you know, until this post I had totally forgot about thimbles. Of course I know they exist, but I have never felt the need for one, despite enjoying hand sewing. Those leather ones sound interesting though, so may look into buying one.

  57. Trish says:

    If I didn’t I would end up with a hide as thick as an elephant on one finger pad. Great low-tec device. Be sure to get the right size, comfortable fit not too loose, and use all the time when hand sewing.

  58. Jacqueline says:

    I don’t because I can’t get them to stay on. I’m sure if I was doing a lot of hand sewing, I would though.

  59. Margaret says:

    I never used a thimble, until I made my first quilt. By the time I had hand-pieced and hand-quilted the entire quilt, my right middle finger had a crater of a hole in it, and I knew it was time to finally listen to my Mother and learn how to use a thimble!
    Best tip I was ever given was to wear the thimble around the house until it felt like it belonged on your finger, and THEN start sewing. Worked like a charm.
    For a few years I used a cheap thimble from a haby store, which did the job, but made my finger green and funny-smelling. Then one day, I saw a beautiful silver thimble in a jeweller’s window, and it miraculously fitted my ridiculously child-sized finger. Best impulse buy ever, as it’s lived on my finger or on my pincushion for more than twenty years now!

  60. I use a little brass one. No idea how old it is but it looks very, very old. It fits perfectly and when I sew without it (if the boys have played with it and left it somewhere) I miss it terribly. I have loads of other thimbles that don’t fit, very large and bulky, and I seem to keep them just to get in the way when searching for something else!

  61. FabricKate says:

    What an interesting thread. I used to use one alot, but I lost it, and I have not found a really well fitting replacement. So I tend to use my finger, which has developed a hard patch of skin on it. Disgusting I know, but it does work!

  62. I find a thimble essential when I’m hand sewing binding on quilts (or pretty much any kind of hand sewing). I use a leather thimble though, since they’re softer and more malleable – I could never get the hang of the metal ones.

  63. Rachel says:

    I’ve been trying to use one when hand sewing (mostly hemming), but my instinctive reaction is to avoid the finger the thimble is on! I have to concentrate very hard to make myself actually use the thimble finger, even though that’s the same finger I normally use for pushing the needle. It’s mentally exhausting.

  64. I use one for sewing down a quilt binding to the back of the quilt (needs to be done by hand so the stitches are invisible). If you’re not used to using one, I would suggest starting the hand sewing without, so that you can actually tell which finger you need the thimble on by which one gets sore! Then, get yourself a Clover leather thimble. Like all thimbles they feel clunky to start with, but once your finger’s already sore you’ll have a reason to get used to it. Because they are leather, your finger won’t feel sweaty, the thimble will mould to its shape, and won’t slip off. The needle will leave marks in the leather, but these actually disappear overnight!

  65. LinB says:

    I do wear one when I can find the dratted thing, on the ring finger of my right (dominant) hand. I find it more practical to shove the needle through from the angle achieved by that finger than by the angle achieved by my Tall Man finger. Even after getting old and fat, my fingers are fairly slender, so finding a thimble small enough for the preferred finger is tricksy. I keep meaning to construct one of the tough leather ones that veteran quilters use … but, you know. I also keep meaning to learn to belly dance, and to hang glide.

  66. I do for the same reason as you! I couldn’t see the point until I broke a needle head off and realised I was lucky it hadn’t embedded itself into my finger!

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  68. Meg says:

    I use a “condom” of sorts LOL I find a thimble too cumbersome but I found the little latex fingers that are found in the drug store and used to protect your finger if you have a bandage on them works great. It is enough to protect against all those pesky needle marks in the skin and yet you hardly know its there. The good thing is that you can buy them by the box full pretty cheap so you can toss them after a few uses.

  69. dee says:

    i sewed buckles on cotton belts for a living for ten years. And i could not use a thimble. My nails worked perfectly well to press in the needle through the twine, often over 3 cms of pushing! It might have been a trick of the trade i could have had advantage of, but one takes what one has…

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