Hand sewing can be quite rewarding, and if you just need a quick and easy fix, there is no better option than good old fashion hand sewing. However, what most people struggle with when hand sewing is the constant fear of poking themselves with the needle.
If you love hand quilting and constantly have to work with several layers of fabric, then poking yourself with a hand sewing needle probably feels like a rite of passage at this point.
But it doesn’t have to be this way! There is such a thing as a thimble to protect your finger when sewing so that you can have a sturdy anchor for your needle, and your fingers won’t get pricked while you’re sewing.
The most important thing when it comes to getting yourself a proper thimble is the fit. The thimble should be hugging yourself comfortably without coming off. If it’s too loose, you may struggle to keep it on while sewing. If it’s too tight, it will probably cut off your circulation or not even fit on your finger altogether.
In this article, let’s talk about how to get yourself a properly sized thimble that can make your next hand sewing project much smoother and painless.
Types Of Thimbles
When thinking of thimbles, you probably think of the metal rings that come with a lot of household sewing kits. But did you know that thimbles come in other materials, too?
Thimbles can be made of a wide range of materials, including plastic, rubber, metal, wood, or even ceramics. The material actually plays an important factor in how comfortably the thimble will fit.
Let’s take a look at the most common materials that you can find in the craft store: rubber, plastic, and metal.
1. Rubber Thimbles
Rubber thimbles are less commonly seen in sewing because their main purpose is for bank tellers to count money, thanks to their ability to keep the notes from sticking together.
However, a lot of sewists find rubber thimbles quite comfortable for sewing, thanks to the flexibility of the material. With rubber thimbles, the sizing doesn’t matter as much because the material can be quite stretchy.
2. Metal Thimbles
The thimbles that are usually included in household sewing kits are usually metal thimbles. Metal thimbles are very traditional thimbles that craftsmen have used for centuries now, and they are very reliable in protecting your fingers while sewing.
Metal thimbles used to be made from precious metals like gold and silver, but the ones that you purchase at the craft store nowadays are usually stainless steel or aluminum. These materials are preferred because they are rust-proof, which means they can stay in your toolkit for a long time.
The downside of metal thimbles is that they’re quite stiff and difficult to get used to at first, but with some practice, you will find that they actually make sewing more comfortable.
Metal thimbles have also evolved quite a bit in terms of design to make them easier to sew with, so if you don’t like the thimbles that comes with your sewing kit, it doesn’t mean you should swear off metal thimbles for good. You can always find other designs that work for you.
The key to working with a metal thimble is to get the right size so that they feel right on your finger and won’t hurt you when you sew. Since metal thimbles are very rigid, using the right size will also keep them from sliding off your finger.
3. Plastic Thimbles
Plastic thimbles are relatively new designs – they are a marriage between rubber and metal thimbles. They feel comfortable enough to wear but still stiff enough to offer decent protection for your finger.
A lot of people don’t like plastic thimbles because they are quite slippery, but if you find this material more comfortable, then you can definitely find ones that fit you.
How To Size Your Finger
Depending on which finger you will use to wear the thimble, you will need to get a different size.
Which is the best finger to wear the thimble on? There’s actually no correct answer to this question. It depends on which finger you use to push your needle, which is the finger that will most likely get poked by your sewing needle. So, depending on your preference, it may be your index finger or middle finger.
Thimbles also come in different lengths. Short thimbles usually cover the tips of your fingers (around the same size as your nail), while long thimbles actually cover up to your first knuckle.
Long thimbles are usually less comfortable to wear since they don’t allow a lot of movement, so the thimble that you can find in most household craft kits are usually short thimbles.
After you’ve decided which material and design to go for, you can use one of the following methods to measure your finger:
1. Tape Measure
Most sewists will probably have a tape measurer in their tool kits. With a tape measurer, you can find out the circumference around your finger and use a thimble sizing chart to find out your thimble size.
If you want to purchase a short thimble, you should measure the circumference around the base of the nail of your thimble finger. If you are opting for a long thimble, the measurement needs to be taken around the first knuckle of your thimble finger.
2. Thimble Gauge
A thimble gauge is just what you imagine it to be – a hard plastic card with different-sized holes that you can insert your thimble finger into and find out your thimble size.
Similar to using a tape measure, if you are using a short thimble, you should find a hole that fits the base of your nail. If you are using a long thimble, you can find one that fits around your knuckle comfortably.
A lot of smaller craft stores have thimble gauges that can help you determine the thimble size for you as you are purchasing one. You can ask your local craft store to see if they have this convenient tool at their store.
3. Ring Sizer
A similar method is to use a ring sizer. Most jewelers have a ring sizer to help their customers find out their ring size, so you can also ask a local jeweler to help you find out your thimble size.
Alternatively, if you have rings in your jewelry box that fit around your thimble finger in the area around your knuckle or your nail bed, then that would be the right size for your thimble.
Note that your ring size is not necessarily your thimble size, since the thimble is worn around your fingertips, while your ring is worn around the bottom of your finger.
Thimble Sizing Chart
If you have measured the circumference around your finger, you can easily use the chart below to find out your correct thimble size:
Finger Size (mm)
If you don’t find your measurement, you can opt for the size that is the closest to what you have. Depending on how tight or loose you want the thimble to be, you can opt for a size smaller or a size bigger for your thimble as well.
If you have a rubber thimble, then it’s best to go for a smaller size so that it can hug you comfortably, since rubber can stretch quite a bit. If you are buying a metal or plastic thimble, then finding the correct size is important to make your experience more comfortable.
How To Use A Thimble
If you are unsure about how to use a thimble, then try sewing without the thimble first, and see which finger comes close to the needle the most. That will be the finger on which to wear the thimble.
A lot of people use the tip of their index finger to push the needle through the layers of fabric, and that is where they wear the thimble. Others wear the thimble on the left middle finger as they push the needle through so that the needle doesn’t poke them in the process.
There’s really no correct way to use a thimble, so depending on your preference, you can find a comfortable position for your thimble.
A lot of people only buy one thimble at once, but the reality is that if multiple fingers tend to get hurt at the same time, then you can use several thimbles to protect your fingers. Again, it’s really a matter of preference.