Thimbles: An Essential Tool for your Creative Needlwork

A thimble is a cap that fits over the end of your finger to protect it when pushing a needle through fabrics as you sew. The word, derived from Middle English, literally means “thumb shield” (but most of us don’t use it on our thumbs).

The thimble has a long history. The oldest existing thimble is Roman, found in the ruins of Pompeii. It is bronze. However, the Etruscans, who pre-date the Romans, are known to have made bronze thimbles. Primitive thimbles of bone and leather probably also existed because thimbles have been used by every known culture. These thimbles did not survive the centuries.

Through the years, thimbles have evolved in a number of ways. Both the materials used and the means of production have changed. Thimbles have gained new uses and become decorative and collectible as well as practical.

With modern thimbles, Hand sewing has become the activity of a queen. With this simple tool, you can save your fingers from needle pricks and your expensive manicures from damage. Today, both types and styles of thimbles are unique in their diversity, and each has its purpose. You need to choose what suits you the best. Both sewing masters and ordinary people use this protective cap to mend a pocket or re-attach a button. However, thimbles for sale are not as simple as they may seem at first glance.  Let’s learn more about them.

 How to use Thimbles?

You can buy new thimbles online and use them for any sort of handwork. People use them mainly for garment sewing and quilting, but those who spend their creative energies on hand embroidery and applique also find different thimbles to use.  If you have not used a thimble, it might feel strange and uncomfortable. Remember, finger protection is important. Therefore, if you just try on a few and practice, you will find that you can get used to new techniques with this tool in just a few days. Most thimbles have numerous small indentations so that the end of the needle does not slip when pushed through layers of fabric. My thimbles have these ‘dimples’ organically placed where your finger naturally pushes a needle. My thimble ‘dimples’ are cylinders with flat bottoms. This bottom corner catches and holds the needle better than manufactured thimbles with a rounded bowl-shaped indentation.

Which finger should I put it on? 

Most people wear their thimble on the middle finger. But you can also put it on the ring finger or even the thumb if it is more convenient for a particular sewing style. By observing your hands, you can determine which finger pushes the needle. When wearing a thimble, you can use it to guide and move the needle through the fabric. You can guide and push with the top of your finger or the side, depending on the mechanics of your fingers and the placement of the job at hand.

Most people wear a thimble on the middle finger (usually pushing with the top corner or the side) or the ring finger (with 2 fingers on the needle, you use the end of the thimble to push with your ring finger). However, some people prefer to wear their thimble on the index finger, and some frame quilters use their thumb. You can wear two thimbles at once. You may have to try a few thimbles before you can find the one that fits perfectly. You can buy new open nail style thimbles online and get them delivered to your doorstep.

Which type of thimble should you use?

 Well, it depends on your needs and preference. Here are 4 that I make:

Traditional ‘bucket’ thimbles are made with a dome top or a rim top.  There are many variations of these two:  (tall and short, tapered and straight)

Open nail thimbles have an opening for your fingernail to poke out.  The opening can be large or small… just the nail or half of the finger… Either way, it’s a nice air conditioning vent for your sweaty, hard-working finger. 

Tailor thimbles have no top at all.  They were made popular in the early 1900’s by the male garment makers in New York.  These are often used on thumbs. 

Thimble Bands are usually less than 1/2inch tall.  They are worn covering your cuticle, setting on top of  your knuckle.  These are of Japanese origin. The Japanese term is Yubinuki, and traditional Japanese ones are made of delicately stitched and ornately woven silk threads covering a heavy strip of paper that fits YOUR thimble finger. 

 These bands are most often used for applique and light weight embroidery projects that will need a bit of your fingernail to keep the floss or ribbon or applique fabrics in check.

Your choices in sewing tools depends on your individual preferences and the job at hand. If you sew by hand, you can buy new style thimbles online. For sewing patchwork quilts, embroidered garments, and applique pillows… choose one of my good-quality sterling silver thimbles and use it properly.