|From the pages of Threads Magazine
At Last, the Perfect Thimble
Here's a comfortable, custom leather thimble you'll enjoy making and wearing
Recently, I made a baby's jacket completely quilted by hand. Pushing a small, fine needle through the jacket's fabric and cotton batting to make all of those tiny stitches finally convinced me how important such a small tool could be. I struggled through my project using a standard metal thimble, but I still didn't become accustomed to it. So I began searching for a thimble that would not only fit better but also be comfortable to wear during long periods of continuous hand stitching.
I tried various kinds of leather thimbles like those often used by quilters (most are made of leather and fabric with a tiny metal plate in the tip). None of them was quite right: One came unglued; another stretched in use and kept falling off; one was made of shiny leather too slippery to hold the needle; and still another was made of leather so thick it didn't need a metal plate, but I couldn't feel what I was doing when stitching with it. I even tried using the fingertips of old gloves with a little felt tucked inside to snug the fit. These makeshift thimbles fit better than most, but they wore out much too quickly.
A fitting solution
If you have the same thimble dilemma that I did or if you just want a colorful set of really useful thimbles, try this design yourself. Because it's so quick to make, you can produce several thimbles in a matter of minutes. And that's not a bad idea because you can keep one everywhere you sew. Plus you'll always have a spare if one is lost or wears out.
Most of my thimbles are made from soft pigskin scraps that I've collected (a 3-in. square is usually large enough). I've also used chamois or old gloves -- a perfect use for the glove that's lost its mate but which you can't bear to throw away. Soft leather is very flexible and comfortable, but it has a tendency to stretch out, so I make my thimbles a little tight at first. To further compensate for this stretching, I put a little "belt" on each thimble just behind the first knuckle. The belt can be made from a little strip of leather or a bit of cord elastic and should fit fairly snug because it keeps the thimble on your finger at a comfortable angle, even if the leather stretches.
The tip itself is a sandwich of two layers of leather with a smaller circle of hard plastic between them. A dime is the perfect template for cutting these leather circles. I cut the plastic circle from packaging or from milk jugs, again tracing the dime, then cutting away 1/8 in. inside the marking. Test the plastic to be sure the eye end of a needle won't poke through.
The easiest way to construct this thimble is to use both glue (Sobo or another white fabric glue) and stitching. A thin line of glue applied along the seam edges acts as basting, but stitching is necessary to secure the pieces together. I stitch the long tube seam by machine (a regular needle works fine), but I find it easier to sew the tip to the tube by hand, using a leather needle and a double strand of waxed thread.
After sewing the thimble, line the tail section with a scrap of soft cotton or leather by gluing it in place. This stabilizes the tail, which is pulled when you slip the thimble on and off your finger.
Finally, I have a thimble that really protects my finger and is so comfortable I often forget I have it on. In fact, more than once I've left my studio still wearing it.