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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Hand Quilting for Beginners: Thimbles

This is the third article in a series of articles by Caron Mosey geared for the beginning hand quilter.  If you have NEVER hand quilted before or just dabbled in it with no instruction and want to know how, this is for you! 

What kind of thimble do I need for hand quilting?

In our second article in this series, we talked about needles and how the choice of which needle to use was mostly a personal choice and up to the individual quilter.  This is also true with thimbles. 

Perhaps the question above should read, “Do I really need to wear a thimble for hand quilting?”   Here is my response to that.  YES.   Let me tell you why, then we’ll discuss the types of thimbles available. 

My mother was a seamstress, and from a very early age, always made me wear a thimble on the middle finger of my right hand whenever I was sewing by hand.  Hemming pants? Thimble.  Sewing on a button?  Thimble.  Making doll clothes?  Thimble.  It is just what you did.  The thimble is a necessary tool for a seamstress or hand sewer no matter what you are sewing by hand.  It protects the finger that is used to push the needle.  Stitching through some fabrics is more difficult than stitching through others.  Some fabrics are thin, some are thick.  Sometimes you go through one layer, sometimes two, maybe three!  For a quilter, there’s also the batting to be considered.  The thicker the fabric (or sandwich), the harder you have to push to get the needle through.  The thimble protects the pushing finger.  It gives it strength.

Some quilters refuse to wear a thimble.  They argue that you can get by without it.  Here is my reply to that:   Nuts.  I have tried going without a thimble.  I don’t like the feeling of a needle being jammed between my fingernail and bone.  Something about a needle in the nail bed is not comfortable, makes me scream, cry, etc.  Not a good feeling.  Actually, a needle in the skin anywhere is not a good thing!  For example, here is a photo a friend and former pastor of mine posted on Facebook on April 25, 2014.  Don W finger


Above the photo, it said, “Good news...I found that needle you dropped in the van.”



Now, I know his wife Shelley is not a quilter, and I could tell that just by looking at the needle.  It doesn’t look like the eye of the needle is large enough to thread with quilting weight thread!

If you never get used to sewing with a thimble on your finger, you are losing some control of your needle.  And remember from the last article, a needle is a TOOL.  It is a requirement of being a quilter.  And what good is it if you aren’t able to use a tool correctly?  The best way to get used to using a thimble is to put one on and wear it constantly until you are so used to it you feel naked when you take it off.  I’m not joking!

Normally, a thimble is put on the middle finger of the hand you use to write with (your dominant hand).  Your thimble should be snug on the end of your finger so that it won’t come off if you shake your hand hard, but not so tight that it digs into your skin and hurts.

You don’t need an expensive thimble.  In fact, if you are a new quilter, I would suggest you look for a thimble that fits and is fairly inexpensive.  The two thimbles shown here are very inexpensive (which to me means just a few dollars each).   The one on the left has a rounded top.  The one on the right has an indented top, and is my go-to thimble for quilting.  The dent in the top helps control the needle better (for me, anyway).


You can purchase expensive thimbles made out of fancy metals, thimbles with jewels, thimbles you hold in your hand, and thimbles made for your thumb.  There are so many to pick from, but until you have quilted a large quilt or two, I would suggest refraining from spending your money on anything expensive until you know what you need and want.  Remember, these are tools, not status symbols.  (And if it is a status symbol, REALLY!  Who sits with you and watches you quilt very often anyway?!?!?) 

But if you are inclined to want to see other kinds of thimbles, take a look around at these:

If you need more to look at, go to for more thimbles than you’ll ever need.




  1. I have been looking for a thimble like the one on the right. I never thought to check the internet. Shops usually have a dismal selection of thimbles.

  2. it is a pity that we have to shop on the internet but for a lot of us it is the only way to get hand quilting supplies. Nice article on thimbles - I started out never using one and then went to the stick on metal and leather and the hand held - for a lot of us with joint or skin problems the thimbles that go on the finger are out for us. If anyone of you - like I - have no quilt shop near by try finding them when you travel or go to a quilt show if you can - at a show there will be a lot of vendors and normally you can find something there even if it is now a large selection.

  3. Clover now makes an indented top thimble at a reasonable price. You can buy them online if you know your size.

  4. I don't do a ton of hand quilting or sewing, but I do some and have never found a thimble that works for me! I wind up with holes in my finger and eventually have to put on a bandaid or stop! I no longer hand sew binding on in part because of this! I may take your advice here and try again! Thanks!

  5. I'm like you and ALWAYS use a thimble for any sewing. I cannot imagine how to hand quilt without one. Do you use anything on the hand that works beneath the quilt?

  6. I started using the Clover Protect and Grip silicone thimble, but have now swapped to the Clover open sided thimble. I really like it, and can adjust it on hot or cold days as my hands get hotter and bigger, or colder and smaller.

  7. great blog lots to think about now just need to find one that fits thanks


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