Believe it or not, thimbles have been around since the first century AD, long before sewing machines were a twinkle in their inventor’s eye. Ancient Roman thimble makers formed the popular pieces from bronze, ivory or sometimes whale bone. Today, thimbles are more popular as a collector’s item, but understanding how to use them is still important.
Try a thimble on for size and style. Thimbles are made from a variety of materials, such as leather, glass, metal or rubber. They are most effective when fitted properly to your finger. Place the thimble on your middle finger and hang your hand in the air with your fingers pointed down. The thimble should not fall off; however, if it is squeezing your finger, it’s too tight.
Push a needle through fabric. The original and primary use for a thimble is to assist the needle as it threads through fabric. Sewing machines often take care of this chore now, but thimbles are still quite useful when sewing by hand. Press gently with your thimble-covered finger to encourage the needle through the fabric. This is especially helpful when pushing needles through leather.
Grip your needle between the thimble and thumb. In addition to pushing through fabric, thimbles are often used to grip the needle when pulling thread. Rubber thimbles often have grooves on the top to assist with gripping. After using the thimble to place pressure on the needle (Step 2), flip to the other side of the fabric and grasp the needle between the thimble-covered finger and thumb. Pull the thread all the way through.
Measure your alcohol in a thimble. In the 19th century, the phrase “just a thimbleful” became popular as people began to measure their intake of spirits by the thimble. After a long day in front of the sewing machine, pour yourself a few thimblefuls to relax.
Display your thimble on a shelf. Thimble collections started in Great Britain in the 1850s and have had a cult-like popularity ever since. When your sewing is done and you’ve had a thimbleful to drink, place your thimble on parade as a valuable collector’s item.
Tips and Warnings
You may have an expensive thimble on your hands. Don’t throw away your thimbles when you buy a new sewing machine. Because of their value as collector’s items, old thimbles or thimbles made from certain materials can be worth a great deal of money. Do an Internet search to locate a thimble appraisal company.