Thursday, July 7, 2011

Making a Leather Thimble

Upon request I'm doing this tutorial on how to make a leather thimble.

This is my old, worn out thimble that is no longer effective... see the new one below!

I'll preface this tutorial by saying I hate most commercial thimbles. I know many of you probably love them, but I always get stabbed. They are never where I need them to be, always too big (except Great Grandma's, which I do use), always slip around, never hold the needle & I'm bloody more often than not with the confounded things. Also, I have fingernails & no, I'm not cutting them short.

So, here's how to make a very handy leather thimble that will last about 3 months if you hand sew all the time. Make up a bunch at once because if you are like me, you'll leave them scattered all over the place (which really freaks people out because they can look just like severed fingers out of the corner of your eye).

thin leather with the skin (suede won't do) I prefer split pig.
sewing machine
your finger!
marking pencil (optional)

1. Using the thinner more flexible parts of the leather, find a suitable piece & cut it off. It should be larger & longer than you will need. Direction does not matter, scraps are just dandy for this!

2. Wrap it around your finger & pinch it so it's snug - not cutting off circulation, but not slipping around either. Since most leather has some give, tight is better than loose, but you can always run another stitching line down it to tighten it later if you are nervous.

3. Machine stitch that line. Stop before you get to the end.

4. Put it on your finger & check the fit. If it needs adjusting, do that now. It should be snug, not turning your finger blue, but not falling off. The end is open & not fitted. It should extend well beyond the end of your finger.

5. Fold the end back & see where it bends naturally.

6. Cut along the fold lines, stopping before the crease (you will need this area to be solid when you are sewing). Depending on how flexible the leather is you may have to make several cuts to get it to lay smoothly, but do the 2 main ones first.
- image one shows where the crease & cut are (at the tip)
- image two shows the tabs straight out from the thimble.

7. Cut the excess on the end off straight, just beyond your finger (by about 2mm) so it sits neatly on the top of your fingernail or back just a bit if you have short nails. There should be some overlap in towards the pad of your finger, but not excess.

8. Cut down the center, stopping as soon as you have room to split the tabs onto either side of the seam.

9. Fold those tabs up & stitch them in place one at a time. Don't worry about holes in the leather, your thimble will wear out before the stitches pull out.

10. Your finger should be totally enclosed at this point, from just below the middle knuckle to the end of your finger. The overlaps on the pad of your finger should be smooth & comfortable.

11. Trim the excess leather on the top seam to 1/8" - 1/16".

12. Cut a scoop out of the bottom for the inside bend of your 2nd knuckle. (above)

13. Note the placement of your last knuckle bend, take the thimble off, fold it in 1/2 & cut a small wedge out of that inside bend. Repeat with the 2nd knuckle if necessary. This should give you full range of motion. Don't cut too far up to the side, you will need that leather for protection from the sewing needle.

You should have full range of motion at this point. While your leather may have been flexible before, the cut-outs make it much more comfortable.

14. Round any edges that might catch the thread. You will find out if you missed any as you sew, don't be afraid to clip an end here or there as needed.

Finished leather thimble as I sew with the side of my middle finger.

Hopefully I didn't offend anyone with any unintentional hand gestures...
Hopefully this is helpful to those few souls like me who sew with the side of their fingers rather than the tips.
Happy Fingers = Happy Sewing!