Wednesday 15 July 2009

Alternative to Silk - this is how I do -

It has been quite a long time since my last post and I am really sorry about that because I know there have been a lot of people who checked on my blog to see if there was something new. It's just that things kept happening one after another while they were not serious, they required a lot of my attention.

Now my first post after a month's absence is about alternatives to silk padding and silk thread. Most of the time when I make thimbles I use silk padding however I am aware that it is not always easy to find silk padding outside Japan. They are uncombed silk fiber formed like a sheet and stretch really well so that it's easy to handle and form a suitable padding to the thimble bases, plus they have a certain weight to give the thimbles sturdiness. However they are a bit costly even here in Japan and therefore when I make bigger rings like napkin rings or bracelets I need alternative to silk padding. The answer is cotton padding. I am not a quilter or a dressmaker so I do not know much about the fabric but there seems a few options where cotton padding are concerned and I recommend to buy the lightest one at the shop because you can always apply the second layer for the extra thickness.

As for the thread, most of the thimble makers in Japan use silk hand sewing thread size 9 however, you can use any thread you would like or you have in the stash. Today I use a strand of 6-strand embroidery floss, size 25. These embroidery floss are similar in size to silk hand sewing size 9 but lightly twisted therefore the result is not the same. Still it works, I think.

I start with the finished ring base with a marking paper on it. Just in case, you can see here how I make my thimble bases. I use orange thread today so that you can see clearly what's going on.

The thread you see here is the one I used to stitch the edges of the bias binding together. You lead your thread to the surface of the marking paper, avoiding the bias binding overlapping part.

Roughly wrap the cotton padding around the ring. I secured it with the needle only to show you what I am doing and you don't need to do this.

You are going to sew the end of the padding on the marking paper. Make your first stitch to secure the padding on the ring, and then sew the other end to the first end, too.

Until the ends are sewn together. These stitches will not show once the thimble is finished so you don't need to worry about it too much.

Now you are going to put tacks. You can skip tacking but it makes the later work so much easier.

Make stitches on the padding to secure it on the marking paper. Be sure you sew not only the padding, but the paper, too.

Make sure to sew the padding tightly. The main object of tacking is securing the padding but it also minimal the bulkiness.

Now you have put the tacks all around...

and are going to wrap the rest of the thread around the padding, so that it snugly wrap the base. Again, try to minimize the bulkiness of the padding, especially both top and bottom part of the ring. If you need the thickness, then apply the second and third layers. When you got familiar with the procedure you can use the long strip of the padding and wrap it around twice or three times, but applying one layer at a time is much easier.

The thicker the middle of the ring, the more plump and generally more cuter the ring looks, however, you might want to try the single layered padding firstly because the pot-bellied ring is difficult to stitch.

I am working the simple two coloured scales design using cotton embroidery floss. You can still see the orange thread I use for tacking but it won't show once it's finished.

It's much slimmer than my usual thimbles and because the embroidery floss is not as tightly twisted as the silk thread and it's cotton instead of silk, the thimble lacks a certain luster I have to admit, but it still works.

You can use polyester padding if you like but they are too light to my taste, and there are people who wrap thread around the base in place of padding until you archived a desired thickness. Perhaps wrapping thread is easier than dealing with cotton padding but I find the finished thimble rigid but they are my personal opinion. As for the stitching thread, cotton perle or button hole thread might work well although they are bigger in size.

I am still working on how to best explain the segments and design. I will hopefully soon finish and post it here.


  1. Hi Chloe. Nice to see you back. I was admiring your work so much I bought a Japanese craft book by Kumiko Sudo. There are many beautiful things in it I only didn't have the time to make something out of it. Now you show us how you make the thimbles.I have to print that out. See if I can make one.

  2. I just discovered your work via a post on Twitter. And I'm in awe! Your rings are just exquisitely beautiful. Thank you for this glimpse into your process. Such amazingly intricate, precise work.

  3. Hi Chloe. I have just discovered your blog, and I'm very impressed - you do beautiful work!

  4. Chloe Patricia, you are a wonderful teacher. It almost makes me want to make a ring but then I look at the ring I purchased from you and shake my head. I will try to make a thimble ring obi on one of my temari balls instead.

  5. Hi Chloe, Thank you for sharing your art with us!! I have a question about the thread. I have silk embroidery thread and also the cotton 6-stranded embroidery thread (by DMC) Looking closely at your work, It looks as though you are only using one strand of the threads. Is this correct?? I have all of the supplies on hand and would like to try to make one. You have truly inspired me :)
    ~Sandi Ratliff