Our family has a secret. Yours might have a similar one. A dirty, wet, often slimy little secret. We have a thumb-sucker. Sure, it’s adorable when they’re all tiny and chubby and they finally get those impossibly little fingers up to their mouth. And, to be honest, it’s kind of a lifesaver, because it means more peaceful nights. But then the chubbiness fades, the little fingers grow longer, and the next thing you know, you have a slender, lanky nearly-6 year old still sucking her thumb at any moment when said thumb is not otherwise occupied. Grocery store, school, bed, church, in between bites at dinner, it doesn’t matter to her where she is or what’s going on. She has sucked it until the skin was swollen and white or red and raw, at which point, she’d switch to the other thumb. We’ve tried the spicy thumb-sucking drops. She cried as she sucked it off until her thumbs become palatable again. I’ve rubbed dandelion juice on her thumbs. That works, as long as we have a good crop of dandelions in the yard. We’ve put gloves on her, reminded her, bribed her, nothing works. Last year in kindergarten, some of her friends got so fed up with the thumb-sucking that they gave her “points” each time they caught her sucking her thumb and declared that they would not play with her if she got 10 points. She was concerned, but not enough to stop altogether. If she saved it for just bedtime, Mr. Gren and I could deal with that. 75% of the time, it seems to be a subconscious reflex.
Last year, I was flipping through a catalog and saw a product designed to stop thumb-sucking. It was clunky-looking, hard plastic and cost $70. I’m not spending $70 on that thing. Not long after seeing that ad in the catalog, I noticed that Michael’s carries small swatches of leather and I thought I could make essentially the same thing. I’ve talked a good game for the past year, but finally got around to actually doing something about it last week.
First, I traced the offending digit to make a pattern. Even though she’s a “big girl,” that is still one tiny little thumb. I laid my itsy bitsy pattern on the folded piece of leather.
I cut around the thumb & hand area, leaving a little bit of room for a seam allowance and then extended the piece out at the wrist.
Cutting it out was the easy part. Punching the holes for sewing took some effort. Even though this is a relatively thin piece of leather, it still requires some muscle. Thank goodness for the package of heavy-duty needles Mr. Gren put in my stocking for Christmas a couple years ago! I don’t have pictures of this process because it required both hands, both knees, and I could have used an extra of each. I gripped my tailor’s ham with my knees and set the leather on top of it, keeping the pieces aligned. Then I used one of those extra-strong needles and punched holes all around the outer side and up around the top of the thumb.
Later, I went back and added the three on the inside, because we discovered that she could just pop her thumb out. I would have just continued the line to the rest of the thumb, but the leather wasn’t quite wide enough at that point. To sew, I used a double strand of topstitching thread. It’s not what most leather-workers would recommend, but it’s what I had and I wasn’t going to spend any extra money on this project. Once it was laced up, I called Rana in for a fitting and marked where to put the snap to close around the wrist.
We call it the Thumb Holster. It’s not pretty, but it serves its purpose. It’s also flexible, so it doesn’t bother Rana to have it on.
Shortly after I put it on her, Rana picked up a pencil and was writing with no noticeable difference in her hand-writing. She also started sucking the other thumb. Doh! I made another holster for her left thumb the next day. Right now she’s allowed to take them off at mealtimes, bed times, and to wash her hands.
Here’s hoping our 1st grader can start school with dry thumbs and keep them that way!