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A Pin for Every Purpose

Although they are among the tiniest of sewing tools, pins have very important jobs.
Specialty pins assist with various sewing tasks
Traditional tomato pincushion
Although they are among the tiniest of sewing tools, pins have very important jobs.

Although they are among the tiniest of sewing tools, pins have very important jobs.

by Carol Laflin Ahles
from Threads #120, pp. 24-28

Pins may be the tiniest of sewing tools, but they take on big, important jobs. They hold pattern pieces in place, anchor seam allowances as you sew, fit fabric on the body, and secure all sorts of squirmy trims, delicate sequins, and miniscule beads. If, like many of us, you take for granted the pins that pepper your pincushion, I urge you to take a good hard look-from head to point-at each of those little bits of metal. There are many, many pins on the market-some are quite unusual and wonderful. What is the reason for all of these choices? One pin can't successfully tackle all fabrics and sewing tasks. Simply stated, different jobs require different pins.

pins More on working with pins:

• A Pin for Every Purpose
Create Intricate Fabric With Pin Weaving
How to make a dust pan that attracts pins
• Why Pincushions Fequently Resemble Tomatoes

Any pin is just the sum of its parts
The seemingly endless variety of straight pins can be daunting, unless you break each pin down into its five main components: head, point, thickness, length, and metal content. Just figure out what your needs are in each of the five areas, then seek out a pin with those qualities.

I suggest that you buy a few basic styles for the kinds of sewing you do most, such as dressmaker, extra-fine, and quilting, and then think of the other pins as problem solvers. In other words, if you come across a situation where your stash of basic pins can't handle a particular project, such as appliqué, supplement with appliqué pins. And with every pin you purchase, it's a good idea to keep a portion of the packaging somewhere in your sewing room, and tape one sample pin onto the label as a reference. When you run out of your favorites, you'll have all the information you need to replenish your stock.

Pin heads
 

From left to right: Flat; pearlized plastic, plastic flower-head, ball-shaped plastic; glass (yellow and blue); and metal (brass and silver).

Plastic-headed pins
  WARNING: Some plastic pin heads can melt under a hot iron and adhere to the fabric.

Head
The head is the most recognizable part of a straight pin. What it is made of dictates if it can be pressed, and the shape determines when you should use it in the construction process.

Flat Also called "no head," this pin may be pressed with a hot iron. It's also good for handwork, as thread doesn't get caught on it. A flat head can be difficult to see on busy or textured fabrics, however.

Plastic Ball-shaped plastic heads come in different sizes and colors, and may be pearlized. Wide, flower-shaped plastic heads are the easiest to spot, and because they are flat, they come in handy when you need to lay a ruler or tape measure over a pinned area. They are also a good choice for lace, eyelet, and loose weaves, as the large heads won't slip through the holes in the fabric.

Glass This small, ball-shaped head is fairly easy to see, and won't melt when touched with an iron.

Metal Metal balls aren't common, but they can be pressed with an iron without fear of melting.

Tip: Use only the best-toss the rest. If a pin becomes bent, dull, or rusted, don't hesitate to throw it out. A less-than-perfect 1¢ pin can wreak havoc on your $10-, $20-, or $40-a-yard fabric.


Point
The points of pins should slide cleanly into fabric without causing snags or unsightly holes. Different fabrics require different types of points.

Points

Sharp These all-purpose points are a fine choice for loosely woven, medium-weeight, and heavy-weight fabrics.

Extra-sharp More defined and tapered, this point passes cleanly through delicate fabrics.

Ball point Created especially-and only-for knits, this point is rounded so it slips between the loops of the fabric and doesn't pierce or pull the yarns.

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Comments (3)

mjpoll mjpoll writes: I am looking for pins to hold doilies onto furniture. Do they sell them on this website?
Posted: 3:00 am on August 21st

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Posted: 6:36 am on March 23rd

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