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A Pin for Every Purpose

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

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.

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 Frequently 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…

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Previous: Essential Sewing Tools: Pins Next: Pin-Holding Accessories


  1. cynsew | | #1

    This is a great article. I have sewed for years and still read needle info that I did not know. Thank you!

  2. BishChetsnate | | #2

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  3. mjpoll | | #3

    I am looking for pins to hold doilies onto furniture. Do they sell them on this website?

  4. dmc000 | | #4

    Those bug pins are interesting I see that they sell a variety pack: http://www.indigo.com/lab_supplies/insect_pins/33515-All-insect-pins-stainless-steel-10-sizes.html#.VYXPVRNViko
    I still have a hard time finding super fine long pins with glass head for general sewing. I think I used to order some from Clotilde? It's good to buy back up when you find the good ones! I might try the bug pins, they have stainless as well as the black enamel.

  5. User avater
    alfasotaylor | | #5


  6. refendis | | #6

    Nice stuff

  7. Perventis | | #7


  8. Olgeris | | #8


  9. Gorfins | | #9


  10. user-7023796 | | #10

    I'm very fond of my new felted wool "ewe" pincushion. The lanolin really does lubricate the pins and helps them slide into fabrics barely leaving a hole. Well worth the price, which at $18, was more than I ever thought I would pay for a "lowly" pincushion. As for pins themselves, I have a wide variety, each fits a particular task. I find myself reaching for flower head pins often, they're a nice versatile pin once you get over how long they are.

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