KnowYourTools : pins

In French we say there are no great craft maker without good tools. So today we are beginning a new series on sewing material. Yes I know, this might not sound as exciting as creating an 18thc dress (that’s plan for tomorrow) but we will make it fun I promise. Let’s start with the basics : pins. Ouch !

They can be your best allies as well as your worst enemies… Before even learning how to sew, I proudly owned a pin cushion in the shape of a duck. Pretty thing. The pins I put there and never used stayed 10 years without moving and… I had to throw them away, let’s see why…

Really, there are different kinds of pins ?

Ok maybe it is no news to you. In most millinery shop deserving of that name, you will find them in different sizes and shapes. To my knowledge, really seamstress (as in the one I met at the costume shop) only use 2 sorts :

  1. thin, lean, small head

use : on clothes and fabric all the time. They leave very little marks on fabric and go through the sewing machine without difficulties


  1. Tall, robust, big head

use : to pin a fabric on a table or on the mannequin. You remove them quickly afterwards. Kind of like a nail but thinner  

On the left the big tall ones to tack, on the right the thin ones to pin fabrics between them


Yes you will find “fancier” ones. But if I were you I would not trust the super decorated ones or those found in cheap low cost sewing kits you find in supermarket. As my Dad says, when you start Do It Yourself, amateur tools are often harder to use than professional ones… It is cheap after all, it last a long time so GO CREAZY !

green fabric gree pins grin thread
pins of unknown origin, hence less reliable


What, you need to take care of your pins ?


Yes and no. What I mean is you need to keep them in good shape for them to be really useful. Beware of pin cushions : stuck in it without seeing the light of day for month or years, they will end up rusty. You can feel when a pin is rusty because it pulls on the fabric when you use it. It will resist entering. If you are lucky it light even make a stain or pull a few threads apart. and there goes your nice work… GET RID OF IT !

UNLESS you are patient enough to clean it with sandpaper. It is not my case so off with their heads ! Hey, I never promised a 100% organic blog…

Same thing for the bended ones, wooooch, in the bin. Better having a smaller efficient stock than random average items taking space for nothing.

To keep them longer, the good old plastic box is often the best scenario. Not pretty but efficient.


pins measuring tape pin box
the one and only

What happens if I let my pins on for a 1000 years ?

Nothing pretty I can assure you. Especially on velvet, it will show. As a general rule, if you are keep on having PDHs (project half done) for a long time tucked in your cupboard, let’s say you might have a bad surprise when it gets out to be finished : permanent holes, rust stains… When you finish a working session, don’t leave pins on, it will save you much troubles.

If they stay on for 2 to 3 days it will be the end of the world either. But if you are not yet a pro, let’s avoid fabric covered in pins waiting endlessly at the back of your atelier… Same goes for crushed fabrics by the way, but we will talk about it in another post.


Machine sewing with pins on or off fabric ?

Because hand basting is a pain. Or maybe because I am super lazy, I often use pins as baste (to temporarily maintain 2 fabrics together). And then off to the sewing machine ! Yes it is a risk becaus it does not work on all fabrics but hey, no pain no gain. And it goes wayyyyy faster.

First attempt at sewing I machine sewed fabric like this (leaving the pins on) :

yellow fabric under sewing machine

Yes as expected, it was a massacre, pins flyer everywhere, I almost lost an eye.

Ok maybe not to that point but close ! Sewing is a dangerous sport after all… to be sure this is not the way to go as it will damage your machine. If you want to leave pins on as you sew, place them like this :

yellow fabric pins
perpendicularly version


Or like this :

yellow fabric pins
bias version


But the best option according to me is actually to remove pins as you saw. It will prevent the pins from creating an uneven seam line when the needle hit it.

Oh and you should also make sure you gather your pins with a magnet. But this you already know, I am sure…

I hope you found a couple of good tricks in this post, If it is the case go ahead and subscribe/like for more.

Have more tricks to share ? They are welcome in the comments section. I will translate most of the already existing articles and of course add new ones !

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In any case, see you soon,

La bise





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