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The humble pin; everything you wanted to know about pins

February 22, 2021

When we sew, we attach two pieces of fabric to each other, and that fabric has to be held together somehow before stitching.  There are basically two ways to hold that fabric together, pins or clips.  Today let's talk a bit more about pins--as they are tiniest of tools, often overlooked, but oh-so-important!  We'll focus on clips in our next post. 

Anatomy of a Pin

Pins are made of metal which can vary from stainless steel (most common) to chrome-plated steel (least common). For most of us, the type of metal is not that important, but if you plan on pinning a quilt or garment and leaving it for awhile, be aware that some metals rust when exposed to humidity or moisture.  Be aware that stainless steel pins don't typically work with magnetic pin cushions. 

Pin heads can be glass, plastic or metal. Personally, I prefer the glass heads as they don't melt under the iron.  I also like the flat plastic heads; they're easy to grip.  The small metal headed pins are my least favorite; they're tough to hold onto and easily get lost in fabric. (Once I left one pj pant hem, which made my daughter very unhappy). 

The humble pin; everything you wanted to know about pinsThe humble pin; everything you wanted to know about pinsThe humble pin; everything you wanted to know about pins
Pin points are also important--pins typically are available in Sharp, Extra Sharp and Ball Point.  Ball Point pins are important when working with knits (the point will not snag the knit); for quilters, Sharp points are most suitable, whereas sewists sewing with silks and other other fine fabrics may want Extra Sharp pins.
Pin length is very dependent on your project. Applique pins (1/2" to 3/4") tend to be the shortest (so that they don't overlap), where as general purpose "dressmakers" pins are 1 1/16" to 1 1/2" long.  Quilting pins are even longer at 1 1/2" to 2"--making it easier to pin through several layers of fabric and batting.
Now that you know all about pins, let's talk about storage.  The best place to store your pins is your pin cushion.  There are many types available, and everyone has her favorite, so I won't go into the pros/cons of magnetic vs. the famous tomato.  
The humble pin; everything you wanted to know about pinsThe humble pin; everything you wanted to know about pins
BUT I will tell you this--get into the habit of NOT returning a broken or bent pin to your pin cushion.  Start a "sharps" jar.  Every time you come across a broken or bent pin (or needle), put it in the jar (or old tin, or old prescription bottle) and then when that jar is full, dispose of it safely, according to your town's rules on disposing of sharps.
Sewing and quilting are crafts of precision, and having the appropriate tools on hand make our creative lives that much easier.  

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