Sewing Pins – Knowing the Different Types
Sewing pins are used to hold fabric
together prior to sewing. They temporarily hold the fabric in place
when attaching and cutting patterns, or while sewing. They are best
to use with a machine because they are easy to remove quickly
as you sew. Sewing pins come in many lengths and thicknesses, and
have different pinheads, materials, and tips, each with a specific
Types of Sewing Pins and Choosing the Right
There are two types of sewing pins. The most commonly used is
the straight pin, also know as the hemming pin or basting pin. The
key facets of straight pins that differ and can help you choose the
type you need are length, thickness, and type of head and tip. The
metal or finish of the straight pin is typically brass, steel,
nickel, or a combination thereof. The metal used with sewing pins
determines whether the pins will stick to a magnet - a plus for
making sure there are none on the floor. Nickel plating is useful
for steel pins as it helps the pin stick to a magnet and prevents
it from rusting.
The other type of sewing pin typically used is the safety pin.
These pins are ideal for sewing projects in which the fabric will
be moved around a lot or there is a risk of a person being stuck by
a stray pin. Learn more about safety pins and sewing with them at
the Safety Pin Buying Guide.
Heads and Tips on Straight Pins
- The typical pinhead on the straight pin is a blunt nub made of
the same metal and called a flat head.
- Straight pins are also available
with large color ball heads made of plastic or glass, making them
easier to see and grasp.
- T-pins have a head bent into the shape of a
capital letter T, making them also easier to grasp and see.
Straight pins come standard with pointed tips, but ballpoint tips are available to avoid
catching threads when working with knits.
Straight Pin Length and Width
Metric and imperial pins are made to different specifications
and are not exactly equivalent. Pins made in the US, or
imperial pins are categorized by a size number and length in
inches to the nearest 1/16 inch. The sizing systems are
different for straight pins and safety pins. Metric pins are
not categorized by a size number, but rather by length in
millimeters to the nearest millimeter.
Imperial straight pins are
offered in sizes ranging from ½ inch to 1-3/4 inch (~1.3 mm to 4
mm), with each size corresponding to an increase in 1/16 inch (~1.6
mm). The most common sizes are 8, 16, 17, 20, 21, 22, 24, and
28. One oddity to note with regards to T-pins is that, while
they are available in sizes 16, 20, 24, 28, and 32 - the longest
T-pin at 2 inches (~51 mm) - size 28 T-pins are sometimes referred
to as "extra long".
For metric straight pins, typical
sizes are 13, 25, 26, 30, and 34 mm (~0.5 to 3.7 inch).
Metric T-pins are often offered at a 44 mm (~1.7 inch) length, and
safety pins at 37 mm (~1-1/2 inches) and 46 mm (~1.8 inches).
Descriptions of metric pins are more likely to include the
thickness and offer more variety in that area, while imperial pins
seem to be available in a greater number of lengths.
In general, longer pins tend to be thicker, made for coarser
fabrics. Dressmaker or seamstress pins are the
most common, and are designed for fabrics of light- to
medium-weight. Pleating pins are a bit shorter and
extra fine, suitable for delicate fabric. Very short pins,
often called appliqué and sequin or sequin pins, are
some of the shortest pins offered. Another type of straight
pin is the bridal and lace pin.
Differentiating Pin Types
Sewing pins are differentiated from specialized pins for other
tasks, including quilting pins, flower or corsage pins, kilt pins,
a knitting stitch holder that looks like an oversize safety pin,
hat pins, bobbin lace pins, and diaper pins. There are also
fork pins, sometimes known as upholstery pins or loose cover pins,
which are shaped like a U. Tidy pins, also called twist pins
or upholstery pins, have a top like a thumbtack and a helix shaped
shaft, and are specially designed to hold slipcovers, mattress
pads, and doilies in place. Notice that the name upholstery
pins is used for two quite different items.
Common Sewing Pin Manufacturers
Sewing Pin Inspiration
Jar Pincushion from
Check out various craft projects using sewing pins at our
Billie G. Henson is the owner of Crafty Angel Designs
Save and Share