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 purpose.
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.
Straight pins come standard with pointed tips, but ballpoint tips are available to avoid catching threads when working with knits.
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.
In general, longer pins tend to be thicker and 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.
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.
Check out various craft projects using sewing pins at our Think Crafts Blog.
Billie G. Henson