To Pin or not to Pin

Although on the face of it, it would seem like a smart move to always pin your work before sewing, sometimes it’s better or easier not to.

Here are some tips to help you decide whether to pin or not to pin…


Fabrics to Pin

Cotton and linen respond well to being pinned and it’s pretty hard to damage these fabric with pinning. You can of course pin denim, but this is sometimes tricky – more on that later!

Jersey, stretch and knit fabrics may all be pinned, but you should take extra care.  If you force the pin through one of the fibres of the fabric it could snap, leaving your finished item with little holes or, at worst, unravelling completely! If the pin does not slide gently through you are most likely going through a fibre.  Take the pin out and try again, looking carefully at what you’re doing.


Fabrics Not to Pin

Sewing Clips

Silk, chiffon and satin are all pinning no-nos!  You will make unsightly holes in your beautiful fabric that you cannot ‘wiggle’ out.  Try using fabric clips, or if you absolutely feel you must pin try doing it with the seam allowance so any holes will not show.  By working carefully and slowly with a fine needle you can successfully work on your fabric without pinning.  You could also try hand stitching your seam, then carefully machine stitching over the top.

Ribbon can be difficult to pin, as it is often made of silk or a clever imitation which still shows the holes.  Again, sewing slowly or using clips is the answer.

Oil cloth or any kind of vinyl fabric.  Pinning this makes very visible holes that will possibly weaken your item.  Two great alternatives to pinning are fabric clips or even masking tape!  Masking tape does work very well and you can easily removed after you’ve sewed.


Beware Potluck Pinning!

Synthetic fabrics are anyone’s guess.  Some look like the most delicate chiffon but will quite happily take lots of pinning without a trace of evidence afterwards.  Others look sturdy and pin-able but end up unravelling or sporting great big holes!  I always test on an off-cut before starting a project with synthetic fabric.


When Pinning is Tricky

Bulky fabrics, tough heading tapes, multiple layers and interlining can all make pinning very difficult.  For example, making a denim jacket, preparing curtains with heavyweight buckram or unyielding heading tape, or bag-making can all present challenges.

If fabric clips are not man enough for the job, then bulldog clips are great – you can buy these in all sorts of sizes, so you’re bound to find the right one for you.

Basting the seams by hand first can be quicker than trying for force pins through multiple layers, and helps keep things steady when they go through the machine.  You’re less likely to get sore fingers, too!


Final Pinning Tips

Universal Walking Foot

At the very start of my soft furnishings training all those years ago I got one of the best pinning tips and it has stuck with me!  One of the ladies who was also doing the course taught me that rather than putting your pins in perpendicular to the fabric edge, it’s best to put them in at a diagonal angle (or, as she put it in her lovely scottish way, “sidey-ways”).  This means that if the needle on your machine comes down and hits the pin it is more likely to slide off it than break.  And she was right!

Additionally, I have found that if I’m not pinning, whether because of bulk or fabric type, a walking foot is invaluable.  Seriously, it’s my most used tool.  You can buy universal ones on e-bay super inexpensively, or splash out on a branded one to match your machine.


I hope you’ve found these little tips helpful and will now know whether to pin or not to pin!








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