What kind of pins should I be using in my sewing?

Pins are the tiniest piece of haberdashery in your sewing box but probably one of the most valuable items!

There are many to choose from, so what kind of pins should I be using in my sewing?


  • Holding together fabric and pattern temporarily
  • Holding seam allowances together
  • Quick way to transfer markings


Different pin types have been designed for different tasks and the
5 parts to a pin determine which task it is best for:

The type of head will determine whether the pin can be pressed or not.

Flat (No head)
These can be used with a hot iron and are good for hand sewing because the thread doesn’t get tangled around the head. However the negative side of these sort of pins, is that they can be difficult to see on patterned and textured fabrics.

Use glass pinheads (instead of plastic ones) as these won’t melt under a hot iron which can then stick to your fabric and ruin it.Glass headed pins won’t melt and are also easily visible.

Experts advocate that “you use the best—toss the rest”. Mainly because metal pins bend and rust over time and will mark your fabric, ensure you get some top quality metal pins such as Prym Easy Grasp pins that don’t rust.

These come in different colours and sizes with ballpoint and flat, being the most universal. Pins with colourful plastic heads are easier to see, both on your fabric and when you drop them on the floor.

Flat & Flower
Flat, flower shaped plastic heads are ideal for using with loose weaves, slippery fabrics and laces where the large heads won’t slip through the holes in the fabric.

Pearl headed pins are generally for use with finer fabrics where it’s essential not to damage the fabric structure such as shirt and bridal pins.


The pointy end helps glide smoothly through the fabric, avoid snags and any unnecessary holes. Pins need to be sharp, and different fabrics require different types of points.

Like sewing machine needles – there’s a choice of sharp, extra sharp and ballpoint:
Sharp are all-purpose points for loose woven, medium-weight, and heavyweight fabrics whilst extra-sharp have a more defined and tapered point, which will pass through delicate fabrics easier. Ballpoints are for knits and they have a slightly rounded point and hence won’t pierce the fabric. Generally the finer the pin the finer the fabric!


Choose between long and short pins – dressmaker’s pins are medium in length, quilting pins are a longer length made for pinning lots of layers together.

Rule of thumb

The longer the length the less likely the pin will slip out of place.


There are many types of metal pin including nickel-plated steel, nickel-plated brass, chrome-plated steel, stainless steel and these vary in strength. Bridal and lace pins are made from nickel-plated brass, which makes them very durable and won’t rust so are perfect for delicate fabrics where pins need to be in place for longer periods of time.

The pin test

Pick up your pins with a magnet, everything but stainless steel and brass will be attracted to the magnet. Magnetic pincushions are great for picking up lots of pins and saving you from pricking your finger. Simply point in the direction of the piles of pins and watch them fly towards the pin cushion!


Never leave pins in fabric for any longer than necessary. Always put pins in at right angle to the edge of fabric. It’s a good idea to make a note of your favourite brands, so when you run out you’ll know where to buy.


  • T-pin, use for upholstering and heavy weight fabrics (such as canvas).
  • Fork pins have a 2-prong curve which is good for slippery fabrics like lining.
  • Pleating pins are strong and fine and as named useful for pinning pleats.
  • Safety pins, still a pin and useful if transporting sewing as won’t fall out.
  • Curved pins as the name suggests are bent making basting quilts a doodle. These also stops the layers from moving out of alignment.

The age-old question……
“Should you remove pins or machine sew over them?”
Some sewers will sew with the pins in place at right angle to the edge of fabric but it is advisable to set your sewing machine to a slow speed. However many sewing machine manufacturers, and sewing experts, feel it’s not worth the risk of damaging your machine from unnecessarily blunting. You can also break a lot of needles so best answer to this question is always remove pins as you go!