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Guide to pins

A guide to pins

Pins are used all the time in sewing projects to hold patterns to fabric, temporarily hold seams before stitching and for basting layers together when making a quilt. There are many different types depending on what you are doing – get the right tools for the job and find out which pins are best for you to use in your sewing, quilting and craft projects.

Pins are generally made from steel, nickel or brass and there are many makes. We include the best known brands in this article – Clover, Hemline, Prym and Sew Simple – and where you can buy your pins.


Pins for Dressmaking

The type of pin you choose for your dressmaking projects will be influenced by the type of fabric you are sewing. Choose a fine pin for delicate fabrics so they don’t tear the fabric. Make sure that the pins you choose don’t leave a hole on your fabric – check with a piece of scrap fabric first. Think about whether you need to press with an iron over a pin as this affects which type you should use.

Here are a selection of pins for dressmaking and their properties.


Flat-headed Dressmakers Pins 

High carbon dressmaker's pins

A standard pin with a flat head, you can get these pins in many lengths and thicknesses to suit the fabric you are using. Great for general pinning in all crafts.

Round-headed Pins

When to use round head pins

Similar to dressmaking pins but with a bigger round head. You can buy the cheaper coloured plastic headed pins which are easy to spot in your work, or you can buy glass-headed pins which are useful as you can iron over the top of them without them melting. 

Ballpoint Pins

Best pins to use when seiwng knit fabrics

If you are sewing knits you should ideally use a ballpoint needle with a rounded end to stop tearing the knit weave. Make sure you select ballpoint pins with rounded tips for working with knits, for the same reason.

Silk Pins

Best pins for using with delicate fabrics

An extra-fine pin designed for sewing with silk and other delicate fabrics. The pins are very sharp and quite long to avoid them falling out and allow you to use less pins to cover the fabric and avoid tears and snags.

Bridal/Lace Pins

Pins made from rust free metal

These pins are made of brass or other rust-free metal. Essential if you are working on a very expensive and time-consuming bridal gown or working with lace as these won’t leave any rust marks. 

Fork Pins

What are fork pins and when do you use them?

These double-headed pins are used to pierce and firnly hold slippery lining materials in place and the tips are bent for easy pinning. Other uses are for accurate seam matching when quilting. The two heads allow you to pin on both sides of the seam to give you a perfectly matched seam.


Pins for Quilting

Pins are mainly used in patchwork and quilting for holding fabrics together when piecing, when doing needle-turn applique and for basting the quilt before quilting. Here are the main types of pin used. 


Flower Head Pins

Best pins for patchwork

These are long fine pins with a flat head and are great for pinning seams when making patchwork – if they are pinned perpendicular to the fabric, they lie completely flat and you can stitch very close to them before removing them so your seams don’t slip. I have even been known to stitch over the top of the shaft of these pins to avoid any slippage when nesting seams!

Applique Pins

Where to buy applique pins

These are very small pins that are useful for pinning tiny pieces of fabric for applique work. They are also useful for heavily pinning curved seams when piecing by hand as they are very small.

Curved Safety Pins

Curved safety pins for quilt basting

These are extra fine and very flexible curved safety pins made from brass to prevent rusting – remember they may be in your quilt some time if you are quilting an intricate design. Use them to hold the top, wadding and back of a quilt together before quilting. I find them to be easy to use and remove as you quilt. If your fingers hurt whilst basting a quilt with these pins, use a Kwik Klip tool. 


Pins for Special Uses

Here are a few types of pin that you may not be familiar with and how to use them.


Sequin/Lills Pins

What pins to use with sequins

Very short pins made from nickel plated steel, Used extensively for craft with polystrene and for sequin/bead work.


What are t-pins?

T-pins feature a T-shaped head so they are ideal for pinning fabric through buttonholes etc. They are also useful for pinning slipcover fabrics together when doing upholstery, sewing with tough fabrics and blocking lace.

Twist Pins

What are twist pins?

These are strong steel pins with a strong-hold spiral shaft. This type of pin can be twisted into soft wood and furnishing materials and they are used mainly for upholstery and home furnishings.

List of suppliers for pins

Visit the following suppliers for a wide range of pins and notions:

Sew Essential 

The Fat Quarter


EQS – Sew Simple products – view for stockists  

Minerva Crafts