Tools and Tips


Pins are such basic sewing tools that we don’t think about them very often. For years, I used whatever pins were available. I didn’t pay attention to whether I was using quilting pins for sewing satin clothes, or silk pins for a cotton quilt. A dear friend taught me that quilting pins are for quilts and you need the appropriate pin for the fabric you are using. But I didn’t understand the finer points (pun intended) until recently. I have a toolbox of pins. My all purpose pins are on my red magnetic pin holder. My large safety pins for basting are in the clear container. I also have small safety pins that are used primarily for costumes and quick repairs. I have become a lover of the lowly pin. As I discuss my favorites, please be aware that as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases through the links.

For basting, I like large (at least size 2) curved safety pins. These work very well for me. I have a box of size 1 safety pins, but I don’t use them except for some wallhangings. Here is a handy size chart for safety pins:

SizeLength in inches (mm)
003/4″ (19mm)
07/8″ (22mm)
11 1/16″ (27mm)
21 1/2″ (38mm)
32″ (51mm)
42 1/4″ (57mm)

Straight pins also have sizes. Some manufacturers list a pin by the length and some include diameter to distinguish fine pins from regular or large pins. Here is a chart for straight pins:

SizeLength in inches
442 3/4″
281 3/4″
241 1/2″
201 1/4″
171 1/6″

Pin diameter also varies:

Diameter in mmSizeUse
0.4 mmSuper fineSheers, chiffons, satins
0.5 mmExtra fineCottons, sewing curves
0.6 mmFineAll purpose sewing
0.7 or 0.8mmHeavy dutyDenim, corduroy, heavy fabrics

I have played around with a lot of pins over my nearly 50 years of sewing, and I am happy to share some of my favorites with you.

My favorite pins for keeping track of pieces for a quilt are these star pins from Dritz. They are long (2 3/4″) and thick, but the variety of numbers and marks works for most of my quilts.

There are pins numbered 1-10 and blank stars, and stars with up, down, right and left arrows.

If I need more variety, I add in my Wright flower pins . These are also long and are slightly thinner than the star pins. I wrote numbers 1-75 on my flower head pins, but some of the numbers have worn off. They work well in conjunction with my stars.

For piecing, I have two sets of pins. Sheri Cifaldi-Morrill of Whole Circle Studio suggested that better pins would improve my precision in piecing tight curves, and she was right! Sheri recommends (and I agree) the Iris 1 1/4 inch pins for tight curves. Iris also makes 1 1/2 inch colored head pins which are great general use pins.

These are European pins with a delightful tin. I love opening and closing it! The pins are fine and relatively short and work great on tight spaces.

For most piecing, my favorite pins are Clover Fine Quilting Pins<a href="http://<a href="http:// .

These pins are 1 1/2 inches long, with a glass head and a 0.5mm diameter.

They are long, thin and hold up to heavy use quite well. I have been using them for curves and straight piecing. Clover also makes a super fine which is also 1 1/2 inches long but is 0.4mm.

I don’t do much hand applique, so I have not worked with fine applique pins, but there are numerous short (1/2 to 3/4 inch) special applique pins to choose from

I am always looking for the newest, best pin. Do you have a favorite to share? Remember to change out dull or bent pins. I keep a “discard” bottle for old pins next to my sewing machine.

Happy sewing and may your pins be sharp!

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