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Tool time: straight pins

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comparison of length of dressmaker and quilt pins

“Tool time” is my newest theme of post on this very new blog, and I plan to use it to opine about my favorite sewing tools.

Today’s theme is…

Straight pins: size is everything

I grew up using the normal dressmaker pins that you probably have a home, which are an inch in length, but when I started my first job at an opera, I encountered new pins. Bigger and better pins – 1¾” long instead of the normal 1″ length, with slightly larger heads. These pins are so much easier to use that I bought myself a set of them and threw out all my old pins! (And I never throw things out lightly.)

The benefits of these pins are:

  1. They don’t slip back out of the fabric easily like the short ones do.
  2. Since they’re longer, you need fewer pins to cover the same distance.
  3. They’re easier to handle and grasp since they have bigger heads.

This may not sound like an overwhelming list, but  they really do make a difference. After working with them, I couldn’t stand the old pins, especially because they seemed to fall out of everything so easily. The last time I helped my Grandma pin up the hem in her dress, I was at her house, so I was using her little short pins. I think half of them had fallen back out of the hem before I’d gotten halfway through sewing it, which drove me crazy!

I also just wanted to write about them so that you know that they exist, since I had never known there were different options of pins until I started that job. I bought mine from Dritz, and I’ve been using them for about seven years now.

As long as we’re covering options for pins, I wanted to also tell you about glass-headed pins. If you haven’t guessed from the name, the head is made from glass rather than plastic. The main advantage of these pins is that they won’t melt under an iron. I have a set of them from Prym, since Dritz only sells piddly little short glass-headed pins.

Comparison of Quilter's Pins from Dritz and Glass-headed Pins from Prym


Although I avoid ironing over pins since they can leave an imprint in the fabric, sometimes I have to press over pins, and when I do, I use the glass-headed pins. It’s much easier to not have to worry about avoiding the heads of pins when you’re trying to press the crap out of something (that’s a technical term I learned in a costume shop). The rest of the time, I have the pins all mixed together and use them interchangeably. Although all my pins are yellow, they look different enough that I can pick out glass ones without a problem when I need them.

Another creative alternative that I learned from a colleague was to use those pearl-head pins for corsages.  They’re even longer than the quilter’s pins. Since my mom had a few sitting around from old prom corsages, I tried them out. The verdict: They work fine, but I’m happy with my 1¾” pins. I won’t be throwing them out and starting over with corsage pins.

What type of straight pins do you like to use? Do you use a  type that isn’t mentioned here?

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