In this article, you will learn the anatomy of a straight pin and how to choose the right pin for any sewing job; how to sharpen a dull straight pin; and how to discard used up straight pins safely.
Here’s the thing…
Straight pins have a very simple function:
And that is to hold two or more layers of fabric together.
Anatomy of a Straight Pin
The anatomy of a straight pin is rather simple. There are only three parts to a pin:
This is the colored ball at the top of a straight pin.
The point can be standard, extra sharp, or ballpoint.
The correct one for your project will depend on the fiber content, weight, and thickness of the project fabric.
For example, ballpoint straight pins are the correct choice for knits as they will not snag the knit fibers.
The shaft of a straight pin will vary in thickness based on the type of fabric it is designed for. For example, delicate fabrics require fine, thin pins.
The shaft can be composed of nickel, steel, copper, or brass. The metal that it is made of determines if it is rustproof and if you will be able to pick it up with a magnetic pincushion.
I have only had experience with nickel-plated straight pins, which can be picked up with a magnetic pincushion.
The shaft of a straight pin can also vary in length. Make the appropriate choice based on your fabric weight and thickness.
The Most Common Types of Straight Pins
As it is with most things sewing-related, straight pins come in many flavors. Here is a quick rundown of the most common pins you will find on the notions wall by Dritz…
Ballpoint pins have rounded points that work very nicely with knits and other delicate fabric. Because they separate rather than pierce fabric threads.
Dritz Ballpoint Pins, Nickel-plated steel come in three sizes:
- Size 17 for lightweight knits and lingerie fabrics
- Size 20 for knits
- Size 24 for medium weight knits
Dressmaker’s Straight Pins are the original, classic straight pins.
Because of that tiny pinhead, there is less fabric distortion!
But good luck finding them if you drop them on the floor, especially if you have shag carpet!
Flower Head Pins
These pins are fun to look at. These days the pinhead comes in other shapes, such as hearts or tulips.
Flower head pins are extra long, fine, sharp, which makes them ideal when you’re working with thick layers or very loosely woven lace.
Glass-head pins are my all-purpose go to pins. They play well with almost all types of fabric types and weights.
And that’s not all…
You can iron over them and they will not melt, gunking up your iron or your fabric!
Dritz Glass Head Pins come in three flavors. These are the two you are most likely to use:
The glass-head pins with a blue pinhead are so super fine, which makes them ideal for delicate fabrics, such as silks and sheers. They are a great stand in for silk pins, which I could not locate for the life of me.
And the glass-head pins with a white pinhead are slightly thicker, but do not leave unsightly holes in your fabric when removed!
The glass-head pins with the white pinhead gets the most use in my sewing space.
Sew easy tip: NEVER press plastic pinheads with a hot iron. You’ll be sorry and disgusted when you see that it has melted into your lovely fabric and gunked up your iron. Just another reason to use glass-head pins!
Dritz Pearlized Pins come in a variety of colors and pinhead shapes.
They can be used for general sewing and craft projects.
I own these simply because I think they’re so gosh darn pretty!
Dritz Silk Pins is very fine and sharp.
This makes them perfect for silks and sheers. Because the thin shafts will not leave unsightly pinholes in these tender fabrics.
Sew easy tip: The Dritz Ultra-Fine Glass Head Pins (blue pinhead) are delicate enough to stand in for silk pins.
Your pins need a home: a pincushion.
And there is a pincushion style for every sewists personality out there. For example:
- the classic tomato with strawberry emery comes in two sizes: 2-inch diameter and 4-inch diameter (see the image above);
- a magnetic pincushion; and
- a wrist pincushion
I love magnetic pincushions. Look at how gorgeous that flower-shaped magnetic pincushion is!
And the heart-shaped magnetic cushion’s unique design allows you to keep your needles and pins separate.
And here’s a useful tip…
If you have a variety of pin types, such as glass-head pins and ballpoint pins, you could organize them on separate pincushions.
Or, if you have the ginormous 4″ tomato pincushion, you could dedicate each section to a different pin type. You could even take a sharpie permanent marker and label the different sections.
Sew easy tip: Did you know that stuffed pincushions like the classic tomato pincushion not only provide a place to store pins but also protects them from dust and moisture?!
How to Clean + Sharpen Straight Pins
Remember the tomato pincushion with the strawberry emery? Well, the baby strawberry is filled with emery, which is just perfect for sharpening the tip of your pins.
Simply, pierce the strawberry emery several times. And voilà, your pins are sharp and clean.
And listen up…
Don’t be a pin miser! When your pins refuse to keep a sharp point or get bent, let that pin go. Throw them out!
Sew easy tip: You can clean and sharpen hand needles this way as well.
How to Discard Bent or Dull Straight Pins
The kindest way to discard bent, blunt, or burred pins (and needles) is to wrap the pointed ends with tape and toss.
Or, you could store them in an old prescription bottle; and when the bottle is full, toss the whole bottle.
Pins hold multiple layers of fabric together. Click HERE to learn how to pin like a pro!
For general purposes, buy glass head pins with the white pinhead and get a pincushion or two to corral your pins.
Do NOT sew over pins!
Let me say that again: Do. Not. Sew. Over. Pins!
And here’s why…
Because when a sewing machine needle hits a pin, bad things can happen. It can damage the needle, your sewing machine or throat plate, or even end up like a dagger in your eye!
And all this potential drama is NOT worth the few seconds you might save by sewing over a pin.
Finally, if a pin is bent, blunt, or burred, please trash it. NOW!
Life is the ultimate red carpet event. Dress for it!