Pins are an absolute mainstay in sewing. If you sew at all it’s likely that along with your sewing machine and fabric scissors, you have a little box (or plush tomato) of pins. Now I do use pins on occasion, but in this article I want to gently challenge the notion of this particular sewing notion (haha what a sewing pun!). You see I almost never use pins, and there are a few reasons why.
Early on in my career I started sewing leather, and you can’t pin leather. Not only can you not punch extra holes in leather (since once a hole has been made in leather it will never go away) but the leather I work with is usually much too thick to push a pin through anyway. You also can’t really use pins with very thick materials like heavy canvas or with waterproof materials - since poking extra holes in a waterproof material sort of defeats the purpose of it being waterproof.
I have also visited a lot of factories, and what might surprise you is that I don’t think I’ve ever seen a pin in a factory, much less someone using pins. It simply takes too long to pin something before sewing it - essentially doubling the time and effort you put into a seam. Factory workers are incredibly skilled sewers with tons of practice, and they can just simply hold a seam together and sew it in one shot. Bam, done, on to the next!
Now a factory setting is a little different because you’re sewing a perfectly drafted, tested, and cut pattern that fits together perfectly. All the pattern pieces have either been cut at once in one giant stack or cut digitally - so every pattern piece is exactly the same as the last. You’re also making tens, hundreds, or thousands of the same thing at a time so you get very, very good at it. Imagine if you were making 2,000 units and you had to pin each seam before sewing it, you’d go crazy!
But it’s likely that you’re not in a factory setting making the same thing thousands of times - you’re probably making a prototype, an experiment, or something for the first time. This is when you sometimes do need to hold something together before bringing it over to the sewing machine, so what do I use if not pins?
Just regular old office binder clips are waaay faster than pins, easier to use, work just as well, and won’t stab you. I use binder clips quite often, and in fact they are so much faster and more efficient that I have even seen them used in factories for particularly tricky seams.
Now I’m not against pins, I do still use pins on occasion. Clips can only hold edges together so if you need to hold the middle of something together, say for a quilt for example, pins are still going to be your best option. And during fittings, or fitting something to a form - pins are still great. But I think that sometimes pins are over-used. I see so many people pin together a seam that they could have just held and sewn.
So I would challenge you that next time you go to pin a seam, ask if you really need to pin it first. If you do want to pin it first, see if you can clip it instead. You’ll save time, and maybe even save your fingers from errant pokes ;)