Colorful needle bed with sewing pins

When I first started sewing, I knew I needed sewing pins. So, I walked into a sewing shop only to find out that there were so many different kinds! Seriously? They were not all the same, so how to choose a proper kind? I decided to buy the prettiest kind assuming that it can’t be a big deal. Oh boy, was I wrong.

When you are a beginner you can come across more challenges than you can imagine. Even the tiny little things such as sewing pins are not as simple as it appears. Pins may be small, but they are important for all kinds of sewing projects. And it is not the beauty or desire to stand out of the crowd that drives manufacturers to produce different kinds of pins. It’s because different projects and fabrics require different sewing pins. So, it’s not rocket science, but you should know a thing or two about different sewing pins before you take on your first projects.

By the way, do you know when we invented pins? Archeological evidence suggests that we started using needles around 50,000 years ago. So we started sewing a long, long time ago. We are not sure when the first sewing pins appeared, but we know that old Sumerian used some kind of curved pins to hold clothes together. It was 4 thousand years ago! It seems like we appreciated fashion from the dawn of civilization! But let’s get back to modern sewing pins and their role in sewing.

Why Sewing Pins Are Important

Everyone knows that we need these accessories for sewing. But, how important can they really be? Honestly, sewing pins are not the most important part of your sewing kit. Using the right pins won’t make your product look prettier or anything like that. But, if you don’t use them properly, you may face some problems. It is all about convenience and avoiding mistakes. For example, if you use thick pins while sewing silk, you will end up with visible holes on your fabric. 

So, in the worst-case scenario you can ruin a piece of your fabric. In other cases, you will experience problems that will slow you down or make you repeat a stage or two. Short sewing pins may slip out of the place. Have you ever witnessed cutting a thread on a sweater? If you did you know that a single unraveled thread can ruin it. Long sewing pins can overlap when you apply appliques. Some pins may be prone to rust, and you don’t want it to end up on your fabric. Many projects require ironing or pressing during the process. A hot iron can melt down pin heads, and it won’t look pretty on your fabric. Flat or no-head pins can be difficult to spot on textured or colorful fabrics.

As you can see, it’s a pretty long ‘What Can Go Wrong’ list if you don’t pay attention to details and use the wrong kind of sewing pins. I will tell you all you need to know to avoid these mistakes. As I have already said, it’s not rocket science. There are just several simple rules to follow and with experience, you will do it naturally.

Different Kinds of Sewing Pins

At first glance, it seems like there are countless different kinds of pins. Flat pins, dressmaker pins, pearl-head pins, glass-head pins, quilter’s pins, flower-head pins, extra-fine pins, silk pins, and so on. In reality, manufacturers like to be distinguished and they often use different names for the same kinds of pins. It can be overwhelming for beginners, but there’s a way to make it easier for you.

Each pin is the sum of its parts. And each part fits certain requirements. It means that you should figure out your needs before you choose pins. This is how it goes.

Pins have different heads, lengths, thicknesses, points, and they can be made of different materials. So, you have to decide what you need for each of these categories and then look for pins that fit your requirements.


Pins can have flat heads, plastic heads, and glass heads. How to choose the right kind? There are two things to consider. Firstly, whether you need to iron your fabric with pins on it or not. Secondly, it depends on your need to spot your pins easily.

Flat or no-head pins are basic pins good for hand sewing and projects that include ironing. On the downside, it can be difficult to see these pins on heavy patterned or textured fabrics.

Plastic headed pins are cheap and very easy to spot. Usually, they have a ball-shaped head that won’t slip through the fabric. They come in different sizes and thicknesses and can be used for a variety of projects.

Glass headed pins are pretty similar to plastic headed ones. The main difference is that their heads are made of glass. This makes them resistible to hot iron so they won’t melt down. The rest is the same. They come in different colors, sizes, and lengths.

Pin Length

When it comes to pin lengths, it depends on your projects and your personal preferences. For example, if you have larger hands and fingers, you may prefer longer pins as they are easier to grasp. But, the type of project is more important. Basically, for extra-small projects, you will need shorter pins, and for multi-layered projects, it is better to use longer pins.

Dressmaker’s or all-purpose pins cover a wide variety of pins with medium length. Most of these pins are between 1 and 1½ inches long. They are the most common pins for all kinds of projects using light to medium-weight fabrics. You’ll probably use cotton for most of your early projects and these lengths are perfect for it.

Quilter pins. For quilting, you will need longer pins. That way you can pin through multiple layers of fabric without fearing that the pin will slip out of the place. Common lengths are between 1 ½ and 2 inches.

Applique pins are short and thin. These very small pins are useful for applique work, attaching trims and other small projects. They are usually ¾-inch long but they may be even shorter.

Pin Thickness

It gets just a little bit trickier here. Some manufacturers would just call their pins “extra-fine” or “silk” without stating the exact thickness. Others would measure it in mm. Anyway, the thickness is important when you deal with delicate materials.

Obviously you’ll need thinner pins for silk and other delicate fabrics. As a general rule of thumb, you should choose pins as thin as possible for the designated project. Thicker pins are rarely used for heavy-weight fabrics or wool. Make sure to test these first as they may leave holes behind.

Most ‘regular’ pins are 0.6 mm thick. 

“Patchwork”, “super-fine”, “silk”, and “satin” pins come in 0.5 or 0.4 mm.

Thicker, 0.7 or 0.8mm pins are usually called heavy-fabric pins.

Point of Pin

The points of tips can vary as well. They can be sharp, extra-sharp, and blunt. It all comes down to types of fabric.

Sharp point is the most common kind. It is the first choice for the majority of projects. So, it’s basically the kind meant for general use. Different kinds are needed only for some specific materials.

Extra-sharp pointed pin is another kind. Usually, these pins are thin. As you could probably guess by now, you should use these for silk, satin, and other delicate fabrics.

Ball point pin is a kind with a blunt, rounded tip. These pins are necessary for knits and stretchy fabrics. Regular pins can pierce or snag knits and similar fabrics. Rounded tip allows for smooth pinning as it pushes fibers aside without damaging them.

Final Words

That’s about it. If you walk into a sewing shop or search online, you will find more names than I have mentioned. But read the labels and you will figure it out. As long as you remember specific requirements for each fabric you won’t make a mistake. It’s a good idea to start with several kinds that can cover the vast majority of projects. Dressmaker or all-purpose pins for cotton and linen, extra-fine pins for silk and delicate fabrics, and quilters pins for quilting will probably suffice. I would also recommend avoiding plastic pins because of the melting risk while ironing. Use flat or glass-headed sewing pins instead.

Sewing beginnings are sweet and exciting, but things can get complicated in a blink of an eye. For this reason, it’s great to have some kind of mentor or experienced friend. They can help you when you get stuck and you don’t have to stumble on each and every possible block. When it comes to tiny little helpers called pins, things are pretty simple at the end of the day. But, too many different names and kinds can confuse and puzzle inexperienced sewists. So forget about the names and think about purpose. It won’t take too many projects to adopt and consolidate these simple rules and you’ll never need a guide again.