How To Pin Fabric?

Pinning might look easy and straightforward. Yet, there are multiple methods of pinning the fabric and, depending on what you do, one may prove a better choice for some reason.

Are you asking why? Let me touch on this in my today’s contribution.

Pin with classic pins along seam allowance

Pattern pieces pinned together along seam allowances.
Pattern pieces pinned together along seam allowances.

I use this type of pinning for both straight and curved pattern pieces. Pinning along the fabric has two main advantages:

1. You can pin in the seam allowance only, which is great for delicate fabrics. Even if the pins leave small markings (holes) in the fabric, they will not be visible on the finished garment at all.

2. While sewing, you can pull the pins out just before the presser foot (see the image below).

Pulling a pin out from fabric just before a presser foot of a sewing machine.
Pulling a pin out just before it goes under the presser foot of the sewing machine.

Pinning along a seam allowance is suitable for fixing a zipper before sewing it.

Zipped pinned to a fabric along seam allowance.
Pinning a zipper along the seam allowance.

However, do not pin along seam allowances if you work with fabric, which is hairy on the inside. The pin head can easily get lost unnoticed and it is a hard job to pull it out once it is partially stuck under the presser foot of your sewing machine. Even of you lift the presser foot, pulling a pin out is quite tricky. In the image below, there are a few, from which only one can be seen at first sight. The other two are hidden in the fur.

Fabric furry on the wrong side pinned along edges of fabric.
Pin lost in the fur of soft shell fabric.

Pin with classic pins perpendicular to seam allowance

Pattern pieces pinned together perpendicular to seam allowances.
Pattern pieces pinned together perpendicular to seam allowances.

This method is suitable for fabrics, which can “repair” little holes left by pins. You might need to use more pins in comparison with pinning along seam allowances.

I use fine thin pins and if they are pinned perpendicular to the fabric and usually sew directly through them. If you worry about damaging the pins or braking the needle of your sewing machine, pull each pin out just before it gets under the presser foot (see the image below).

Pulling a pin out right before the presser foot of a sewing machine.
Pulling a pin out right before it gets under the presser foot of a sewing machine.

This method suitable for pinning fabric which is furry from the wrong side or one that has been modified – like pleated fabric (see the image below).

Fabric with fur on the wrong side pinned together perpendicular to seam allowances.
Fabric with fur on the wrong side pinned together perpendicular.

With furry fabric make sure, you do not push the pins towards the fabric because they may disappear in the fur (see the image below). The pins are there, they are just hidden among the grey hair.

Fabric with fur on the wrong side pinned together perpendicular to seam allowances.
Two pins pushed towards the fabric ‘got lost’.

DO NOT use this type of pinning to pin a zipper. The thin pins will bend as they come close to the presser foot (see the image below).

Pin getting bent as it approaches the zipper presser foot of the sewing machine.
Do not pin perpendicular to zipper.

Pin with classic pins in the middle of fabric

Apart from basting, I am not aware of any other way to keep together two pieces of fabrics somewhere in their centre. Pins are an ideal to do this job (see the image below).

Fabric pieces pinned together in the middle of the fabric.
Fabric pieces pinned together in the middle of the fabric.

Pinning with Clover fork pins

Clover fork pins.
Clover fork pins.

Clover fork pins work amazingly for precise pinning with tricky pattern pieces and also with fabric that has been modified in some way. Let’s look at some examples:

Use fork pins for assembling pattern pieces with multiple seams

Assembling pattern pieces where multiple seams (usually four) meet. Typically, crotches and armholes to make the seams form a really nice cross (see the images below with scraps of fabric).

I do not take these pins out while sewing and sew right through them. This way the fabrics do not move and the result is terrific. The only thing you need to care about is that the seams are aligned accurately.

Aligning opposite seams.
Aligning opposite seams.
Opposite seams pinned together with a Clover fork pin.
Opposite seams pinned together with a fork pin.
Sewing directly though a Clover fork pin.
Sewing directly though a Clover fork pin.
Opposite seams sewn together precisely.
Opposite seams sewn together precisely.

Use fork pins for sewing an elastic band

When sewing an elastic waistband, I pin these fork pins to the waistband and fabric instead of classic ones.

When you sew an elastic waistband, you have to stretch the elastic band. These pins hold it to the fabric really well and do not slip out even if you stretch the band as much as possible. Again, I sew directly through the fork pins.

Sewing an elastic waistband with Clover fork pins.
Sewing an elastic waistband with Clover fork pins.

Use fork pins for attaching gathered fabric

Pinning gathered fabric together with both fork and classic pins. Clover fork pins hold the base fabric and the gathered fabric perfectly in place. The classic pins in between are not vital, although I find them useful to achieve more precise results.

Pinning gathered fabric with clover fork pins and classic pins.
Pinning gathered fabric with clover fork pins and classic pins.

Use sewing clips instead of pins

Two different sizes of sewing clips.
Swing clips.

Sewing clips come in various sizes. I have two different ones (see the images below). They are a good alternative if you do not want to use classic pins for some reason. For example, for sewing delicate or waterproof fabrics, in which you do not want to create any holes by pins even if they are really tiny.

Big sewing clip.
Bigger sewing clip.
Small sewing clip.
Smaller sewing clip.

The bigger (blue) ones are great for heavier fabrics like Softshell and amazing for working with thick fabrics such as those with fur on their wrong side. With furry fabric, pins can easily get lost in the fur. It is just a matter of time and you will have to deal with it.

Softshell fabric with fur inside clipped with sewing clips.
Softshell fabric with fur inside clipped with sewing clips.

The small clips (yellow) are great for light to medium weight fabrics (see the image below).

Cotton woven fabric clipped with sewing clips.
Cotton woven fabric clipped with sewing clips.

You can also use clips instead of classic pins or basting to attach a zipper to a pattern piece before sewing (see the image below).

Zipper attached to fabric with small sewing clips.
Zipper attached to fabric with small sewing clips.

Wash-away Wonder tape

Using a wonder tape is not really a type of pinning, but it can substitute pinning in some cases reliably. The tape costs more than classic pins and is not reusable. Once you use it and sew over it, it stays there and disappears with the first wash of the garment.

A good example of using a wonder tape is fixing a zipper. Especially for beginners, this is a nightmare while this tape makes it easier. After all, it is called a wonder tape. So, unroll a piece of tape and stick it to the fabric.

Wonder tape on softshell fabric.
Stick the tape to the fabric.
Wonder tape on softshell fabric.
Remove white paper from the tape,

Then remove the white part of the tape and fix the zipper onto the sticky strip. As you can see in the image below, the tape glue holds the zipper really well. Now the zipper is ready to be sewn.

Wonder tape on softshell fabric with fixed zipper.
Zipper fixed to fabric with wonder tape.

Conclusion: How To Pin Fabric

There is no right, wrong or the best way of pinning the fabric. Sometimes one is more suitable than another. Nevertheless, it is helpful to be aware of possibilities in this area. Careful pinning helps enormously with the accuracy that is substantial for any sewing project if you aim at quality.

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