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Pins and Needles

Pins & Needles

Tips from Rohese de Fairhurst

These sewing essentials are not as simple as they seem. Use the right type of needles & pins for the job that you are doing.


  • Use pins with glass or plastic heads. They are easier to handle and you are more likely to find them when you drop them on the floor.
  • Don't hold pins in your mouth. A friend inhaled one and had to go to hospital!
  • Have a pincushion, small bowl or tray where you keep all your pins.
  • Keep a magnet handy for when you knock the pin bowl over!
  • Quilters pins are extra long, and have a large flower-shaped head which is easy to handle.
  • If you put pins in at right angles to the seam and run over them with the sewing machine, small pins without glass heads are easier. (Don't do this with other people's sewing machines- pull out the pins as you go unless they say you can run over them)
  • Use safety pins when sewing during travel, as you are less likely to lose them or spike yourself accidentally.
  • Safety pins can also be used to thread ribbons or elastic through channels.
  • When sewing delicate fabrics, only put pins through the seam allowances, so you don't leave pinholes in your garment.


  • Change needles regularly when hand sewing- sweat will wreck the surface of the needle and make it harder to pass through the material.
  • It is easier to do small stitches with a smaller needle.
  • Tapestry and cross-stitch needles have a blunt tip so they don't split the fabric or thread. Don't try to use them for ordinary sewing.
  • If you get sore fingers when hand sewing, try using a thimble, finger guard or pull-through. A finger guard goes on the finger underneath the material, to stop you stabbing it with the needle. A leather pull-through helps you to grasp the needle and pull it through the material. Thimbles come in different shapes and sizes. Some quilter's thimbles consist of an adjustable leather thimble with metal plates where the needle goes. You can also buy fine leather thimbles. I use a plastic thimble which is open on top as it can be adjusted by putting it in hot water.

Sewing machine needles

  • Change the needle on your sewing machine regularly. Sharp needles will slide through the material, while blunt needles have to punch their way through..
  • Sewing machine needles have tiny numbers on them. Small numbers (70-80) are used for sewing fine materials, while large numbers (140) are used for heavy materials. You can buy special needles for sewing denim or leather.
  • Stretch fabrics should be sewn with a ball point needle. These will be labelled as being for stretch fabrics.
  • You can buy special needles for using metallic threads on your sewing machine. These are called Metafil needles, and will help stop the thread from breaking.


Keep a camera film canister in your sewing area to put old needles and pins into, so you don't throw them into the rubbish where they can spike somebody accidentally.