Skip to content

An Exercise in Sewing Skill: Going Pinless!

(Pin Nazi says, “No pins for you!!”)

I’m doing an experiment as I sew my Darling Ranges dresssewing without using pins. Most home sewers use pins, at least when first learning. Pinning pattern pieces to fabric to cut and pinning fabric to fabric before going under the presser foot, you know the drill.

But really good sewers or professional sample makers/factory workers don’t use pins when stitching – they just line their pieces up and use their hands to keep everything in place. Obviously this saves time – no putting in and taking out pins. And using pattern weights and a rotary cutter for cutting out pieces can be a time saver, too.

But here’s my fear – what if I mess up if I go without pins? What if my fabric gets all tangled or the top layer gets longer than the bottom by the end of the seam? What if it’s a complicated convex on concave curve? How do I keep it all straight?

(Peanut guards my machine when I’m not using it.)

In sewing this dress I thought it might be a good chance to try out going pinless. It’s a lot of straight lines and few curves.

Turns out, it’s not so bad! At least on the straights. I only used pins as place markers (like side seams when attaching skirt to bodice), not to hold everything together.

Things got tricky at the armholes. Do the pros even sew set in sleeves sans pins? Because that was pretty hard. I admit, I resorted to pins.

For hems I was pretty proud of myself. I pressed and measured my hems but no pinning! Even on the sleeves!

On the neckline, which uses bias tape as a facing, I did alright at first but when I discovered a slight problem and had to re-do the whole neckline I gave in and used pins as it was easier.

All I have left on the dress now are buttons and buttonholes – no real need for pins there.

Verdict: The pros might be on to something with this no pinning thing. I may have broken my pinning addiction, at least for straight lines. I could definitely tell a difference in my sewing time with pinning vs. pinless. Even though I sewed slower and with more concentration without the pins (because I was afraid I’d miss-align the layers) I still completed a huge chunk of the dress in faster time than what it would have taken with pins. Imagine how much faster I could be with more practice?

***Now, I can’t be the only sewer still dependent on pins. Do you sew with or without? Have you ever tried sewing completely pinless? Have you been without pins for years? I tend to view pinless sewers as highly skilled craftspeople with whom I could never compete… maybe I’m wrong?? I want your input!

Comments (24) for post “An Exercise in Sewing Skill: Going Pinless!”

  • I’m still giggling 🙂 Being impatient, I sew the straights without pins. But until now, I always felt guilty! I thought it was some kind of cheat, rather than being how the ‘pros’ do it. But there’s absolutely no WAY I could set a sleeve without pins. Nuh-uh.

  • I rarely use pins now – I got some clover wonder clips for sewing my oilcloth bags and use those for most fabric things too – usually just an odd one at important points

  • I started not using pins sometime last year, when Gertie had an interview with someone from the garment industry on her blog, and he recommended sewing pinless. There are some things I always use a couple of pins for, like anything that requires easing fabric in (like adding a neckline band to knit tops, setting in sleeves) or complicated curves (again, setting in sleeves) and also to mark the end points of darts etc. And sewing in zippers. It usually works out alright, although I do sometimes have a bit of a length difference after long straight seams, especially in knits. Maybe I should invest in that walking foot… it’s usually not big enough to be noticeable, though.

    • Funny that you say that because I was archive-reading on Gertie’s blog and that same interview is what got it in my head that I might be able to do it.

  • Oh, I feel so validated! Lol! I always thought I was being super lazy by not pinning certain seams. I don’t even pin my invisible zippers. But no way I could sew something that needs easing without pins.

    • haha! I think I might still need pins for zippers. I fear I might end up with the old “one side of the zip is higher than the other” problem.

  • You…can sew things without pins? MIND. BLOWN. I have never even thought about doing something like this! This is crazy! My whole world has been altered! Black is white! Day is night! The very fabric of my universe has been, well, sewn! Without pins! I gotta go think about this one for a while.

    In other news, I love that fabric, can’t wait to see your dress!

    • Thanks! The dress has sort of a 70s-prarie vibe with that sort of folk-sy floral print. I really need to get off my bum and finish those buttons, though!

  • My mom worked in the industry, and thus sewed pinless. For a long time, I scoffed at pins. And everything came out shit. But that was before I new how to do anything properly anyway. So now I use them. But only when necessary, like setting a sleeve, any easing, anything fiddly. Straight seams, especially knits… ah, no.

  • I took some classes from Margaret Islander (Islander Sewing Systems) in the mid-90s and learned to sew mostly pinless. As Lavender noted, I also use pins sparingly on anything that could easily go awry, such as setting sleeves or anything requiring a serious amount of easing.

    Taja (Sorry, I’m not on social media!)

  • Oh! And when using bias tape on curves, it’s a good idea to press it into shape before applying it. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just a general curve approximating the garment dimensions. It’s much easier!


    • Thanks for the tips but my problem wasn’t shaping the tape it was that the pattern didn’t call for stay stitching the neckline so when I added the tape the neck was too loose. I should have known better and stay stitched regardless. Oh well

  • I’ve always used pins only when I really have to, like when I’m easing something, but I always thought it was the sign of a lazy amateur! All right, turns out I’m a pro and didn’t even know it 😉 Yeah, right. But seriously, I much prefer just lining up the edges on the fly, somehow it seems like the natural way of things to let the fabric mate itself as you go along…

    • I love reading about all these people who thought they were being lazy sewing without pins. See, you’re really an expert! 😉 thanks for sharing!

  • I have never even considered not using pins. I am definitely going to try sewing pinless. I am also going to use weights when cutting my patterns out. I spend so much on pins – money that I could spend on fabric if I just re-oriented my sewing to be pinless. Thank you!!!

    • The one thing that has kept me from going 100% to weights and a rotary cutter vs shears and pins is that I’m too lazy/cheap to get new rotary blades! And I don’t know what brand/size I have and I never remember to bring the thing to the store. Anyway, my blade is pretty dull and my life would be better if I bought a new one.

  • Ooooh, you rebel, you! Thanks for the honest feedback on your experience with going pinless. I keep reading about it, but have been afraid to try it. I consider myself a slow sewer though, so maybe it’s about time to give this a try and speed up my sewing a bit!

  • It honestly never occured to me that no pins = time save. But of course it would. Curious, might have to try this out for straightaways. Bravo on a pinless hem, that is most impressive!

Leave a Reply to dixie Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

SidebarComments (24)