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How to choose pins and needles

Needles and pins are the most basic tools we can think of when talking about sewing. Yet, choosing the best ones for our project is really important and can deeply impact on how happy we’re gonna be of the final result!
In this post I’ll talk about what are the options when it comes to buying pins, hand-stitching needles and machine needles.


Pins are among the mostly used sewing tools for a seamstress. I guess you’re wondering what’s the big deal with pins: they’re just… pins, whatever type will work! That’s actually true and it applies to most of the cases. Most but not all. So let’s see when your standard pins aren’t actually just enough.

If you walk in a haberdashery shop and you ask for pins, you’ll most likely get standard dressmaking pins. They’re perfect for many different tasks: from pinning your pattern down to the fabric, to fitting garments, to pinning fabric pieces before stitching. I have tried a few different brands and I think they’re mostly equivalent. In Italy, common ones are the AIDA ones by Prym. I also have a box of Merchant & Mill’s pins (the ones in the center in the picture below). I just love this company’s packaging choices: they have this nice old-style look that’s really great! You may also find it easier (or more funny!) to work with glass-headed pins (the ones on the right in the picture below). They have the same features as flat ones, so they won’t melt when pressing with an iron. In general, standard pins are like heavy-duty pins so you may want to look for sturdy ones that never bend and with sharp points.

But what are the features of all existing different types of pins? Pins can vary in head, thickness, point shape, length and material. We already talked a little bit about pin heads. Other than flat and glass-headed pins, there are also flower-shaped plastic head pins, also called quilting pins as they are typically used in quilting projects. Remember any plastic-headed pin will likely melt when in contact with an iron, so be careful!
Thickness and point shape are two important factors you want to consider when dealing with delicate fabrics or knits. For example, standard pins are not suitable for silks, as they are too thick and they might pull fabric threads or leave holes. In this case, it’s best to use finer silk pins as the ones on the left in the picture below.

That’s pretty much all I have to say about pins. If you want to know more, you can have a look at this nice article by Threads magazine.

Hand-stitching needles

Ok, I’ll admit that. I’m not a big fan of hand stitching. I tend to stitch as much as I can with my sewing machine leaving the very few things I just can’t do with its help to my hand stitching. However, your sewing kit definitely needs a fairly small set of good needles!

If you wanna go stylish, you can buy this amazing leather needle kit, I received it as a gift and I love it. It’s actually nice to keep all your needles in place for when they are needed and it also includes a pair of tiny cute bow scissors. It’s also handy when you travel as emergency sewing kit.

There are needles for any sort of purpose, so I won’t bore you with a long list of things perhaps you’re never gonna need. What I tend to use for my hand-stitching are typically longer needles for basting and finer needles for delicate fabric. Apart from that, no need to complicate easy things: just go to an haberdashery shop, buy any good set of assorted needles and you’ll be fine!

Machine needles

What you definitely cannot live without when sewing are machine needles! When I started sewing I thought any universal machine needle would just work. But there must be a reason why there are so many options out there! While I don’t think I’m ever gonna need all of them, I certainly now understand how important is to choose the best machine needle for your purpose.

The anatomy of a machine needle is very complicated: so many parts to remember! That’s why all you (and I!) really need to know are two things: size and type. The size is defined by a code which is typically provided in the form X/Y, where X and Y are two numbers coming from two different conventions. X comes from the European code (in metric system) and ranges from 60 (small) to 130 (large). Y comes from the American one (introduced by Singer), ranging from 8 to 21.

The type defines particular properties of the needle making it suitable for different kinds of fabric. Common types are universal, microtex (for micro fibres or silks), denim and ballpoint (for knits).
So the question is: how do I choose the best needle for my project? As I general rule, the thicker the fabric the bigger the size of the needle, while the type depends on the properties of the fabric you’re using. For a more detailed guide on which type of machine needle to use for which kind of fabric, check out my previous post on fabric types and properties. Schmetz, one of the most famous companies producing good-quality machine needles, published a nice overview on the available needles and their common use.


Well, I guess it’s time to say bye for today. I hope you liked this post and please feel free to leave your comment below, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Stay tuned as next we’ll talk about tracing paper.

Ciao ciao

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