The Lost Straight Pin Dilemma

The Lost Straight Pin Dilemma

Let’s be honest. Sewing isn’t the most dangerous hobby. I’m not driving a Nascar race, flipping in the air off of a dirt bike, or taming poisonous reptiles. Overall, it’s a safe assumption that I’m not chancing my life by trying to finish a sewing project! But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for smaller injuries in the world of sewing, and one of those possibilities has surfaced a number of times on this blog: Accidentally sticking yourself with a straight pin.


Don't misplace your straight pin container!

Don’t misplace your straight pin container!

Sure, it’s a minor injury. There’s no need to rush to the hospital, and you probably won’t break out a Tylenol bottle to help with the pain. Regardless, it is a discomfort, and the possibility of enduring that discomfort extends beyond your sewing session if you do what I’ve found to be one of the easiest missteps in sewing, which is losing your straight pins. I don’t mean misplacing your straight pin container either! I mean that once you put away your sewing materials and supplies, you find that there is at least one straight pin lingering in or around your sewing area.  Each of those straight pins could be a future discomfort waiting to happen, and every one could also bring you one step closer to buying more straight pins.

But it’s sooo easy to lose these things! How can a person keep from having it happen?

Like with thread and material, the type of straight pin you get can matter, so be sure you’re making a good choice!

Like with thread and material, the type of straight pin you get can matter, so be sure you’re making a good choice!

Sometimes it’s unavoidable…

For me, personally, I’m leaning toward the idea that I can’t completely prevent it. In fact, my leaving straight pins behind is kind of a running joke in my house. Other than using a pin cushion, the only advice I have to offer on that detail is to make the right choice when buying your pins. Like with thread and material, the type of straight pin you get can matter, so be sure you’re making a good choice! In my experience, ones with a bit more length to them seem to hold their places better than the shorter ones, and I think logic backs that up. The longer the pin, the more space you have to lock it in place in your fabric. If it’s locked in place, there’s less risk of it working its way back out of the material, which lessens the risk of a loose straight pin.

If it’s locked in place, there’s less risk of it working its way back out of the material, which lessens the risk of a loose straight pin.

If it’s locked in place, there’s less risk of it working its way back out of the material, which lessens the risk of a loose straight pin.

Even with those longer pins and pin cushion though, pins still might end up scattered around your work area. So when nothing you’ve done keeps your straight pins from falling to the floor, seat, etc., how do you find them to put them away and prevent someone from accidentally coming across one in a not-so-pleasant fashion? Here are some ideas!

Your own senses

This one is obvious, so let’s begin with it. Sometimes, just looking around your sewing area can let you find loose straight pins, and gently patting your hand (not pressing too hard since pins are, indeed, sharp) could help you detect them as well. I honestly don’t know how many pins I’ve found with these tactics, and I didn’t have to buy anything for them!

Found ya!

Found ya!

Shine a flashlight

Objects that are the color and/or texture of a straight pin reflect light, so if you shine a flashlight, you might get a glimmer in response that will lead you to a loose straight pin. Take your time as you do this so that you don’t look right over the pin! A few extra seconds for a better-done job could save you hassle and, as I mentioned, discomfort, in the future!

Use a vacuum cleaner

Okay, clearly, you might not want to vacuum up a straight pin for the sake of your vacuum cleaner! But as the link says, if you use an extension hose from your vacuum, you just need to put some kind of barrier over it to keep the pin out. A piece of cloth would work, and using the vacuum in this fashion would pull the straight pin out of whatever hiding place it’s in to a very obvious spot without damaging your vacuum cleaner. Simple, right?

Use a magnet

This method is plain, but effective! Just move a magnet around your work area, and any metal pin that’s close enough should be drawn to it. The strategy comes with very little hassle, and very little room for error unless your magnet is too far away from the pin. But so long as you’re thorough with covering the area, this is — in my opinion — the best tactic of the listed ones. It’s not as iffy as missing a flashlight glimmer, as unsure as eyeballing the area, or as cumbersome as breaking out (and readying) your vacuum cleaner. It’s so low-tech, most people can use it easily, and it’s cheap! What more could you ask for?

With these methods at your disposal, hopefully most of your loose straight pins can be found and preserved for future use instead of laying around for future injury!

Do you have a preference among them or know any other strategies for locating loose straight pins? If so, share your thoughts!

The Traveling Tailor

The Traveling Tailor

Sewing machines and supplies aren’t exactly the most portable things. Sometimes, when I’m not working fulltime on a show, I’ll get a one or two day job that requires me to schlep a machine and supplies to a work space. These are my least favorite kind of jobs – for no other reason than I have to transport my machine and a small kit of sewing supplies somewhere.

I live in New York City. I haven’t owned a car in over ten years.

What’s the big deal, you may ask, just throw it all in your car and go. Well, that’s the thing: I live in New York City. I haven’t owned a car in over ten years. The last time I drove was about two years ago. And I’m not a huge fan of Uber or even good old-fashioned yellow cabs. Cars are just not the most efficient way to get around the city. So, I’m usually dragging a sewing machine up and down the subway stairs to get to where I need to go.

On the go

I know I’ve recommended these machines before, but Brother makes some incredibly good and lightweight machines. I have two SC9500s. They are so lightweight that I carry them in a tote bag on my shoulder. I then use a backpack to carry my supplies: scissors, threads, rulers, chalk, a small collection of notions.

Other Brother machines that are very light weight are the CS5055 and the ES2000.

I also bike a lot, which is always the most efficient way to get around the city, and have been known to strap a machine (in a box) to the rear rack on my bicycle.

When going to a job that is only one or two days, sometimes it’s hard to figure out what to bring, especially if you’re trying to not lug your entire shop down the length of Manhattan and across the bridge to Brooklyn.

Here’s a list of what I usually bring to a short one-day job:

  • 1 pair of tailor’s points or small scissors
  • 1 pair of medium sized shears
  • 1 pair of pinking shears (because I’m certainly not bringing a serger along to finish seams.)
  • 1 gallon sized Ziploc of thread. Must have colors include black, grey, white, tan, a greeny-brown, nude, and a yellow-orange for topstitching on jeans.
  • 12” see through 2” wide ruler
  • 1 soft tape measure
  • Tailor’s chalk, red marking pencil, pencil, black disappearing ink pen
  • Seam ripper
  • Metal hem gauge ruler
  • Small container of straight pins
  • Extra bobbins for machine
  • Small collection of hand and machine needles (I always bring some leather needles and double needles, just in case.)
  • 1 gallon sized Ziploc of bias tape (black and white), elastics, twill tape, and hem tape.
  • Small containers of snaps and hook & eyes.
  • Muslin pressing cloth
  • Small collection of nude spandex and netting scraps and interfacings

Lighting is key

Sometimes it’s nice to bring along a small light of some kind. I often find myself sewing in inadequately lighted spaces. I tend not to bring a lamp because, well, the subway. I always make sure the light in the machine is working. And the flashlight on an iphone can be extremely helpful in especially dark circumstances.

Gear up

I’m not very high tech with my carrying cases but there are lots of really lovely ones out there if you’re not into backpacks and tote bags.

The key is to keep everything super organized. And don’t worry about not having all the thread. Unless you’re topstitching, most things can be sewn with black, white, or tan. I know some tailors that only use those colors of thread. It really is ok if your thread doesn’t match exactly. And sometimes you just have to use what you have, especially if you are a traveling tailor.