Pins, pin cushion, and thimble are three basic sewing and craftwork tools with which you can make cool stuff (or even non-cool stuff…).
Sewing requires a few basic tools such as thread, needles, threader, thimble, pins, pin cushion, scissors, a seam ripper, thread snips, a tape measure, a clear ruler. If you have some of these items already, you are ahead of the game! If you don’t have any of them, they are fairly easy to get.
You are only as good as your tools
I grew up in a family that made things, repaired things, created things. Something I always heard was “You are only as good as your tools.” It means exactly that. Get the best tools you can afford, and they will last a very long time (in many cases a lifetime and more – more on that soon). When I was in school I would ask my instructors which types/brands/styles of tools they preferred, and why. When I interned and apprenticed, I paid attention to the tools my mentors were using, again, types/brands/styles. I learned through exposure and practice, and testing.
Here are my thoughts on the best pins, pin cushions, and thimbles:
The Best Pins:
There are pins, and there are Pins. I use dressmaker’s pins. These are stainless steel, sharp pins. They have a small head. They last a long time.
Dressmaker’s pins come in a few sizes, based on their use. For example, if you are working with sheer fabrics and silks, you will want a smaller, thinner pin. For regular fabrics, and most fabrics, a more sturdy pin is best. I prefer a #7 in this category.
I do not use “quilters” pins or the long bendy pins with big colored heads as they are not useful for sewing and crafting. They are mainly useful for quilting. They also tend to bend rather easily, which renders them useless to my work. I have had one or two students who prefer these pins because they find they can pick up the big colored heads more easily than the smaller steel heads on a #7 dressmaker’s pin. We all have our preferences!
Online Sources for Pins:
The Best Pin Cushion:
Essential! It holds pins, and needles, at the ready. It keeps pins from rolling around, getting lost - poking where they shouldn’t.
That being said, there are variations on the classic ‘tomato’ pin cushion. There are small pin cushions that are on a wristband. There are magnetic ‘bowls’ or ‘caddies’, and wristbands with magnetic caddies as well. So the best pin cushion for you is very personal.
The classic pin cushion is filled with sawdust or horsehair, sometimes emery powder (to keep pins shiny and clean). I have all of the above, and use both classic and magnetic. I prefer the classic cushion overall because it allows me to keep my pins separate from each other. The magnetic ones force pins into a pile and I find it a bit challenging to separate a pin as needed.
Online Sources for Pin Cushion:
The Best Thimble:
A thimble is used less often these days than in previous generations. I think part of that has to do with more sewing machine use and less hand sewing, and part of it has to do with training for any kind of sewing. I was not trained to use a thimble, even though my grandmother used one - and she was my original trainer! Possibly she did not insist I use a thimble when we began because I was very small (around 7 years old), and most thimbles were made for adult fingers.
Thimbles are useful for saving your fingers from needle pricks. That is their sole purpose. Most are made of metal. The quality of the metal varies. Some thimbles are made of soft metal, which means they will wear out quickly, and holes can be poked in them, rendering them useless... Many of the older thimbles are exquisitely decorated, and made of substantial metal. They're by far the best thimbles. If you can find one of these, buy it! (Yard and estate sales are good for finding little treasures like old substantial thimbles).
Online Sources for Thimbles:
Take a look at our Other blog posts on the best tools: