The best way to keep fabric layers together before and during machine stitching is to pin perpendicular to the fabric edge instead of parallel (when possible).
How To Pin Fabric Edges:
Place the fabric pieces together, aligning the corresponding edges to be stitched. Insert pins horizontally, perpendicular to these edges such that the pin ball/bead corresponds to their (edges) right, and the needle is pointing inward, to the left of the fabric edges.
Why Pin In Perpendicular Direction?
Easy Pin Removal. If you think about the fabric edges to be sewn in relation to the sewing machine needle, you'll come to the realization that having the pins placed in perpendicular relation to these edges provides much easier removal during machine stitching. As you stitch down, removing the pins from left to right feels more natural, comfortable and intuitive than in downwards or upwards motion. Sliding pins out from left to right also provides more pin containment on the table surface, avoiding less dropped pins on the floor.
Safety and comfort. When the pin's needle point is facing inwards, in horizontal relation to the fabric edges, the chances of you accidentally pricking your fingers are fairly low. With this alignment, as you're removing the pins one-by-one during machine stitching, you'll be grabbing onto the pin ball and moving towards the right to remove it. Not only does this provide a lot more comfort during sewing (and pinning!), you'll naturally avoid that dangerous needle point in the process.
If the pins are positioned parallel to the fabric's edge, you may occasionally prick your fingers on the needle point regardless of how careful you are. This happens during the machine stitching process, when you have to hold or turn the fabric surface with your hands. There are instances however, when parallel pinning is appropriate, for example, when pinning through very thick fabric layers, pinning a very small fold, or sewing trims and other decorative elements. These instances will most likely call for parallel pinning, in which case, a bit more caution is required to avoid pricking your fingers during the pinning and stitching process.
Stability. The truth is, pinning perpendicular to the edge keeps the fabric layers a lot more stable and aligned than when pinned in parallel direction. At the end of the day, pins are used in the sewing process to keep seams aligned as effectively and evenly as possible. Pinning direction has a significant impact on the stability of the fabric layers and can ultimately have an impact on sewing quality. Keeping the seam stable is even more important during the actual stitching process, when you want to prevent the layers from shifting around as you stitch. This is particularly an issue when working which fine fabrics that are more slippery.
If you want to test out this stability theory, try this little experiment: Take two layers of fabric and pin them together perpendicular to the edge as described above. Align the corresponding fabric edges the way you would if you were sewing a regular seam. Once pinned, pull the top fabric layer up and the bottom fabric layer down simultaneously. Note if there is any shift in alignment at the top and bottom. For a good quality seam, the top and bottom edges should always remain perfectly aligned. Now, repeat the process inserting the pins parallel to the fabric edges. You'll notice there will be a slight shift in the alignment at the top and bottom, causing one of the fabric layers to sit a little higher than the other- a seam alignment issue you want to avoid. All fabric pieces that are sewn together to form a seam should match perfectly in length.
Increased stitching speed. Due to the comfort and convenience of removing the pins from left to right, stitching speed will naturally increase. Perpendicular (to the edge) pin placement allows for a natural and fast sliding motion away from the edge. As a result, efficiency and productivity will increase. It is also important to consider the amount of vertical space parallel-placed pins take up. Remember that when machine stitching, you remove each pin as you approach it. You should never sew through the pins. As you approach each pin, you'll find that having it placed parallel in relation to the fabric edge takes up space which can actually add on to your stitching time. Vise versa, if the pins are placed perpendicularly to the edges, you can get much closer to each pin before removing it in a fast, convenient slide.
Although pin placement may seem unimportant, especially if you are in the beginning stages of learning how to sew, developing good habits from the start will help you be more efficient, avoid some errors, and make the entire process a lot more enjoyable. When it comes to making your own clothing, eliminating small frustrations and preventing potential mistakes is often found in the little habits we develop as beginners!
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