tooling around: please enter pin

When I wrote my very first Tooling Around post I invited you all to join me as I discover what tools I really need, which ones I want, and everything I never knew existed. After several posts about my tools I had an epiphany: I am never going to find out about tools I never knew existed if I don’t expand my circle of tool users!

I was thrilled when Suzannah Stanley sweetly offered to tell me about the tool that sits at her right hand through every project. You guys know Suzannah, right?  She’s a newly-married working woman who generously blogs about all her adventures sewing clothing and recreating high-end decor pieces. Not to mention she MADE HER OWN WEDDING DRESS.

Photo by Studio 623 Photography. Dresses (ALL THE DRESSES!) by Suzannah. Click image for more details.

People, this woman agreed to talk to me! I took several deep breaths so I wouldn’t hyperventilate and asked Suzannah to tell me about something that helps her make all that magic.

Suzannah Stanley: Sounds like fun.  I would have to think for a while about what my non-literal tools are, but the first thing that comes to mind as a tool I love is my magnetic pincushion. I can’t imagine sewing without it! I can practically throw the pins down as I come to them and take them out as I sew, and they’re easy to pick up, too! I have a plastic magnetic pincushion like one of these:

I got mine at JoAnn for a few bucks.

Janice Bear: How do you use it?

SS: It sits next to my machine at all times. I keep my pins on it and it’s so easy to collect all of them right there! And if I drop pins on the floor, I can just hold it upside down and collect them like a little vacuum. I can bring it to the cutting table (although I almost never pin pattern pieces when I cut; I just use weights), I can access the pins easily when I pin things together before sewing… so convenient!

JB: How did you discover it?

SS: My mom, a professional seamstress, has had these for years. I actually can’t find another online of her exact one that I love so much, but the Grabbit is also good. My mom has a business making all kinds of historical clothing for reenactors and museums and such, and I grew up with her sewing supplies and well-equipped sewing room. I used to play with the pins on the magnetic pincushion when I was a kid. Once I started sewing a lot myself, I realized how useful this fun, brightly colored little thing is!

Color pins on magnetic cushion. Photo by Tom Russell. Click on image for details.

JB: Did you give other pincushions a chance before settling on “the one?”

SS: Oh, I’ve been pretty lucky, and I usually sew at my house or my mom’s where I can use a magnetic pincushion. Once or twice I’ve sewed at a friend’s place and had to use a tomato pincushion or something, and boy, is that slower. You have to be all careful about putting the pin in, and if you miss, you can’t pick it up easily… ouch waiting to happen.

JB: How many do you have and why? (for instance, I use at least three different types of scissors)

SS: I only have one right now.  My mom has two, since she has at least two machines and a serger set up at any one time. She rotates them from the cutting table to the sewing tables, too, so that’s handy if you have a designated cutting area — one for that table and one for where you sew.  Sometimes ALL the pins end up on one pincushion and we grab a chunk of them and put them back on the other one!

JB: I have to have one now!  What should I look for?

SS: I don’t know if you can really go wrong with these. The one I have, which is a little cheaper than the Grabbit, isn’t quite as powerful magnetically but still works well for a normal amount of pins. One warning, though, regardless of which one you buy: don’t drop it on a hard floor. I did this once. It causes the plastic pieces and the magnet (and the pins) to fall apart, and it’s just not the same when you put it back together again!! 😉

Grabbit Magnetic Pincushion. Click on the image for details.

No, seriously, I am getting me one of these babies (maybe two) post haste! I do have hardwood floors in my studio so I’ll have to be careful. Or, I could just name my pincushion Humpty Dumpty…

Thank you so much, Suzannah! It is amazing the difference one small gizmo can make!

Have any of you found a tiny tool that made all the difference?

Come on, ‘fess up in the response section below! After that, go see Suzannah and follow along with her Adventures in Dressmaking.

14 thoughts on “tooling around: please enter pin

  1. It seems so ridiculous that I didn’t own a retractable cloth tape measure until I purchased one a few weeks ago. How did I live for 40+ years without it?

  2. My favorite “tool” that I use for weaving is a track counter (like the one your gym teacher used to have). I hold it in my left hand to click/count the revolutions of warp threads made on my warping reel. It is a huge time-saver! I used to count the threads one-by-one, which invariably led to mistakes and frustation. I picked one up at the local sporting goods store a few years ago for about $10. I LOVE my track counter!

  3. My favourite tool has to be the pin itself – don’t underestimate these babies! I use a lot of random upcycled fabrics, so they are indispensable for holding things of different weights and unfamiliar stretch together when I sew, and I use LOTS of them.

    1. That is an excellent point, Julie! Not only have I learned to appreciate how easy all that pinning (however tedious) can make things I’m starting find that not just any old pin will do on some projects. Dull pins or pins that are too big can cause pulls, puckers, and holes in my more delicate fabrics. Talk about the right tool for the job! Geez – who knew something as small as a sharpened tip could make all the difference?

  4. Many moons ago, when I was a kid I just threw a magnet into my little pin container. I think the plate idea is so cute I must do this! lol.

  5. my ‘how-did-I-ever-manage-without-it’ tool is my Sew Tidy. It’s a weighted pin cushion with a bag attached to catch all the thread ends and fabric off-cuts. It keeps my studio space so much tidier and I no longer trail those threads all around the house on my socks! My workshop students were so taken with it that I created a pattern for it so they could make their own…

  6. I love,love my magnetic pin holder. I have two, one by the sewing machine and one on my cutting table. When the one by the machine gets full, I switch them out. Also, I have magnet wand to pic up those pins that sprout legs and run off, haha! Been experimenting with those magnetic tapes, put a strip on my serger above the presser foot, very handy too. But be careful, DON’T put a magnetic tape strip on computerized machines!
    I think I got my magnetic pin holders from Nancys Notions, I think, It has been a while….

  7. I discovered an amazing little snipper at a quilt show a few years back- it’s a cross between scissors and tweezers, thus ”squizzers’. So wonderful because you can really clip your thread right at the knot, and great for fine manipulation when doing paper crafts. I’ve recently seen them at Michaels craft store in the notions section. I got mine at the quilt show for $18 but found them cheaply on ebay for about $6.79 for 3 sets including s/h. I ended up buying 6 of them for early holiday presents!!! just search ‘Tweezer Scissors Curved Decoupage’ and it’s the only one that turns up.

    here is another link at joann:

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