Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Best Practices: Pin Perpendicular to the Seam

I have a confession to make.  With few exceptions, I am a perpendicular pinner.  Though you may find it counter-intuitive, I am unapologetic.  No matter what your grandma taught you, I'm pretty sure I'll have you converted by the end of this post.

Wanna take that challenge? 

First, let's define the difference.  Suppose you were planning to stitch the two layers of fabric together along the right edge, leaving 1/2 inch seam allowance.  See the photo below?

In this case, I placed the pins along the seam line.  

Check out the next photo.  Here I placed the pins at a 90 degree angle to the seam line.  That's what I mean when I talk about pinning perpendicular to the seam line.

Perpendicular pinning accomplishes a few things:

1. In most cases, perpendicular pinning increases precision

 - Pinning this way allows you to sew all the way up to the pin and remove it just before it goes under the needle.  If you require exactness, like trying to match seam lines that cross at an underarm or matching intersecting points in a quilt top, then the quality of your pinning will directly impact the quality of your construction.

- Perpendicular pinning allows you to pin a curved or oddly fitting seam at closer intervals.  Check out this picture.  In it, I'm about to set the sleeve into the lining of a raincoat for Big Boy.

If I had pinned along the seam line, I couldn't have controlled the way the sleeve cap fit as well, because the long straight pins would not have curved with the seam line the way I needed them to.  From here, I could have hand-basted the sleeve before sewing it in.  However, being confident in my pinning, I took it straight to the machine. 

I do make the occasional exception.  If, for example, I'm working with a super-slinky fabric or ultra stretchy knit, I may pin along the seam line so the pins stabilize the fabric and keep it from stretching until it gets to the presser foot.  With really wiggly or stretchy fabrics, you can never stabilize too much.  It's all about trial and error. 

2.  Perpendicular pinning protects your machine and parts

- When you pin perpendicular, your pins are easier to remove and are less likely to damage your machine by scratching the underside of your presser foot.  And a scratched-up presser foot can snag your fabric or increase drag on the top layer causing it to shift.

See this tutorial for other ways to extend the life of your machine and protect your presser foot from damage.

- You're less likely to hit perpendicular pins with your needle.  That does NOT mean you should sew over your pins.

3.  Perpendicular pins are easier to see.

If you're working with voluminous or furry fabrics, like Silky Furry Fleece, pinning on the perpendicular will help keep your pins from getting lost in the fabric, causing your to run over one or discovering it later... when you're snuggled up on the couch.  Ouch!

So...are you a perpendicular pinning convert?  :)