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Sep 17, 2011

On Pins & Needles + The Daily Ditch!

Readers, today I want to talk about self love.

Do you ever find that in your daily rushed routine of taking care of others you neglect yourself?  I do!  It often seems like if I'm not walking chihuahuas, I'm feeding chihuahuas, or stroking chihuahuas, or tossing some stuffed something-or-other-that-used-to-have-legs-that-got-chewed-off and playing with chihuahuas.  Actually, only they're playing, I'm just throwing.

How about me?

I had an epiphany yesterday, inspired no doubt by my new Daily Ditch feature here on MPBFriends, I did so want to call this The Daily Dump, but Michael thought that sounded a know.  We ran through a whole host of possibilities, including The Daily Discard, The Daily Detritus, and Crap du Jour.   I hope you're happy with The Daily Ditch as it was very much the compromise choice.

But back to today's topic.   I decided that it was time to do something unprecedented in my two-plus years of sewing, an act of true self love: I replaced all my sewing pins.  I love me!

I use a pin cushion that came with one of my vintage sewing machines, my Pfaff 139, to be precise.  See it there in the photo?

Here it is today.

The pins that it came with were I don't know how old -- but old -- and some were rusty and crusty as well.  You'd think I'd have replaced them all at that time, but instead, I proceeded to use them for the following two years.  I cannot tell you how many times I've tried to stick a pin into a project only to find that the tip was too dull, too bent, or simply too yucky, and I had to reach for another one.  This doesn't take a lot of time, but over a period of years, it adds up.

Last winter, I actually treated myself to a fresh box of pins from Sil Thread, only I never opened it.  Until yesterday that is.  Behold!

These new pins are a little longer than my old ones and finer.  They may not last as long, but it feels great to finally do something for me, for me, for ME!

BTW, I could use a new pin cushion too, and I noticed that Sunni over at A Fashionable Stitch sells adorable ones, both the tomato kind and the wrist kind.   I have one of those cheapie wrist pincushions, but I never wear it on my wrist.  To be blunt, it sucks, and will likely be a Daily Ditch in the near future.

While we're on the subject of pins, let's talk about needles.   When I started sewing, I got turned on to Organ needles and I've used them ever since.  I buy mine at Steinlauf & Stoller in the Garment District, but you can find these most anywhere sewing machine needles are sold.  I sew most frequently with Size 9's and 11's, though I always keep 14's around, as well as 18's for denim and elephant hide.

I change my needle before I begin any important project, or when I break one, which I do on occasion.  I found these vintage ball point needles at the flea market recently, though I have yet to use them.  Often my vintage machines come with interesting old notions, and that's usually how I get exposed to them.  Otherwise I stick to the tried-and-true.

Readers, it's time once again for the The Daily Ditch!

This Rolls Razor contraption belonged to my father, who probably purchased it in the 1950s when it was -- excuse the pun -- the cutting edge in shaving.  My father died a long time ago and this appliance has sat under one of the bathroom sinks in my mother's apartment ever since.   She finally gave it to me.   Friends, I have absolutely no interest in this razor, though I have seen ones like it turn up on Etsy.  It comes with its own sharpening surface, and you're supposed to roll the blade against this surface to sharpen it (hence the name).

As you can see, it's quite snazzy and was made in England.  Today we bid it goodbye.

But wait -- today we have special bonus ditch!

Like me, you probably have, hidden away in some drawer somewhere, a pile of telephone headsets and other assorted useless attachments for phones you no longer own.  Whatever happened to the days when you'd own a phone for fifty years?  Now it seems you have to replace them every year or so, and of course the headsets from the old phones never fit the new phones -- the manufacturers aren't that stupid!  (My current POS cell phone only uses bluetooth accessories wouldn't you know).

Today I'm ditching a big pile of these contraptions, and I say good riddance to bad rubbish!

In closing, friends, what kind of pins would you recommend to the home sewer looking to replace all of his or her pins?  Are you loyal to any particular sewing needle brand, or just use whatever came with your sewing machine years ago, as you haven't changed your needle ever?

I find that changing a sewing machine needle can make a huge positive difference in the quality of my stitches, but it's often the last thing people consider.  Please change your needle sometime in this lifetime! 

Have a great day, everybody, and give yourself a hug -- or a sharp new sewing machine needle!


  1. lovely post!

    I have three types of pins in my pin cushion; long yellow plastic head pins for quilting, glass head pins for sewing & on anything that may need to be pressed with pins in and plastic flat flower head pins which i like for pinning patterns because they're long and really easy to use...i always feel clumsy using pins but the latter pins make my large hands (thanks for those dad) feel less cumbersome.

    As for needles: despite have a vintage tin full of different types and sizes i confess i don't change my needles frequently enough :( yes i know - more foo me....and you'd be right.

  2. LOVE the Clover brand silk pins. They're long and thin so they do bend easily and need to be replaced often but they glide into any fabric beautifully and don't create bulk when pinning.,_100_CONUT,_PLASTIC_BOX.html

  3. I like the long quilting pins with the yellow heads too. I never use the plain pins because I'm scared I miss one and send an item out with a pin in it! The flower head ones are good if you're hand sewing as you're less likely to get the thread caught round the head, and if you have one near a seam (not on a seam of course) they don't cause a distortion as they're flat.

    Wrist pincushions! I love mine, use it all the time but it's a cheap plastic one with a sort of dense fibre pad. I really want one of the posh ones with the metal wrist band and the nice plain pad but they're really hard to find, especially as I'm losing weight and the plastic one is now loose! I only know of one website that sells the nice ones and they're expensive. If anyone has seen them anywhere (that will ship to the UK) please, please tell me :)

  4. Oh and needles - I like Schmetz best by far :)

  5. I use the regular size 17 dressmaker's pins; I buy them by the 1/2 pound yearly when I get back to NYC (usually at SIL Thread as Steinlauf & Stoller is always closed on Saturdays). I use Schmetz or Organ machine needles and I change them very frequently; I think that I forestall a lot of problems that way.

    I also use a wrist pincushion, but one that I made from scraps; a square stuffed with poly batting and mounted on a piece of sport elastic. It works wonderfully and I can always make another in a matter of minutes.

  6. I have the same glass head pins that you just bought and I love them! I also bought longer versions, which are also great. It's a nice comfort to know that I won't accidentally melt them with the iron come pressing time! As for needles, I only seem to change them when I'm working with fabric that needs a different size needle - oops! Need to change more often.

    Btw, I love "The Daily Dump" and "Crap du Jour". I almost said "I'm a big fan of 'The Daily Dump'" but I caught myself ;)

  7. Hi it was fun to go through your tool kit,I like the razor box I'm a sucker for intersting packaging! Sharon (UK) xx

  8. Ditching two things in one day! I am so proud of you! Can you try for three tomorrow?

  9. Ha! Somehow I posted my current comment on your previous post, which I liked very much btw. My mom had those types of hair dryers. Wasn't life fun back then? So exotic!!
    I love alllll of your ideas for the name of the Daily Ditch, and love the posts, too.

  10. OMG, I think my grandmother has that same pincushion!

    I bought all my pins from the dollar store (simple, metal-headed) until last winter I won a giveaway from 3 Hours Past the End of the World and got introduced to the wonders of glass-headed pins. OMG. No going back. So yeah, big fan of sharp, straight pins here.

  11. I love love love my magnetic pin cushion. Just dropping the pins on it catches them. Picking up spilled pins is a breeze. Out in the garage I have a super magnetic bowl that came from the auto parts store for nuts and bolts. If I did not have a computer machine, I would bring that in the sewing room and use it.

  12. Well there is the problem with me. I never could have ditched that would have gone to the grave with me. I have the casts that both my children wore when they broke bones. This makes me sound like a hoarder, but only on some things, mostly involving my children. I DID ditch 5 car fulls of things when we moved last fall, so I feel good about that.

  13. Thanks for the impetus, Peter -- I NEED to replace my pins, I've been using them for 10 years or so and they're definitely on the way out. Also, hand-stitching needles. I have some coupons for JoAnns next week and now I know what I'm going to use them for!

    As far as brands, I use Schmetz for machine needles and swear by them, but I think everything else is Dritz. I definitely know I want to try some different pins this time, as I sew with a lot of fabrics where something longer and flatter would be a distinct help.

  14. I love Iris pins -- they come in a lovely blue tin with a concave top so you can keep some there but I generally use a magnetic pin catcher or tiny little bowl.

  15. I purchased new pins 2 years ago at a sewing center in Redlands, CA that caters to quilters and increasingly, apparel sewists - yay!

    They are by Clover, long, fine and smooooth with glass heads in pale green and a weird orange. They weren't cheap but they are a very good quality and I'm glad I bought them.

  16. So I'm really, really bad about changing my needles. Do you actually just toss them after a single garment/project? I hate to sound Puritanical, but is that really necessary?

  17. I need to do the pin thing too!! I find myself grabbing the same one for some reason, and it is bent and snags each time. What do I do, put it right back, instead of throwing it out!! I really need to revamp them. Thanks for reminding me!!

  18. Life is too short to sew with dull pins and needles! I replace pins every couple of years and needles with almost every project. It just makes the sewing so much more pleasant.

    Don't even talk to me about purging though... I'm a terrible pack rat, though I do go through once a year or so and clear stuff out, organize and put stuff away. It just seems to hit me every fall that I'm overwhelmed with the clutter that collects in all the nooks and crannies of my apartment and I have to start clearing. But getting rid of my vintage collectibles or my vintage sewing patterns is never negotiable! ;)

  19. I have that exact chinese children pin cushion, but I never use it. That's probably why all the ponytails are still attached. I think it was my grandmother's.

  20. I buy a half pound box of extra long silk pins every few years. A bit of that stuff that keeps things dry keeps them from getting grotty. I don't care if they bend, they're wonderful and don't make marks on fine fabrics.

  21. I've been in a big time ditch mode lately. But pins need to be replaced regularly. Also needles are worth spending a little more $$ on. It's Schmetz for me. When Schmetz needles break, small pieces of metal don't go flying into my eyes. Not sure whether that is because of the materials used or what. I may even ditch some books that aren't loved much, and some of the Japanese sewing magazines that I have.

  22. Everything in this post was, as usual, interesting and cool, but my eye was caught by that heart shaped plate on your sewing machine. How adorable is that?!

  23. I use Pony pearlhead pins for all my sewing because really that is the only decent brand available here. I also use Organ sewing machine needles and change them for almost every project. Thankfully they are quite cheap here about a buck 25 per pack. I cannot get Schmetz locally but I do have some of their ballpoint needles, bought in the US. Also have some inspira ballpoint needles that seem to work nicely.

    I've made myself a quilted wrist pincushion in lovely shades of blue on elastic to fit my large wrists comfortably. I kinda like your old pincushion it's cute and quirky.

  24. I have come up with a great compromise between a wrist pin cushion and a tomato type and I would love to send one (I haven't ever seen one but I'm sure they are not especially original). I find I don't use a lot of pins and don't like messing with the few I do end up using. Do you have a place you accept mail? Like a PO Box or something; ya know so your stalker-a-zzi can't, well, freak you out. If you use your home address and are willing to share I'd be more than happy to send it there too.

  25. And on a complete side note I use pins that come tucked in men's dress shirts. I have a night job at a department store and when the men's dress shirts go on clearance they go from folded in a shirt box to hangers. We have to take the pins out of the collars and shoulders that keep them so nicely tacked together and toss them. Except now everyone saves the pins for me. I'm either really really cheap or really really clever; it's still up in the air.

  26. Changing the machine needle always feels like putting on a new pair of socks to me. Mmm, great new comfort!

    I actually use vintage jade colored glass head pins from 50/60s Japan. They are tailor's pins, steel, thick and 2" long. I LOVE them to bits. :)

  27. Magnetic pin holders only -- they are great for picking up dropped pins! I buy new pins at least every couple of years. German multi-colored glass headed ones only. I do have silk pins, but hate to use pins with metal heads . . . I like John James needles from England. I've been doing "the ditch" lately too. Two giant bags to the thrift store this week and several to the dumpster. I feel like I've lost weight.

  28. I too heartily recommend the Grabbit magnetic pin cushion...I actually have three: one at the machine, one on the cutting table, one on the pressing table. I use pins with heads, I wish they were glass head pins, but I've not found long pins with glass heads. I like the length, and the large plastic heads save time in grabbing them. The magnetic pincushions are also a time saver, since you can just toss the pin in the vicinity of the pincushion. They also save "feet" too. Very rarely "find" pins in bare feet any more.

  29. I have a lot of pin holders and one great wrist pin cushion that I treated myself to, or rather indulged myself as it cost a lot for a pin cushion but it's comfortable and pretty and takes a lot of pins. The other three are the magnetic sort. I have one by my machines, one at my cutting table and one at my ironing table, and half the time they are somewhere else which is why I love my wrist cushion. It's always where I need it to be. You're supposed to throw those bent things out!

  30. I have the same extra-fine glass-head silk pins that you have. They are pretty much the only pins I ever use. They work for knits and wovens.

    I do keep a small supply of extra-long flower-head quilting pins, for projects where a very long pin is required (fake fur, etc.). But honestly, I'd probably only use them if the silk pins just absolutely didn't work.

  31. I have a huge box of fine long silk pins that will last me the rest of my life.
    I use Schmetz needles, size 12 for most things and 70/11 jersey ball point for knits. Occasionally need a 14-18 for heavy projects.
    I had a version of that pincushion, it finally leaked all it's stuffing out of the top. Yuck. Now I use a magnetic one, great for picking up spilled pins.

    You ditched such a small item, perhaps next time, go for something really big! Today I'm ditching (to Freecycle)my 1960's Singer Teacher's Machine Sewing Manual and my old sewing kit box. Transferred everything to a much larger box. Now I have to carry it to my classes!

  32. Great minds think alike and all that jazz! I replaced all my crusty old pins recently for glitzy headed pins and made a couple of strawberry pin-cushions to go with them. I'm intrigued by the razor, I can't fathom how on earth it works LOL!

  33. I love your site and all of the projects - you are truly fearless.

    I keep my pins in a cut crystal bowl - way snazzy and easy to grab a bunch when needed.

    If only I had seen this post on Saturday - my husband collects vintage shaving items and your Rolls Razor would have been perfect christmas gift. Oh well....

  34. I use the Dritz pins with the plastic rainbow heads. I wish I had glass ones, but I just have to be super careful with the iron. I also have a few very fine silk pins, but they aren't long enough for general use.

    Also, always make sure you buy your own pins and needles. One time my mom was going out to do errands and I asked her to get some pins for me. She came back with the Singer pins because that is a sewing name that she remembered from back in the day. They are utter CRAP. They come out of the box dull and snag any and all fabric. I didn't know it was possible for cotton to get runs so easily. Never ever ever buy Singer pins.

    As for needles, I was using Dritz but they seem to break easily. I have recently bought a large number of Organ needles, they seem to work much better, but I have to order online. I stock the general/sharp in 11, 14, 16, and the stretch ball point in 11 and 14. I have used Schmetz needles as well, which are fabulous, but very expensive. I will use them if I need a special needle for a difficult fabric. I do tend to change needles often. Of course, I also tend to break at least one needle on each project. My recent winter coat project consumed 3 needles. Of course, it almost flipped over my machine as I was sewing on the sleeve... so I guess I should feel lucky that the only loss was a few needles...

  35. I buy the exact same pins as you. I've been using them for years and can't bring myself to use anything else. All other pins I've tried are too short, too fat, too dull and melt under my iron. I throw away any pins that get too bent or dull and buy a new box when I start to run low. I love getting a new box of pins. They make me smile.

  36. I replaced the mix of plastic & glass headed pins that were dull and cracked (the plating) with the Dritz heat resistant flower head pins. It's a bit disheartening how many I've had to toss because they are dull right out of the package though. I also have a collection of silk pins, ball-points and other pins. I tossed the magnetic pin cushion, as I didn't like working with magnetized pins, and it didn't hold pins that well for me. I currently use the Dresden Plate cushion from the Fonz & Porter line - it's nice and flat giving a lot of surface area for pins. I also have a bunch of small cushions that I made from small ceramic pots, batting and some stretch velour. I never could get the hang of the cheap plastic wrist pincushion I tried - for me the cushion was never in a good spot for reaching the pins.

    Most of my machine needles are Schmetz, and I confess I don't change as often as I should.


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