I’m sure we’ve all seen them by now. Sewing clips: the colorful mini clothes-pins that are supposed to be a poke-free alternative to pins. Nearly every sewing influencer has been flaunting their free stash, and I was getting kind of envious. A quick look at their price tag at Joann, and brought my hopes and dreams quickly back down to Earth. A dollar a piece? For a little hunk of plastic? I resisted for half a decade before I thought to look on Amazon. Some millennial I am… There was a pack of 150 for 8 bucks–genius. 8 dollars was worth the investment to potentially save my fingers from another prick. And now, I’m testing out sewing clips vs pins to see who stays in my sewing tote.
The sewing clip design
Sewing clips are literally mini plastic clothes pins with a few upgrades. First, these things are tiny. The most common size you’ll find are clips that are 3/8″ wide and about 1″ long. When fully open, these clips mouth gape about 1/2″. Second, instead of a wire coil to create the clipping action, the sewing clips use a sturdy piece of metal shaped like a ‘C’. This gives the clip a lot more tension and grip to prevent the clip from sliding off. To also aid in slip prevention, the sewing clip has 4 little bumps along the biting portion of the clip.
The most important aspect of the clips’ design is how one side of the clip has been flattened so the clips lay flush to the machine as you sew. But you don’t have to examine each clip before you use them to find the flat side. The flat side of the clip is a clear, colorless plastic, and the top, curved slide of the clip is a colored plastic. This makes it easy to grab a clip out of your cup and pin it on quickly.
The design is seemingly ingenious. But do they hold up to the quilting grind?
Sewing clips vs pins: indentations
Before I seriously considered the switch to clips, I wanted to check out what kind of indentation they would leave on the fabric. Pins leave two holes like a vampire does after sucking blood from a corpse. These tiny holes tend to work themselves out over time, and I never notice anything after I piece so I didn’t want the clips to introduce more wrinkles I’d have to iron out.
The sewing clips do leave an indentation from the teeth of the clip, but it’s small and not terribly noticeable. The longer you leave your clips on, the more pronounced the indentation is. To avoid this indentation, I took to clipping within my quarter inch seam allowance, but this brought about a big problem I didn’t expect.
If the clip got knocks a little or I didn’t open the teeth wide enough to pull the clip off, the clip snagged on the edge of the fabric, making it fray. A lot. This was happening on good fabric (I used unwashed Kona and a good-weight patterned fabric from a specialty store). This fraying really started to eat away my seam allowance in some places. It forced me to me put more thought in where I placed clips and how I removed them.
Is one better than the other? I think this factor is a wash. But if I get too feisty in the midnight hours unclipping, there may be a slight leaning towards pins.
Sewing clips vs pins: the hold
Straight pins have been the sewing industry standard for holding fabric pieces together since, well, forever. And they do a great job. They are also super cheap, so I never had a shortage of them laying around. And they are irreplaceable when it comes to holding the center of a large diagonal seam together.
However, they caused some issues I didn’t like. First of all, I hate putting my pins back into a pin cushion, especially when they are so many. It takes a couple extra seconds while I’m piecing, which honestly isn’t a big deal, but it really ruins my groove. Also, 150+ I make quilts with 150+ pieces, and after labeling, that’s a lot of pins to go into one cushion. I’ve taken to throwing all my pins in a little container.
But if you’ve ever poked your finger at midnight, stared at the skin for a hot second to see if it was bleeding and then continued sewing only to get a splotch of blood on your quilt, then you know the pain. You know the pain of dropping your pins all over your carpeting. It takes a good five minutes to scan the floor with a flashlight, looking for the last glint metal. And you can never be sure you got them all. But can sewing clips replace the hold?
I thought clips will solve this all. And it did. The clips didn’t stab me and they were easy to grab/store in a little cup. But they also created new problems I hadn’t considered: weight and bulk. Clips are heavy, well, heavier than pins. They flop around on the fabric you attached them to. If you’ve got a long piece you’re trying to sew, things are going to start tugging.
Their bulk also makes it difficult to stack your cut and labeled pieces together. This might not be a big deal for you, but this created some wrinkles in my pieces and it also make moving all the pieces for one block from its pile on my couch to my work table a bit more difficult. The other issue was, with over 150 quilt pieces, I didn’t have enough clips to label all of my piece. I know, I know–Emily, just buy more! But their box already takes up lot of my quilting tote.
Though, there are some rainbows reflected in these tears. Clips are so fast and secure to use. Where I used to just wing my stitching on short pieces instead of pulling out the dreaded pins, I find myself clipping almost every piece. I think it’s really helped me get those pointy points. You do have to be careful about the fraying I mentioned above, but I think that gets better with muscle memory.
Again, I think there are a lot of things that are a wash here. Pins are great at holding tags on pieces and pinning things, but the risk of blood and the amount of time they take to use is less appealing. Clips are great because they’re safer and they take less time, but they do create some weight and bulk and can pull fabric wonky through a machine. I’m leaning slightly for clips here, because I think with more use, these issues won’t be as big of a deal.
Sewing Clips vs pins: Binding
Is this one even a contest? Can you even use pins to tack down binding? I probably tried on my first quilt, but I haven’t used any since. I use hand binding. So I sew the top down and then hand sew the back in place. Truthfully, I haven’t felt the need to struggle to get a pin through all those layers. However, now sewing clips have a wide mouth that can easily grasp around the binding. Fast, quick, and easy, now I don’t have to struggle holding binding down when I sew. So, if you’re going to use something to hold your binding in place, sewing clips it is!
Sewing clips weren’t the magical being I had thought they were. But they do offer several advantages over pins, including no poking/blood, faster ‘pinning’, and an easy binding solution. Pins are still extremely important for their lightweight and almost non-existent bulk and their ability to pin the center of a large fabric piece. Not to mention, pins are still much cheaper and smaller to store than their clippy counterparts. Overall, I’ve really enjoyed using sewing clips and will continue to do so, but they can’t completely replace pins, so I have added them both to my sewing tote until something better comes along.