Sew Faster without Pins!

I just finished working on a Stitch Workshop video with Jil Cappuccio, who owns a great shop for handmade clothing in Denver, Colo., called SEWN. The delightful Jil sews all of the colorful clothes that she sells in her shop. When we

Jil Cappuccio, shown on set,
has the fastest stitch in the west!

talked about making a video, she sent me a shot of some proposed skirts the next day. She mentioned that she had made them the night before–all six of them!

I have never been a fast sewist. I always want to add hand-sewing details to my garments. That's been a real hindrance in my patternmaking class because I spend at least 15 hours sewing each garment–and that's after I draft the pattern!

There are several sample makers in my class who can turn out impeccable garments in 3 or 4 hours, so I've developed a real interest in how they do this. While I've gathered technique tips here and there, the best I can figure out is that they just sew faster and better than I do.

But when I was on set with Jil, I got some concrete tips on how she was able to whip up six cute skirts in an evening, with no more effort than running around the corner for a quart of milk. She doesn't use pins!

Instead, Jil uses notches. For instance, with a front and back piece, she will make clips into the seam allowances with the pieces matched up. When sewing, she feeds the fabric gently through the feed dogs, letting them do the work and being careful to keep the notches matched as she goes. She said that she learned much of her sewing skills during a brief stint as a patternmaker, and I suppose that this could be called an industry technique. And it's definitely one that's helpful in a squeeze for time, whether for a fashion or home dec project.

That's the difference between couture and industry techniques. One is done to achieve a lovely handmade garment and the other is done for speed. Choose your weapon, and use it wisely is all I can say!

Want to practice your pinless stitching on some great surface design projects? Check out thebrand new Surface Explorations eMag in the Sew Daily Shop.

Have you picked up a professional technique that you like to work into your sewing projects? Tell us about it at on the Sew Daily blog.

Happy stitching!

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About Amber

Amber Eden is the editor of Stitch and She LOVES sewing and editing Stitch and She also loves dance, yoga, iced decaf triple espressos, and her two golden retrievers. She divides her time between Boston and New York.

6 thoughts on “Sew Faster without Pins!

  1. Never use pins in a sewing machine. NEVER. If you aren’t pulling them out before they reach the needle, your needle could hit them, bend, snarl up the fabric and break. If it breaks the end could fall into the bobbin area, gumming it up, or worse, it could fly out and injure you.

    If you must use something to hold pieces together, either hand baste, or another neat trick is to set the machine to longest stitch, knock the tension out on one side (top is easier than fiddling with the bobbin) then run this stitch along the garment away from the pins. Don’t secure with a reverse at each end, instead cut leaving a tail. Once you’ve reset the tension and sewed your seam, just grab one of the ends and pull – one of them will come out easily due to the off kilter tension.

    I hope I’ve described that well enough without diagrams…

  2. I often sew without pins when I have straight seams to match up, but I don’t know how I could sew together, for example, deeply curved princess seams without pins. How would you approach something like that?

  3. Hi there, Jil here, I do hardly ever use pins, except to place pockets and the like. Since I am sewing all the time I like to get things done quickly and efficiently. For a curved princess seam or setting in a sleeve, I was taught by my sewing mentor, Hoa To, to always let the machine ease in the fabric. Oddly enough she was right! Always place the tauter of the curves on the top and the rounder (ie. sleeve with the ease) on the bottom, match the notches and let your machines feed dogs do the work. It might take some practice to perfect this technique but if you are an adept seamstress I’m sure you can make it work!

  4. Hi Pink for Me: If I am doing doing a really fancy project or a tricky piece, I do the pin, baste and stitch. But for simpler straight seam, quick projects, I think sewing without pinning is great! That’s what I love about sewing. There are so many way to get it done! And no one right way! –Amber