Pattern Weights vs. Pins!

People have all sorts of strong feelings about pins in sewing. Some swear by pin basting, and some don't ever use pins at all–to protect the fabric and save time. I prefer to take a softer stance, and I do whatever fits the project. But if you are going pin-free, pattern weights are an awesome option. However, I've never really found a pattern weight that caught my fancy.

Traditional tailor's pattern weights, left.

At a recent Stitch Workshop video shot, I was watching skirt goddess Jil Cappuccio whip up her creations in a skirt video we were making. Jil co-owns an adorable shop for hand-sewn clothing in Denver called SEWN and she makes the clothes that she sells. Well, I developed a fierce envy for her pattern weights, which, as it turns out, are the real deal. She got them from a tailoring shop. They are these huge anvil-like irons and they look like they could weight down just about anything with ample authority.

But you don't need to track down tailoring supplies to get a decent pattern weight. Jil also suggests using a brick or rock covered with fabric. Weighty and free? Now that's the kind of pattern weight I can get behind. And, in my mind, at least, it beats the can of peas option hands down. Although, in  a pinch, a can of peas or any canned good will work well as a pattern weight, too.

Whether you are a pin person or a pattern weight person, find all sorts of great projects to use both on in the Stitch 2011 Collection CD, now available in the Sew Daily Shop.

Are you a pin person or a pattern weight person? Let us know 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.

20 thoughts on “Pattern Weights vs. Pins!

  1. I still prefer pins for sewing but for cutting out my patterns I prefer my new weights that I got for Christmas from my husband. We saw large weights that look like washers, galvanized and one size coated in plastic at the fabric store but they only came in one size and 4 in a pack and were very expensive so my husband being a technician happened to be at the supply store they use and asked the guy if they sold 4 inch washers and he said yes so he bought me a variety of galvanized washers in many sizes so if my project is big or small I now have the weight for the job. They are great because they are flat they don’t get in the way and store in small spaces.

  2. I too like to use both weights and pins, depending on the project. Whichever will be the quickest, as I can be an impatient sewer. My mother was a seamstress and I have her odd collection of weights – including smooth rocks that we decorated as kids. I also have an antique iron that works great. For quick clean-up of my pins I use a large magnet that my father gave me – one quick pass over my work area usually picks up most of them! So when I’m sewing it’s nice to have these tools that have a connection to my family.

  3. My mom’s cousin, Mae, taught me to sew. She was born in 1908. She never used pins. When she taught me how to lay out a pattern she used heavy kitchen table knives as weights. When I took home economics in high school the teacher insisted on pins. I use whatever works for the project. I do like the idea of the cloth covered rocks. (That will drive my kids nuts when they go through my things when I’m gone.)
    I like Catlynn1’s idea of washers also. If you wanted to make them pretty just make yoyos to cover them.

  4. I personally hate pins , I am always sticking myself and only use them when I have to. For pattern weights, I use large washers, probably 4 or 5 inches across. I went to a sewing show once and they had weights that looked like big washers, they were to expensive for me, when I told my husband about them he went to the hardware store and came home with the washers. I didn’t cover them , they don’t need it. I must have at least 20 of these. If I need more weight I stack them on top of each other.

  5. I was a staunch pin and scissors person until recently. I have converted to weights and rotary cutters for most of my sewing (non-quilting) projects. I use the round metal weights which I get at the hardware store. It’s a lot cheaper than buying them from a sewing store. My summer project will be to make new cusions for my outdoor furniture. Since this will be heavier fabric and more yardage, I may try covering some bricks or finding that old metal hand iron my mother-in-law gave me a few years back.

  6. For years I had been storing/moving/storing/etc. a box of small countertop-tile samples for making SOMETHING, but I had no idea what. A few weeks ago in a studio cleaning and purging frenzy, I decided it was time to get rid of them. (palm of hand smacks forehead) Duh…..I COULD HAVE USED THEM FOR WEIGHTS!!!! (don’t you hate it when that happens?!)

  7. When I cut out my fabric pieces, I always use weights, as I use a rotary cutter. My weights are kind of unique. When we moved into this house, there were ugly green vertical blinds in the dining room. When I replaced them, I realized that each panel ended in a weight. So I cut those off and have used them as pattern weights ever since. They take up very little room, and are small enough to use for baby size patterns. Before, I used to use our old-fashioned glasses, but they were a bit of a pain to move from room to room, and the height would sometimes get in my way.

  8. My Mother always used kitchen knives. They were heavy weight, and right at hand since she always had to use the kitchen table to cut things out. Her sewing machine sat in the corner of the living room. I think the only time I saw her use pins was on expensive fabric when there were plaids to match up! She sewed for others in our small community, and of course for my sister and me. Wonderful memories — I use knives most of the time for my pattern weights!!

  9. I have been using weights since the late 1970’s when I was introduced to “Stretch N Sew” patterns. There are many times weights work very well, and when not, that is when I use pins.
    At one time when I was trying to get the Stretch N Sew weights that I had purchased to hold down the fabric and pattern unsuccessfully, my husband walked in the room and noticed my dilemma; the next day my diesel mechanic husband brought me 10 weights that he made. He used 3/4″ bolts that he cut off the bolt shaft, buffed them to very smooth, and poof, great 4.5 oz weights. Thank you Kenny.

  10. If you are lucky enough to have a butcher’s stainless table for cutting fabric, magnets work wonderfully as weights and you can get them in all sizes and strengths.

  11. Hi, I am a pattern weight person. I have made my own weights as some fabrics like to bunch up with pins. I have also take the wooden clothes pins and cut off the long back pieces to make them shorter so they don’t get in my way. I have also used those office suppy clips for my binding edges on quilts as they are easy to undo.

  12. I use weights only when cutting fabrics. I fashioned my own weights from a set of slate coasters I bought at a dime store. I glued two coasters together, put felt on one side and left the other alone. They look great sitting on my desk, as well as work great when I need them for cutting out a pattern.

  13. I use both as the situation requires. I have a bunch of big, smooth, square rocks that my friends call ‘ Okanagan Pattern Weights’ because we live in the Okanagan valley of British Columbia. Sue

  14. i use several heavy weight bolts (as in nuts and bolts) as pattern weights. they can be spread strategically around the pattern piece and are easy to move and cut around.

  15. Weights! I watched my mother and grandmother used table knives and tried but didn’t like the handle being the only part that touched and held the pattern down.
    For not too small pieces, I’ve always used books of varying sizes. I do have some little sewing weights but don’t prefer them. I have used pins for small things.

  16. I use both weights and pins. I have a varity of of sizes of cloth weights filled with rice, nuts bolts and screws, washers or whatever was available when I made them. They range in sizes up to 6×6 flat squares. Since I make a lot of doll clothes for my granddaughts I use embroidery transfer pencils. I copied all pattern pieces on computer paper and then outlined them with the embroidery transfer pencil. These are good for 3 to 4 uses before outlilning again. It works great for me because I can then sit with my husband while he watches TV and cut out the pieces for sewing. If you a are making 2 or 3 outfits from the same pattern you just pin the fabric together and cut them all out at the same time.

  17. Cans were a nuisance as they got in the way. I tried all sorts of things but in the end the experiment turned out to be the best and the method I still use: large heavy nuts, as in bolts and nuts. They are cheap easy to find in the hardware shop, low so you can see over them and small enough that they don’t get in the way of your scissors when you are cutting, but heavy enough to hold down almost anything. I use them for all sorts of things – wherever I need a ‘paperweight’.

  18. I use both pins and weights. I have an oversized cup piled with heavy, stuffed fabric frogs! They look cute when not in use, and are the perfect weight to hold down fabric. They make salamanders too, in bright fabrics.