Smooth Curves Ahead


if there’s anything I’ve learned after 14 years in the pattern designing business, its that there’s a LOT of sewists among us that tend to take issue when it comes to two basic areas of sewing… and that would be either installing zippers, sewing on curves… or BOTH! And in this post I’m going to share with you MY secret to achieving a smooth pucker free curved seam, and here it is in ONE WORD….

PINS!  and LOTS of ’em!

Let me show you!

So in this photo you can see that I use LOTS of pins. As a matter of fact, the tighter the curve, the MORE  pins I use. FYI- I generally aim for only 1/4- 3/8″ between pinnings. I find that the fabric is just way easier to control as it moves thru the feeder area with lots of pins.

Does it take more time to use this many pins? Well, yes it does, but the results are oh-s0-worth-it!

In addition, you might also notice that I pinned these areas with the pinheads pointing OUT and away from the seams which is also very helpful in eliminating folds and puckers.

You might also be wondering if I sew right over these pins or if I stop to remove each one as I approach it, and the answer is YES, I sew right over them. I know there’s LOTS of folks who won’t sew over pins but I am not in their number! And just so you know, the secret to success in this situation is to take small “bites” of fabric and to sew at a slow-to-moderate rate of speed. Secured in this way, the pins will generally roll just enough under the presser foot to avoid solid contact with the needle. (Yeah, I break one every now and then, but not many!)

and here’s the deal… once you get used to the idea and the process of using LOTS of pins, I think you’ll find that you LIKE using lots of pins ALL the time, just like I do!

And now…. it’s YOUR turn!

How do you feel about sewing thru curves? Do YOU have any special tips to share? And here’s the BIG question…. Do YOU sew over your pins?…. or do you remove them as you come to them?

And remember, we love reading your comments and answering your questions too, so please feel free to leave either or both in the space provided below.

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20 Comments So Far, You're Next!

  1. I was taught in my high school sewing class (many years ago) to sew over the pin, but when I mentioned it to the shop I bought my Janome from, they looked at me like I had 2 heads so I stopped. I am going to start again!

    Thanks for the tips about curves! I struggle with getting a good corner on square pieces. Any tips for that? Maybe another blog post?

  2. I was taught by my mother at a young age to sew over pins. Very rarely break a needle and then most likely from use, as we sewed our own clothes back in the day. I received my Go-Go pattern and can’t wait to buy the perfect fabric to make it. I love all your designs I just have to get up the courage to make one.

  3. When I first started sewing I used my mom’s Singer, which was a Slant-O-Matic, and advertised as being able to sew over pins. She always sewed over pins, so I did too. But 20 years ago I bought a new Janome and was told to never sew over pins, so I remove them as I sew. I never broke a needle sewing over a pin, but I did bend many pins.

  4. To add to my above comment…My mom always hand basted her garments before stitching, so there really weren’t many pins to sew over. That’s the way she taught me also. Only after our second baby was born did a neighbor show me she never baste and used very few pins when sewing her daughter’s dresses. I stopped basting after that and just pinned.

  5. I have never sewn a curve as intense as the ones you’ve shown but, yes I pin, some curves more than others. I have sewn over many pins but, usually will stop sewing right when I get to the pin so I can remove it. Think that when I am finally able to make one of your patterns I will sew over the pins. I have made a double wedding ring and a Judy Niemeyer along with other curved projects, much easier curves than in your photos.

  6. Yes, I have sewn over pins especially in tight spots like these.
    CURIOUS–have you used the clips in place of pins? If so, how did they work for curves? I have started to use them but they are probably a bit wide for these tight curves.

    • I’ve never tried the clips you mention Carolina, mainly because they take TOO big a “bite” of fabric and that doesnt help in the smooth look I’m after AND they would definitely have to removed and sewn over. 🙂

  7. Sharon G Tower

    When I bought my Viking I was told never to sew over pins as it could effect the machine (innards of machine, not necessarily needle breakage). With that in mind I sew over my pins VERY slowly so as to achieve a nice result and not “hurt” my machine.

  8. Alaine Schumann

    I was always taught to sew over the pins. I guess us old gals always did. I will start doing it again after your great post. Thanks for all of your great work.

  9. I usually pin like you do, but remove them as I sew, My husband, an upholsterer for over 40 years, never pins and does the best curves! He holds the top fabric (or leather or vinyl) up with his left hand and places it as he goes around the corner, never a wrinkle and never ends up with any extra fabrics.

  10. I used to sew over pins until a friend damaged her eye with a broken needle that flew into it. I quit after that and still don’t even though I wear glasses now when I sew. But, I’ll admit, my curves are never as smooth as yours!

    • I always wear glasses when I sew. I guess that comes from years of working in a laboratory where safety glasses were required. I think its a good habit! 🙂

  11. I use lots of pins for curves but take them out just before the needle. I have hit a few pins in my life and they don’t do too well. Can also through your machine out of time. Thanks for the hints.

  12. Sometimes I sew over the pins and sometimes I don’t. When I was learning to sew we were taught to sew over pins. Now the sewing machine dealers and makers tell us “No”. It was explained to me that hitting pins can knock the timing of the machine out of whack. Expensive trip to the repairman. As you said sew slowly if you are leaving the pins in.
    Another tip is to stop with the needle down if you see a wrinkle forming and lift the presser foot. This allows the fabric on top to relax a little. Put the foot back down and sew on.

  13. I started sewing over pins waaay back when some machines advertised sewing over pins was a new thing. I’ve ysed pfaff’s since the built in walking foot and have sewn over pins a lot.

    There are some small clips with a very narrow tip now. An eighth of an inch maybe, that might work on some curves.

    Re: Perfect corners: Nancy Zieiman’s ‘wrapped corners’ are so easy and always make perfect corners.

    • Good advice! Thanks Karol! That’s news to me about nancy’s “wrapped corners”. I’ll have to check into that! 🙂