There is something about the sleek, steel shaft of a pin that is perfection. Smoothly it glides into fabric with the gentlest of pressure – the sharper and keener the point, the less pressure it takes. It is true that money can’t buy everything, certainly not happiness, but it can buy good pins!
“You could almost hear a pin drop” means it is deadly quiet.
So why, when it is far from quiet in my studio, what with the humming of my sewing machine and music filling the air, is it that I do hear a pin drop? Why, as my machine skims across the fabric and I remove pin after pin with flying speed, dropping them into the tin by its side, do I immediately hear if one falls into the waste basket by my stool, and then instantly take my foot off the pedal, stop sewing, and dig through piles of off-cuts and snipped threads in the basket until I find the escapee? The other day, for some reason, pin after pin fell into my waste basket and it occurred to me, “why am I digging through my basket like a vagrant, looking for dropped pins? My pins are precious, and I will tell you why.
In all my years of sewing, I hadn’t been very discerning about what sort of pins I used – so much the better if they came for free. The first time I thought about the fact that there was a difference between steel headed and plastic headed pins, was in a discussion with a friend about our laziness. “Oh, I have never tacked a single stitch since my last needlework class at school,” I declared. “Pinning is all I have time for.”
“Neither have I,” said she. “Not only do I never bother to tack, but I also only use steel headed pins, because they don’t melt under the iron.”
“Ingenious,” I thought. “You can iron over pins. Steel headed pins are the way to go.”
Then I shared a house with another friend for a while, one of those “one house fits all” sort of a place that will not very easily show signs of wear and tear from its changing flow of occupants. The sort of house that you can bet will have multi-hued speckled carpets. These carpets can hide almost anything, including a tortoise-shell cat lying very quietly which you’ll only happen to find by tripping over it. This particular house’s carpet harboured a few ancient pins, steel headed ones (carelessly dropped by previous inhabitants) that I chanced not to see until I found them, one at a time over several months, in my bare feet. Steel headed pins immediately fell out of favour.
Any pin with a pretty head was now the focus of my selection. I remember the delight of discovering a whole cardboard disc of new pins with imitation pearl heads, dropped by a park bench where I occasioned to sit one day.
It must have been lying there for days, as the pins showed small signs of weathering. No matter indeed, since they were free! But I do have to admit that, eventually, the joy of free pins was far outweighed by the struggle it took to use them, as they required far too much encouragement to pierce any fabric they were presented to. Urging pins is not a good idea. Either they bend, or worse, your fabric gets snagged. Not a time for being pig headed, when a pin resists your urging.
Then at last I recalled my dear mother’s lovely glass headed pins. I had never seen one of them bent or rusted in all my growing years, so why had I forgotten them? I believe that in your life you must travel the road that disappears over the horison, to see what there is to see with your own eyes, before you can come back and recognise the value of something that was always there. A bit like Paulo Coelho’s “The Alchemist”.
I set out to find glass headed pins. Not a single one was to be found in my local shops. When I tracked down a supplier in Johannesburg, I ordered a whole lot and they arrived by post. More recently I found one little container of pins in my local knitting shop. The shop lady sadly shook her head. “They are so expensive; we can’t stock them as nobody wants to pay so much.” I bought that little container of exquisite, extra-long steel pins with beautiful glass heads. My studio has a carpeted floor and as much as it might try, it does not succeed at gobbling up my pins because I can spot their lovely glass heads sticking out long before my feet might find them. Best of all, they don’t melt under the iron.