Good habit of the month: Put pins where they belong


This month, I’m focusing on the all important good habit of putting pins where they belong.

Or not putting pins where they don’t belong, i.e. my mouth.

I’ve had this bad habit for years, but it was only when I read some of the links and comments on last month’s habit that I realized how horrible the pins-in-mouth habit is. Tales of pins becoming lodged in the lungs? Damaging vocal chords? NO THANKS.

This is a tricky one because I often do it without thinking. Here are some methods I’m going to try to break this dangerous habit:

  • Use my machine tray. My Bernina has a handy little tray just for pins. Mostly I use it, but occasionally I absentmindedly pop pins in my mouth instead. Total motor memory, not something I think about and there is no reason for it. I’m going to fix this.
  • Keep pin receptacles handy. This includes pin cushions, though I’m more partial to small dishes, for some reason. I’ll keep one near every “station”: the cutting table, the sewing table, the ironing board, near the dress form, etc. I guess a wrist pin cushion would work too, but I never liked wearing them.
  • Get reinforcement. I’m going to tell the people around me to call me out if they see pins in my mouth. I think this is important since I do it unconsciously.

I’m sure you guys must have some great tips for managing pins. Tell me!

Are you with me on learning this habit this month? Or do you have another habit you’re going to concentrate on for September?

Sarai Mitnick   —   Founder

Sarai started Colette back in 2009. She believes the primary role of a business should be to help people. She loves good books, sewing with wool, her charming cats, working in her garden, and eating salsa.

Comments 63


i keep my pin cushion with me to avoid the oin in mouth thing. I read the post about the pin in the lung and it was a real wake up call!


I was meant to add that making one of the pin cushions that go on your wrist may also be fun and it is so easy to keep the pins with you!


I agree. Use a wrist pin cushion. You can keep a dozen or more pins in it and it is so close by and handy. I grew up putting pins in my mouth, but found that I’m not even tempted to do it since I got my wrist pin cushion.


I do that all the time, too! And then I read the horrible story about the lady who inhaled a pin. Oh. Em. Gee. I’m trying very hard now to keep them out of my mouth.
Somehow I also prefer little bowls over pincushions … but maybe I’ll just make one or two (maybe even one of those you can put on your wrist?) to see if I do like them, after all. It’s been a while since I tried :)
Thanks for another great inspiration to better my sewing self!


My favourite pin receptacle is actually a magnet (sort of like buckyballs?) filled tin. The bottom of the tin has a 5mm rim, which makes it perfect to throw the pins in.


A very good habit to get into indeed. You’ve inspired me to finally get that wrist pin cushion I’ve been coveting for so long…just have to find a nice one and not a junky plastic/sponge one…ick.


I use a pin magnet in lieu of a pin cushion. I don’t remember if it’s from Clover or Prym. Sometimes I use it for my embroidery cissors or for my seam ripper as well. It’s a handy tool.


I have already started to work on the same bad habit. I have the same problem as you though, I do it unconsciously… I’ve been thinking about getting a wrist-pincushion, I think it would be a big help for me, to keep the pins very close by. I see that people mentionned making one in previous comments. Maybe making one would be a positive action to enfore this rule and definitely get rid of this habit.


The most useful tip I saw and that I can now vouch for, is A pin cushion on my sewing machine. I made mine fairly big and used Velcro to tie it around the column. I placed a bit of strong felt between the two so that the pins don’t scratch the machine. As you sew and remove the pins, the big pin cushion is right there – no need to even look up :)


good tip will have to use


That is a fabulous tip. My machine has a pin tray, but I find it a pain to scoop them out. A cushion on the machine would be brilliant.


My pins are in various container but the cutest one is the 70’s strepsils throat lozenges that is in a metal tin.

Sew Little Time

i just bought a cute pincushion with little scissors attached. i thought that i would keep it nearby since i would be using the scissors to snip threads and so would have no excuse not to use it. i previously used to throw them in the little plastic dish they came in, so i will see how it goes. hopefully it will keep them out of my mouth and in the pretty cushion!


I put pins in my mouth very rarely but wow that breathing in the pin story totally creeped me out too. I don’t think I’ve put a pin in my mouth since.


Inhaling sounds horrible! I keep my pins in the little plastic box they came in. I tipped the box over the other day, and luckily was able to find all of the pins before little feet or paws found them first. I want to find one of those magnetic pin holders – does anyone use those?


The bowls are no good in my house as the cat soon bats them on the floor then I am stuffing them in my mouth as I crawl around trying to pick them all up out of the carpet. I have a half finished mushroom pincushion which I must try and complete, but the magnet idea seems a great one to avoid the cat hazard.


Breaking habits can be tough.

I have been trying to remember always to wear my glasses while machine sewing. Recently, I broke a needle and the broken piece hit me in the cheek. I don’t want any broken pieces flying in my eye! Now I leave the glasses(reading glasses) on the sewing machine, in front of the needle, so that I cannot start sewing without them.

I don’t put pins in my mouth, but if I wanted to break that habit, I would wear a bandana or a dust mask over my mouth while sewing. Just for a while, until I got used to my new habit, wrist pincushion or other solution.


This actually happened to me last month. A chunk of broken needle flew off and hit me in the corner of my eye. Thank goodness it hit the corner and not my actual eyeball. That scared me enough that I only sew with glasses now too.


I don’t put them in my mouth but I do have this habit of letting them fall on the floor, sometimes landing point side up! OUCH! My honey got me a new tomato pin cushion to use..hoping that helps!


I’m gluing very strong magnets to the underside of small china dishes I find at antique shops. It’s easy to find, say, a lone saucer, tiny bowl or teacup (I love the ones with little feet!) for next to nothing. So useful and pretty, and keeps pins off the floor and table. Safety first!
I hadn’t read about the pin in the lung, but I don’t think I’ll ever put a pin into my mouth again. *shudder* If you really want to break that habit, try wearing bright lipstick while you sew. The first time that rubs off a pin and onto your fashion fabric, you’ll never want it to happen again. Ask me how I know.


Another great, cute idea!


Or some really wet lip gloss so that you feel it when you put the pins in your mouth and realize what you are doing.


That makes a lot of sense here, too. Thanks, Ruth!


I love the magnetic pin cushions because you can just toss the pins in the general direction and they usually stick. There are three in my sewing room, so one is always handy. One if by the sewing machine, one by the iron and one on my worktable.

I haven’t read the inhaling a pin story, but I’ve thought about it a few times whilst pins were in my mouth. Now that I know it really has happened, there’s incentive to break that habit.


Ooopsie – I was putting them in my mouth too. Not good. I’ll be looking for some magnets and some cute bowls to put them in from now on.


I haven’t put pins in my mouth since I caught my 2-year-old daughter imitating me in this way. The terror was enough to burn the habit right out of me!


Besides inhaling, keeping pins in your mouth can damage the edges of your teeth – top and bottom. I have seen this in a couple of patients who were professional seamstresses. You could even tell if they were right or left-handed. The edges of your teeth are difficult to restore as they are so thin Beware. No chewing!


I also have the habit of putting pins in my mouth. I have a perfectly good magnetic pin holder, which I like, but found that I wanted the pins ‘nearer’ when I was working, hence they ended up in my mouth. I’m also a peripatetic sewer, cutting out on the kitchen island, stitching at 2 different machines, working at my desk while watching Drop Dead Diva on Netflix, so I carry my pins around the house. I can tell you that the magnet cannot keep hold of the pins if you drop the whole thing on the hardwood floor. I recently tried a wrist pincushion and found I love it! Keeps pins close to the business area, I don’t feel the need to put pins in my mouth, it’s attached to me so I don’t forget to take it when I move from place to place, and pins don’t explode all over the floor if I drop it. I got mine at JoAnn’s, and Susan Khalje sells a lovely one on her site. I second others that this would be a fun project to make.


I adore my wrist cushion. It took a little while to get used to wearing it, but now I barely notice it’s on anymore, it’s that comfortable. (To the point where I’ll go and cook dinner, and realize half-way through eating that I’m still wearing it!) Ever since I started using it, I stopped putting pins in my mouth. And on the desk, the coffee table, the ironing board, the floor…

Laura Fuller

I ordered a pincushion ring off stay and find it to be very handy!


This is a bad habit of mine I’m trying to break – more so that I’m tired of picking pins up off the floor (although I do finally have a sewing room with hardwood floors – no more carpet, yay!). I think the most helpful thing is make sure you have pincushions sitting everywhere you might potentially need them. For me, that means one by my sewing machine, one by my serger, one on the ironing board, and a couple on the cutting table. As a bonus – I have an excuse to buy all those fancy pincushions I love :) Haha!


Good idea! I think I’ll try that.


Oh yes. Good work!
I put tins and bowls and pin cushions everywhere so I’ve no excuse to use my mouth! I like old 60s medical supply tins (for plasters, throat lozenges, etc … cool looking tins with lids essentially). Gotta be safe out there!


I think pins in mouth is because you’re trying to keep your pins handy. I totally second the magnetic wrist pin cushion – you always have them right there, and it’s even less effort to toss them in that direction than to put them in your mouth. Don’t be a partial lung removal victim!!


I am surprisingly good with that one- not to brag! I kind of have to be with a 3 year old around. :) This month I am going to get rid of scraps from projects right away if I don’t have another use for them.


At the risk of sounding too saintly. I have always had to sew in confined spaces – spaces that also contained my husband. Therefore, I have always had to be very careful of pins. This was brought home after he stepped on one. Therefore, my trick is to think of others and keep my pins together where they won’t hurt other people. Loose threads? That’s another story.


For me it’s picking up pins that drop! I’ve stepped on a pin before on the floor, and it’s not a pleasant experience.


If you have a low pile carpet or a hard surface under your sewing area, you can do a quick sweep with a magnet after you sew. This sounds silly, but I had this “wand” thing that my grandmother used to use at bingo, with the magnetic markers? It’s just a magnet on a stick, basically, and you can run it over the floor under your chair and get the strays. I would think you could do the same with a magnetic pincushion. Might save you a very uncomfortable date with a pair of tweezers and a bandage.

Jilly Be

You inspired me in August, and I successfully managed to focus on consistent thread snipping all month :)

This month my goal is to Put My Scissors Away. This will be a bit more challenging, but I can do it……

I’m already pretty good with pins – I have a magnet near each machine, and several pin cushions scattered around. And I haven’t done the pin-in-mouth thing for a very long time.


I was thinking….you could keep snacks handy so that way you are popping grapes in your mouth or some chocolate while you sew. Just don’t pop the pin in your mouth ;p That would not be good. And don’t put the snacks close to the pins….But it could work…Gonna try it since I have the same problem


I use a magnetic pincushion. I have a magnetic wrist pincushion, actually, but rarely end up putting in on my wrist. It bums me out not to have a use for all the cute little pincushions I want to make and buy, but the magnet is so much safer and more convenient.

Leslie R.

I’m a little obsessed with pin organization. I keep my glass head sharps on a magnetic pin cushion, I keep universal pins with plastic heads on a handmade pin cushion. I keep flat head pins on a large red tomato pin cushion AND I keep ball point pins on a small purple tomato cushion.

Totally helps keep me on track when sewing.

Alexandra Kim

I don’t have a good tip for managing pins but your beautiful marble hands for pin holding reminded me of the fascinating history of the term pin money; for, as pins were regularly used for holding clothes together and in place when worn as well as being made, they were an essential expense for women, and one where husbands might provide a little bit of cash or ‘pin money’ to allow the necessaries to be purchased. I’ve often thought how uncomfortable it must have been if you weren’t completely expert in making sure that your pins were all perfectly in place before you set about your day’s work!


I sometimes put pins in my mouth, but very rarely since I’ve got 2 small kids which I don’t want to do the same. One tip that I’ve heard about is that if you DO swallow a pin , you should eat asparagus! Its fibers help to inbedden (spellcheck..??) the pin so it wont do so much damage. That also goes for any animals, don’t know how easy it is to get a dog or cat to eat asparagus though.. ;)
I’ve solved the pin-issue with having several pin cushions around me so I’ll always have one near. But the pin-problem that I DO have is that I really need to start throwing away those crooked and bent needles… why do I safe those?! :)


My pincushion is never far from my side when I’m sewing (I have a super cute one from Sunni’s shop) and my incentive to make sure they go where they belong couldn’t be more powerful: my cats will eat them if they can find them! Eeek! I always, always put my pins directly from the cushion into the fabric and vise versa.


i’m also doing my best to keep pins out of my mouth. I tend to keep my magnetic pin dish next to me all the time and am making a concerted effort to just put the pins straight in there. If I pull out a few then I put them down on my working surface rather than in my mouth. I lapse occasionally, but am noticing when I do now whereas previously it was completely unconscious.


I know this is my second comment, but I just saw these in my September issue of Threads:

As long as you aren’t a naked sewer (and if you are, can we talk about October’s bad habit?) , you could probably stand to wear this. I don’t care for wrist cushions, either, I bump them constantly, but I think I might try one of these.


Oh my, I find my pins everywhere! I have twin 9-year-old girls though that like to craft and sew, who leave them here and there. I have to be careful where I step in my sewing room. LOL


Because I sit on the sofa watching TV while I hand sew…most of my pins end up in the arm of the sofa. lol!


I put the pins in my mouth sometimes too. I’ve never heard about the punctured lungs before. Thanks for the heads up! I need to change my ways too :)

Liz Steel

I rarely have problems with pins these days. I have two pin cushions – one on the ironing board and one right next to my sewing machine. As I sew the pin comes out of the garment and straight into the pin cushion. When the pin cushion on the ironing board runs low, I swap it with the one by the machine which is collecting pins. Now off to read all the comments

Suzanne Apps

Hi Sarai. Thanks for your great website. I use containers and pin cushions. In a quest to help out with the problem I pondered a ‘de Bono’ style solution for you. I was wondering whether making a pin cushion that hangs around your neck? It would be for fairly short term use until you could get them into their container again, and of course design and length of hang would need to be considered . . . . .

Sky Turtle

I keep 2 cups. One for the pins that go in, that is in the fabric and one for the pins that go out, that is – taken our of the fabric while sewing.
No pins in the mouth :)


Month 1 went fabulously! I am now a “rightawaythreadclipper”!

Putting pins in my mouth became a habit because in my mind, it’s faster than laying them on my magnetic tray…no more will I be worried about speed.

I read the article of the woman in Australia who had the pin stuck in her lung and had to have major surgery because of it…I am now SCARED STRAIGHT. Good luck to all of you!


thanks for the inspiration! i’m trying this month to attack the giant task of altering/restyling clothes
for my husband and me. both of us have made great strides in our weight-loss goals and everything looks baggy!


I stuck a pin in my mouth exactly 4 times last month. Still a success, considering I used to do it all the time. And every time I did it, I immediately remember the lung incident, shudder and quickly put it on the magnetic pin holder I keep right next to my machine. I’m hoping this month I do better.

I’ve also been working on thread clipping, so far so good :)


The bohin wrist pin cushion is fantastic for people who don’t like wrist pin cushions. It’s soooo comfortable you hardly know you’re wearing it. And it holds lots and lots of pins. I ordered mine from Susan Khalje’s web site, but I’m not sure she still sells them. You can always google “bohin wrist pin cushion”.

Children of Eve

I have tried it all, altoids can. cushions, wrist cushion, magnets…but they still find their way into my mouth!

Ru Raynor

I use a strong magnet- slowing down to stab them into a pin cushion always takes too long! But I don’t have the bad habit of putting them in my mouth, just the bad habit of threading them into my jeans and forgetting they’re there!


The auto parts store or hardware has loads of small and large magnet cups, bowls, etc that mechanics use for screws, etc. If I just throw the pin in the direction of my bowl it sticks. You can also hold it upside down and the pins still stick. Love it.

I have another sewers magnet small ball with an opening that is rimmed with a magnet, so the pins will stick there and if you have too many, they fall below and you can shake them up. I have dropped it many times and they mostly stay in. It comes apart in the middle to add or subtract a quantity.


this was a habit of mine even after stabbing myself in the lip with a pin I couldn’t stop doing it. I’ve made pin cushions and tried to force myself to use them but I just don’t think I like them. I pick a handful out of the small tub they were bought in but find it hard when you need to grab a pin fast, that’s why the end up in my mouth. After reading this blog i went over to my shelf took a vintage tea cup off it saucer and tipped my pins onto the saucer,the shallow dish works great! and my bad habit is cured, well near enough.


Bess(and everyone!). In Sweden, where i live, there’s a kind of a small case (aprox 2″x 2″) that has a magnet in the bottom of it and a plastic see-through lid that you can snap open/shut. Since I’ve bought one, combined with my wrist- and table standing needle cushion I haven’t put needles anywhere else than in these places. Before this came through my doorstep ypu would find needles everywhere: in my mouth, on the ironing board and other more strange places.
So that’s my tip on the subject: a small case sized about 2″ x 2″ with a magnetic bottom. :)


Great advice. I once ordered a cute wrist pincushion, which didn’t sit well on the wrist. Noticing that it was just about the right size to wrap around the handle on top of my sewing machine, I placed it there until it could be returned. It hasn’t moved for some time and the plans for returning it have gone away since the cushion is so convenient and well used now.

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