Nifty Notions: To Pin or to Glue?

To pin or to glue – that is the question! Judy Hall discusses the new wave of glues available, when to pin and when to glue. We’ve always been taught to ‘measure twice, cut once’ and to ‘pin everything well but never sew over a pin’ yet we also need to be aware of updated techniques as new products are developed. With this in mind, I’ve been pondering over many techniques of sewing and applying new methods with great satisfaction; so allow me to share some of those with you.

Fabric glues for sewing come as permanent or temporary and it is the latter we shall explore for handy ideas to help perfect and speed up our sewing. Good ones are washable, dry cleanable, non-toxic and acid-free, so do check the packaging and choose one to suit your own particular needs. There are several excellent fabric glues available and even some of the scrapbooking glues are suitable for fabric. Choose wisely though as some glues may discolour your fabric and some are too tacky to sew through, gumming up the sewing needle. You also want one that goes on in seconds, dries quickly, dries clear and not tacky. Test on selected fabric first to make sure both are compatible and that the needle passes through with ease, otherwise make sure you glue just outside the sewing line.

Why should we contemplate gluing as opposed to pinning? To prevent puckering or fabric moving, and to achieve perfect matching of stripes, checks or cross-section seams, patchwork piecing, making piping, curves, appliqué, hems, anything that needs to be held temporarily into position. BASTING: Save time with basting by gluing rather than pinning and sewing. Simply glide the glue stick lightly over the seam line of one fabric and carefully place the other over this, matching any detail you need to be particular about.Note that some glue sticks are blue, but will dry clear. Roxanne’s Glue Baste-It has an extremely fine applicator which allows precise, controlled placement of glue which may suit some applications better.   MATCHING STRIPES & CHECKS: Do you ever end up with the top layer moving as you sew, no matter how precisely you pinned stripes or checks? No more. Running glue stick along those edges will align stripes and checks, preventing shifting and you’ll have perfect matching in all your seams. BINDING: Applying binding with a glue stick is certainly helpful. Sew the binding on as normal, then glue the folded side into position before sewing. Perfect for folding the corners of the binding for a 45 degree mitre.

PIPING: Glue is brilliant for holding piping cord into the fold of fabric before stitching. Use it also for placing the piping onto your project. PATCHWORK: Apply the steps above for perfect matching of points, cross-seams, stripes, blocks and ever so many precision points. For those who can’t use Quilt Basting Sprays, to prepare a block sandwich for quilting, simply apply the glue to the wrong side of the quilt top and the backing fabric, then layer the sandwich using batting in between both fabrics. You’re then ready for quilting your block or quilt without fear of gumming up the needle or having the fabric move and pucker. A little glue on the underside of a template prevents the template moving on the fabric so precision cutting is possible.

PAPER PIECING: A glue stick is ideal for paper piecing to hold the fabric seam allowance over the paper shape. Simply apply the glue to the edges of the paper shapes then fold the fabric over to secure, ready for hand sewing.


  APPLIQUÉ: Traditional appliqué by hand or machine as well as raw-edge appliqué is far easier when you glue rather than pin. Even if you are using double-sided adhesive webbing, a little daub of glue helps to position the appliqué precisely before ironing. These two images (above) are courtesy of Sue Daly, Busy Fingers Patchwork COUCHING: Yarns, laces, ribbons and slithers of fabric can be held down with glue before couching and you may arrange the design in a pleasing way before stitching. Curve, twirl, angle to suit with definite ease. ZIPPERS & BUTTONS: Yes, most assuredly, these may be held into place before sewing. Try it.

  GAPOSIS: Well, that’s how I explain a gaping blouse when the buttons are not at the point of strain. Quickly prevent a gaping section anywhere by applying a little daub of glue stick and hold firmly for a moment allowing it to dry.

HEMS: Glue stick provides a quick temporary fix when a hem comes down whilst you’re wearing a garment, so keep some in your office drawer at work or in the car. You’ll be amazed how many times it will provide an emergency fix. CLOTHING: Use it to hold a scarf in place, keep a collar down, a cuff turned back, a belt into place, a bra strap from showing and any other ‘quick-fix’ required. COLLAGE: You will find gluing perfect for holding pieces in place for collage embellishments before sewing allowing them to remain flat. Assists with designing as pieces become repositionable. PATCHING & MENDING: Excellent for holding a patch in place before stitching, particularly on the knees of jeans and trousers which are so hard to place on the sewing machine without the patch moving; no more worry about sewing over pins. So many uses – I hope I have enlightened you and will save you time, frustration and energy in your future sewing. If you have any more ideas, please share them with us all. I will award the best THREE ideas with a FREE tube of the wonderful new LAPEL STICK. This was initially made by a golfer to hold down the lapels on his shirts, hence the name LAPEL Stick. Amazing! My favourites? LAPEL Stick, Sewline Fabric Glue Pen, Roxanne’s Glue Baste-It, Tombow Mono Aqua Liquid Glue, Clover’s Fabric Adhesive Stick and Collins Glue Stick.


Products are available from good haberdashery retail outlets or from Punch with Judy, a regular exhibitor at the Craft & Quilt Fairs. Or visit


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