In Praise Of Pinking

When I started sewing, my mum lent me her pinking scissors – pictured above. Sheesh, I really should buy a pair of my own and give these back. I still love using them, though.

One of the great things about the sewing learning curve is finding out about new seam finishes. The first time I did a French seam I was bowled over by how neat it was and how clever I felt myself to be. Since then, I’ve also bought an overlocker – one whizz through that baby and a seam finish is indestructible. I’ve even taught myself to enclose seams when working with silk organza.

But I still truly believe that a pinked seam is an absolutely valid seam finish. How do we identify home made items in vintage and charity shops? By the pinked seams. Don’t they make your heart melt? Aren’t they still valiantly doing the job they were meant to do?

What about you? Would you still happily pink a seam? Are you still pinking seams? Are you still learning about seam finishes? My one gripe with pinking scissors is that they’re stiff – which for a left-hander can be a real challenge. Maybe I need to buy a left-handed pair…

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55 Responses to In Praise Of Pinking

  1. punkmik says:

    I am still learning seam finishes! I need to google them each time I read the name of them. I do not own pinking shears so havent used them before. Normally I just finish the seam with a zig zag stitch. :)

  2. leahfranqui says:

    Oh, boy, do I pink my seams. When I first learned how to sew I didn’t know about seam finishing and wondered why all my sewn stuff was fraying at the seams…duh! Because I didn’t finish them! Silly Leah. But eventually I figured it out via blogs and trial and error, but I still pink many a seam, especially if it’s cotton. I mean, come on, life is too short.

  3. When I first started I pinked all my seams until I was blown away by the french seam. I’ve just now started to use a zig zag. I thought I’d be smart one day and cut out my whole pattern with pinking shears. Yeeoww! I had a bloody raw spot on my knuckle from my stiff shears. I’ll never do that again!

  4. photosarah says:

    I pink some of my seams depending on what I am working on. I still need to learn about seam binding, but I’ve embraced French seams recently. I bought spring-action pinking shears and they are dreamy!

  5. Joanne says:

    Agree pinking is sometimes the only way to go for me – especially on armscye seams. TBH I don’t how else to do it! The rest of the time it’s a mix of french seams, turned and stitched and zig zag. I’m just getting to grips with the seam binding Leah sent me – I finished the seam behind my zip with it today and it worked out quite well! Watch this space :)

  6. Karen says:

    I agree – I love pinked seams and I use them a lot, even when they won’t show. I think they help to minimize “bulk” especially when sewing on heavier fabric. I’ve never figured out why they are so stiff, however!

  7. i like to pink curved seam allowances because, no matter how hard i try, i cannot serge curves!

  8. rachel sew-n-sew says:

    Hello Karen, i’m also in posession of my mam’s ancient pinking shears (1950s, I think)! I swear by them for finishing the right fabrics – they chew and spit out the wrong ones. I also find them useful for reducing bulk on curved seams and similar.

  9. Miriana says:

    The sewing fraternity is too hung up about the state of the insides of their clothes. Lots of vintage couture stuff looks very handmade inside. And Gertie pinks, so if it’s good enough for her…

  10. Sam says:

    I have some pinking shears, but for some reason it never occurs to me to use them. Must remember them next time I need to neaten a seam. I’m currently in love with french seams, but of course they’re not suitable for everything!

  11. LinB says:

    Pinking IS a legitimate, useful way to finish edges so they won’t fray so much. Also, it is useful as for decorative purposes, especially favored by the Elizabethans. If you trim curved seam allowances — as around a neckline or armsceye — with pinking shears, you have automatically notched the seam to allow it to lie flat. Both the color “pink” and the zig-zag edge called “pinked” are derived from the common garden flower called “pink” (think carnations and dianthus, and gillyflowers and wallflowers, and sweet williams). Pinks are usually of the color we now designate as pink (a.k.a. “soft rose”); and its petals are all sharply zig-zag edged. And, yes, there are left-handed pinking shears out in the world somewhere.

    • Jenn-NY says:

      Oh, that’s some interesting information. Pinking was my grandmother’s favored way of finishing seams. She worked in the NY garment industry in about the 1930s or so and later had her own business. If the goal is to minimize bulk, pinking is often the way to go.

      • LinB says:

        Esp. on layered seams! Sometimes we forget that the best old ways can still be the best ways. Even during a power outage you can pink seam allowances … can’t say that about serging.

  12. rosyragpatch says:

    I’ve got a rotary cutter with a pinking blade in it – I used it to cut out my bunting so I didn’t need to do any other finish. Lazy? Me???

  13. Jacqueline says:

    I love French seams, and use them a lot. I also use zig-zag stitch to neaten raw edges. I do have a pair of pinking shears somewhere, I’d need to look them out.

  14. Sewist from across the Pond. says:

    I think the effect looks homemade, and not in a good way. But if I need that edge, I use a rotary cutter with a pinked blade.

  15. Anne W says:

    I use a variety of seam finishes, depending on the garment and the fabric. I do have pinking shears, but I never use them..

  16. Frog says:

    Hi, as a left hander had you thought about the pinking blade for your rotary cutter, I bought one for myself and was so impressed I bought my friend one as a pressie, she’s as pleased as I was, they give your garments that lovely vintage look (and remind me that that’s how my mum used to do hers)

  17. Kerry says:

    Hee hee, I have been thinking of doing a post about exactly this! – pinking gets overlooked in favour of fancy finishes but it’s perfect for some projects. It holds up well on many fabrics and was the method of choice for a lot of vintage seamstresses too.

  18. YES! I am a (mostly) pinker and I’m proud of it! I love seeing that in many of my vintage garments.

    Of course, I have tried other things, and I love French seams where appropriate. I also do not own a serger/overlocker and my sewing machine doesn’t have an overlock stitch, so this is currently not an option for me. I’m going to try zig-zagging soon because I’m working on a blouse with somewhat ravel-y fabric but and not going to try and kill myself to do a French seam on the armscye, and it will be too full to try a faux French seam. I should also admit here, I really don’t care that much about how the insides of my garments look. If they are functional, and look good from the outside, and hold up well, that works for me. I totally get that many sewing bloggers are very interested in finishing techniques and how the insides look, but I admit: I have no couture inclinations. Let the sewing gods strike me down now. ;)

  19. Debi says:

    I am definitely a pinker–probably 75% of my seam finishes are pinking (depending on the type of fabric) for the others I use seam binding, hand overcasting or other seam finishes for the time periods I am sewing. I’ve recently fell in love with french seams as well–but as I sew with mostly wool or heavier fabrics, I don’t get to use it often!

  20. Nothy lane says:

    I love my pinking shears and I love pinked seams. They may be old school but I never learned to finish a seam that way. Imagine how much easier learning to sew would have been if someone had clued me in…

    • Joyful says:

      I have some pinking shears but always forget to use them. I zig zag raw edges. I just bought an adjustable dressmakers dummy on EBay but have no idea how to use it – duh! Also I have a feeling it is too large – starting at size 16!

  21. sarah says:

    I do love pinking shears!! They were one of the first things I bought when i first started out sewing, sadly I don’t use them so much now as I have an overlocker, but they still come in handy for use on linings or on clothing with linings for when I want that extra protection against fraying! Although I think I may need a new pair as they don’t cut as well as they use to!!

    • perhaps getting them sharpened might be a cheaper option than buying new ones. With a lot of use, they can get slightly out of alignment, too, so the teeth don’t really meet properly. In my experience, that makes them stiff to use and means they don’t cut as well as they once did.

  22. MrsC says:

    Pinking has a huge benefit over other finishes – it doesn’t create any bulk at all. SO when you press the garment on the outside there is no chance of getting a rail track on the outside. It’s also THE BEST finish for garments that are completely lined, because of the above. I used it for wedding dresses a lot because less is more.
    I suggest you get yourself a pinking blade for your cutting wheel. SO much easier to use than the scissors and perfect for the long seams etc. :) http://www.cottonpatch.co.uk/acatalog/Olfa-Pinking-Cutter-Blade–45mm–178.html

  23. symondezyn says:

    I LOVE pinking! I love the sweet vintage look it gives, and I’ve used it quite a bit, depending on the fabric and garment type :) That said, I’ve also done serged edges as well as French seams and (just recently) the stitch and turn, which is also lovely – obviously the seam finish should match the project and fabric choice – there are several more advanced techniques I’ve yet to try, but they are definitely on my list of things to conquer!! :)

  24. anne says:

    i use my pinking shears on any project that will support the torsion it puts on the fabric. did you know you can have them sharpened? it does cost a bit more than having your scissors sharpened but oh, the difference it makes! i use french seams or seam binding on lightweight
    or very ravelly materials.

  25. sandra says:

    Ah, my pinking shears are also my mother’s old ones – from the 70s. However, I clearly remember using them as a child to (whisper it…) cut paper with… Naughty! Probably why she doesn’t mind me having them! They’re still going strong though and I pink pretty much everything.

  26. Molly says:

    I’m very pro-pinking. I love the vintage look on everyday clothing and for decorative touches but they’re very useful for other fabrics – preventing fraying and reducing seam visibility in one go. They have a place in couture sewing too. You know how you tack down the seam allowances to your silk organza underlining? If you pink first (instead of hand overcasting) you can prevent the fray and save some sewing time. As its hidden by lining, who will know? I think it looks neater… I’m making bridal wear at the moment and will be pinking the very thick duchess satin so that the seam allowances are less visible.

    My pinkers are Gingher which I had to import but I love the brand that much! They are very stiff, but all pinking shears are – all those teeth don’t make for smooth action! I have the pinking (and waving) blade on my rotary cutter too which works surprisingly well. I used the wave one recently to make a decorative, non-fray edge to the bias tape I was cutting (in taffeta – nice and stable!).

  27. Kathryn says:

    I only know how to pink seams so far so it’s my favourite method for sure ha! I’m planning to give french seams ago on the pair of PJ shorts I’ve just cut out but it’s nice to read so much in favour of pinks – I’ll no longer feel ashamed for using this method, thank you! Oh, and I also have my mum’s pinking shears, they’re great but, like you Karen I think I’d maybe benefit from getting a leftie pair.

  28. Kari says:

    I agree 100%! I pink the majority of my seams and I haven’t regretted that decision yet. I’ve used other methods and I’m glad to know them (like if I make something for someone else), but I spend most of my energy making the outside look the way I want it.

  29. Hatty says:

    I have the full works including overlocker but, yes, I pink stuff when it’s intended to be short lived and it’s lightweight and overlocking the seams seems just too heavy. And its useful for grading seams.

    I’m with Zoe of So Zo, what do you know? blog on the “it looks homemade insult”. So what? I’m proud of the stuff I make and the fact that I make it. I don’t want to look mass produced and sheeplike.

    But tailors still use pinking shears anyway.

    If you oil the hinge on your shears occasionally and make sure the joint is balanced, they shouldn’t be stiff.

  30. prttynpnk says:

    When I make doll clothing I pink instead of trimming or grading seams- it helps with tiny facings!

  31. Beth says:

    I grew up pinking my seams. (Started sewing at age 7, now I’m 45.) I took sewing in 4H for years and pinking back then was the seam finish of choice. Now I overlock most of my seams in woven fabrics. But I do agree about the tell-tale sign of a home-sewn vintage garment when you find a sweet pinked seam.

  32. Andrea says:

    I actually kind of hate when I have to leave seams pinked for whatever reason. Maybe I’m trying to avoid being too homemade? Or maybe it just takes longer than using a serger! My serger is in the shop right now and I’m doing french seams except areas that can’t be bulky. Wah!

  33. I have pinking shears and use them frequently. It’s certainly a valid seam finish and I can’t see why anyone would despise it.

  34. i pink seams a lot! as a beginner who doesn’t own a serger and hasn’t got round to buying an overlock foot for my machine (the overlock stich pulls and bunches the edge horribly and apparently this is the reason), i really can’t work out how to finish a curved seam any other way! but i am working on other ways to finish seams. i often pink the curved bodice seams and clean finish the straight ones.

  35. liza jane says:

    I’ve just discovered the overlock function on my sewing machine. It’s my new favorite way to finish seams. But there is nothing wrong with a pinked seam. I also don’t think there’s anything wrong with leaving seams raw. Sometimes I think we get too caught up in finishing, especially if it’s something that won’t last forever anyway (i.e. really trendy, or cheap fabric).

  36. I just bought my first pair of pinking shears, and they’re pink, I love them and don’t know how I managed before them!

  37. Pinking shears are still on my to invest in list. Reading so many recomendations to buy the pinking blade for my rotary cutter, maybe I’ll go that route first.

  38. woolcat says:

    The pinking blade for the rotary cutter is an excellent tip! I have never bought the actual shears, though my Mum has some and I used them as a kid. She taught me to zig zag my seams, but I often dislike how that looks – the tension goes weird, and you sometimes get fraying anyway. I do French seams whenever I can. I am about to sew a wool cape, and I wonder what would be the best seam finish for heavyish wool coating?

    • Unless it’s something like a tweed that would unravel, you probably don’t need to finish your seams – unless the cape is unlined, in which case you’ll want to for aesthetic reasons.

  39. superheidi says:

    Just zigzag… mostly quick and painless.

  40. Nikki says:

    Oh I still love to use pinking shears. I use my grandmothers shears whenever I can, particularly with woven fabrics. I had them sharpened and they work a treat, no stiffness at all. Although I still am learning other seam finishes and have really only just started using French seams!

  41. oonaballoona says:

    as a ps to my comment on your last post… yeah. i’m pinking. UNDER PROTEST.

    actually i like the looks of it, for the reasons you say. i’ve considered going an extra step and hand overlocking between the wee triangles, but i haven’t gone that batty yet.

  42. ooobop! says:

    I ruined my mum’s pinking shears, when I was a child, by cutting out old Christmas cards to make labels! Those eyes still give me nightmares! I’ve since bought me a brand new pair and they are not nearly as stiff to use. A Japanese make that I bought from Jaycotts. Good for Jersey makes when I don’t use the sidecutter. :-)

  43. Colleen says:

    I won’t pink seams. I tried it a few times early on in my sewing career–likely with more loosely-woven fabrics–and the seam edges frayed horribly. In my mind pinking is not a valid seam finish;

  44. Sewing Princess says:

    Actually on a vintage 60s dress I got from my mom, seams were just zig-zagged by the seamstress. Nowadays I think I should try hong kong seams on all my garments….overlocking starts to feel not neat enough anymore…scary isn’t it? I used to love pinking seams but haven’t been doing it anymore since I bought my overlocker.

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