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Sewing Room Safety: Needles and Pins and Blades - Oh My!

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A sewing room sounds like such a tranquil place filled with lovely soft fabrics. But, there are plenty of sharp and pokey... and hot things lurking, and plenty of ways for things to go wrong if you don’t think ahead.

Literally Being on Pins & Needles is Painful

It’s easy to lose track of pins and needles. They end up on the floor or stuck in the most surprising places. You often find them with your bare feet (a 2-inch puncture wound is not amusing). For that reason, it’s safer to wear shoes in the sewing room. But far worse things can happen. Children and pets find them and they go right into their mouths. If I drop a pin or needle, I stop what I’m doing and locate it before doing anything else. I keep a magnet in my sewing kit to attract the elusive ones. Carpeting is the worst surface because pins usually land sharp side up and are especially difficult to see. Always sweep or vacuum if there is any question about lost pins or needles.

Click to EnlargeCutting Tools Cut Fabric & You Too

I keep a shallow box on the right side of my sewing machine for scissors, rotary cutters, marking pens, pins and needles. It helps me remember where they are, and reduces the chance of these items getting brushed onto the floor (and embedded in my foot) when moving fabric while sewing.

Disposing of Sharp Things

It’s a bad idea to toss sharp things into the wastebasket. Long after you've forgotten you dropped them in there, those discarded sharp things lie in wait ready to stab or cut you. I don't think they do it on purpose, but you never know. Instead, an old spice jar with the shaker holes is a good place to discard worn sewing machine needles, hand needles and pins. Screw the top on tightly when not in use. Discard the whole thing when full. Old rotary blades should be sandwiched between two pieces of cardboard and securely taped shut before discarding.

Irons: Hot & Heavy

An iron accidentally left on is a fire hazard and dangerous to unsuspecting kids and pets who don’t know it’s hot. Some irons have automatic shut-offs, but the minute the iron moves (perhaps not by you, but by your child) it heats right up again. To help remember to turn off the iron, I use a small desk lamp that shines on my ironing board (handy in itself). I turn it on when I turn on the iron. When I turn off the iron, I turn off the lamp. If I see that lamp on, I know the iron is still on.

It’s easy to burn your fingers trying to hold open a seam while ironing. A silicone oven mitt is a useful protector. You can also buy a product called Cool Fingers™that slips over your finger and protects it from heat.

Expect Kids & Pets To Do the Unexpected

If you have pets or young children, you may need to keep them out of your sewing area while you are sewing. Knocking over the ironing board can have serious consequences, and there are plenty of sharp objects, pins and needles and small objects that just don’t mix with pets and small children. It’s impossible to keep your eye on them 100 percent of the time. Not knowing whether Fluffy found that lost pin is worse than seeing it happen! Check out our tutorial on Sewing With Kids Underfoot for more good ideas.

Before You Walk Away, Put Things Away

  • Put sharp tools, pins and needles where they can’t be accessed: a locking cabinet or on a high shelf.
  • Close your ironing board and put your iron away.
  • Turn off, unplug, cover or put your sewing machine away.
  • Put your work-in-progress in a safe place.
  • Clean up thread, fabric scraps and other small objects. Pets often eat thread and bits of fabric which can lead to an emergency trip to the vet.

With a little prevention, everyone lives happily and pain-free to sew another day.

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Comments (23)

Andy Park said:
Andy Park's picture

Iron is definitely the most dangerous in the sewing rooms. Even my pet cat got injured :( poor kitty.

John McGill said:
John McGill's picture

Yeah even happened to my dog, paw him . He now currently has a bald spot XD

sewing mama'4 said:
sewing mama'4's picture

A word of caution about storing blades on a high shelf... it will keep them away from kids, but creates its own dangers:

I had a lidded box of sewing supplies stored up on a shelf above my sewing table, which I thought was the right thing to do.  One day I reached for something else and somehow the box came down, spilling contents including a rotary cutter (I still replay my motions in my mind to try to figure out how it happened).  That rotary cutter somehow came down so perfectly and with the exact pressure that it opened itself and sliced into the top of my bare foot.

It cut the tendon that connects the ankle to the big toe.  After I stopped the bleeding, I realized that I couldn't move my big toe or flex my foot up.  These 2 movements are required for walking; I could only drag my foot along.  I had surgery that evening, and was in a hard cast up to my knee for 6 weeks (on crutches with NO weight on that foot) and then a walking boot for another 6 weeks.  I was pregnant with my 4th at the time.  I still walk with a slight limp and I'm only in my 20s.

This is a freak accident that will probably never happen to anyone else (to fall so precisely on that crucial tendon) but things happen you could never forsee!!!

WEAR SHOES! and keep blades (scissors, rotary cutters) in a box that will not open on its own if it falls or is bumped. 

Fiona B said:
Fiona B's picture

My only problem is my "cat". He just has to sit on my lap when I sew. So when I sew, if a pin sticks him; he so

nicely has to stick his claws into my leg. and if I lock him out or not let him on my lap. He makes a real noise and attack

my stuff. Pins and needles I don't have a problem with. It's "claws".

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Fiona B -- Ha! What a great story... good kitty; he just wants to help. Thanks for starting my day with a smile. 

AngelicaSews said:
AngelicaSews's picture
I asked for an actual sharps container (like the ones they use for people who need to give themselves injections). Turns out they had dropped a brand new one and the top had cracked. They couldn't use or sell it and were more than happy to give it to me for free, with a promise that I wouldn't use it for any biohazards (ie. hypodermic needles). Just goes to show that it never hurts to ask! And my son knows from the doctors office that it is a NEVER TOUCH THIS item. Ugly, but effective!
Wag Doll said:
Great advice. I try and be careful but it's too easy to get complacent and it's good to have a reminder every so often. Like the spice jar idea x
Curious Mama said:
Curious Mama's picture
You have great ideas....very helpful and easy to do. I'm really thankful that I've found your website and I'm pretty sure I will find more ideas that I can pass on to my friends who are sewing enthusiast like me.
LisaP said:
LisaP's picture
For me, needles, bent pins and rotary blades go into a used Eclipse gum container (the large cylindrical-type). It has a small opening where the pins & needles fit perfectly and then the entire lid opens wide enough to hold all but the very largest rotary cutter blades. Great safety reminders - thanks!
SewSho said:
SewSho's picture
Yep, good article. Thx for the reminder, I get a bit complacent now my daughter is a little older but when she was 2 she managed not only to swipe my seam ripper from right under my nose while I was in heavily absorbed in sewing, but also the top half of a garment that I'd sewn, she was completely unharmed but sadly the top and one of my (handmade) cushion covers suffered fatal damage:/
Also having a wooden floor is really great for finding dropped bits and quick cleaningsmilies/smiley.gif
mymble said:
Excellent article and comments-we've had no serious accidents here, but I don't want one in the future either- I will be extra careful from now on about pins and needles- they do seem to want to stray! One comment- when I bought my machine (Elna 2000-20 yrs old and going strong!) they told me to be very careful about letting any strong magnets near it, as it can cause problems with the computerized elements- just something I've always remembered- I've only used small magnets for that reason.
Amber Williams said:
Amber Williams's picture
I have a reacurring dream where I dream that I am swallowing pins! I love the idea of putting used needles in a shaker jar. I keep the plastic cases that Olfa sells their blades in and write "used" on it to put old blades in. I use the old blades for scrapbooking.
Dreamsofseams said:
Dreamsofseams's picture
I am anal about pins/needles - I count the number of pins I use on a project, and stick a Post-it with the total number to the project, counting as I remove them later to a magnet. This is why:

One evening I'd come home with a friend to show her my 5 month-old kitten. He was sitting on a thread, and when I pulled it, he hissed and meowled. I picked him up and just GUESS where the end of that black double-thread went? Yup. Try convince a vet at 3:00am on a Friday night this isn't a prank call! The vet said put him down, my grandmother said give him canned food with castor oil. It took 3 miserable days, but he passed it - 2" darning needle and about 18" of thread! He recovered, but didn't like his back touched ever again. My sewing room was still locked and shut when I came home and I didn't darn things. I've never figured out where he got it from.

I once stepped on a head pin, only the red end was visible in my heel. Didn't hurt going in, just coming OUT!

My wedding blanket (gift) - poor Husband discovered ALL 3 of the pins stitched inside when we were 'stomping grapes' (washing it in tub).

Every time I dropped a pin, poor Husband would pipe up: "Don't worry, I'll find it!" he'd stepped on so many.

It occurred to me while coughing one day that a pin could be INHALED accidentally during a sudden fit or sneeze. USE A MAGNET NOT YOUR MOUTH!!!

So yeah, I'm now anal about pins - they go into a container and get disposed of at the pharmacy along with all the other sharps!

F.Y.I., if you drop one at night (or a contact lens), turn off the light and use a flashlight - anything reflective will shine in the beam.
JeanetteDill said:
JeanetteDill's picture
as for the magnet got one that is no bigger than a tire pressure guage but it does extend easy to sweep across the carget for pins and needles. Well for my sewing area for the first 5 years, 2 of my grandchildren lived with us and I sewed everyday so putting everything up was not fisiable. My sewing area was on one end of the living room (had a very large and long LR) The 2 grandbabies knew that this was Grandma's stuff and you don't touch it if it is not yours. I also would NOT touch their trucks or dolls if they had them in a neat place. Cause It was their's and not mine. The two would ask if they could play with my scrap basket of cloth and of course they did. when the girl was about 18 months old she would sit in the floor and take all the pins out of the cushion and place them in the carpet between her feet and then place them all back in the cushion with all the colors seprate and together. The way I see the sewing area you have to train the kids to respect the machines and tools and to respect to leave things alone. It's all in the training.Some of my memoriable times with these 2 grandchildren is in my sewing area making quilts and cloths for them. All my grandchildren (10) each get a quilt for Christmas each and every year. So I am off to get some more quilting done. (I don't have a quilting machine either)
amy21 said:
amy21's picture
Very good tips! I also recommend teaching children proper respect for the tools--how to properly use scissors and pins, for example, and that mama's fabric scissors are only for fabric. (I've bought another, smaller pair of fabric scissors for the kids.) My sewing area is a shared space with our arts and crafts supplies--we simply don't have enough room for separate spaces. When I'm not sewing, I keep my machine in another area. When it's down there because I'm in the middle of a project, I *always* unplug it and cover it when I'm done for the evening. I've taught my kids to be aware of the iron and how to tell if it's on, but if I leave the room, I unplug it and take it off the ironing board. And I always look for those lost pins/needles. I like the magnet idea--I need one next to the chair where I hand sew and embroider!
CosmicDay said:
CosmicDay's picture
A couple of years ago, my crazy Siamese cat, who eats anything off the floor, swallowed a hand sewing needle that still had thread in it. It was a $350 trip to the vet! Shortly thereafter, I purchased a magnetic silver bowl like mechanics use for screws and use it religiously when I sew and I always have one eye on the cat!
HotTea said:
HotTea's picture
Great reminder - years ago we had to take my four-year-old to the ER because she stepped on my sewing needle. My husband had to remove it from her heel with a needle-nosed pliers, but only half the needle came out. Turned out the other half was lodged deep in the coffee table (where she had stepped on it). All was fine in the end, but I'll never make the mistake of leaving a needle out again!
Pat B said:
Pat B's picture
You are right to say keep looking for that lost pin or needle until it is accounted for. Last year my 3 year old boy came running into my sewing room to show me something he made. Earlier, I'd dropped a pin in the carpet and had looked until I convinced myself that maybe I hadn't dropped it. That pin jammed into Ryans foot and he was in such pain. We went to the doc because of the danger of puncture wounds. I have learned a big lesson about the dangers of not fully controlling pins and needle: shut the door and look until you find it. A magnet is a good idea.
smiledi said:
smiledi's picture
Thanks for these tips! We're expecting our first in December, and so far I haven't needed to consider how a child would interact with my sewing room. Duh! smilies/smiley.gif I'll keep these in mind as I set up my new sewing corner (since baby's taking the room my stuff is in now smilies/smiley.gif ). Thanks again!
MB said:
MB's picture
Put all my broken needles, razor blades, sharp things in an old prescription bottle. I accidently stuck a pin in my thumb and woke up in the middle of the night with a throbbing thumb. I had an infection that needed to be drained out!
Snugquilt said:
Snugquilt's picture
Thanks for sharing this very IMPORTANT subject. When my daughter was in high school, she stepped on a needle (that I lost on the floor), and it broke off in her foot. (We didn't ddiscover this until the next morning). She woke up with a very red swollen area on her foot. Hospital did and x-ray in the morning and discovered the broken needle, scheduled surgery for later that afternoon.....she ended up in surgery for 2-1/2 hours because the needle had moved so far they had difficulty finding it!!! I am WAY MORE careful now because of this incident...this happened probably 8 years ago. I now put all used, broken, bent needles and pins in an old tin candy container. So again, THANK YOu for bringing this subject to awareness.
Eva V. said:
Eva V.'s picture
Wow! Great tips! Thank you for the great ideas! I have resolved to keeping our bedroom door shut now (that is where my sewing desk is). I have had the hardest time keeping my curious 13 mo. old out of my drawers fishing for spools of thread to unwind. I love the idea of keeping a magnet handy to search for those stray pins and needles. Thanks also for the link on sewing with children underfoot... I found that helpful toosmilies/wink.gif
JennyLeigh said:
JennyLeigh's picture
I never know what to do with used sewing machine needles. Currently I am putting them in a container that held retractable pencil lead. It works but doesn't hold much. I seem to go through so many needles. I like the spice jar idea. Thanks for sharing!

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