I promised to share my collection of pincushions – and here they are!
I’ve been collecting sewing implements for years, including a variety of pretty pincushions. I’m proud to own two antique examples, one of which – the shoe, below – I picked up just recently at an antique market. I was absolutely thrilled to add it to my collection!
There are other special ones, too, handmade by talented fabric and bead artists and given to me by my mother. I will treasure these one-of-a-kind gifts forever.
The last group consists of Pinterest-inspired projects. These Mason jar pincushions are fun and easy to make and require only fabric scraps, minimal sewing (there are no-sew methods, too), some stuffing and a bit of glue.
Pincushions have been documented in Europe since the Middle Ages and over the centuries were called pyn pillows, pimpilowes, pimpilos or pin-poppets. These sewing implements weren’t just practical; they were an opportunity to show off one’s collection of pins and needles, which, being made of metal, were expensive and rare. Early pincushions were often made of fine fabrics and embroidered with intricate designs, and could have a base of ivory, bone, wood, silver, pewter or porcelain in different shapes such as birds, baskets, dolls, tuffets, acorns or fruits. They were cherished objects that took pride of place in the lady’s parlour.
Vintage and lovingly handmade (clockwise from bottom left): Early 20th century silver-plated Art Nouveau shoe pincushion made by Jennings Bros., a metal foundry established in 1891 in Connecticut. The bottom is marked “JB 515”, the company’s mark and model number • Victorian-style velvet apple pincushion with vintage glass-headed hatpins • Antique metal pincushion with original velvet cover and sawdust filling • Beaded strawberry by First Nations beadwork artist Naomi Smith who learned the craft from her mother. The strawberry is sacred to the Fish people, Naomi’s clan; the pincushion is a copy of an antique pattern. Following old ways, Naomi takes care never to make two pieces exactly alike.
Modern whimsy (clockwise from bottom): The iconic tomato-shaped pincushion that we all grew up with – and which is still commonly available today – was a Victorian invention. It was a folk custom to place a tomato on the mantel of a new home to keep evil spirits away and protect the household. When tomatoes weren’t in season, ladies made fabric tomatoes stuffed with sawdust, cotton, wool or horsehair instead. Often, they included a small strawberry filled with emery powder for keeping pin ends sharp and clean • Owl pincushion weighted with sand • Felted wool “geode” pincushion handmade by a friend of my mother’s. Lanolin in the sheep’s wool helps keep pins and needles conditioned and rust-free.
DIY Mason jar pincushions: This Pinterest tutorial was the basis for these cheerful pincushion/storage jars, perfect for holding buttons, thread, pins, embroidery floss, bobbins, beads, clothes pins or other needlework tools. I made the largest jar into a basic sewing kit with thread, extra buttons, a needle pack, measuring tape, scissors, thimble and a seam ripper. How pretty would this be on the sewing table? It would also make a great gift for a sewing beginner or a student going off to college, and it could serve as a useful emergency kit at the office.
For the large- and medium-sized examples, I used Mason jars with two-part lids; the lid insert is placed inside the filled, gathered “pouff” which is then pushed up through the outer ring. The overstuffed cushion of the medium-sized jar stayed in place on its own and didn’t have to be glued; more modest domes will have to be hot-glued to the inner rim of the lid’s ring.
The smallest example is a reused honey jar with a regular metal lid. I put a cardboard circle a tad smaller than the lid’s diameter inside the pouff, hot-glued the whole thing to the top of the lid and added lace to cover the edge. The lid can still be removed with no problem.
Other objects such as teacups, egg cups, little terra cotta pots, wooden spools or small tins can be recruited for this idea, too.
All these needlework-related posts have got me in the mood – I just bought a new sewing machine! I’m on pins and needles waiting for it to arrive so I can start more cute and colourful little projects – it’ll be sew much fun!