The story of my pincushions

I have three pin cushions. All of them have beauty and sentimental meaning.

Tapestry pin cushion

The first is a tapestry pin cushion made by my mother. I like it as it quite big and you can always find it. The muted colours make it look subtle and antique. Like most ladies of her generation she learnt to sew, knit, and cook as she grew up. Her own mother was disabled and my Mum had to look after her and do quite a lot of the domestic work. So although she much prefered shopping to sewing once she got married she has always done tapestry. Two antique chairs, some footstools and other items in the house look something like this pincushion, with traditional floral patterns. Tapestry pin cushion

Hand made felted tomato pin cushion

My second pin cushion was made by Jackie Parsons of Bopeepkids.com. I met her at a craft fair at just the moment when I wanted a wrist borne pincushion, and she was selling a couple, handmade from felted wool.

Jacqui in Camberwell Green
Jackie in Camberwell Green

This one is very useful as I wear it when I am sewing – but especially when I am fitting or pinning on the stand, or doing a hem. I stitched an elasticated cuff on it so it was comfortable to wear. Jackie told me why the traditional shape and colour of a pin cushion is tomato shaped.

Hand made felted tomato
Felted tomato pin cushion

Apparently when a family moved into a home of their own they would set a tomato on the mantlepiece as it was said to bring prosperity and ward off any bad spirits. But if you could not get a fresh tomato then families would make a tomato from red fabric and fill it up with stuffing, sand or sawdust being the kind of thing they would have available. This meant it was also a good place to store pins safely. The tomatoes are ubiquitous, but some have a little strawberry attached, filled with emery or sand to keep pins and needles sharp – anyone know what the strawberry signifies?

Antique pin cushion

My third pincushion is an actual antique, a gift from my husband who supports my sewing hobby in his own sweet way. I understand it is English, dating from about 1850s. It has a seam clamp and it is  attached to a table by means of a screw. It is designed to hold up the hem of a garment. On the top is a velvet pin cushion. Some of these are much more ornate, but I like the design of mine. I never use it but I like it sitting by my side.

antique pin cushion and fabric clamp
1850s pin cushion and fabric clamp

9 Responses

  1. rosemary

    I have made a few pincushions usually outt of quilting cottons. Nothing fancy, I do have a packet of emery to make a strawberry someday.

  2. Lesley Scott

    I like that antique curiosity Kate. My sister and Mum sent me 2 very heavy antique shoe pincushions from the UK. I think they’re pewter? I don’t use them but love my wrist pincushion of felted wool and a very handy leather strap with velcro. You should hear me swear when I’m trying a sleeved garment on and forget its on my wrist!

    • fabrickated

      I have seen those shoe pincushions too. They seemed to be a 1950s or 1960s thing – with black or blue velvet? And the number of times I have put on a top with my pincushion sticking to everything.

  3. Linde

    You have just reminded me I still have my wrist pin cushion from college days which makes it 40 years old! I do love the tapestry one it looks lovely.

  4. Stephanie

    Very interesting, K. I love the one your mum made. The antique one is fascinating. I have kind of an interesting one my mom gave to me. The base is an antique or at least old cup, with a stuffed and fabric-covered top. Not sure if she made it or purchased it from some crafty person, but it is very practical as it even has a handle and is quite robust.

  5. Susan

    The antique one reminds me of one I was given, Chinese, called a bird, to hold fabric! Nice .

  6. Gail

    My mother used to make pin cushions by covering and padding recycled tins. They were sold at school fetes. I wish I’d kept one.

  7. Alli

    That’s interesting about why so many pincushions are tomato-shaped — I didn’t know that! What is a seam clamp for? I really like your antique pincushion, especially the C clampiness. 🙂

  8. Kaino Kani

    The pincushion to “hold the hem” is actually very handy when you have to sew by hand long seams – or hems.

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