Fanciful Utility Anniversary – Pin Cushions

aWomen of the nineteenth century made pin cushions out of a seemingly endless assortment of items. We can find them made of scrap fabrics, ribbon, shells, dolls, baskets, metal rings, walnut shells, and so many other endless bits.

Children’s and girls’ books are specked with directions on how to pin cushions from found items. This seashell pin cushion is one example.


We also find pin cushions in lady’s magazines. (be sure not to confuse toilet pin cushions with sewing pin cushions.) This emery cushion in a walnut shell is one example. Emery was used to remove the build up on needles.  w1IMG_7508 Every sewing case needs a pin cushion, at least one pin cushion, that suits the sewers needs. Finding the right pin cushion takes some self analysis and potentially some trial and error.

Depending on my project, I am ‘pluck and plopper’. I am also a pin sorter who is particular on which pins I want for what. When I am ‘plucking and plopping’, I need a pin cushion that is not going to move and lots of surface space I don’t need to look at. A heavy bottom helps as well since I am not always working on a flat surface or able to pay much attention to my pin cushion as my work needs my attention. A large, weighted cushion is very helpful in these situations. When I am working on something that I want particular pins for, be it fine, sharp pins or silk or color pins for marking, I like pin cushions with sorting areas or segments. This could be color sections of the fabric or sides of a cushion. The metal pin cushion to the right in the photo is good for this for me. In the modern world, it is my tomato stuck inside a small piece of pottery. When I am on the go, I want a little pin cushion I can deeply sink my pins into so they don’t go astray. The two ribbon pin cushions in the left of the photo are good for this.

*** For the upcoming Domestic Skill Conference at Genesee Country Village, I will be offering a pin cushion sampler class. ***

Looking for your own copy of Fanciful Utility? 

Click HERE to go ESC Publishing.

Remember to check out the special Anniversary kits on Etsy

Published in: on August 15, 2015 at 9:00 am  Comments (1)  
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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Very precise article…thank you. I enjoy these informative articles with pictures.
    I was trying to trace down why items were called “toilet” as in “toilet pincushion” etc.
    I came across this. I thought it was English but a finding it to be French. Have you found anything else on the term “toilet” inr reference to toilet articles?
    Toilet. This too is ultimately a euphemism, from the French toilette meaning “dressing room,” from toile meaning “cloth.” In the 17th century, the toilet was the process of getting dressed – powdering one’s wig and so forth. In the 18th century, a toilet call was a social interaction in which a lady received visitors while she was in the last stages of performing her toilet. By the 19th century, we have toilet articles, toilet pail (a bucket to hold slops), and toilet paper (used for shaving, hair curling, etc). The term toilet room seems to have been American in origin, from the late 1800s, and thence abbreviated to simply toilet. Again, the word can mean both the room and the device.

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