Common Pin Cushions

Standing in my sewing room tonight I was kinda dazed by current events. I pulled out one of the carry totes that had packed up since last fall. Opening it, I found I had an abundance of pincushion pieces.


American Girl’s Book, Eliza Leslie, 1854.

One set in particular stood out. They were the pieces for a common pincushion of the mid-nineteenth century. They are flannel filled centers wrapped in ribbon, some with pasteboard. Directions can be found in two of the popular girls’ books, The Girl’s Own Book and American Girl’s Book.

At the right, are the directions from Eliza Leslie. The simple cushion calls for the flannel interior to be rolled tightly.

Below, are the directions from Mrs. Child. Her version calls for covering pasteboard circles first. Then cutting the flannel interior layers in the shape of the pasteboard. This is the version I have many pieces cut out for. In my case, I did opt for layers of cotton and wool batting instead of using the harder to find wool flannel. If I had all the time in the world, I would paint the silk sides as she suggests.

The forms into which pincushions have been manufactured of late, are without number. The most common consists of two circles of pasteboard, covered with silk, with narrow ribbon sewed between , and stuffed with bits of flannel cut to the size of the pasteboard. Cotton is very bad for stuffing, because the pins enter it with difficulty; and, when the cushions are of such shape that they can be stuffed with flannel, it is much preferable to wool. When sewed with silk of a very decided colour, and the stitches taken with great regularity, an edge, resembling delicate cord, may be produced.

Some cut the pasteboard into oblong pieces, and then paint rabbits or squirrels, of a size suitable to cover each side, and, after the cushion is made, they paste them on; the place for the pins then comes between the two rabbits. Others paint a cat seated, for each side, and make a cushion of such a shape as will fit in well. Some cut the figures of the cats in black velvet, and put little spangles for eyes. I have seen butterflies painted and pasted on each side, in the same way. Some do the paintings on rice-paper and put them on cardboard, cute out precisely in the shape of the figure. They look rather rich , but are more easily injured. A very pretty pincushion may be made in the shape of a small easy chair. (The Girl’s Own Book, by Mrs. Child. Child, Lydia Maria. 1858.)

Very worth mentioning is what Child calls “bachelor’s pincushions.” I see what are often called pinwheels in antique shops. They range from simple circles to pretty shapes. I’ve always found these to be a nice option for carrying pins in a traveling sewing case. Knowing that at one point, they were considered appropriate for men to carry in their pockets is quiet interesting.

What are called “bachelor’s pincushions,” are made very thin, so that gentlemen can carry them in their pockets with convenience. No margin of ribbon, or taste, is put between the bits of pasteboard, in making these cushions. Two round pieces of pasteboard are covered with silk, and neatly sewed together with one or two thin pieces of flannel between them. Of course, merely one circle of pins can be put in. (The Girl’s Own Book, by Mrs. Child. Child, Lydia Maria. 1858.)



Published in: on March 3, 2016 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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