Fancy Work Friday: Strawberry Pin Cushions and Emeries

I can hardly believe that it has been 5 years since we sat huddled around a candles light sewing away as Ruby caught this photo.

This was the day I learned how a truly simple object could capture the attention of visitors and delight them.

The strawberry pin cushion is essentially a semi-circle stuff and capped. But, it is so much more. It is a tiny object that triggers both the senses and memory. The bright red brings the sweet smell of summer and makes the mouth water with the thought of biting into a freshly picked, juicy strawberry warmed with the sun.

The tiny object in my hand brings visitors to share memories of picking strawberries, eating strawberries, of Grandma’s sewing strawberry dangling from a tomato, of the fascination they felt sticking needles into the delicate sounding sand.

Since this day, this event that was truly an experience, I have loved the strawberry for its power, for how it connected with visitors.

Knit Strawberry Emery. Peterson’s and Godey’s in 1859:

We find directions for making strawberry emeries and pin cushions in multiple nineteenth century publications. The Girl’s Own Book, 1833, gives simple directions for an emery bag in the form of a strawberry. Eliza Leslie stuffed her linen strawberry, in The American Girl’s Book, 1857, with bran. Godey’s Lady’s Book and Peterson’s Magazine offer a knit strawberry emery with big leaves in 1859.

The Girl’s Own Book, 1833
An American Girl’s Book- A Strawberry. This pincushion is made of a piece of coarse linen, about half a quarter square, cut into two triangular or three-cornered halves, stuffed with bran and covered with scarlet cloth; which cover must be sewn neatly on the wrong side. And then turned. The top or broad part must be gathered so as to meet all round, and concealed by sewing on a small round piece of green velvet, scalloped in imitation of the cap of green leaves that surround the stem where it joins the strawberry. The stem must be imitated by sewing on a small green silk cord. To represent the seeds, the strawberry must be dotted over with small stitches, made at regular distances with a needle-full of yellow silk, and close to each yellow stitch must be a stitch of black. Emery bags are made in this manner, but of course much smaller; not exceeding the size of a large real strawberry.

Original strawberries are found in silk, velvet, wool and linen, filled with emery as well as wool and bran. While most are a shade of red, not all are.  Some are capped with green fabric leaves either of fabric or embroidery floss, while some are topped with metal caps that occasionally reflect the look of leaves. Here are three strawberries in my collection. Notice how the red and white strawberries each have tiny dots resembling seeds. This seeded look could be accomplished with beads, embroidery, or paint.

“She was just telling me she had finished stitching the strawberry seeds into the emeries, and wanted another job. She made most of the emeries. I cut out the strong cotton bags, and let her sew them up over a similarly shaped woolen sack filled with emery. She made the red silk sacks, and fastened them on, ready for the green leaves and the cord. She stitched in the seeds with yellow saddler’s silk. I think they are very pretty, and she is delighted with them.”(American Agriculturalist, December 1867)

To wrap up this look at strawberries, here is a past video of me beading strawberries….

Published in: on October 7, 2022 at 6:05 am  Comments (1)  

One CommentLeave a comment

  1. I love the strawberries. I have one of the small ones you made several years ago and love it. I show it off whenever I get a chance. Can’t wait to see what you make this year.

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