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Pincushions - how to sew and which do you like best?

 
r ranson
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Let's talk Pin Cushions!

I really want a new one as the ones I bought from the store are too stiff (cardboard filling? Glue tomato top so I cannot stick a pin in it) and the ones I make are lame.

I miss my grandmother's cushion which was an old-style tomato with soft but super-firm filling and a strawberry for getting the rust off pins and needles.  If I can ever find fabric I love, I might make one like this.  I liked the strawberry because I'm often using vintage needles which sometimes have rough spots or rust.

Which got me thinking, what do I need from a pincushion?

- easy to get the pins in and out
- doesn't topple easy
- deep enough the pins don't go through and scratch the table
- inspires me to sew more.

I'm looking for a pattern for a pincushion I found in the start of this video.  Looks like it might work.
pincushion.jpg
pincushion
pincushion
 
Carla Burke
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I seem to remember that many of those tomatoes were filled with raw-felted wool, to retain some lanolin, to lubricate & protect the pins and needles. I can't recall what the strawberry was filled with (do you know?), but I do remember liking the result of stabbing dirty, dull, lightly rusty points into it. I'd love a pin cushion with those qualities! Do you know where to find that filling?
 
r ranson
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Looking closer at the pincushion in the first post.

The top seems to be a large five-sided piece where each side is twice the length of the side pentagons.  

The side pentagons have two rows, then I'm guessing the bottom is much like the top.

It looks like it might stand about 2 inches tall?

And there are little flowers embroidered on it.

I wonder how I would go about making it?  
 
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A pincushion that a friend has that I admired was a felt one that had a wrist strap with a velcro fastener. If you filled it with a combination of raw wool and fine sand, the latter might help rub off any rusty bits on your needles? Or a steel wool pot scrubber pad wrapped up in raw wool would be lighter in weight?
 
r ranson
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Tomato pincushion pattern https://rhondadort.com/2019/01/09/the-humble-tomato-pin-cushion/
 
 
Joylynn Hardesty
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r wrote: The top seems to be a large five-sided piece where each side is twice the length of the side pentagons.  

The side pentagons have two rows, then I'm guessing the bottom is much like the top.


I think you have it right. There are two small hexagons per side of the large hexagon. I think that using a hexagon of 2 1/2 inch sides for the large one would work.

Got a compass? Choose the length of your hexagon's sides. I vote for 1 1/2 inches.
Set your compass for this measurement. Draw a circle with the compass.
Place your compass point anywhere on the circle's circumference, and draw a small arc.
Place your compass point in the arc, and make another arc, continue until you have 5 equidistant points on your circumference.
Draw your hexagon.



https://www.wikihow.com/Draw-a-Hexagon

This is the pattern for your large hexagon.
Repeat the process for the small hexagon measuring 3/4 inch per side. This is half of 1 1/2 inches. Because two small hexagons are used per side.

Cut two large hexagons and 20 small hexagons. (I think.)

Hand sew these together using 1/4 inch seam allowances. I think it would be easiest to sew them in two sections. Each one having a large hexagon as a center.
First, sew one side of a small hexagon to another, creating ten pieces of two hexagons joined on one edge.
Sew a double small hexagon piece to each large hexagon side. Join the loose edges of adjoining hexagons together.
Then join the top and bottom most of the way before stuffing it.

I think I have butchered the explanation. Here is a different hexagon pincushion instructional That may help to understand my instructions.
 
Joylynn Hardesty
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I've wanted to duplicate a doll's chair pincushion I had as a child. I do not remember receiving it, I do remember hours and hours of playing with it. As an adult, I lost it in a move. Sigh.


https://www.rubylane.com/item/881025-PAJA-TXTL-chairpncshn/Cute-Homemade-Wingback-Chair-Pin-Cushion

It was similar to the above. The chair cushion could be opened to reveal a storage area where treasures could be stored inside.
 
Jay Angler
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R and Joylynn - just to be perfectly clear, r's picture/video pincushion sides are made of pentagons, and Joylynn's instructions are for hexagons - one extra side. This doesn't mean the concept won't work, but just making sure people are reading the fine-print!
 
K Kaba
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I love the cute ones, but the one I end up using the most at home is one of those tiny mason jar pin cushions. I don't find it inspiring, but it holds tiny things, has an easy to use pin surface, doesn't fall over or escape easily, and I don't end up stabbing through it.

If it's a traveling project, I keep them in a felt needle book usually. Stab-through can be an issue, but they pack up easy.
 
r ranson
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AH HA!

The person got back to me with a link to her pincushion video.



Now, do I have fabric that will be nice for this?  
 
Jay Angler
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r ranson wrote:

Now, do I have fabric that will be nice for this?

It needs to be something that will take pokes really well!
 
r ranson
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Why are so many pincushions tomatoes?

Is there a way to print a page of pentagon with 1 inch sides so I don't have to draw them out by hand?   An easy way for technical challenged people like me?
 
Carla Burke
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From The Northwest Connection:
"Victorian Era folklore suggests that when a family moved into a new home, a fresh tomato was placed on the mantle warding off evil spirits and bringing prosperity to the new homeowners. Since tomatoes were only available in certain seasons and didn’t stay fresh forever, the good-luck symbol was frequently fashioned from fabric instead–stuffed with sand or sawdust and made to look like the real thing with embellishments such as leaves and veins, often with a strawberry attached which was filled with emery powder, an abrasive to clean and sharpen the pins.

Wikipedia; Homecooking.about.com; threadsmagazine.com"
 
Jay Angler
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r ranson wrote:Is there a way to print a page of pentagon with 1 inch sides so I don't have to draw them out by hand?   An easy way for technical challenged people like me?

I typed into goo__e "printable 1 inch pentagon" and I got a bunch of options pop up. Unfortunately Pin____st has taken over and it is not friendly with my computer, so I figure you should look at the options and see which one you think you can print.
 
r ranson
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yeh, I put "-Pinterest" on every search.
 
r ranson
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this is looking promising.
http://printablepaperpieces.blogspot.com/2015/07/imperial-regular-pentagons-a4-and.html
 
Jay Angler
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r ranson wrote:this is looking promising.
http://printablepaperpieces.blogspot.com/2015/07/imperial-regular-pentagons-a4-and.html

Yes, that does look promising. From my experience, things don't always print to size on the first time, but by either magnifying or shrinking by a trial and error percentage, it's usually possible to get close. How particular do you intend to be? If it's a fraction over/under an inch will the pattern simply make a larger/smaller pincushion, or will parts not fit?
 
r ranson
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worlds worst tomato pincushion... nearly.
16207472034818285836189497653170.jpg
I sewed a tomato
I sewed a tomato
 
r ranson
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But better than the old one where the top  is too hard to put a pin due to excessive glue gun .
A-tale-of-two-tomatoes.jpg
A tale of two tomatoes
A tale of two tomatoes
 
M James
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Years ago, I made a pair of bow pillows, which turned out awesomely gorgeous. Later on, I made several for friends and family...and then my tomato pincushion disappeared.

So, I made a mini bow pillow and used it for a pincushion. It was made of satin and filled with polyfil. Worked great. Now I can't find that one either and I'm back to using another tomato lol!

The bow pillows are made with two parts. Both are simple rectangles, folded so that the main seam is centered on one long side. Then you sew up one of the short ends, stuff them and sew those openings shut. Place the two pieces so that both seams are facing each other and use a ribbon to make the two parts look like a bow. I have no idea how to post a picture, or I would, as I still have a pillow that I made.

Edited to add: one part is slightly smaller than the other, to make it look layered. Hope that makes sense. Hard to describe without using pictures.

The mini I used for the pincushion sat easily on a flat surface without any trouble and it was thick enough there's no way the pins would go all the way through to the table. The satin assures that the pins glide into it with ease. The bonus is that you can customize it to your room decor. At the time, mine was two colors: light pink and cream, with a cream color ribbon for the cinching. Side note: these can also be made into car air fresheners that hang from the rear view mirror. You'd have the classiest air freshener around!

I don't know if it's ok to post links to guide people to a photo on the internet, but if somebody could let me know, I would post a link to similar pillows to show you what I mean.
Staff note (Jay Angler) :

In the signatures of both r ranson above, and Joylynn Hardesty below are live links which say, "how permies works". There is lots of good information there including on how to post pictures. Feel free to add that link to your own signature, so you can always find it easily.

 
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I love wool as a pincushion.
I use the square ones pictured everyday. They are years old and probably the wool that I stuffed them with is a little moth-eaten by now.
The tops are made of felted naturally dyed (bodark I think?) old wool sweater backed with leather scraps from my daughter in law's leather working business.  I made them to sell along with my other recycled/upcycled projects.  They are probably at least twenty years old now? Buttons from my old button stash and sewn by hand with waxed thread.

I love that the pins don't rust and that there is a substantial backing to stop the pin or needle from going all the way through and also to keep them from pushing in so deeply they are lost in the pin cushion.

I grew up with a tomato similar to the one pictured with a sand filled strawberry.

The china figure one is quite old and is from family so will stay although I think because of it's fine fabric cover over wool must have been intended for silk pins? and the same with the sweet Chinese one....my pins poke big holes in the silk cover.

The 'book' is not a pin cushion of course, but is called a 'mother' I believe? it has cloth pages to store needles mostly but also some pins and is nice for traveling.  Made by a good friend.

IMG_9479-(2).JPG
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IMG_9483-(2).JPG
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Joylynn Hardesty
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Pincushion #1 a kinda tomatoey shaped thingy

R's Pincushion #2 a beautiful heirloom tomato variety!
 
M James
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r ranson wrote:worlds worst tomato pincushion... nearly.



I don't see it that way. I like yours much better than the store bought one.
 
Harmony d'Eyre
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There's usually a good reason for traditional methods, but would a needle-felted shape work well for a pincushion instead of a sewn one? I personally prefer needle-felting to sewing, and would love to have a practical application for the craft.
 
Kristine Keeney
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Carla Burke wrote:From The Northwest Connection:
Since tomatoes were only available in certain seasons and didn’t stay fresh forever, the good-luck symbol was frequently fashioned from fabric instead–stuffed with sand or sawdust and made to look like the real thing with embellishments such as leaves and veins, often with a strawberry attached which was filled with emery powder, an abrasive to clean and sharpen the pins.

Wikipedia; Homecooking.about.com; threadsmagazine.com"


Howdy!
Emery powder for filling strawberries is still manufactured. In fact I had looked into buying an amount of it several years back. It isn't cheap. It does work to keep  your needles and pins sharp, and is probably worth the cost if there was a known market for it. (I was able to find one manufacturer who was willing to ship a barrel of the powder, but that seemed a little much for me.)

Oiled sand, with a muslin liner will do well as a substitute. It doesn't take much oil.
People have used the stainless steel soaped metal pads as inserts for the tomato (pins and needles holder) and sometimes for the strawberry. It's just a matter of finding a filling you like and are willing to work with. Raw wool seems like it would be a great filler. The cheap ones in fabric stores are generally sawdust, fiberfill, or some sort of combination - effectively just the cheapest thing the manufacturer could get away with.

I would suggest that, if you had raw wool available, use the raw wool for stuffing. If you don't have it, use sand. Or whatever makes you happy. I have bowls of loose pins, magnetic pin keepers, cheap tomatoes, and a fiberfill (probably cotton balls?) hand-me-down that was used by my husband's grandmother. I've worked with all of them and use them all as they are different in their abilities and capabilities.

In my experience - sharp things tend to develop rust spots with a sawdust tomato.
                            I don't have a raw wool tomato, but I love the idea and will be seeing if I have some raw wool hidden someplace, or if I need to ask a very specific people for a handful of it.
                            Emery is probably worth the expense as it will not rust or damage your pins and/or needles. Small packages can be found on Etsy, and other places, I'm sure.
                            A felted tomato would be amazing. I'd love to see one and am having thoughts about buying a small package of wool dryer balls for experimenting with.
                            There are needle sharpeners available, as well as needle pads for machine needles that are filled with emery and you stitch into them. I have never tried it as, in my opinion, machine needles aren't generally worth saving as they have a built in fail point. Specialty needles or specialty machines may have different options, but I'm mean to my Singer and Janome machines.
                             As y'all have discovered, hexagons and pentagons can be found on drafting rulers and the plastic gizmos used for drafting and quilts.  It's a wild world we live in.
                             The chair pincushion, if it's like the ones I have seen, has either a heavy cardboard, plastic, or cheap wooden framework that is then lightly padded and the "pin cushion" seat is firmly packed fiberfill. I would use the plastic canvas I recently discovered to build the chair and hidden box, but heavy cardboard or lightweight wood would do just as well.

The "crazy quilted pincushion" is easily one of the loveliest things I have seen in a while. I look forward to watching the video and seeing how it's put together.
Thank you so very much for sharing all this lovely information.

Oh - needle books are made out of felt, pretty fabric, and used to hold needles and pins. They can be elaborate, or simple, and are easily made into small portable sewing kits that can tuck into your purse or pocket.
Needle keeper or needle minders are, there days, magnetic in nature and can be as small as a pencil eraser, or fairly large - their purpose is generally to hold your "in use" needles while you work a project. There are ones you can wear - as part of a hussif or chatelaine, and ones that come with pin backs so they are useful jewelry.

I loved reading through this thread. How lovely it is to end this day with such pretty and creative thoughts! I may dream about different pincushions tonight. :)
 
Dado Scooter
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You can also buy ground black walnut shells to stuff pincushions with.  Functions like the emery sand stuff.
 
Leslie Rodgers
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The little pentagons in the picture look like they're made of wool  felt. Very likely the cushion is also stuffed with wool.

You can find printable shapes online, there's a site I can't remember the name of where you can choose the size. these look like maybe one inch pentagons-try doing a search for printable pentagon.

The grit in the strawberry on a traditional pin cushion is called emery grit, you can buy it on amazon.
 
Janie Brackett
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r ranson wrote:Let's talk Pin Cushions!

Which got me thinking, what do I need from a pincushion?



I bought a bunch of these basket pin cushions when dollar stores had just started. I gave away a bunch as presents that year. The one I kept for myself served me well for over 30 years, but it was sun bleached and starting to look sad. When I disassembled and remade, I took pictures for my FB friends (a couple of them received those long ago gifts).

I took the original apart. It looked like factory floor sweepings was the filler. Yuck. The fabric was just a circle. I cut new fabric, stuffed with cotton batting, and tacked shut with a doubled thread. I decided glue wasn’t needed. The cotton batting had been bought to line a costume for hubby, but we lined the ironing board instead. We will get more mileage out of the ironing board. The oval cut-aways worked wonderful in the old basket.

Basically it cost zero in materials to fix this pin cushion.

I have another basket and some more “innards” to make another pin cushion, but I have set that aside for awhile.

Remember to be careful if you take apart an old pin cushion. I found several needles “lost” inside.
A649ADC6-6B91-407D-B9BA-CF42FA7AA2E4.jpeg
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Kristine Keeney
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Dado Scooter wrote:You can also buy ground black walnut shells to stuff pincushions with.  Functions like the emery sand stuff.



I love this idea! I'll go looking for emery and black walnut shells later. I would love to give out (or sell) some nice and pretty pincushions to my sewing friends.
I have so many ideas right now, from all the lovely pictures in this thread. Thank you so much!
 
r ranson
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I wonder if coffee grounds will work?   Abrasive and oily.
 
Jay Angler
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r ranson wrote:I wonder if coffee grounds will work?   Abrasive and oily.

I think if I were to try that, I'd want a pretty sturdy bottom on the cushion, so as not to risk an oily brown stain.
 
Pearl Sutton
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I have not read this thread, I was sewing today, looked at my pincushion, basic pouf stuffed with I have no clue what that I made years ago, but the neat part about i is when I made it, I put a layer of marbles on the bottom. When I drop it or move it, it always ends up upright. That's a neat feature in a pincushion.
 
Lawrence Lockamy
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I believe the strawberry was sand or pumice.
 
Kristine Keeney
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Jay Angler wrote:

r ranson wrote:I wonder if coffee grounds will work?   Abrasive and oily.

I think if I were to try that, I'd want a pretty sturdy bottom on the cushion, so as not to risk an oily brown stain.



Howdy!
I decided to go poking around and have discovered that people can be amazingly creative.
I will be making some pincushions eventually. (I only have umpty-billion projects to get to or finish before starting a new one)

Coffee grounds, used ones, dried on a cookie sheet (or your preference) apparently make good pincushions, sachets, odor absorbers, and good compost. I guess, at least for a little while, I'll stop adding them to the compost bin, until I get enough to justify making pin cushions or sachets.

Steel wool (without soap) comes highly recommended in several places. It would make sense, too. But the last pincushion I had that had any metal bits eventually oxidized into a pile of rust and damaged fabric. I would guess high humidity areas would be better with less rustable/lower food value (rice, dried beans maybe?, straight lavender?) items as stuffing.

I saw where one person had ground white rice in a coffee grinder and used that as her filling. Other than making odd rice dishes for the chickens, I can't think of a better use for the pounds of white rice that was my "I'm not panicking! You're panicking!" knee jerk last year

Lavender buds sound amazing as part of pincushion stuffing. As do some other herbs and whatnot.

It's starting to sound like I need to do some experiments with pincushions! Drat!
 
r ranson
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I did my first pentagon for the pincushion last night.  It was easier than I expected!  

I'm thrilled and disappointed with how small the scraps are that we can use for this.  It's going to take up almost no cabbage at all, but it will help get rid of those small pieces of beautiful fabric I haven't had the courage to compost.  
 
Cd Greier
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Kristine Keeney wrote:

Jay Angler wrote:

r ranson wrote:I wonder if coffee grounds will work?   Abrasive and oily.

I think if I were to try that, I'd want a pretty sturdy bottom on the cushion, so as not to risk an oily brown stain.


Steel wool (without soap) comes highly recommended in several places.



Very fine steel wool with no detergent is sold in hardware stores and dollar shops. I really like the suggestion of raw wool padding to protect the pins and the steel wool from rusting!

My mother made her own pin cushion out of a scrap of 2X4  with rags padding one longish side and another scrap of tough fabric stapled  over top into kind of a bread loaf shape. The plain wood was heavy enough to keep it stable and, with  the cut ends on bottom and under the padding, the pins didn't dull or bend.

I myself bundled a core of steel wool with a thick layer of scrap quilt padding and a decorative fabric over all and tucked it into an empty, washed tuna tin with several layers of cardboard inside (to prevent blunting pins that get pushed in all the way).

Whatever works, right?
 
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