My Pincushion Morning

I love a big, hefty project, one that takes a long time, sucks me into the process, and about which I can feel hugely satisfied when I’m done.

But sometimes, a girl just needs to start and finish something in a day. Sometimes, we all need a fun, small, manageable, creative endeavor that doesn’t involve a years-long commitment, like a yoyo quilt or a weaving project with a 6-yard warp. (Weavers—don’t laugh! Six yards is long for me!)

I made just such a project lately and it made me inordinately happy.

First, I received in the mail, late last year, a small wooden circle loom, from the kind blogger at Twill Textile Design. I spent some happy time making a small woven piece on it, using the yarn she sent and some of my own.

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I love this little cutie but it drove me crazy that I didn’t know what to DO with it! I’m a practical gal and want my crafts to be useful.

Then I was trolling around on Pinterest and I saw the idea for making a pincushion out of an old cup.

I like pincushions.

I have lots of old cups.

Cups are round at the top and about 3-4 inches in diameter.

My woven circle was 3.5 inches in diameter . . .

Hey ho!

I went online and ordered the stuff of which pincushions are made—I ordered both emery sand, the stuff that goes into the little strawberries attached to traditional pincushions, and ground walnut shells, an alternative to emery sand. Both are abrasive and meant to keep needles and pins sharp and free of rust.

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And, for one happy, (mostly) carefree morning last week, I sewed and glued and fussed and fumed until my pincushion was finished.

I chose a vintage mug made by FireKing of so-called Jadeite. My mother had one of these when I was a kid so it has nostalgic value. (I have to admit I just researched, belatedly, and learned I could probably have sold this single cup for $25-$30 . . . oh, well!)

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I like the mid-century aesthetic and sturdiness of this cup and there’s one stripe of green in my woven piece that sort of matches the green in the cup.

To make the pincushion, all I did was dig out some scraps of quilt batting I had on hand, to fill the bulk of the cup. The emery sand and walnut shells would become expensive if I was filling the whole cup with them!

I cut two circles of finely-woven muslin about a half-inch larger than my weaving. I sewed them together and left a small opening, and used my teeny funnel to fill the little bag with ground walnut shells. I tried to fill it really full. Then I finished sewing up the opening.

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I hand sewed my weaving on top of the bag of walnut shells.

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I fussed around to figure out how much batting I needed to fill the cup and, when I had it right, I used the handle of a spoon to help me tuck the weaving and pincushion bag into the cup.

Then came the part I liked least—the glue gun! I am not proficient with glue guns, though I did find one that worked here in my house. I tried to be careful but still managed to get glue on the cup, on the weaving, on the counter, on my hands. It doesn’t show up too much in any of those places . . .

The finished pincushion! Super cute, huh?

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When I got done with that part, I still had my mojo working so I dissected a tea bag and used it as a template to make my own little muslin tea bag, to fill with emery sand. Since emery sand is the traditional filler for pincushions, I wanted to have at least a little of that available for use.

The sewing on the tea bag does not represent my finest crafting hour, it’s true. I was getting impatient to finish and didn’t think things completely through. But the thing was finished in one morning, and, frankly, I quite love it!

I learned a lot so, if I ever decide to do this again, I can make changes.

  • I would try one using a cup with a saucer; I could glue the two together and give myself a little saucer/tray to hold my spool of thread, etc.
  • I would dig through my damaged vintage linens to find alternatives to the woven circle. I am always trying to find ways to use vintage bits of embroidery or crochet and it would be fun to match such things with cups from different eras.
  • I would look for braid or trim or something to add to the place where the pincushion meets the cup, to hide the glue more effectively.
  • I would not leave a spool of 100 yards of tatting thread lying around, as temptation to the kitten from Hades.

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I am pretty pumped to add pincushion maker to my list of crafty skills! Is there an easy, one-day project you’ve turned to, when the big projects get overwhelming?

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71 thoughts on “My Pincushion Morning

  1. How marvelously it turned out! I think you should add a “Handcrafted” section to your shop. Your kitty looks like a real little helper!

    • If I add a handcrafted section, it’ll be for weaving, not pincushions, I’m pretty sure! My kitty is trouble with a capital T and that rhymes with G and that stands for Gigi!

      • :). My big challenge is to be able to control tension so that they don’t make that natural bowl shape. It is possible to weave flat circles but it’s tricky. I’ve got dreams of one day joining lots together. One day.

    • Cool! If you haven’t ordered yet, I’d say to pick one and not get both. I ordered both with the idea that I might make these for sewing friends. The amounts I got were PLENTY to make multiples!

  2. That is just wonderful and I too think you could add a ‘handcrafted’ section to your shop and sell the pincushions minus the cups for your overseas customers 🙂 [they would choose their own cups and do that bit themselves] I love the cup and saucer idea!

    • Thanks–it just came to me! Now I am still pondering other ways to use the woven circles–they could be sewn together but it would take for.ever. to make anything of any size.

  3. It’s fun to do something that gives quick satisfaction, isn’t it? But you know, I thought coaster when I saw that weaving. So I would have been done, unless to make more to match. Nice seeing your little adopted kitty having fun!

    • I thought coasters, too, but I have so many coasters and, plus, that kitten and other cats seem to think the coasters are their toys. The kitten was very involved in this whole project . . .

  4. I really like the idea of gluing a saucer to the cup for a handy place for your thread . Cute cushion,the cup reminds me of my Grammy who used to have some.

  5. Wonderful…..lovely and practical! Pincushions make great gifts…..like tea cozies, they always seem to be one of a kind and kept forever, keepsakes really! All this in a one day project…bravo!

    • I believe it! I sold a bunch of Jadeite to a woman in Paris. When I told her how much it would cost to ship it, she just shrugged–she wanted it, couldn’t get it there, and was willing to pay!

  6. So pretty! Love the cup you used. My Mom had one, too, and as soon as I saw your picture of it, I remembered the one that was always in the kitchen of the house I grew up. What a great idea to make a pin cushion in that cup. I’ll have to look through thrift stores and antique stores to see if I can find one. 🙂

    • Do it! But, check garage sales, too, if you go to them. If you find one of these in a antique shop, it’ll be expensive–they’re pretty collectible. I have old, fancy tea cups and saucers I could’ve used, but this one matches my lifestyle and taste better. Let me know if you make one!

    • Thanks! The walnut shells are interesting–very, very finely ground. I think read that less-finely ground ones are used bedding for lizards or something. I imagine the shells are more environmentally friendly than the emery sand and definitely less expensive. The things we learn!

  7. That “little” project involved a lot of coordination. I admire your tenacity and creativity. I’m still embroidering my tablecloth from this past Christmas’s family comments. I picked up some yarn and plan to crochet something simple and small.

  8. That turned out so cute! I love the little tea bag addition.
    I like to throw in quick, one-day projects in between my longer projects too. Helps me feel successful when other projects are taking longer than I would like.
    Ugh…I’m the same way with a glue gun! Burn.my.hand.every.time.!
    Love the kitten photo, though would not have liked the clean up!

    • You know, some people actually like glue guns?! What’s up with that?? The clean-up after the kitten had her fun involved a pair of scissors–there was no chance of saving that thread!

  9. I’m always impressed with the “vision” it takes to see the possibilities–lovely creation, Kerry! And yes, it’s nice to have a fun, quick project to follow a huge, involved one. In the past couple years, my go-to quick projects are usually knit dish cloths or mittens in simple patterns. Those can usually be done in a couple sittings and are very satisfying to finish.

    • It’s interesting–I choose big projects because I usually don’t care much about “finishes”–I think I’m much more process-oriented, than product. That having been said, I seriously *needed* a finish the day I made this thing–and nothing else i’m working on is even close to being done!

  10. I love what you’ve created! I didn’t know about the shell filling, but of course that makes sense. Like you, I don’t like making things for the sake of making them. I want them to serve a purpose. I’m joining the chorus above and think these would make a charming addition to your shop.

    I have a vintage strawberry pincushion on my desk, given to me by the mother of a friend. It has a nice heft to it. I keep it near my computer, and pin little treasures to it (a couple of my dad’s postage stamps, a pretty button from a gift, etc.).

    What a fun post.

    • The idea of using a pincushion as a mini-bulletin board appeals to me a lot–I have all kinds of tiny “treasures” and never know what to do with them. You’ve given me something to ponder!

      • Pin cushions are perfect for that. I’ve also taken a small silver dish (a gift) and filled it with like items for a small display. In my case, I have three or four glass hearts, gifts from friends over the years. I pulled them together in the dish. It’s a nice little reminder of each of those friends and a pretty display. Just another thought for gathering together little treasures.

  11. The only problem I have with cute pin cushions is that I never actually stick pins in them, but display them. The old magnetic oval gets my pins. And let me know if you find any other uses for ground walnut shells. I have lots I bought when my guild did a pin cushion swap. You know, it was so much cheaper to buy the larger size.

  12. What a neat idea! I’d never have thought of using a cup as a base for a pincushion. And I love this use for ground walnut shells. I always found them handy for deterring slugs from pot plants. Who knew they had so many uses?

  13. Oh Kerry, that is just adorable! It is so funny that in the last few days I’ve been introduced to a circle loom and a star braiding loom, both of which I had never heard of before and both of which I now want! LOL! I live for small projects these days. Thank you for this!

  14. You are so creative. The pin cushion is great. I learned something new today. Until I read this post I never thought about what was used to fill pin cushions.

    • Thanks, Sheryl–it was fun to make. And it was, traditionally, emery sand that was used. I think using ground walnuts is a more recent development but I’m told it does just as good a job of keeping needles sharp.

    • That’s a good analogy! I don’t do enough small projects, I don’t think–maybe I need to plan more into my life, so I get the satisfaction of finishing something more often!

  15. Such neat weaving you did there, it looks easy but I know how hard it it to get it so pretty and I love the addition of the tea bag!! Never enough pincushions right…Charley sniffed and shook her head at that cat and I will not comment on the fact you used a Jadite mug…the overall effect is indeed beautiful ;o) xo Johanna

    • Thanks, Johanna! The weaving is really quite simple–but it took longer than I expected it to. I used variegated thread and that created the stripes! I know that Charley would never be naughty–it must be very difficult for her to witness the destruction wrought by cats . . .

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