Yet another utilitarian sewing project. Pincushions. These were made mainly as samples for the shop, but they were so fun and so cute I took some time to make one for my sewing room (it matches my new ironing board cover!) Here’s the one for me… more eye candy and the pincushion tips I’ve managed to glean after the jump!

So first off – the pincushions I’ve made so far are based on the Heather Bailey Fresh Picked pincushion pattern. The pattern is totally adorable and includes the pieces for a tomato, an apple, two different sized strawberries and a pear. I also made the pear. It’s been ages since I embroidered – so fun!

So here’s what I’ve learned so far…

  • I used slightly smaller stitches to keep it stronger – about 1.5 (my machine’s default is 2.5)
  • If you’re making the tomato, you’ll need a nice, long needle to get the the string through the cushion – I made my first version using a slightly longer darning needle-type contraption. It worked, but really made my hands ache. I bought some 5 inch dollmaking needles – they’re perfect. Long enough to get through the cushion, but nice and thin to get through the holes on buttons as well.
  • Wool felt, people. I had bought a bundle of lovely wool felt from Kelly Hanson at No Coast  – she sells it on her Etsy site too, if you are looking for some! I had some regular poly felt on hand and it was just nasty-town compared to the wonderful wool/rayon felt! I also picked up some bamboo felt – it’s a little more flimsy than the wool rayon, which I don’t like, but there seem to be much more vibrant color choices in bamboo felt. And it’s SUPER soft!!!
  • You don’t NEED to wrap the extra, pretty string around the pincushion, but it’s fun. I used DMC Perl Cotton and it was perfect! I’m also considering trying out some twine. Because I love me some twine. And who doesn’t need 23 pincushions, right?

My other tomato cushion… these are a PERFECT use for those adorable vintage buttons you can’t pass up but only come as singles… and see the lovely brown and white dotted cotton flannel I used? Meow!

OK. Fillings. I was the most confused about the filling. The pattern suggests… standard polyester stuffing material, crushed walnuts, wood shavings or a combination of these. I did a little research for a FAQ sheet for the shop, and here’s what I came up with for fillings.

  • Stuffing/poly fiberfill
  • Crushed walnut shells (available from pet stores)
  • Scenic sand (available from craft shops)
  • Play sand (available from hardware stores)
  • Dried rice or lentils
  • Dried lavender, flax seeds or orange peel (try a local co-op such as the Wedge or Seward Co-op)
  • Emery powder – available online
  • Yarn or other scrap fabric – cut into small pieces to reduce lumps.

A few more notes about filling. The pear and the pink and brown pincushions are just filled with polyester fill (swiped from a pillow!) and I used way more than it even seemed possible! The pincushions need a nice firm feel. If the pincushion is intended for regular use, the polyester fiberfill is too lightweight – reach over to grab the pin, you’ll end up with the whole pincushion! I filled the red cushion destined to live at my house with a mixture of fiberfill and rice. It has a nice heft, like a bean bag, but was really hard to get even – the rice sort of slid to one side, which made the whole cushion tippy.

Of the other suggestions, I think sand would be sort of messy and ooze through the fibers, even though a working pincushion should be fully interfaced. The emery powder seems ideal – keeping the needles sharp and rust free, but A) It’s IMPOSSIBLE to find – Minneapolis isn’t the largest city in the world, but I couldn’t find a local supplier in my cursory search. And… B) the online sources I found seemed pricey and from what I read, it seems that it may be sort of overkill with today’s rust-proof pins.

Of the other filling options listed, sawdust seems to have the same mess potential that sand has. Crushed walnut shells seem like a good option – I picked up a bag from Petco (Lucy got to come with us! It made her year!) and it has a great free flowing texture without being powdery! I have high hopes for it, although the rice and poly fill combo worked well too.

So pincushions! Adorable AND utilitarian! My mom’s in town for the weekend for an early Christmas, and she bought the turtle pattern in the picture above. Tomorrow Minneapolis is supposed to get 20 inches of snow (it’ll probably be five inches) and mom and I are planning a turtle pincushion snow fest … so watch for dangerously cute turtles coming your way… OH! And a lot of my sewing time has been taken up sewing mom’s Christmas present, so now that she’s safely separated from the internets, watch for an update!!

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