Pin cushions are an essential part of a sewing kit. Yes, you can manage without them, making do with the box they came in. Or even a card. But it is more difficult to pick them up and put them down, which slow2020s everything up.
You will notice I said pincushions, because it is useful to have one in every room where you will sew.
There are various factors influencing the success of a pin cushion:
- It needs to be thick enough so that the pins don’t go straight through, leaving points exposed to scratch you or the furniture.
- The thickness will vary with the length of the pin, and the number of pins you will need. Most sewing tasks might need several dozen pins, if only to ward off the chance of running out. Hat pins, on the other hand, need a thicker base, sometimes mounted in a vase, but the surface can be smaller, as not so many are needed.
- The stuffing needs to be firm enough to hold the pins (and sometimes the shape of the pin cushion).
- In some climates, you have to guard against he possibility of insects eating your stuffing, or humid atmospheres reacting with any metal.
Various types of stuffing can be used:
- Probably the easiest and most readily available is polyester wadding. It is cheap, doesn’t cause allergy problems, and is easy to manage.
- Where a bit of weight is needed, rice or lentils can be used. It is said that over time, the pins will break this stuffing down, causing the volume of the stuffing to decrease. I used a combination of rice and lentils to stuff my circus tent I made about three years ago, from an idea in a magazine. I must say I haven’t noticed a problem yet. It is a very heavy cushion, and it took far more than I expected to get the right effect.
- Emery powder is a traditional filling. Emery is made from powdered rock, and is what is stuck on to sand paper. It polishes the pin every time it goes in or out of the cushion, keeping it sharp. I used to have one of these, but the covering fabric wore out, and it began to leak.
- The same theory applies to sawdust. This is easier to get hold of, particularly if you have a friend who is keen on woodwork.
- The final traditional stuffing is crushed walnut shells. These have a polishing effect, but as the pieces are larger, they are easier to manage. The hardness means they are less likely than some of the alternatives to break down.
For my patchwork pin cushions, I decided to give the walnut shell option a go. So far they seem to be working well, but as so many people have allergies these days, I also make them with a polyester stuffing. And the nut stuffed ones have nice clear labels, and are kept in a separate box.
Of course, pin holders don’t have to be the traditional cushion. You could make a more complicated sewing organiser, like the wine bottle doll shown here. You can buy the pattern from my shop.