Monday, August 02, 2010

Beginner Hand Sewing: Pincushion

Summer's Day in the Flower Garden

Painting by Robert Payton Reid, British 1859-1945

Summer's Day in the Flower Garden

Art Print

Reid, Robert...

Buy at

The above painting shows a dress that could easily be made with the long sleeved versions of this pattern or this one.

Similar patterns can be seen here

There is never any need to pay full price for patterns, since they regularly go on sale for $1.99 or 99 cents at fabric stores. Sign up for an ad to come in your mail and keep your eye on the upcoming discounts.  To make these patterns look like the dress in the painting, just wrap the completed dress with a sash of the same fabric, or stitch an obi belt on to the front of the dress. If I get this sewn, I will try to demonstrate it online. An alternative would be a skirt and blouse, with the blouse of similar design. The hat could be easily immitated also. 

Today I have made a pin cushion, using fabric that co-ordinates nicely with the blue/rose fabric I have done the previous projects in, which fits nicely also with the white muslin. It is a print you should be able to purchase in any fabric store: a tiny rosebud pattern. See if you can click on the picture and get a close-up view of it.

This is all hand-stitched, and a little more complicated that the other things, and, if you will not get frustrated with it but patiently try to master what you are doing, I think you will be excited about the results. Making this pin cushion also gives you some more sewing knowledge, and a technique you have not done before, if you are a beginner. 

 I like to show what you can do by hand, because I believe women should always be prepared to make-do in hard times. Even if you expect to live an easy life of prosperity, one day you will be glad you can do these things.  My little student that I have had since she was 8, is now 13, and has been asked on occasion to sit with an elderly person, while her care-giver is called out of the home. During these times, she has taken her sewing basket and put in some little projects like this.

You need a scrap of fabric of your choice, a small dinner plate or salad plate or bowl, and a frozen juice can lid.  Lay your plate or salad bowl on the fabric and draw around it with a pen or pencil, and cut it out.

Do the same thing with the juice can lid. Then, iron down the edges a fourth inch, all around, on both round pieces. Don't worry if it pleats and creases as you iron around it, because it will work out fine when you start to stitch.

 Thread your needle with a strong quilting thread, knot it on the end, and, putting several stitches at a time on your needle, stitch all around both pieces.

I have used a co-ordinating hot-pink thread so you can see the stitches for this demonstration. Make sure your knot is on this side of the piece.

Do the same thing with the smaller piece you traced from the juice can lid. Make sure your stitches are not too close to the edge, because they have to go through both layers of cloth, like a hem. Take four or five stitches in the same place at the end, to make a secure knot so that the stitching will not come undone. Clip thread.

Put plenty of glue on the juice can lid, using the side that is the flattest. One side dips in a little and will not stick as well.

Before you glue the lid down, be sure to stitch around the hem you ironed, and do not make a knot, because you are going to have to pull up your threads and make a gather.  Just leave the needle stuck in the fabric while you put the lid in it.

Lay your cloth on a plate so that the glue from the lid will not seep on to your surface or table. Put the lid, glue side down, on the middle of your fabric, eyeing it as best you can, to get it evenly in the middle. Let it dry, and have a cup of tea while you are waiting. If it is summer, you can take it outside and it will dry quickly. If it is colder weather, put it in front of a blowing heater for a few minutes.  

This lid is necessary so that your pins and needles will not go all the way through the pin cushion, and so that they will not damage your table or any where you are using it.

Next, on the larger piece, pull up the thread, still in the needle, until it gathers up, like this, but do not make a knot yet. It has to be flexible enough to put your stuffing in it.

Put stuffing inside it and make it is full as you can. If you do not have stuffing, you can shred with your hands, a small piece of batting, or you can use something else that might work (cotton balls?).

With the thread still in the needle, pull up the stitches as tightly as you can so that it looks all gathered, like the above photo. Then, take about six stitches in the same place, over and over, to secure the thread. Cut your thread.

Now, take that smaller piece that you stitched but did not gather,  and pin it across the hole in the top, to secure it while you sew. Stitch in and out of the previous stitching on the little circle, filling in the blank spaces with your thread.

You can see in the above picture, how I filled in the stitch areas, to give it a finished and pretty appearance. If you cannot quite do this, just do the best you can to get it sewn on.

Add some pins that match the fabric, and your needle and coordinating thread. In some stores, you can buy pins with heart-shaped tops, which would look nice on a hand made pin cushion with a heart print. This looks like a confection, doesn't it!

Completing this small cushion gives you the ability to make a very large pillow or cushion in the same manner.  Try using a different fabric for that center medallion piece.

Before showing a sewing basket, I need to make a few more supplies, such as a scissor case and a thread holder, which will be posted later. In the mean time, just find anything to keep your sewing supplies in: a shoe box with a hinged cover, covered in scrapbook papers is nice; a plastic ice cream bucket with a handle, a wicker basket, or even a large wide-mouthed jar. A hat box works well, too.

Someone mentioned a fabric called homespun, in the previous post, and I just happened to have a gift given to me by a recent visitor, who makes dish towels from home spun:

She irons on an applique, made from a cut-out of other fabric, and stitches it down with a machine satin stitch.

The homespun makes a much better dish towel for drying, than the cotton that I am working with for these projects. It has a looser weave and is softer and more absorbent.


Anonymous said...

Nice, I love it.
L. Rose

Lydia said...

I must confess that I do not have a serger any more. I had it on layaway for a long time when Wal Mart had the layaway program. I finally brought it home and was always too busy to sit down and watch the instruction video. I am the same way with cooking appliances. I would rather stir it myself than get out the mixers and blenders (and then have to wash them). I finally gave the serger to some homeschool girls and they really did it justice. Today I saw some blouses they had made with petals all around the neckline and sleeves. They had made up their patterns and used the serger to make everything, including those interesting petals, which were half circles, gathered up. While it is wonderful to have a machine like that, we have to be able to do things by hand in case we cannot depend on our machines. I do not think it is good to always depend on automation for everything, and I think it is important to equip the next generation of homemakers to be able to do anything by hand. Many women want to stay home but are so dependent on things they have to buy, they find themselves not able to quit work. I hope I can show how you can stay home, just like our mothers before us did, by making more things yourself and not having to buy everything.

Lydia said...

You can also use this kind of technique to make decorative fabric fruits and vegetables, such as cloth pumpkins.

Anonymous said...

I will have to try this out - I love the simplicity of the project. I am a novice at sewing, but long to improve my skills.

Anonymous said...

These are wonderful ideas. I have never seen homespun in such pretty colors at Wal-Mart. I'm going to have to look for some at a fabric specialty store, or maybe Hobby Lobby?

My daughter has made a dresser scarf using your tutorial and I made a doily, using the embroidering on a print technique. The lamp shade covers are next on my list, as my old lamp shades are so hard to keep clean.

Thank you, for making your blog such a pleasant, inspiring place to visit. We love your daughter's blog too! We made the petticoat from eyelet material (found at half-price) that she had posted about last week and plan to make another!

Lydia said...

I am thinking of adding another style of pincushion here, for a simpler choice, so please check back to this article.

Anonymous said...

This pin cushion is very "elegant" despite its simplicity. Again something I might like to make for giving to a local inner city community center. At least the person would have a pretty way to keep pins and hopefully needle and thread handy. Thank you for all yor projects. This would make a nice little Christmas present to have on hand for the unexpected guest. Keep the projects coming. Do you have a simple sewn project that could also serve as a centerpiece say for the Thanksgiving table or for christmas

Anonymous said...

Thank you again for the great tutorials and the simple yet elegant projects. So encouraging to take home a little project completed.
Our little girls will love these at Keepers of the Home class.

I love your sewing plan as much as I did your dress and clothes plan a few posts back.

Anonymous said...

The homespun fabric only comes in the brighter colors in the spring time. Most of the year they are the darker and more subdued colors.

However you can brighten them up with a pretty applique of either a flower, fruit, or design cut out from another piece of fabric.

It should be noted that this fabrics dyes will continue to bleed so they must always be washed with like colors to prevent staining other things in the wash.

Anonymous said...

I had never thought of using anything(like cardboard or your juice can lid) to stabilize the form of anything that was filled with batting. In your pin cushion, it actually gives it a weighted base. Ingenious!
I noticed the first of the two patterns you linked to had a robe view. I really liked it's basic structure and I think it would make a nice vintage-style robe. Thanks for all the inspiration through the years!

Anonymous said...

I noticed that too, when I dyed an article of clothing, it continued to bleed for many washes afterward, and made some of my other items that were washed with it look dingy. It can also rub off on an article of clothing that you are wearing next to it.

I was going to ask you, Lady Lydia, if this was due to the quality of the dye I was using, or if it's just the nature of dye.

Also, for good weight in a pin cushion, you can find, with some difficulty, something called emory filings. They are heavy, and sharpen your pins every time you put them in the pincushion. I have seen some for sale on Etsy by people who make homemade pincushions, and have to buy it in bulk - they are trying to sell the extra they don't need.

Anonymous said...

I just love what you say about doing things by hand vs the machines...that is a very wise comment....thank you Lydia for keeping us on the right track!
Lynn M

Anonymous said...

i almost forgot...! I have often looked at nighty patterns and thought they look so pretty and would like to wear one as a basic I know I will after seeing your painting example and your two pattern suggestions! Hurrah!
Lynn M

Mrs. V. said...

Oh, I *love* homespun fabric! It's so pretty and homey looking.