Nutty Pillow-Style Pin Cushion

final-pinEverybody needs a pin cushion. Maybe you don’t think so if you’re not a seamstress or tailor, but think again. What do you do with those packaging pins you remove from new clothing before you wear it, or where do you poke that stray safety pin or needle and thread?  Whether you’re a hand or machine embroiderer, you’ll need a temporary home for needles that are still new, but not the right size for the project you’re about to tackle. Heck, I even use pins to fasten fragile items onto my bulletin board so that they’re not damaged with a big tack hole. A pin cushion will find a use in every home, so why not make it as pretty as it is functional? When embroidered with the right design for the person in mind, a pin cushion even makes a great gift!

Traditionally a pin cushion was often seen as a tomato shape, a practice which is thought to have begun during the Victorian Era when tomatoes were considered a sign of good luck. But any shape can be made, as long as it’s stuffed with a material that will hold the shape, is flexible and that preferably offers some weight so that the pin is pulled from the cushion easily. It’s said that today’s pins are made to stay sharp, but I believe anything will dull over time, so if you will be avidly using the pin cushion, you might want to stuff it with a filler that is thought to keep the pins sharp such as fine sand, rice or flax seed. If you don’t experience nut allergies, you can try what I used for this project – crushed walnut shells used for reptile bedding and found at pet stores. It’s relatively easy to work with and the stuffing process is fast. Crushed walnut shells are inexpensive at about $8 for a 5.5 quart bag and can also be purchased from various craft stores by the cup.

A pin cushion is a great way to use up those quilt scraps or most any type of fabric from cotton to felt. Embroidery on various prints will have interesting results, such as the fat quarter of an Alma Lynne Hi-Fashion print I had in my stash that I used for the square pin cushion. I found thread color tones of those recommended in the design color information to match closely with those used in the print. Trims from your stash can also be added, such as beads, ribbon, buttons and bows, to give this quick project your own special touch.



  • 2 pieces about 6″ square or round of cotton fabric
  • 15-20″ length of lace trim (optional)
  • 2 cups (approx.) of crushed walnut shells
  • 40 WT thread


PINCUSHION by Great Notions, SKU: GN01-65568

I Love Sewing by Ace Points, SKU: AP01-APE1164_007

*More designs to choose from for your project at



Step 1: Sew a sample of the design planned for your pin cushion. Gather the materials and choose the thread colors by referring to the color information included with each design and use the closest tones you have in stock to what will look best on the fabric to be sewn.



Step 2: Hoop the fabric and sew. First, set the inner hoop over the fabric to decide where the design will look best, preferably balanced well at the center of other elements. For this print, I wanted the pin cushion to result with the roses placed at the four corners. Then, hoop the fabric with the stabilizer and embroider.



Step 3: Cut out the panels for both sides. For the square pin cushion, I trimmed away excess fabric, keeping the design at center of a 6″ square, and I used the roses at each corner as a reference. I used a rotary cutter and ruler to cut the straight lines, but a scissors will also work well when it is marked first as I did for the round pin cushion. To keep the design at center of the round pin cushion, you can use a see-thru template or a cut-out circle made from shipping cardboard, or do as I have by using a 6″ glass lid from a bowl.



Step 4: Attach a lace trim. To create a ruffle in lace trim, begin by calculating the length you will need to reach around the sides and include a few inches to the total. Then sew close to the edge with a long stitch length; this automatically causes the trim to ruffle. Pin the ruffled trim on one panel, with the stitched edge to the outside. Line up the stitches that made the ruffle with where you will be sewing the final seam (about ½” from the edge) and baste in place. Basting it to one panel will make it easier when stitching the seam.


Step5Step 5: Pin the right sides together and stitch. Begin at the side that is below the bottom of the design. Leave a 1-1/2″ opening; the smaller the opening that you can manage will make the stuffing process easier, as well as result in less time to stitch closed. (This image reveals that I used a black bobbin thread for the outline. When sewing narrow columns, the machine I used sometimes has a tendency to pull the bobbin thread to the top, so I used a bobbin thread in the corresponding color.)


Step6Step 6: Trim corners and turn. Remove some of the bulk by trimming away the corners. Turn by gently working the embroidery through the opening first and the rest will follow. Use an eraser or rounded end of a marking pencil or similar object to push out the corners; do not use an object with a pointed end.


Step7Step 7: Stuff the pin cushion and stitch to close. Set the turned pin cushion in a cup or bowl to hold it steady while pouring in the crushed walnut shells slowly through a small funnel. Close with a blind stitch.


Reverse - Pin CushionThere are many shapes that can be created for a pillow style pin cushion from triangles to tomatoes, and they can be embroidered with the design of your choice. The square pin cushion with a weighted filler will stand nicely for small spaces, as well as display the design upright. You might also consider embroidery on the backside for a reversible option or to personalize.

Finished Pin CushionThere are no strict rules! Just use your imagination and get those pins and needles organized!  ~ Till next time, keep on stitchin’!

Digitizer Moonlight Design Embroidery Digitizing

Images © 2013 – B. Landsberger