Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Week 6: A Pin-Poppet

What started out as a seemingly simple project has sent me down a rabbit hole of questions and curiosities. 

Why the tomato and strawberry shape? Well, according to Wikipedia, during the Victorian era, it was a sign of prosperity and good luck to place a tomato on the mantle in a new home. When not in season, they would use red fabric filled with sand or sawdust. And as chance would have it, these little charms became a very practical place to store pins. 

Being extra resourceful, I thought I could reuse the stuffing from my old one. I cut it open expecting some tightly compressed stuffing or something, but inside was sawdust! Or at least I hope it was sawdust... Which led me to my next question.

What is the best stuffing for a pin cushion? I found many weird and wonderful answers: wool, flax seeds, lentils, pencil shavings, human hair, ground walnut shells, emery sand, and various pebbles you could source from a pet store. I was nearly sold on the ground walnut shells, but my tight purse prevented me from going out and getting some. 

I opted for a 3-tiered cheap method: 

  • rice - for weight and possible moisture absorbency
  • sawdust - for frugality and moisture absorbency
  • scraps of cotton quilt batting - for added softness and a smooth outer layer

I was inspired by some goldenrod-coloured rick rack I had kicking around, so I choose an outer fabric that would compliment. From my outer fabric, I cut 2 large circles, approx 5 1/2 inches in diameter. I then cut 2 medium circles (4 1/2 inches diameter) using scraps of cotton quilt batting. Lastly, I cut 2 small circles (3 1/2 inches diameter) of muslin. 

Using the small circles, I sewed them together with a 1/4 inch seam allowance and left a small opening. I stuffed the little pouch with rice, leaving some space inside so it was not too tightly stuffed, then I machine stitched it shut. 

Then I sewed the medium circles together leaving about a 2 inch opening (so I could fit the rice pouch inside of it). Then I flipped it inside out in hopes that it would help gain some height, stuck my rice pouch inside and stuffed the rest tightly with sawdust. Then I hand stitched so that very little sawdust (if any) would leak out. 

At this point, I could have put this medium sized pouch in my outer fabric and stuffed the rest with polyfil, but I didn't have any. Instead, I made yet another pouch from cotton quilt batting (cut approx 5 inch diameter) and put my sawdust/rice pouch inside. Then I sewed my outer fabric together, leaving quite a large opening, flipped it right side out and put my soft pouch inside. To seal it off, I handstitched the opening shut.

For decoration, I added a yellow button to the centre of the cushion (and one on the bottom too!), while maneuvering the stuffing toward the outside as much as I could. Lastly, I handsewed the rick rack on the perimeter, covering up the seam of the outmost layer.

What I enjoyed the most: I really enjoyed doing my research on this one. If I hadn't, I probably would have just stuffed it with scraps of quilt batting or something. Then it would have been too light, or worse - a needle-rusting haven!

Next time I would... Invest in some high quality stuffing like crushed walnut shells or emery sand. Or maybe try a variety of suggested stuffings and have a little science experiment of which one kept my needles the nicest over long periods of time. The people of the internet deserve to know what is best!


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