Pin cushions, or pincushions, only became a true necessity once sewing implements were mass produced during the middle of the 19th century. The crudely made pins and needles used before the Industrial Revolution were costly and typically stored in small boxes and cases. While pin pillows and un-mounted cushions emerged in 15th-century England, it wasn’t until pins were widely affordable during the 1800s that cushions were commonly sold as trinkets or commemorative gifts.

Like other decorative elements of the Victorian boudoir, pin cushions gradually moved out of the private realm and into the larger household. Designed in fanciful shapes adorned with embroidery and glass beading, these pin cushions were crafted from every material imaginable, including precious metals, bone, celluloid, wood, ivory, porcelain, fabric, and paper.

Novelty cushions resembling miniature boots and shoes were very popular, as were those modeled after various animals with velvet pinning-fabric mounted on their backs or in their mouths. More uncommon designs ranged from miniature furniture, like pianos and bassinets, to vegetables, like silk corncobs studded with kernels made from pearl-headed pins.

Particularly elaborate pin cushions were shaped like tiny dolls or doll-busts, with painted porcelain faces, lace trimmings, and soft fabric bodices to be filled with needles. One such product incorporated a celluloid doll face on a fabric cushion head, packaged with a tagline reading “Miss Dottie Dimple Emery has come to visit you and keep your needle polished bright and o-o-o just as good as new.”

Cushions were also frequently mounted onto other sewing tools, like clamps, boxes, and baskets. Though generally containing available materials like cotton, wool, horsehair, or sawdust, some pin cushions were filled with emery to help keep needle points sharp and prevent rusting.

The bright red tomato shape, one of the most common modern pin cushion designs, evolved from a specific Victorian-era tradition. By the end of the 19th century, widespread superstition called for placing a tomato on your mantle to ward off evil spirits. Since tomatoes were not available year round, fabric or paper replicas with detailed vines and leaves were created to do the trick instead, and soon served a second function for pin and needle storage.

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Sewing Machine Collector

Sewing Machine Collector

Geoff and Norma Dickens' reference site on vintage toy sewing machines from the late 1800s. Browse the images alpha… [read review or visit site]

Sensibility Vintage Images

Sensibility Vintage Images

An extensive collection of photos and ephemera illustrating changing fashion styles from 1795 to 1959. Includes por… [read review or visit site]

Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Rare Hm1908 Chester Sampson Mordan Novelty Silver Pin Cushion Fish Carp AntiqueLarge Antique Dressel & Kister Lady With Blue Turban Pin Cushion Half DollAntique Iroquois Woodland Indian Beaded Velvet Pillow, Flower & Birds, NrLarge Art Deco Fasold & Stauch Flapper Lady Pin Cushion Half Doll 12.5 CmsRare Art Deco Powder Puff Half Doll Pierrette & Pierrot Gondola Compact Related Antique Mother Of Pearl Workbox Pin Cushion / Disc * English * Circa 1850King George V Queen Alexandra Souvenir Coronation Pin Cushions Paperweights 1910Art Deco Fasold & Stauch Full Figure Jester Pin Cushion Half DollLarge Art Deco Flapper Lady Pin Cushion Half Doll With Mohair Wig & ParasolVintage Sterling Silver Felt Pin Cushion Tiffany & Company Rose Figural AntiqueVtg Solid Silver Pin Cushion Red Sterling Aj Poole 1981 Sewing Tool HallmarkedAntique Sewing Pincushion Pin Cushion *george Square Glasgow*Vintage 1920's 30's Flapper Half Doll Pin Cushion With Legs Hand On HatLarge Antique Fasold & Stauch Tudor Lady Pin Cushion Half DollSterling Silver Top Strawberry Pin Cushion Ornate Victorian With String SewingAntique Victorian Cold Painted Spelter Cat Pin Cushion19th C Carved Walnut Wall-hanging Spool / Thread Holder W Pincushion *Collectable Cute Miniature Edwardian Style Mouse Pin Cushion Sterling Silver 925Huge Collectable Edwardian Style Camel Pin Cushion Velvet Sterling Silver 925Vintage Antique Silver Shoe Boot Pin Cushion - Pincushion Holder - Hat Pin Etc1800s Pin Cushion In Ornate Walnut Wood With Thimble HoldersVintage Carved Wood Pin Cushion ShoeAntique Victorian Made In Germany Metal Bull Dog Pin Cushion FigurinePincushion, Late C19th.Art Deco Fasold & Stauch Spanish Senorita Pin Cushion Half DollLarge Antique Fasold & Stauch Pin Cushion Half DollLot 3 Vintage Wooden Embroidery Hoops Duchess Felt Cushion 1888 Mfg Spring 5" 6"Art Deco German Bisque Full Figure Chubby Child Pin Cushion Half DollAntique Indian Beaded Sewing Pincushion Pin Cushion *niagara Falls*Vintage Half Doll Pin Cushion Lady With Legs & CushionHuge Victorian Style Stork Bird Figure Pin Cushion Ruby Eyes 925 Sterling SilverEdwardian Style Cat Pin Cushion With Emerald Eyes Velvet Sterling Silver 925Antique Half Doll Germany Pin Cushion Art Deco Bonnet Head Arms Sign Home DecorVintage Hanging Advertising Pin Cushion * French * Circa 1920Huge Victorian Style Corset Bust Pin Cushion Sapphire Buttons Sterling SilverTiny 19th C Mini-pincushion, Strawberry, No Reserve *Antique Sterling Hallmarked Pin Cushion In The Shape Of A Shoe PincushionAntique Pin Cushion Victorian Vintage Heart Love Miniature Pillow Silk Box RoseVintage H. F. Neuss Celebrated Victorian Sewing Pin Card ChapelleLarge Collectable Edwardian Style Owl Ruby Eyes Pin Cushion Sterling Silver 925D Antique Cast Metal Airplane Pin Cushion Vtg Figural Novelty Pincushion SewingLarge Lady Half Doll Pin Cushion W/ Wild Blonde Hair Flowers & Black Lace DressVintage Rosenfeld By Florenza Gilt Frog Pin Cushion And Trinket Box Very Cool!Rare Art Deco Porcelain Pin Cushion Doll Very Stylized Blonde Marcelled CurlsAntique French Early 19thc Carved Bone Crown Form Pin Cushion, NapoleonicEdwardian Style Pig Pin Cushion Velvet Sterling Silver 925Emery Oak Acorn Pin Cushion, Hand Made, Flowers & Butterfly Summer DecorationVintage China/porcelain Half Doll~pin Cushion Doll~3 3/4"~#1~Vintage Velvet Carrot Pin Cushion, Hand MadeAntique Vintage Flapper Porcelain Half Doll Arms Away GermanyVintage Strawberry Pin Cushion, Hand Made Velvet & WoolEdwardian Style Squirrel Pin Cushion Velvet Sterling Silver 925Antique Red Velvet Hanging Pincushion Hand Made3 Reproduction Half Dolls~pin Cushion Dolls~2.5"-3.5"~Miniature Pin Cushion Half Doll.Vtg Half Doll Porcelain Woman Lady Figure Pincushion Pin Cushion Antique Dress3 Vintage Chalkware Half Dolls~pin Cushion Dolls~tlc~3 3/4"-5.5"~Tiniest Antique 1800's Strawberry Needle Emery Sewing Pin Cushion Early HandmadeAntique Davar Originals Lion Figurine Pin Cushion W/ Tape Measure / Foil LabelVintage China/porcelain Half Doll~pin Cushion Doll~4.5"~#2