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    

Large Art Deco Sitzendorf Flapper Lady Pin Cushion Half DollAntique Fasold & Stauch Half Doll On Pin Cushion BaseLarge Antique German Porcelain Pin Cushion Half Doll Charming No Reserve!Antique Rare Boxed Silk Jockey Cap Pin Cushion - Jockey Club By M A Rich - 1876Antique German Half Doll Porcelain Pin CushionTiffany & Company Sterling Silver Large Pin Cushion, Cupid Finial, Red VelvetAntique Half Doll Collection Decorated Fan In Hands Of Victorian Lady With HatAntique Large Fasold & Stauch Nude Lady Pin Cushion Half Doll 12 CmsAntique Sewing Tools Sock Darners Crochet Hooks Loops Pin Cushions Tape Measure2016 Ooak Janie Comito ~ Summer Rose ~ Pin Cushion~ With Antique ButtonFish Pin CushionBeautiful Vintage Style Marie Antoinette, Queen Of France ~half Pin Cushion DollLarge Antique Fasold & Stauch Pin Cushion Half Doll 12 CmsSterling Silver Repousse, Silk And Emery Strawberry Pincushion, ExquisiteGreat Bisque Porcelain Head Half Doll Pin Cushion In Very Nice ConditionVintage Half Doll, Pin Cushion Related-gorgeous Naked Lady With Blonde WigStunning Art Deco / Deco Style Figural Flapper Bathing Belle Pin Cushion DishBeautiful 1920's Style Marchioness,reign Of Louis Xv Of France Pin Cushion DollLarge Antique Fasold & Stauch Pretty Lady Pin Cushion Half DollLarge Antique Fasold & Stauch Dutch Lady With Lilies Pin Cushion Half DollArt Deco Style "flapper" Lady With Cloche Hat & Compact ~ Half Pin Cushion Doll Bowler Hat Pin Cushion On A Stand With Tape Measurer In Very Nice ConditionVintage~ceramic~pin/needle Cushion~hat Pin~little Boy~germany~3 Piece Great Art Deco Style "risqué Nude Masked Mademoiselle"pin Cushion DollArt Deco 1920s Style Porcelain "bathing Flapper Lady" Figurine Pin Cushion DollAntique Small Cube Of Toilet Pins (69 White Pins) 2" Square Made In Germany.Superb Art Deco 1920s Style Recling Belly Dancer Mata Hari Pin Cushion Half DollTerrific Art Deco 1920’s Style Boudoir "pierrette" Clown Half Pin Cushion Doll Lovely 1920's Style Romantic Pretty Young Victorian Lady ~ Pin Cushion Half DollLarge Antique Fasold & Stauch Elizabethan Lady Pin Cushion Half DollAntique German Porcleain Pretty Lady With Fan Pin Cushion Half DollVtg Blond Hair Blue Eyed Beads In Hair Half Doll For Pin Cushion - GermanyVtg Germany Porcelain Half Doll Pin Cushion Dress Blonde Hair Blue RibbonAntique Germany Pierrot Girl Pin Cushion Half Doll, Flat Head, NrPin Cushion LotSuperb Art Deco 1920s Style Porcelain "mata Hari" Flapper Lady Pin Cushion Doll Super Half Doll Pin Cushion Art Deco Style Exotic Lady With Feather Fan~ PerfectVintage Germany Porcelain Half Doll Pin Cushion #6099, Roaring 20's LadySuperb 1920's Art Deco Style ~ Pin Cushion Half Doll "flapper" Lady With Mirror Vintage Crochet Pin Cushion With Pink Insert Superb Art Deco Style 1920's Flapper Lady With Cloche Hat Pin Cushion Half Doll Superb Regal Bisque 1920s Style "madame De Pompadour" Half Pin Cushion Half DollAntique German Porcelain Pin Cushion Half DollTerrific Art Deco Style "risqué" Nude Lady With Necklace Half Doll Pin Cushion Beautiful 1920's Style Elegant French Court Society Lady Pin Cushion Half Doll Superb Art Deco 1920's Style Porcelain Pin Cushion Doll ~bathing Beauty Pin-upBeautiful Art Deco Style Nude Dancing Lady Pin Half Pin Cushion Doll Beautiful Art Deco 1920's Style "mata Hari" Lady & Parrot Half Pin Cushion DollSuperb Art Deco 1920's Style Porcelain Pin Cushion Doll RisquÉ Bathing Pin-up An Art Deco 1920s Style Porcelain "bathing Belle" Flapper Lady Pin Cushion DollAntique Fasold & Stauch Spanish Senorita Pin Cushion Half DollSuperb 1920s Art Deco Style Flapper Lady Ceramic Powder Bowl Pin Cushion DollGreat Bisque Porcelain Head Half Doll Pin Cushion In Very Nice W Fan 4Vtg Ardalt Soft Pillow Pin Cushion W 2 Verithin Lenwile China Cats Japan C1950s6 Vtg Pin Cushion Strawberry Emery Sand Needle Sharpener Hand MadeLovely ~art Deco 1920's Style Pin Cushion Doll ~ Dancing Nude Lady~ Dark HairBeautiful 1920's Style Elegant English Victorian Lady ~ Pin Cushion Half Doll Vintage Half Doll, Pin Cushion Related -art Deco Lady-lavender & GreenBeautiful Art Deco 1920's Style "medieval Lady" Porcelain Pin Cushion Half Doll Solid Brass Antique Sewing Bird Victorian Pin Cushion