Sunday, 25 August 2013


 I'm always on the look out for interesting old beaded and embroidered pin cushions. They come in all shapes, sizes and materials. The example above is a bit of a monster at ten inches high, made from velvet with beaded designs. It was made in about 1880 by Native Americans, probably from the Tuscarora tribe, who sold them to tourists visiting the Niagara Falls.

At the other end of the scale is this tiny Victorian patchwork example, measuring about one inch square and half an inch high.

This pin cushion is made from snippets of antique soldier's uniform fabric and would have been brought home from overseas, perhaps from the Crimea or Afghanistan, a gift for Mother or the girl he left behind. They say that the men made these themselves as they waited for the action to start, but I think it more likely that there were cottage industries set up near army camps, making and selling these souvenirs.

I think my favourites are these - pin cushions made to commemorate the birth of "a little helpless stranger". They date from around 1830, a time when babies and their mothers quite often did not survive the birth. I sometimes wonder if people then were more resigned to sadness and hardship than we are today - but perhaps not. The cushion below seems to express the feelings of an anxious, loving husband.

                                                     A Girl or Boy
                                                    care not either
                                                   that our Saviour        
                                                      spares the



  1. Beautiful examples Nilly; are they yours or will you look after them for a while and then find them another home?

    Social history, small scale, don't you just love'em!


  2. Those are truly exquisite, aren't they?

  3. What a beautiful collection, I love the first image, such exquisite beading. I had never heard about the commemorative pin cushions for "a little helpless stranger" heart-wrenching. Jayne

  4. Another of Mr N's heading suggestions? He's (or you've) come up trumps again!

  5. Genius title! I love the colours and work in the 'soldier's uniform' example but the sentiment in the 'litle helpless stranger' is indeed, as Janye says, heart wrenching. Beautiful things to collect. M x

  6. These are so lovely, the soldier's cushion has so much work and time in it, but personally I'd be very happy with the simple little Victorian patchwork. x

  7. Beautiful, I never realised something as simple as a pin cushion could actually tell so much social history. Thanks for showing us these fabulous examples....and providing the history lesson too. Jx

  8. ~ How lovely, nilly....I LOVE them all! The sentiment in the strangers one is beautiful! i think they are enchanting! Hugs Maria x