The Art of Pin Cushions

The Art of Pin Cushions

Pin cushions date back in recorded history to the 16th century, and they’ve been used in various forms ever since. Pins used to be rare commodities, hard to come by and valuable too. Initially, they were kept in small cases of wood, ivory, or metal. With the rise of the industrial revolution, however, pins became much easier to access, and so the need to keep them securely stored away became less of an issue. It was around this time that pin cushions really came into their own, with unique designs and styles. Silver  pin cushions became especially popular.  Popular designs included fruits, vegetables, shoes, pigs, and chicks. During the Victorian era, pin cushions were a collectable item, with the size and grandeur of the collection being an indicator of a woman’s social status. It was out of a longing for these designs [the chick in particular, beautiful freak that he is] that I asked myself: whatever happened to the art of pin cushions? Antique pin cushions had so much craft to them, and – from my experiences – modern pin cushions don’t share the same intricate beauty. It should be remembered though that my only experiences of pin cushions are through my aforementioned mother. I recall my mother’s pin cushion looking something like an unloved, furry tomato in a rusting, decades-old celebrations box. It is not the only one of its kind, I have learned, as tomato-shaped pin cushions are very popular, and for good reason.


In the Victorian era – when tomato-shaped pin cushions first came to be – it was frequent practice to place a tomato on the mantel of a new house. Folklore of the time suggested that this would repel evil spirits and guarantee prosperity. Tomatoes aren’t in season year-round, however, and so people improvised with tomato stand-ins; red fabric, shaped after the ‘lucky’ fruit, was stuffed with sawdust and placed on the mantel. These faux tomatoes provided a secondary use as a very handy place to store pins, and since that time, tomato-shaped pin cushions have been exceedingly popular. A nifty bonus is the strawberry attached, usually filled with emery powder for cleaning and sharpening pins. More sewing accessories came into play during the Victorian period, and design was never lacking. Just check out these beautiful ribbon pullers, crafted after a tall and detailed bird.  Pin cushions became more avian too, with the invention of the sewing clamp, commonly called a sewing bird. This was a metal clamp that would be affixed to the sewing table, with a bird on top that acted as a clamp. Squeezing the bird’s tail would cause its beak to open, ready for holding fabrics taut while a lady sews. It wasn’t long until pin cushions were incorporated to this design, and the sewing birds had pin cushions affixed to their backs, or underneath them.


George Shreve & Co. Antique C. 1850-90s Sterling Silver Pin Cushion - $5K Appraisal Value 


George Shreve & Co. Sterling Silver Pin Cushion (4 oz) Height: 2.5 in, Diameter: 3 in

This beautiful piece is made of sterling silver by George Shreve & Co. The bottom is marked with the company name, “San Francisco”, and “Sterling.” The box is intricately repoussé with flowers. The interior is velvet lined and the top is a padded velvet cushion. This piece opens to hold brooches or pieces of jewelry on the inside. The top is padded for pins or needles to stick into. It dates circa 1850-1890 and is in extremely fine condition.     

Appraised Value: $5,000.00
Our Price: $1,495.00


The above item  comes with a FREE Certified Insurance Appraisal valued at $5,000.00
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