This isn’t just about tomatoes…

My first pincushion was a tomato.  My Mom had one.  I thought it’s what everybody used – would always use.


It wasn’t until I got a few years older that I started seeing other types of pincushions.  Back in the days before Pinterest and Instagram, we didn’t know about all the other options.  Vintage?  It hadn’t been invented yet.

Knowing that most of us used a pincushion – pin-collector – of some kind, I got curious.  So I asked the Moda designers about their pin-habits.  What kind of pincushion or pinbowl did they use?  Was it their favorite – or just the one that best fit their needs? Do they have a collection?  Do they pin a little or a lot?  And what kind of pins do they use?  (So I got a little bit nosey… you want to know too, don’t you?)

So get a cup of tea or coffee, sit back and get comfortable… this is going to take a few minutes.

Lynne Hagmeier – Kansas Troubles.


Lynne has a few dozen pincushions but these are her favorites.  The three on the left were handmade gifts from friends and while she’s used them all at some point, they are currently in retirement while she uses the big wool roving pincushion on the right.  She visited the artist who raises the sheep, spins the wool to use for afghans, sweaters, scarves and these wonderful pincushions.  Lynne got a few for her retreat friends and wisely kept one for herself.

Jan Patek.


Jan designed and made this perfectly awesome, perfectly “I want this!” needle roll using Moda Wool, Needle Flannel, Brushed Homespuns and prints.  It’s folk art and primitive and very “Jan Patek”.  As Jan does primarily appliqué, this needle roll is so much better suited to her needs.

Betsy Chutchian.


Betsy was one of the first to admit to having a collection – a fairly large one.  She’s made some, received others as gifts and even purchased a few.  The wool pear clamped to her sewing table is her favorite and the one she uses the most while at home.  Betsy always has a few travel-sized pincushions she can take on teaching and retreat trips.  Her pincushions must have some weight to them so they stay put, or they must fit into a box or carrier.  Preferred stuffings are crushed walnut shells and wool.

Betsy pins when necessary, preferring to finger-pin when possible.  That said, depending on the project, time and mood, she sometimes pins profusely.  Her pins of choice are Clover Patchwork Pins 2507 and Clover Fine Quilting Pins 2509No. 2507 are the finer of the two – long and thin.  But when a little extra length is required, No. 2509 are what she uses.

Sandy Klop – American Jane.


The big used-to-be-red wool tomato sits by Sandy’s sewing machine.  She never moves it so she doesn’t lose it.  The red pinbowl stays on her ironing board for the same reason.  The tins stay in her take-along sewing basket so they don’t get misplaced and the two pieced pinnies are gifts from a friend – they’re always getting lost under fabric.  Her favorite pincushion is the Tiny Tuffet she made from a kit.

Despite all the pins, Sandy doesn’t pin a lot but she does pin.  She knows when she needs to.

Pat Sloan.


Pat wrote that “over the years, I’ve used every type of pincushion you can think of.  But right now, I like the magnetic pinbowls because I can easily drop the pins in when she’s done.”  That’s what she keeps by her sewing machine.  The others are best for Pat’s handwork – she does a lot of appliqué, embroidery and embellishment.  She doesn’t have a huge collection… but she owns up to having a few, enough to be a collection.  Her favorites right now are the wool strawberries.

As for pinning – Pat’s describes herself as a “middle of the road” pinner.  Meaning, she pins “some” but not a lot.  Judging by the pins in the pinbowl, she likes flower-head pins.

Coriander Quilts – Corey Yoder.


Corey made all three of these pinnies.  The hexie pincushion at the top is the one she uses most often but she has to turn it upside down to the non-cute side as pushing the pins through the hexies is “challenging”.  The other two are pincushions she made to give away in pincushion swaps.  How lucky were those two swap recipients?

Corey confesses to pinning as little as possible… but when necessary, she really likes Clover Flower Head Pins.

Shannon Orr.


Shannon loves pincushions – especially those made with favorite fabrics.  (I love the novelty print rectangle.)  She likes having several pinnies around so that she doesn’t have to go far for pins because she is absolutely a “pinner”.  Her favorite pins are the long quilting pins and flower-head pins by Clover.

Vanessa Goertzen – Lella Boutique.


A cupcake pincushion made by her Mom – that would be my favorite too.  Vanessa doesn’t have a collection – not yet anyway.  She pins when adding sashings and borders but not so much for blocks.  She wrote “… I know, I know. That sounds bad.”  I think she’ll be happy to know that she’s in good company – there are quite a few “not so much” pinners among the Moda designers.  Her favorite pins?  The glass head pins by Little House.

Frances Newcombe & Jane Davidson – Franny & Jane.


Frances sent this beautiful picture of the many pincushions she uses.  Most were made by friends, though Frances made the little cake.  The tiny green triangle was originally for a tossing game but she likes using it for projects she takes with her.

Since she uses different pins for different types of sewing projects, she uses several magnetic pincushions to keep them separate.  Frances pins a lot when sewing bags but not as much for quilts and garments.  Her favorite pins are:


Jane uses many pincushions – there is one near every sewing spot, on her cutting table in her studio and around the house.  Basically, every spot where she sews – now or in the future.  She has a collection of pincushions she’s made and some she’s received as gifts.  She doesn’t have a favourite (those Aussies and their extra letters) but she has a soft spot for this one…


It was a gift and she loves the delicate handiwork that went into making it.

As for pinning, Jane is a pinner!  She uses “many pins for piecing. It helps stabilize your work and keep those intersections and points together.”  She wrote that she sometimes wants to be “pin free” and throw caution to the wind but it doesn’t always work… often requiring a date with Seam the Ripper.  But she tries anyway.

Jane also admits to sewing over pins – but does add that she uses very fine pins.  (I knew there was a reason I really liked Jane!) Her favorites are the Little House pins.

Kate Spain.


This is Kate’s favorite pincushion – it’s made with her first Moda collection, Verna.  It was a gift from Sherri McConnell and every time Kate uses it, she thinks of Sherri’s generosity and kindness.  She wrote that “it’s also a touchstone for me because it takes me back to the beginning of my fabric-designing journey.”

The pins are Little House pins – a gift from Joanna Figueroa when Kate was starting to make quilts.  Having this pincushion and pins next to her sewing machine makes her feel like her friends are there sewing with her.

Sherri McConnell & Chelsi Stratton – A Quilting Life.


Sherri does have a bit of a collection but this is her favorite.  She made it using the pattern in Anna Graham’s book, Handmade Style.  Her favorite pins are those by Little House and she’s a “25-percent pinner… when it’s essential.”

Sherri’s daughter Chelsi doesn’t have a collection.  Yet.  But she’s off to a good start with these two pincushions she made with her scraps.


She’s a pinner – she describes herself as pinning “quite a bit.  I like to keep my projects nice and secure, as well as aligned, so pinning is a must while I’m sewing.”  As you can see by the tin, Chelsi is also a fan of Little House pins.

Me & My Sister Designs – Barbara Groves & Mary Jacobson.


This is Barb’s pincushion – a brightly-colored wool roving pincushion she’s had for about 16 years.  While she has a few others, this is her favorite, the one she uses every day.  There are always two “just in case” safety pins stuck in the side.  The misshapen white pin has been in there for about 10 years and the other white pin was left in a quilt from a quilter and it’s been there for almost 15 years.  She has no idea why she’s saved them but she has.  The three T-pins?  She has no idea why the they’re there but they are bunched together.

Yes, Barb has always arranged her pins in “clumps”.  While they get all messed up during a project, one of the first things she does after finishing is to put them in clumps again.  Stray threads and bent pins are tossed.

She pins a lot – she actually stressed “LOTS”.  And she sews over them.  Her favorite pins are Clover Patchwork Pins No. 232 – small glass-head pins with a sharp tip.  She also likes to iron over pins so the glass heads are particularly important.

And finally… Amy Ellis.


These are Amy’s two favorite pinnies and she uses them both.  They each hold a different weight of pin – “teeny tiny” and “tiny” – aka Clover Patchwork Pins 2507 and Clover Fine Quilting Pins 2509.  The super-fine Patchwork pins are great for pinning pieces and lightweight intersections while the Fine Quilting pins are best for pinning blocks and rows together, and for attaching borders.  Both are fine enough and sharp enough that they glide through the fabric with no distortion.  And there aren’t any holes to steam out later.

Amy pins as needed – finding that while she can skip pinning in some cases, sometimes a pin or two is needed to ensure that seams and points match up.  And her pincushions must be filled with crushed walnut shells to keep them from wandering across the table as she reaches for them.

That’s it for today – we’re back tomorrow with a whole bunch more designers and their pinnies.

What about you?  Do you have a favorite pincushion?  Do you pin a lot or “just enough”?

Happy Tuesday!







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35 thoughts on “This isn’t just about tomatoes…

  1. What a fun post! I love seeing them all. I use a vintage red pin cushion with the Chinese tailors around the edge and I usually have my pins organized by style. I used to use a magnetic bowl but wasn’t sure if it is safe to use near a computerized machine. I used to use a bracelet style pin cushion but it wore out and I haven’t found another.

  2. Can one ever have too many pincushions? NO! I hope you are going to feature Amanda Jean @Crazy Mom Quilts- she made a pincushion for every day of July!!! One of my personal favourites is one from Fabric Mutt’s book, with a little pocket on the side for scissors or clips!

    1. Hi Susan – I agree! I love Amanda Jean and her pincushion challenge was amazing! I love that she managed to get one made every day – and that they were all different. While I mentioned the challenge a few weeks ago, I am hoping to include it in something else next week.

      As for the pincushion from Heidi – the Fabric Mutt’s – book, I love that one too! I’ve made two but gave them both away as gifts. Meaning, I need to make another one for myself – pronto! 🙂

  3. Carrie, I love your stories and read every post. I am a pinner. I have 5 pincushions. I use my magnetic one the most.i am always on the lookout for vintage ones. Looking forward to the rest of the story.

  4. Lovely, interesting post to read. I am very nosy to see what pincushions everyone else has! I have just two, one I made in the cathedral window design and a shop-bought one to wear on my wrist when sewing. Reading your post just makes me want more.

  5. My favorite pincushion (I only own 2) is a star-in-a-log cabin design made by Mary Etherington of Country Threads. She used to sell them at quilt shows and used the proceeds to save for a piano. I love that I own something made by one of my favorite designers and also helped her purchase her beloved piano! I am a pinner and can’t live without my Little House pins.

  6. I probably have about a dozen pinnies, many as gifts or from exchanges. I don’t pin much, except for borders. And I have a few pins that are regularly used with my EPP.

  7. No stylish pincushions for me, but I read every word of your post. The photos were too cute. I pin a lot, nothing more annoying than to have matched up corners advance under the sewing machine needle, requiring a ripout. I use magnet type pin catchers. My husband, the engineer, suggested I buy more than one so I did. I keep one by my sewing machine, one on the ironing board, and one by the design wall. I have lots and lots of pins and they rotate through the different pin catchers depending on whether I’m stitching, pressing and pinning, or moving blocks around the design wall.

  8. I sure liked your post all about the designers “pinnies” and preferred pins used! I looked around and I’ve a collection too (SURPRISE!!) My favorite are the three Grabbit magnetic pin grabbers by my machine, ironing board, and cutting area. For longarming, I sewed a strap to one of the wool roving pincushions by Sew Ewesful to stick the pearl tear drop corsage pins into. Others seem to be decorative. But I recently made a long skinny pincushion to put in front of the vintage machine I travel with. It is filled with walnut shells. Thanks again for a delightful, “to the point” post!! Allison in Plano, TX

  9. My favorite pin cushion is one I made in 4-H and received a blue ribbon for. This will date me but I filled my pincushion with old nylon stockings (pantyhose). It was a bargello needlepoint top with a double knit backing. It usually sits by my machine, but its easy to carry and heavy enough not to move. I also have a couple of thread catchers with pincushions attached that are real handy by the sewing machine. I pin to hold things in place and for matching seams but not a fan of pinning.

  10. I really enjoy all of your post and looking forward to the next edition. I made three pincushions you wear on your finger. Gave two away and in travels lost mine. Need to make more. Easy to collect pins while sewing. I also enjoy my magnetic bowl for pins, just scoop them up into bowl. I mostly use the flower head pins.

  11. I have one of the round ones made of roving by the machine but usually use a magnetic one elsewhere. My favorite is an antique one that was my grandmother’s. It is (I guess) pewter – looks like an old lady’s tie up shoe, has a little heel on it – if you can imagine. It was always on Mom’s sewing machine, the one I learned to sew on.

  12. I have the start of a pretty solid collection! I read your Le Vie En Rosie posts years ago on pin cushions and still once in a while go back to them for technique references. I use a bit of stuffing in the corners and edges and fill with walnut shells. ANd often use wool on the back so they stay put! Last month following along with Amanda I made 4 more from scraps and gifted a few right off! This is such a fun post think I will have to make a few more today.

  13. I loved this post! I don’t really use pincushions (I mostly use pretty floral dessert bowls), but I have a few of them! I make them because they are so darn cute and a good way to use those last hard-to-part-with favorite scraps! I found a lovely pedestal bowl at a yard sale and most of my collection lives there, except the one that’s in my ruler box with all my binding supplies. I would like to make a biscornu pincushion and may have to revive my cross-stitch skills to make the top, or maybe just piece some more pretty scraps!

  14. Oh my goodness, that was such a fun post!!! Thanks so much for putting it together 😉 It was just wonderful to get to see everyone’s favorite pincushions, pins, and to hear of their pinning habits 😉 And I totally had to laugh, because I was just saying to my MIL yesterday that I realized I don’t use pins much anymore. Far less than when I started. So nice to hear that I am in good company in the “just enough” group 😉

  15. I have learned not to let love of something develop into a collection, but I do love pincushions…love the display here

  16. I have a large collection of pin cushions – most were table favors from conventions and retreats and some I made. But please please tell people not to sew over pins! The needle can hit that pin and shove it down into the bobbin area causing a huge repair bill. I know – I frew up doing it too but I learned my lesson the expensive way.

  17. Love this post! So interesting all the different pincushions! My favorite pincushion was made from a Dawn Heese of Linen Closet Designs book. It’s a longer, narrower one that fits my hand perfectly!

  18. I LOVE pincushions! Your post was so much fun to read!
    I signed up for quite a few exchanges in the past and when a bunch of friends started a retreat, we did a pincushion exchange. I miss doing exchanges! I think I might have to make myself one 🙂
    Probably a RED one….

    Peggy in NJ

  19. I’m with Ann above: I want to make some because they are so cute. However, I wear the wrist one and use it almost exclusively because it’s too handy. It’s wearing out so I need a new one of those too. Thanks for the post and am looking forward to the next!

  20. Super fun post! The first pincushion I made was from one of your “Little Bites: Morsels” patterns, Carrie! I made it using “California Girl” by Fig Tree & Co and embellished it with buttons from my grandmother’s button jar. It’s my most used pin cushion and I love it!

  21. Thank you for this post! I love all the pincushins and the stories behind them.
    While I have a few pincushions I only use one and since I don’t use pins very often that’s okay for me.

  22. I love this post! I have a mini collection of pincushions but my favorite is a wrist pincushion made by a dear friend. We belong to a Tuesday morning quilt group and she makes one for every new member. For the base, she uses a plastic milk bottle cap.

  23. my favorite is a magnetic pin keeper; but I also love a teeny tiny pin cushion I keep with me when I’m hand sewing. I pin a lot and love “Little House pins”

  24. I use roving pincushions the most. I make some of my own filled with washed wool roving, they are owls and it seems that once I finish making them I cannot bear to put pins in them…so I gift them!

    I use pins as needed by both design and material, but in general I tend to be a minimal pinner

  25. I’m definitely a pinner. It’s probably a handover from being learning to sew garments at a young age. I learned from my mother and she was a pinner in garment sewing. She learned to quilt from her paternal grandmother and I have no idea when she went back to quilting after I moved 1k miles away from home if she pinned or not. I do not used magnetic pin bowls. I read somewhere that the pins become magnetized and they can become attracted to your needle and break your needle. I used to sew over pins and sew very, very close to my pins before I pull them out and have had the pins attracted to the needle and pulled under it and boom – my needle broke and the pin bent and a big mess. So, I don’t threw mine away. I didn’t even ask at guild meeting if anyone else wanted it. I tossed it. I wish I had known that there are those who love them. Thanks for the article on pincushions and can’t wait for more.

  26. I’m a pinner and I pin lots! I have several pin cushions that I use when hand piecing, but when I’m machine piecing I have a pin tin next to my machine rather than a pin cushion. When I’m dressmaking though, I always use a pin cushion. Love the examples you shared!

  27. Coming from garment sewing, I pin all the time… I have several tomato pin cushions, two magnetic bowls, two of the magnetic plastic pin-holders and one worn on the wrist. When I’m in the easy chair I’ve been known to put pins (and needles) into the chair arm! Several years ago I purchased a magnetic ‘broach’ to wear near the neck area of my shirt but it’s pretty heavy and drags things down in the front. As to pins, I like the long glass headed quilting pins for most things, the flower head pins for some things, and the very thin pins for applique. I never sew over pins if I can help it. My magnetic pincushions also contain safety pins, small binder clips and a diaper pin or two for elastic insertion.

  28. I’m a big pinner. I have pin cushions but never use them. Sticking the pin into them is too much work! I’m lazy! Instead I have a heavy small square dish I picked up at Joann’s about 15 years ago. That way I can toss the pins in. I think the original intent was to hold a candle, but who knows!

  29. I have several pin cushions. Guess you would say I’m an average pin person. Enough to hold but not so many I’m constantly pinning me. I sort my pins by type – length and thickness. i have railroad spike quilt pins and nice fine silk pins with everything in-between including antique quilt pins and u shaped quilt pins. Apparently my favorite shape is the tomato or apple (round). The round pin cushions usually have two or three types of pins in them each type clustered together on a side.Wish I could post a photo on here to show you “Puppy”. I have had “Puppy” since before I was in first grade. “Puppy” is an late 1930’s, pre WWII Japanese ceramic planter, just the right size to hold a tomato pin cushion. He belonged to my Great Grandma Fleming. There are pictures of me playing with him. She taught me to embroider and gave me “Puppy”. He has held several tomatoes in my lifetime and one of my cats dearly loved to give me a heart attack by dragging him to the edge of a table then pulling out his pins and dropping them on the floor. “Puppy” survived.

  30. I love this post! I love to pin and love pincushions. The magnetic bowl is my most recent purchase and so fun. Fabric selvedge pincushions were made by me a few years back so I have a few of those plus gave many away!……and more lined up to make:) One of my favorites is an old shoe from my first grandchild when the other one got lost in the lake…he loves seeing it in my sewing room and his brothers think it’s pretty funny. Teaching boys to sew!

  31. My favorites are my kaleidoscope pincushions. I fell in love with kaleidoscopes using very small prints and couldn’t resist the temptation to turn them into pincushions…Every one is beautiful and unique!

  32. I’m a pinner and love pincushions. One Christmas I made one for each of young granddaughters in the owl pattern. I lost my most favorite pincushion in a OK tornado that was a small machine embroidery that looked like needlepoint with velvet backing. I made the same for friends also. They were filled with metal filings with a really dense lining. After the tornado a friend replaced my loss with a beautiful square with embroidery. If I’m working on detailed work I prefer small pin catchers. I was shopping in a antique store and found a stuffed Scottie dog that was weighted with sand in its feet and had a tag “I’m a door stop”.it is a perfect addition to my sewing room. His Stewart plead covering and his size of about 5-6 inches are perfect to weight down fabric and holds my pins. Who knew – a door stop for a pin cushion. I loved this article

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