Archive for the ‘pin cushion/sewing’ Category

Whimsical Victorian pin cushion, c.1880

Saturday, May 2nd, 2020

For those of you who have been following my blog from the beginning, you are well aware how I feel about make-do pin cushions. I just don’t like them very much. Although for quite some time they were arguably the most ubiquitous of inventive repairs, they now seem to have dried up. I don’t know whether to attribute the scarcity to the distain by others like myself, or if they are so highly prized that they are being snatched up and hoarded by rabid collectors. Either way, I bit the bullet and recently bought this whimsical example. Please don’t judge me.

It seems anyone could wrap a scrap of fabric around some cotton, straw, or excelsior and plop it onto a broken base and call it a pin cushion, and many did just that. But this unusual example has been taken to another level. This wacky Victorian pin cushion stands 5.5 inches high and was made around 1880 and appears to be wearing a jester’s hat. It was made from the inverted bowl of a broken pressed glass goblet and filled with keepsakes, turning it into a memory jar. Contents include decorated paper, feathers, a pressed gold leaf, a colorfully painted base, along with an inscription, which reads: “Memento to Kate Caward made and presented by an old lady on her seventy fifth birthday.” It’s more common to see make-do pin cushions made from bases of broken goblets, so this may be an example of not losing a goblet but gaining two pin cushions.

So let’s raise a glass to collectors worldwide and celebrate our quirky passions. And in case you drop your glass, don’t worry. You can always make lovely pin cushions from the damaged pieces.

Here’s a well curated collection of fancy and whimsical pin cushions.

Photo courtesy of Peggy McClard

Pin cushion, c.1900

Sunday, March 10th, 2019

For years I have resisted buying a single make-do pin cushion, the most prolific of all repairs. I am not a fan and think of them as the “Hummel figurine” of the inventive repair world. I will admit that on a couple of occasions, during moments of temporary insanity, I came close to buying one for my collection. But last year at an antiques shop in Pittsburgh, I caved in and bought this sad little example.

At home repairs like this are the most common type of make-do, with endless variations made from broken household items, including oil lamps, goblets, and candlesticks. This one was most likely made in America during the late Victorian era and stands 4.5 inches high. The base is made from a broken cut glass decanter stopper and the top is made from a ball of fabric covered in colorful wool yarn. I will try hard not to succumb the next time I encounter another one of these.

This collection of make-do pin cushions, each with a different glass base, have yarn tops similar to mine.

Photo courtesy of Live Auctioneers

Sterling turtle tape measure, c.1920

Saturday, February 23rd, 2013

I just returned from the Antiques Garage Flea Market in Chelsea with this whimsical turtle-shaped tape measure with an inventive repair. It was purchased from dealer Janet West, who has great taste and wonderful eye for the unusual. The sterling and brass tape measure dates from the first quarter of the 20th century and measures 2-3/8″ long. Written in a quirky font in raised letters on the back “I have three feet that measure thirty six inches”, a witticism pertaining to the 3′ cloth tape measure once concealed inside the shell. When the original silver head became detached and lost, a clever person whittled a new head out of wood, carefully carving out delicate facial features. So even though this perky little turtle began its life as a sewing implement for an adult, it was reborn as a toy to be played with and loved by the next generation.






This lucky guy still has his original silver head, but I think mine has more character.


It’s no wonder the original head and flimsy cloth tape on my little fellow became detached. I would bet a small child pulled the head out one too many times, just as I would have done at that age.


Photos courtesy of Silver Magpie

I am a turtle lover and would have bought the tape measure even if it were in “perfect” condition but as you know from reading my posts, perfection is in the eye of the beholder and to me this one IS perfect. My love of turtles began in the second grade when I was taken on a class trip to the Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange, NJ. Soon after that I had a quick succession of pet turtles, all named Cornelius, and all buried in the back yard of our Short Hills, NJ 1920s English Tudor style house. As the turtle tape measure and my old house date from the same period, the original home owner might have owned my tape measure!

Now we have dozens of unnamed turtles, which I look forward to seeing each spring, in the pond at our house in Upstate NY. I took this photo of an eastern painted turtle laying her eggs in our garden last summer.


Milk glass hen pin cushion, c.1890

Sunday, March 14th, 2010

Almost every home in America had a version of a molded glass hen on a nest covered dish. But most homes did not have this clever “make-do” pin cushion, made from just a broken lid. I assume the intact bottom half was reused as a dish, but the top half remains were encased in fabric and cotton batting, crocheted with red “feathers” around the neck and transformed in to a practical pin cushion.

Pin cushion hen measures 4-1/4″ high.

The mother hen pin cushion began life looking something like this.

Photo courtesy of Cornerstone Collectibles