In the years 1300 through 1400 metal pins were costly, and as you would imagine, not as readily available as they are today. They were usually stored in special needle/pin cases made from ivory, bone, silver or other metals. In the early 1700’s pin-pillows came into use–the predecessor of the pincushion of today. They were beautifully made from fine fabrics and often delicately embroidered. Soon the pin pillows became mounted on a silver, china, or wooden stand or base. In many cases the pincushion was actually used more as a home décor item than a sewing tool. During the early 1900’s pincushions became more common as a useful, functional sewing aid.



I also learned that during the Victorian Era, folklore suggests that when a family moved into a new home, a fresh tomato was placed on the mantle to ward off evil spirits and thus bring prosperity to the new homeowners. Since tomatoes were only available in certain seasons and didn’t stay fresh forever, the good-luck symbol was frequently fashioned from fabric instead–stuffed with sand or sawdust and made to look like the real thing with embellishments such as leaves and veins. I can imagine how easily the tomato graduated from a “tchotchke” to something more useful.

They do come in handy – I’ve got several around the house. Should you want to make one for yourself, here’s the link to a tutorial.