Tutorial: Quick Improv Pincushion

Remember the binge I went on last week that resulted in eight pincushions that illustrated a glossary of colour terms? Here’s how I made them. These use the tiniest of scraps; each measures 1″ wide and 2″ to 3″ long. And they’re so quick and satisfying.

I don’t know how you organize your scraps, but my usable strips are in a very classy plastic grocery bag and shoved at the bottom of a drawer. This is what it looks like when you open the bag. It’s like snakes in a can, but colourful. Mostly solids, of course, as I have trouble with a lot of pattern. This is not exactly a scrapbusting project, as you will put only the smallest of dents in your scrap bag, but it’s great to experiment with colour and fabric combinations. Tiny little tests. I like tests, as seen here and here.

Fabric / Supply Requirements:

  • 12 scraps of fabric, 1″ wide by 2″ to 3″ long
  • One (1) scrap for back of the cushion, approx. 4″ x 4.5″
  • Two (2) scraps of batting, measuring roughly 4″ x 4.5″ (You know when you square up a quilt and you end up with a strip of batting? This is what you can use it for.)
  • Crushed walnut shells
  • Funnel
  • Poking device (like scissor tips, chopstick, etc.) for turning
  • Scooping device, for walnut shells
  • Needle and thread

I selected an orange and white palette, mixing in a linen/canvas print from Carolyn Friedlander’s Euclid collection. It was also my backing fabric.

  1. Arrange your 12 scraps in two rows of six. Play around until you are satisfied. Look here for more combos and arrangements. It doesn’t matter that they are not all the same length; there is plenty of room to trim off the differences later on.

  1. Place your first two scraps together at a 90 degree angle. Sew at a 45 degree angle (right, image above), like you would two pieces of binding. You can mark the 45 degree line first if you prefer, but it’s such a short distance to sew that you can eyeball it. See how I line it up with my foot in the photo below; aim for that bottom corner and you’ll be fine!

  1. Chain piece the remaining 5 pairs in the same manner.

  1. Press your seams to one side.

  1. Join each strip to its adjacent one to make three pairs. I try to stagger the 45 degree angles so they don’t line up.

  1. Join the pairs till you have them all assembled. Press.

  1. Trim raggedy edges so that the height of your small panel is 3.5″. It will be not quite 4″ wide.

  1. Cut your batting to slightly larger than your panels, both front and back. (See that strip of batting at the bottom left? It’s an off-cut from squaring up a quilt.)
  2. Time to quilt it! I did quick straight lines just to the side of each vertical seam. Start at the middle and work your way outward.
  3. Repeat with the back piece.

  1. Trim both the front and the back to 4″ wide by 3.5″. You’ll notice hear that your panel is less that 4″ wide. Centre the 4″ so that there is an even amount of batting to either side, as pictured below.

I love that this Carolyn Friedlander Euclid print in linen canvas “fades” toward the selvedge; a leftover from this project.

  1. Sew the front and back together, right sides together, leaving a 2″ opening. Mine was 2.5″ which I found to big to get crisp corners when I turned it right side out.
  2. Trim the corners and turn right side out using your “poking device.” I use a Japanese chopstick, which tapers at the end.

  1. Use your fingers to tuck the open edge into line with the seam line. Press.

  1. Time to fill it up! Crushed walnut shells add some weight to your cushion and also prevent your pins from dulling when you repeatedly poke them into the pin cushion. I use a funnel and something to scoop from the bowl. Fill to about halfway.

  1. Use a whipstitch to close your cushion. Only go about halfway, till the tip of your funnel just fits.

  1. Fill it up the rest of the way. Scrunch down the shells as much as possible with the tip of your funnel. Try to fill it up as much as you can manage, while still allowing a little space to finish up your whipstitch.
  2. Continue with your whipstitch till the cushion is sealed. Tie a knot, bury the thread and trim.

All done! Now isn’t it so unbelievably adorable?

7 thoughts on “Tutorial: Quick Improv Pincushion

  1. Margaret Landon says:

    I am a regular pincushion maker! A friend is a designer and gives me scraps of decorator fabric, LOVE IT! Also, pillows with zippers…all different sizes, but big enough for a couch….anyway, I use rice in my pincushions ….it makes for a pin cushion that doesn’t
    ‘Run alway’ when putting that pin in…also I stamp on a ribbon and attach diagonally across the borrow and side of the pincushion …..I have a longarm business and give them to customers….I make small ones and ones quite large ones (6 inches)….they can be heavy and hold fabric or pattern down! Love them!

  2. Dee by the Sea says:

    These are so cute and so colorful … endless possibilities for color combinations.
    I have enjoyed experimenting with so many of the projects that you have shared with us … thank you!

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