Pins and pincushions

In April last year, I paid a visit to Jenners, the famous department store in Edinburgh, Scotland, which was once known particularly for its fabrics and haberdashery. Now it has just one modest haberdashery department. However, in that department I found a very splendid pincushion (marked down in the sale, what’s more). I do like a nice pincushion! This is a good size and really sturdy.

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I had been thinking about the pins I use and so proposed this topic as the subject for an article in Popular Patchwork.  It appears in the March 2017 edition of the publication and you can see the reference to this, down towards the bottom of the cover, as in ‘Amanda Ogden shares the story of her pin obsession’.

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I became very interested by the strong resemblance of very old (for example Romano-British) pins to the ones we use today, and so included some of these in my article. The editor Elizabeth Betts writes:

Recently, I have been slightly obsessed with following the finds of mudlarks on Instagram. In case you have never heard of the term it is a nineteenth century word given to people who look for items on a river bank. It used to be a job, and not a pleasant one I would imagine, but now history enthusiasts and collectors go treasure seeking. The mudlarks I follow search for items around the River Thames and recently one posted a photograph of some Tudor pins. They looked beautiful. Utilitarian, damaged and aged, I cannot help wondering whose workshops they came from, what they would have helped make and how they ended up in the river. I searched for more images and found lots of examples of pins found along the banks of the Thames from medieval times onwards. I am slightly squeamish, but tempted to book onto a tour, imagining it to be like beachcombing but messier! If you are intrigued to read more about pins then turn to page 48, where fellow historical sewing fan Amanda Ogden shares some of her finds, and has also designed two handy pin cushions for you to make – perfect if you are spring-cleaning your sewing supplies this month.

Near the top of the cover under the flag MAKE, there’s a reference to ‘A circus pincushion’ which is the first of the two I designed: it’s a larger table-top ‘Big Top’ shape in suitably traditional circus colours. The second is a useful wrist pincushion, for which I employed a starry white on red theatrical-looking fabric, like the kind that might be made into clown’s trousers, or a tight-rope walker’s costume!