Home Sewing 101History of Sewing20th Century Era Sewing History The Fascinating History of Antique Pin Cushions

Pin cushions, also known as needle cushions, have been used by seamstresses and needle workers for centuries to store and organize their pins, needles, and other small tools. While the practicality of pin cushions remains unchanged, the design and materials used to make them have evolved over time, resulting in a diverse range of beautiful antique pin cushions that are highly sought after by collectors today.

A beautiful display of antique pin cushions that were auctioned off by online auctioneers, Pook & Pook Inc. in January, 2019.
(Photo credit: Pook & Pook, Inc.)

The earliest pin cushions date back to the 16th century and were made from simple materials such as velvet, silk, or stuffed fabric. These early pin cushions were often small and simple in design, often shaped like a tomato, hence the nickname “tomato pin cushion”.

As time went on, the design of pin cushions became more elaborate, incorporating intricate embroidery, beading, and lace. The Victorian era saw the rise of the “pincushion dolls” which were miniature dolls that served as both pin cushions and decorative objects. These dolls were made from a variety of materials including porcelain, cloth, and bisque, and often featured intricate clothing and accessories. These beautiful little dolls are definitely a fun thing to collect!

This Victorian-era pin cushion is currently available on eBay. She is made of porcelain and is oh-so-pretty! See the listing here.
This gorgeous gal is listed on Etsy. She is from the 1910s and is a bit scandalous for the times. See the listing here.

One of the most unique and highly collectible types of antique pin cushions is the “scissor holder” pin cushion. These pin cushions were made in the shape of a scissor handle and were designed to hold both the pin cushion and a pair of scissors. The scissor holder pin cushion was a practical solution for needle workers who needed to keep their scissors close at hand while working.

This adorable little guy is a great example of a cushion that was also designed to hold scissors in the 1950s.
This is available on Etsy now.
Click here to see the listing.
This pin cushion is not an antique – it just resembles one! This handy cushion holds your scissors and your pins. You can find it on Missouri Star Quilt Company. Click here to shop.

Another type of antique pin cushion is the “needle book”, which was essentially a miniature book filled with pins and needles. Needle books were popular from the 16th century through the 19th century and were often made from materials such as leather, silk, or paper.

This antique needle book is currently for sale on eBay. It is from the Victorian era and is about two inches in size. Check it out here.

Collectors love antique pin cushions for their historical significance and unique designs. While some antique pin cushions are quite valuable, others can be found at relatively affordable prices, making them a great option for those just starting to build their collection. Whether you’re a seasoned collector or a beginner, an antique pin cushion is sure to bring a touch of history and charm to your sewing room.

Antique pin cushions certainly are fascinating pieces of history. They are beautiful reminders of the those who sewed before us!

You may also like

5 3 votes
Article Rating
Notify of

1 Comment
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Dorothy R. Martin
Dorothy R. Martin
9 months ago

What a delightful glance at how necessary items can really be beautiful — thank you so much. I loved them all. Had a friend who collected pin cushions, many of egg cups.

@2022 - All Right Reserved. Designed and Developed by PenciDesign