Who can resist a cute little pin cushion? They are great ways to use up scraps of pretty fabrics, they are useful, and they just look darn adorable sitting on your table! Lately I’ve been working on making some pin cushions, and I asked some designer friends about what kinds of filling they like to use. Wow! seems everyone has a particular preference, and for different reasons. Today, I thought I’d share with you what I found out.
Polyester Filling- This is a “fluffy” filling that is often used for making pillows and stuffed animals. The advantages of polyester filling are that it is easy to find in any sewing store, it is clean and free of allergens, and it is washable. You will need to try a few different kinds and see what you like- some of them can be kind of lumpy, and that can make it difficult to get a nice smooth project. (After trial and error, I have found that I like Silky Soft by Fairfield, I find it at JoAnn Fabrics. I also like it for larger projects like pillows.) It is very lightweight, which makes it great for stuffed animals, but you may prefer a heavier pin cushion which won’t easily slip or fall off the table when you use it. (I saw a suggestion to sew a heavy metal washer to the bottom of the pin cushion to keep it from sliding around.)
Cotton or Wool Filling- a little heavier than polyester filling. Some people say that the lanolin in wool will keep your pins and needles smooth and shiny.
Walnut Shells- You can find crushed walnut shells in pet stores, it is sold as reptile bedding, and it is pretty inexpensive. It is nice and heavy, which makes a nice pin cushion. It also fills in the corners very easily and nicely. Some people say that the shells and the oils in them keep your needles sharp and clean. The disadvantages- it should not be used or handled by people with a nut allergy. One person I talked to showed me a pin cushion which she had made several months prior, which now had a dark stain on it- presumably from the oils in the shells. So if you are using walnut shells for a pin cushion, you may want to line it to provide an extra layer of protection against the oils.
Sand- This can be found in hardware stores. It makes a nice heavy pin cushion. Disadvantage is that a sand spill can make a real mess in your house! (Think about when you come home from the beach, and you have sand in places you didn’t know you had!!) You will need to use a funnel and cookie tray or shallow pan under your pin cushion when you are filling it, to catch any spills. Because it’s so fine, use a smaller stitch length to prevent the sand from leaking out.
Emery Sand or Powder- Remember your Grandma’s old fashioned tomato pin cushion with the strawberry on top? The strawberry had emery in it- a super fine sand which sharpens your needles. It is actually made of very finely ground minerals/metals and so it has an abrasive property. Because it is so fine, I suggest lining the pin cushion and using a very small stitch length to prevent leakage. You can find it online, but it can be a bit pricey. It will make a nice, heavy pin cushion. Some people swear by emery, and others say that it actually causes corrosion of your needles because the abrasiveness will scratch the finish off the needles.
Sawdust- I have never used saw dust, but I imagine if you have a woodworking husband or friend, you can get lots of it for free! It would make a heavier, denser pin cushion than would polyester filling.
Scraps of fabric, batting- Try cutting your scraps into small pieces and stuffing it into your pin cushion. I haven’t tried it, but I imagine that if it works it would be a great way to use up those odd bits that we normally throw away. Again, this would make a lightweight pin cushion, so you could try mixing it with a heavier filling, or sewing a heavy washer to the bottom of the pin cushion.
Lavender smells nice! You could use exclusively lavender to fill your pin cushion, or mix it with another filling.
Someone also mentioned buckwheat hulls, which I’ve never tried. I was warned away from trying rice, as it might attract bugs. You might have heard that human hair makes a good pin cushion filling, but, ewww, I’m not trying it (and golly, it seems it would take FOREVER to save enough hair to fill a pin cushion. Unless you sweep up and keep the trimmings on the floor at a salon. And I’ll say it again- ewww.)
What do you use for making pin cushions, and why? Tell us in the comments!