How to Make a Potted Pincushion

Use these simple instructions to create a pincushion for your own sewing efforts or as a gift.

by Dani Yokhna
How to Make a Potted Pincushion

Difficulty: Beginner

Time: 1 hour or less

Pincushions are a necessity in the sewing basket and, when done right, can be lovely items to display. Consider making a functional yet attractive pincushion that expresses your personality or to give as the perfect gift. Use this basic formula to make pincushions that will also let you upcycle a variety of items around the house.

Pincushions 101
A pincushion is basically a stuffed fabric sack. Historically, the most rudimentary pincushions used by needleworkers in sparse circumstances might have been nothing more than a scrap of wool or linen tied tightly around sand or more fabric scraps. From there, they became increasingly more elaborate and precious—the finest pins and needles found themselves nestled in elegant silk cushions with pleasantly scented fillings.

From the Pages of Hobby Farm HomeFor a decorative pincushion that won’t be used much, nearly any material and filling will do; however, an experienced needleworker will confirm that some pincushions are better than others. The fabric should be tightly woven but easy to needle (i.e., doesn’t resist puncture by the tips of pins and needles). The old standbys of wool and linen are still superior in that respect; synthetics and some cotton might resist the needle.

Wool makes a stellar pincushion cover because it’s easy to needle in almost all of its many forms: felt, tightly woven materials and knits. You can buy new fabric to get a just-so color, recycle woolens from the thrift store (be sure to treat for moths before bringing into your home), or even knit or crochet your own textile.

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The stuffing is a matter of personal choice; some like a firm filling and others prefer a soft cushion. Because the purpose of the pincushion is to store and protect pins and needles, the filling should not promote rust or dull the points. Wool is a winner in the stuffing department, too: It won’t dull points—the lanolin in wool helps protect the metal, especially if you can find a source of unscoured wool yarn or fleece (aka wool that has the grease left in) or that is minimally processed—and its firmness can be adjusted.

Other fillings include emery powder, crushed walnut hulls, clean sand and sawdust—all of which help sharpen points and clean the shafts of pins and needles. A two-part cushion will often have a rust-repelling wool filling in the main cushion where the pins and needles are stored and a smaller accessory filled with a more abrasive material for cleaning.

Potted Pincushion
Pincushions are quick and fun to make and will serve their owners well. Once you know the basic guidelines, you can experiment to create any shape you can envision. Here are the instructions for a simple cushion with a flowerpot base, felted-wool cover and woolen filling. 

Potted Pincushion: Step 1Step 1: Make template.
Trace 4-inch-diameter circle onto sturdy paper or card stock and cut out. (You can also print and cut out this template.)
Potted Pincushion: Step 2Step 2: Cut fabric.
Place template on fabric and trace around it with a fabric crayon or pencil. Cut fabric along the line.
Potted Pincushion: Step 3Step 3: Gather fabric.
Sew a running stitch 1/4 inch from the edge of the fabric. (Reference this stitch guide for a simple running stitch.)
Potted Pincushion: Step 4Step 4: Prep filling.
Tightly wind a ball of wool yarn by hand or shape the filling of your choice to approximately 2 inches in diameter. Test-fit into cushion cover for size, cut yarn and tie to secure.
Potted Pincushion: Step 5Step 5: Form cushion.
Insert ball into cover and pull ends of running stitches, tying thread tails in a knot. Adjust gathers evenly and make final adjustments to the stuffing.
Potted Pincushion: Step 6Step 6: Add weight.
Use hot glue to secure glass marbles inside the bottom of the pot for extra weight. Take care not to overfill or the cushion won’t fit. Test-fit the cushion. Run a generous bead of hot glue around the inside of the pot rim and attach the cushion. Hold in place briefly to secure.
Potted Pincushion: Step 7Step 7: Embellish cushion.
If desired, fold wired ribbon in half and sew or glue to top of cushion, slightly off center. Sew or glue buttons or other embellishments to ribbon. Trim ends of ribbon to neaten. Attach any other trimming you like, such as small tassels, charms, beads or even bells.

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 About the Author: Monette Satterfield is an artist, author and businesswoman with a colorful background ranging from science to accounting to writing. Visit her on the web at and

 This article first appeared in the May/June 2013 issue of Hobby Farm Home.


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