The Story of the Tomato Pincushion with tutorial goodness

All of us that choose to have needle and thread in our lives have either owned a tomato pincushion and are not surprised they lurk in most homes.  I have always wondered why are they shaped like a tomato?

In lieu of needing a new pincushion and deciding on the tomato variety I decided to let my fingers type a few extra words in my browser and this is what I learned.

The tomato pincushion supposedly evolved as recently as the early 1900s.  You see when someone moved into a home, a tomato was thought to ward off evil spirits and was placed on the mantle.  As you can imagine tomato season does not last all year long.  So with a bit of cloth it was easy to make a home decor item to ward off the evil spirits that would last the years through.  This seems kind of pagan to me and I wonder if there is more to the story.  But as the Industrial Age revolutionized so much including the manufacture of home sewing machines, pins needed storage and so the tomato pincushion was born.  If anyone has any more facts or insight on this please use the comment section for all us learners.  🙂

I have an antique pincushion.  I acquired it a few years back when I got an old singer in an old singer cabinet from the 40s.  This cabinet was filled with buttons, thread, and all kind of good sewing chotzkeys.  And me being a person who likes to utilize the old, started using the pincushion.  I found my pins were becoming dull and when making my new tomato pincushion threw out all my dull pins.  I think the inside of this antique pincushion has wood shavings.  I don’t want to open it to find out and devalue it.  I also wonder if the outside is made from silk or silken tapestry.  This could be why I had so much trouble inserting pins.  Those of us who have worked with silk know that you have to purchase special pins.  I have officially retired this tired pincushion today.

Have you ever made a tomato pincushion?  It is really easy and doesn’t take more than 30 minutes.

Step one:  Cut a piece of fabric on the bias.  I made a larger tomato and started with approximately a 7 X 10 piece of cloth.
Step two:  Stitch along one end (folding with right sides together) and backstitch at the top and bottom on the pinned side as shown above.
Step three:  Using a needle and thread stay stitch one raw edge.
Step four:  Gather stitched end and securely knot thread.  This hand stitched seam has formed the bottom of your tomato.
Step five:  Turn right side out and fill the bottom with crushed nutshells or rice.  I put about an inch in the bottom of mine.  This will weight down your cushion making the removal of pins easy.
Step six:  Stuff the upper half of your tomato with polyester fiberfil.  I didn’t have any so I rolled many scrap pieces of batting and put them to good use.  There is no such thing as an overstuffed cushion.  The more stuffing, the more personality your tomato will have.  Gather top edge stitching by hand.  Knot securely.
Step seven:  Find a scrap of felt or wool or any kind of cloth to make the tomato top leaves.  Have fun being random with Mother Nature, and cut out a fun leafy cap.


Step eight:  Using an upholstery needle and thicker thread or doubled sewing thread make a loop through the center bottom to the center top poking the needle all the way through the depth of the tomato.  Repeat 4 times or as many as desired.  (I had to use a pliers as my needle was a tad to short to grab).  Knot thread securely.  Stitch or glue tomato leaf topper to the center of the polyester fiberfil end.

These would also make a neat pumpkin pincushion for the season, just saying.

Stick a pin in it, cuz now it is done!

And for more breaking news, I have had rotary cutter fail.  I didn’t know this was possible.  I have had this cutter for about 20 years and it finally kicked the bucket.  The last month every time I have used it, it gnawed the fabric never cutting right seemingly pushing the fabric and then cutting it.  Changed the blades, no help.  Upon closer inspection I see that I wore a flat spot in the plastic that surrounds the blade, so instead of cutting the fabric, it was just scooting the fabric out of the way not really cutting it properly all the time.  You can see my ergonomics have worn the inside plastic away in the circle.  This also cause part of my problem as the blade needs a good flat surface to cut up against.  This caused my blade to wobble and probably not cut very accurately.  I have heard you should check your cutting templates.  If you lay them on their edge and they curve in the center not meeting your table flat, you have slowly whittled away the plastic edge which will account for improper block sizes after cutting and sewing.  Dritz…..I could not find you on the internet so I went for the upgrade.  Olfa to the rescue.


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