Festive Friday #3: Off-Set Square Pincushion

Welcome to the third installment of Festive Friday. So far, we’ve made painted mugs and embroidered tea towels – good solid gifts that are appropriate for just about everyone. Today, we get a little more specific: this off-set square pincushion would make a perfect gift for the sewing enthusiast in your life.

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(In the spirit of full disclosure: I actually made this pin cushion as a gift for myself. I love that traditional little red tomato and all, but whenever I try to stick it with a pin the darn thing scooches clear across the desk. But that’s not a problem any more!)

Here’s what you’ll need:

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  • Fabric (I used quilting cotton for one side and a cute printed linen for the other)
  • 5/8″ button cover kit
  • Thread
  • Rotary cutter, acrylic ruler, self-healing cutting mat
  • Stuffing

Cut two identical-size squares of fabric (I wanted a ginormous pin cushion, so mine were both 6″ square. You might choose something closer to 4″ if you want a more demure sewing accessory.). Now go on ahead and cover your buttons. I think that the button covering kit is genius – a bit of fussy cutting, snap it together, and bam! the cutest one-of-a-kind buttons ever. Love it. I made one with each fabric.

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I pressed each square in quarters, and then marked a 1/4″ seam line on the wrong side of each piece, figuring that the lines would help me keep everything just the right amount of off-kilter.

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Off-kilter being the key word here. Maybe it’s because I was making this after a long day of proof-reading, but as soon as it came time to actually put this together, my brain froze. I. Couldn’t. Figure. It. Out. There was some tentative pinning, and some misguided sewing, and then some seam-ripping (accompanied by a bit of very unfestive swearing).

The Internet to the rescue! A quick online search found me this handy off-set square pin cushion tutorial by June Gilbank of Planet June. Genius. I highly suggest you follow her highly lucid directions (which include handy diagrams). I was soon back on track. Here’s the first pinning.

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As you sew, you rotate the top piece of fabric, matching the middle of each side with each corner of the bottom piece. It sounds complicated, but once you get going it’s pretty straightforward. And those lines I marked did come in handy! Leave one side unstitched, so you can stuff.

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In under 10 minutes I had a completely unphotogenic (thus, unphotographed) shell of a pincushion. Instead, witness the disembowelment of one of my couch cushions, called in to provide stuffing.

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When you’re stuffing the pin cushion, use a pencil or large gauge knitting needle to help you fill out the corners. It’s tricky, because there are so many corners! Once it was firmly packed with stuffing, I hand sewed the final side closed.

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(I’m not sure what’s up with my crazy claw hand. Just ignore that.)

Finally, I switched to a big (super sharp) needle and, with a double-thickness of buttonhole twist, I tacked a couple of stitches through the middle of the pin cushion, pulling tight to get a nice dimple. I added contrasting covered buttons on either side and reinforced with a few more stitches, then tied the whole thing off and buried the knot inside. Ta-da!

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Some notes:

  • My pincushion is large, verging on extra-large. If you have limited room in your sewing basket, consider using smaller squares – something in the 3 1/2″ to 4″ range would probably be more typical pin cushion size. And the smaller size means you can get bunches of pin cushions out of a couple of fat quarters.
  • These would be easy to make assembly-line style, and then you’d have the gifts for your sewing circle friends, your sisters’s stocking stuffers, or a pile of crafts for the Christmas bazaar, all done – in the matter of an afternoon.
  • June’s tutorial shows how to attach elastic to one side so you can wear this on your wrist. I didn’t do that (I poke myself enough already, and I didn’t have any elastic on hand), but I think that’s a great idea for dressmakers or quilters on the go.

Good luck and have fun!