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Crafting at Home with Harriet: Sweetheart Pincushion

May 06, 2020 - Lucy Fernandez
Crafting at Home with Harriet: Sweetheart Pincushion
In case you didn’t know, here at Team Tatty we love a spot of craft magic. There’s never been a better time to have a good old rummage and find ways of using up those pieces of fabric we’ve been holding on to for ‘a rainy day’. Our Co-Founder and Creative Director, Harriet Vine, talks us through her second make in our Crafting at Home With Harriet blog series - making a marvellous Sailor Sweetheart Pincushion, something she is pretty passionate about! 

Pincushion kits were produced during WW1 and pre-stuffed hearts were made and distributed to soldiers and civilians, ready to decorate with whatever they could find - recycled fabrics, trimmings and beads. Mostly they were a therapeutic pastime for wounded soldiers, who then sent them home to wives, mothers and loved ones as a token of love from afar. Harriet reminisces over her Nan’s prized pincushion...

“This is not the first time I have made one of these, they have been on my obsession list for most of my life. My Nan had one that lived in the cupboard and if we were lucky we would get to see it. I have spent many a happy time in my mind imagining the others I would make, but in my normal life I seemed to ever be struggling to find the time to actually make them. Now, in these strange times, it seemed like the perfect time to turn some of those dreams into real things.

In one of my many drawers of all manner of random things, I had hoarded this old piece of ochre velvet as I loved the colour so much. When I started it, I had no real plan about what I was going to pin on my pincushion - I just mused it over whilst starting the first few steps. The good thing about pins is if you don’t like it, you can just take them out and start again. I really like the old ones with text on them, the pins work so well for that and it feels like a real mark in time.” - Harriet Vine

So, grab that sewing machine out of the loft and fire it up! Fear not, you can sew by hand too if you like. Just watch those digits, OK?

Pincushion by Harriet Vine, Tatty Devine


Pins (you can add beads, braid, ribbons and tassel too if you like)
Sewing machine (or needle and thread)
Template of your chosen shape
Protractor - used this to mark out the star points but it’s not necessary
Pencil, or vanishing embroidery marker


First, draw your chosen shape on the reverse of your fabric and cut it out - remember to add around 1cm extra than your desired size as your seam allowance. Estimate the perimeter of your shape and cut a strip of fabric that will be the depth of your cushion, it should be at least as deep as the length of your pins. Then begin to pin the shapes together, with the right sides of the fabric facing each other.


How to make a pincushion, by Harriet Vine


Then begin to pin the shapes together, with the right sides of the fabric facing each other. Continue to pin until both circles are attached to the long strip.


How to make a pincushion by Harriet Vine



Sew around the edge of the shape on both sides using your sewing machine if you have one to hand, if not a needle and thread will be fine too, removing the pins as you go. It’s really important that you have your tension on your sewing machine spot on , otherwise the seams will burst when it comes to stuffing. If you're sewing by hand, make sure your stitches are small and close together. 
Using the hole left by the open ends of the gusset strip, turn the shape in the right way and stuff it (Harriet used the stuffing out of an old pillow). Stuff it much harder than you would a toy, it should be really very firm. Tuck both the flaps of the gusset inside and sew up the hole.


How to make a pincushion by Harriet Vine



Now the fun part - pinning it! YAY! Harriet pinned a pentagram, a symbol commonly associated with  witchcraft. She's personally drawn to this symbol as she loves the idea of women radically rewriting existing religions, or simply making their own up to be in line with the goals of women’s liberation. If you want to do something similar, mark 72 degree points around the circumference and use a pin to draw a line through the pile of the velvet.  If you’re not using velvet, you can get pens for embroidery that fade away - you might want to use those here.


How to make a Pincushion by Harriet Vine



Next, start filling in your design. There are no rules about how close together the pins should be. Get creative! Harriet gradually added more designs as she went: a heart, a crescent moon, an all-seeing eye, her initials and stars.
You can keep adding as many pins as you want to. It’s strangely satisfying and your cushion gets a lovely weight to it. Look up ‘sweetheart pincushion’ online and you’ll see examples of how you can incorporate beads, braid, tassel and ribbon which are all brilliant and look beautiful.


How to make a pincushion by Harriet Vine
If you give this lockdown make a try, please share your pincushion designs with @tattydevine and #TattyDevine.  You can take a step-by-step look over on Harriet's Instagram stories here.
Lucy Dickson