Thursday, December 30, 2010


When I was young, Mother sometimes made gifts for her sisters at Christmas time.  One year she made these pincushions--completely wonderful because they have the thread contained right inside, making mending projects so easy.  These pincushions will last for years and years.


My sons made their own pincushions as a sewing project when they were younger.  This year I made several--one for my future daughter-in-law and a few as thank-you gifts for those who helped us with the wedding.  No complicated pattern needed.  Here's how:

1/3 yard fabric OR pre-quilted fabric
a whole package of bias tape--double-fold, extra wide
1/3 yard quilt batting (if you did not buy pre-quilted fabric)
stuffing--at least 1/2 LB, possibly more
9-10 small spools of thread:  white, black, navy, brown, light & dark gray, baby blue, tan, and heavy-duty craft tan     *** See note about size at the bottom

1.  If you bought pre-quilted fabric:
Make a 9 1/2 " circle of out paper.  Use this to cut out 2 circles of the pre-quilted fabric.

If you bought regular fabric, you will have to quilt it yourself:

Make a 9 1/2" circle out of paper. 

Use this circle as a guide to cut out 4 circles of fabric that are 10 1/2" to 11" in diameter.  (I make these bigger because it all tends to shift and get out of line when you're sewing the quilt lines.  This makes it easier to deal with).

Also cut out 2 pieces of quilt batting that are 10 1/2" to 11" in diameter.

Wedge a piece of batting in between 2 fabric pieces, WRONG sides together (remembering that the raw edges will end up being covered with bias tape).

Sew straight lines 2" apart to quilt.  Do this with the other piece of batting and 2 fabric pieces.

Lay the 9 1/2" paper circle on top of each again and cut them out to that size.

2.  Sew the bias tape onto the raw edges of both quilted circles. 

When you get to the place where the 2 ends meet, tuck one end under and over the other end to make a neat finish. 

3.  Lay both quilted circles on top of each other, and pin them together.

4.  Make a 6 1/4" paper circle.

5.  Lay it in the center of the quilted pieces and trace around it with a washout marking pencil.  This will make your sewing line.

6.  Sew the 2 quilted circles together, stitching around the inner circle--but leave an opening (about 3 inches) so that you can put stuffing inside later.

7.  Sew "pockets" for the spools of thread to go into:

Sew the quilted circles together just at the bias tape, spaced every 2 3/4" to 3".  You should be able to get 10 of these pockets, with an 11th one that may or may not be too small for a spool of thread, but is big enough to tie a bow at the end.

8.  Stuff the inner circle with batting.

9.  Sew the opening closed--by machine if you can manage it with a zipper foot, or by hand if you cannot.

10.  Take the remaining bias tape and make it skinnier so it can be used as a "rope" or string.

One way to do this is to fold it in half and sew it. 

A prettier way is to partly open the tape, fold the 2 halves inward, and THEN fold it in half and sew it.

11.  Place a spool of thread into each pocket, threading the bias "rope" through the holes of each spool.  Do it this way:  thread spool #1; continue the rope into pocket #1; continue the rope into pocket #2; THEN place spool #1 into pocket #1.  Thread spool #2, continue the rope into pocket #3, etc.


Make sure commonly used colors (such as white) are nearer to the opening end so they can more easily be removed if they get empty.

12.  Tie the "rope" into a bow and you're finished!

**** 10 small spools can fit into the instructions I gave.  However, nowadays they're hard to find.  I had to drive out of town (Joann Fabrics) to get them and even then, they were new-fangled with fancy tops that make them taller.  If you buy these kind, either reduce the number of pockets you make (and make the pockets larger) OR cut off the fancy tops and bottoms.

Comparing an old-fashioned spool with a new-fangled one

This is after cutting off the tops and bottoms


  1. That is a great sewing project.  I am glad your back, have not heard from you in a while. 

  2. @looking_inside_me - Thanks for your welcoming comments!  The Wedding was 2 days ago; now maybe I can start getting back to normal.  I'll post about that as soon as some photos surface!

  3. you do such nice tutorials! I think I will keep my eyes open for the little spools.  :)

  4. thank-you for the very yummy recipies..and wedding video...who sang the song and would you tell me the artist? perfect song to go with it....nice to have found you...was searching for pincushions! Patty G. Norway,Me

  5. @Patty - Thanks, Patty!  That is the group Plain White T's, with the song called "1, 2, 3, 4".  It's a great song!

  6. Awesome pin cushion and thread holder, can't wait to make one or more for Gifts. Thanks for the tutorial.Jan

  7. Who wants to alter thread spools?  LOL  Just adapt the pattern!!!  To fit the # of spools you want of the HEIGHT that you can currently buy into the pockets of the circular pin cushion, you need the circle to have the correct diameter to ensure that you have adequate circumference length to accommodate all of the spools AND the tie of the "rope".  Since circumference = diameter times 3.14 (which is pi), you an easily figure out how much diameter you need at the "inner" sewn cirle.  Just measure your spool height, add 1/4 inch (to give room for the "pocket" division where the bias tape of the top circle will be sewn to the bias tape of the bottom circle), and multiply that by the number spools you want to incorporate into the pin cushion.  Now add 1-2 inches (approimately) of extra space to accommodate the bow of the bias rope that will hold all of the spools in the pockets.  THAT is your circumference for the inner circle.  Divide that circumference amount by 3.14 and you will have the diameter of the inner circle.  What about the outer circle (where the bias tape finishes off the edges)?  Measure the diameter of the spool of thread, multiply that measurement by 2 (because you will have one spool on each side of the line drawn through the middle of the inner circle) and add the resulting number to the diameter you calculated for the inner circle.  Once you know your circles' diameters, the instructions should work for your re-sized pincushion -- just remember that you will be stitching the spool pockets at spool height + 1/4" positions around the outside of the finished circles. 

  8. @Cheryl - I am having a hard time being a math genius.  I want to use 6 normal sized spools of thread.  So figure this out for me.  The height of the spool is 1 - 3/4 inches. The diameter of the spool is 1-3/8 inches.  It seems to me that I will have to make the circles bigger to accommodate the spools.  But --- I would be happy if you figured it out for me.  I also want to add a pocket on the bottom to hold the ripper and a little scissors.  Thanks for your help.    Diane

  9. have never done sewing  before but am slowly making one of these including quilting the fabric myself!!!!!!!!  Such simple instructions I am finding really easy to follow.  Thank you for simple easy instructions.

  10. Finally, the pincushion of my dreams I'm making two for me and one for my sister-in-law and her two girls.  And my mother-in-law, thank u.  Very lovely pincushion and demonstration.  Can't wait to get started!!

  11. I am so glad you put this out there, because I was looking for a refresher on how to make these.Several years ago, a group of us made these, but we did not quilt the fabric. We also used elastic instead of the bias tape to secure the spools of thread. In addition, we tacked the outer edge of each thread holder pocket to the pincushion itself, thereby making the thread face upward, rather than out. The first two variations just make this a little simpler to create and can save you some time and labor.

  12. I have one made years ago and I picked up at a garage sell.  Only issue with the one I have was once the spool was empty there was no way to replace it.  I plan on making this one with one change. I will attache the "ropes" at there center, making them a bit longer, where the inner circle is sewn to the outer circle, so each spool can be tied individually and replaced as needed.  Great idea and thanks for sharing.oma52