Sunday, February 7, 2010

Tea Cup Pin Cushion

Here is a quick and easy way to make your own version of the popular tea cup pin cushions you see.  First things first - find your tea cup.  You might have one that has sentimental value for you, or see a pretty little piece that catches your eye in a junque store or garage sale.  I find that I prefer a small piece - for one thing, if you're going to stitch a design for it, you don't want the stitching to become a major project!  

Other things you'll need:
- Pretty cloth (or a small stitched design that works well with the design on the china - I usually do this, and it makes a pretty little souvenir).  
- A skein of knitting wool the same color as your cloth (or at least, one that won't show through and change the character of your finished piece).
- Strong sewing thread - such as upholsterer's thread - any color - it won't show.
- Sharp needle.
- Scissors.
- Glue (not necessary, but sometimes helpful) - any kind will work - it's to hold your cushion in the cup in case it has a mind of its own.
This is a demi-tasse size - big enough to make a practical pin cushion - small enough to be dainty and easy to stitch.  I take a look at the pattern on the cup and saucer, and begin to plan my stitching.  I'll use a fabric that's the approximate color of the background china, and then choose a flower or motif from the pattern on the cup.  I stitch something approximating that design with dmc (after all, if I'm going to be sticking pins into it, I don't really want to use my good silk threads).  Root through your stash - you're bound to find the exact right piece on one of your charts. 

Now, you can begin the construction - as you can see here, I actually "deconstructed" one I'd already made for this tutorial, so we could go through it step by step.   I don't usually use up a large piece of stitching linen for the pincushion, because nothing shows but the top - so I'll cut out the motif and sew it onto a piece of cotton or muslin.

The hard part is figuring out how much fabric to use.  You can see here that the top of the cup has a diameter of not quite 2 1/2 inches. 
You will want to start with three times that for the diameter of your fabric circle.  (I didn't, and you'll see it's a pretty tight squeeze).  My fabric has a diameter of about 5 1/2 inches.
I drew around the saucer with a pencil to make a circle, and then cut out my circle outside that ring.  The key here is you want enough fabric - better to have to cut more off after you've closed up your circle than to have to fudge it a bit if you don't have enough (though that can be handled).

You can also see that you don't have to be exact and make the nicest circle - that won't show.  You also don't have to worry about sewing neatly with invisible stitches - if you had to do that, I'd never get it made!

Sew a running stitch around the outside of the circle,
and then begin to pull the thread to draw the edges of the fabric up around your ball of wool.  Ah - what ball of wool, you say?  Remember the skein of knitting wool?  Wrap it around and around to make a nice, round ball.  This is my "secret ingredient" - it lets you know for sure your finished product will have a good round shape.  I do use 100% wool, because it's good for your needles.

Wrap the wool as tightly as you can - you want a very firm ball.  You're finished when the ball of wool sits in the cup at the height you want it. You don't have to "finish" this in any way - just tuck the loose thread under another to hold it in place until you have it covered.
Now, place the ball of wool inside your fabric and draw the thread tight around it.
Here's where you take a little time and adjust the motif to the exact position you want it, and continue to pull the thread tight to enclose the ball.  When you have it just where you want it, sew the opening shut.
Take a few stitches right into the wool to anchor everything.  And then, if need be, go to the line where the linen meets the cotton and sew the linen into the wool as well, to do a final adjustment and get the linen and stitching to sit just right.
You can see, this is NOT pretty - but don't worry - it will look lovely. 

Trouble-shooting:  If you've got too much fabric, and your stitching around the outside of the circle leaves everything too loose, just stitch another ring of stitches closer to the middle.  You can gather the fabric around the ball of wool to see where this should be.  In fact, - you can do that to decide how much fabric to use in the first place.  When you're finished stitching it closed, trim off the excess fabric.

If you don't have enough fabric and the bottom of the wool doesn't get covered, don't worry about that - wrap your threads around the bottom, stitching in and out of the wool and the fabric until it's well-anchored.  It will be fine.

Now, you're ready to place the pin cushion in the cup. 
Move it around until you have it in just the position you want.  Then firmly settle the pincushion into the cup.  
Depending on the shape of the cup, and how you want the ball to sit, you may be finished here, or you may have to glue your cushion in place to make it stay.  If you do that - just put a little white school glue in the bottom of the cup and push the cushion down to be sure to saturate the bottom of it with the glue.  Place something heavy on top of the cushion (this may take a bit of imagination, because it has to be heavy enough to hold everything in place, but small enough to fit inside the top of the cup).  I believe I've used jars of pickles and such (unopened and not sticky! ) to do this.  Let it dry - 12 hours or so.

And now - stick a pin in it, because you're done!  Doesn't it look pretty?


  1. Great instructions. I had made one years ago and forgot how I did it (threw the directions away). I know that I'll be following this tutorial in the future.

  2. Fabulous tutorial. I can't wait to try one for myself. The ball of wool idea is perfect!

  3. Thanks for the tutorial. I've got a couple of pincushion teacup kits; one is small and ornament sized but I need a new design for it, and I had no idea how to put it together. Now I can find a little design to match the cup and add it to the tea collection on my Christmas tree (hung conveniently near my stitching chair, of course). I've also found a use for some of the skeins of 100% cream wool that I have in my 'must find a new home' bag!

  4. Just wonderfull!!!!

  5. This is one of the prettiest pin cushions I have seen.

  6. First things first...indeed...another reason for going to a fleamarket.
    Love the idea of going ( you'll never know what you might find) and also love this kind of pincushion.

  7. Thanks for the lovely tutorial! I hope you don't mind - I added a link to this tutorial on my blog so others can visit here for the info.


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