How to Make a Tomato Pin Cushion.
Topic: Sewing FAQ's
There is no sewing tool more ubiquitous than the common tomato pin cushion. Everyone, from quilting grandma to 10 year old beginner has at least one and some of us keep several. I have one at each sewing machine and another at my cutting table. These are easy to make and when one wears out or springs a leak it is easier to make a new one than to buy one. With a couple simple tools you can make several at once, perhaps make each a different size: big for those big sewing jobs and a smaller one for when you are making something small...like a tomato pin cushion.
Why Tomatoes? Why not zucchinis? Or eggplants? Why not a big red bell pepper pin cushion? Who decided tomato was the veggie/fruit that would forever bear the prickly burden of all seamstresses? It has its roots in an old superstition, that placing pins in a ripe tomato on the fireplace mantle would ward off bad luck or evil spirits. Because no one likes rotten tomatoes on the mantle fabric tomatoes were substituted. I can imagine one day someone was wandering through the house, looking for pins to hold up pant legs for hemming ...saw the tomato and one thing led to another and now we use tomato shaped pin cushions to quote the website "Tomatoes are evil"
Superstition once had it that placing ripe tomatoes on a mantel when first entering a new dwelling would guarantee future prosperity or will ward off evil spirits
Pincushions the color and shape of ripe tomatoes were used instead if ripe tomatoes were not available. To this day, pincushions are most often red.
The website "Life in Italy" disagrees, saying the tomatoes in the house were a sign of peace and prosperity and that a tomato cushion is a worthy substitute when ripe tomatoes are not available:
It used to be that, if a tomato was placed on a mantle over the fireplace, it was as a promise of prosperity to the family owning the new home, who eventually would start a new life. Certain times of the year tomatoes were hard to come by, and could not be grown, so in replacement, tomato sized balls of red fabric were stuffed with sand or sawdust and used in the place of the real ones. Comically, a new invention occurred as a result. These filled balls also doubled as pincushions! This was why pincushions were always replicas of the round red tomato.
The origin isn't important. What is important is that a tomato pin cushion is simple enough for a beginner to make. You need:
- remnant of red broadcloth
- green embroidery floss (use whatever green you like)
- scrap of green felt
- stuffing You can use either the traditional saw dust or polyester fiberfill
- extra long sewing needle
- craft glue
- ordinary hand sewing needle
The pattern for the tomato is found here: tomatopattern.jpg There's a pice for the tomato, and two small pieces to be cut from green felt. Cut them out separate
Place pattern on a single layer of fabric. You can use either the straight up and down grain line marking or one on the angle and cut it on the bias, the choice is yours. Beginners should use the grain line that lines up with the seam, experienced sewers can use the bias grain. Cut carefully and notch the seam line.
Sew the single seam. Backstitch at the beginning and and to secure the seam. You will have a tube.
Fold the fabric close to the gathering line top and bottom and press in place. The folds are is on the wrong side and the gathering line will be just visible on the right side.
Thread a standard sewing needle with sewing thread, double the thread and knot very securely. Run a row of small gathering stitches right at the the line, be sure to sew through both layers. Pull the thread very tight and secure with a few more stitches across the top.
This is how the tomato will loo after gathering. Now it's time to stuff the tomato. The traditional choice is simple fine sawdust and it make a good cushion with a bit of weight. Do not use pressure treated lumber sawdust or particle board or MDF, only use untreated wood. If you don't have any sawdust you can use polyester fiberfill. Be sure to stuff the cushion very firmly, it should be soft and cuddly, it needs to be heavy and firm to hold the pins.Run another lone of gathering stitches and pull tight. Pack in a bit more stuffing until the tomato is very firm. Knot the thread very securely, you don't want it popping apart.
Now thread a long needle with embroidery floss. Use all six strands of floss. Knot the end of the floss and stick it in the center of the tomato through the puckered up end on top. Goo through to the bottom, bring the floss up the side, stick the needle in the top and repeat. Pull the needle snugly so the floss gives the cushion a segmented tomato shape. You can add anywhere from five to eight segments. Real tomatoes have five.
Place a drop of craft glue on the puckered top of the tomato and place the green felt tomato top in the glue. Do the same with the bottom felt and let the glue dry.
And you now have a little tomato pincushion. You can make it smaller or larger, just use Photoshop or TheGimp to enlarge or shrink the pattern. There's no need to buy a pincushion, not when they are this easy to make.
And that is all for today. Tomorrow I will have some photos to complement this entry. They'll be on flickr and I'll show some things that I didn't illustrate, such as securing the gathered ends and a picture of a finished cushion.
Posted by lincatz
at 10:05 AM EDT