make a make do pin cushion

I wrote up this article for my doll club’s newsletter, so I thought I might as well put it up here too.

make do 1

make do 2


make do 3


-cups, glasses, anything with an opening to put a pin cushion in or a shaft to put a pin cushion around.
-wool fabric
-embroidery threads
-wool for stuffing

I have had fun making pin cushions by recycling chipped and broken decorative glasses. I have used crystal and pressed glass, wine glasses, ice cream glasses and parfait glasses. I have been using ones that I found at my parents’ house when we were clearing out, and now I keep an eye out for anything special at Yard Sales.

The first one I made was inspired by my daughter. When we picked her up at the end of her first year at college, she handed me a broken wine glass – just a stem with some jagged glass of the bowl. She said to me “I kept it for you mom. I knew you’d want to do something with it!” She knows me so well!

My pin cushions have all been essentially the same- a fabric ball sitting in or on top of and enclosing part of the recycled object. I looked at other peoples’ work on the internet and this is the most common design. I have used wool fabrics for mine. I like wool for several reasons- firstly, I have a ton of it, secondly it has a nice “country” look, and thirdly it seems to hold up well to sticking pins in it all the time. I have not had such good luck when I have used tightly woven cottons, velvets or velveteen’s. The fabric seems to disintegrate sooner then I’d like.

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CAUTION- MATH AHEAD! Two easy shapes for making the pin cushions are triangles (or diamonds which are just 2 triangles put together) and a half circle which make a strawberry shape. You need to know the measurement for the circumference of the ball you will make. If you are making an “over a stem” pincushion, that measuement can be approximate. If you are making an “in a glass” make-do, you will need to measure the top edge of your glass.

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To figure out what size to cut your shapes- For Triangles- the pin cushion will be 4 triangles around. Divide your circumference measurement by 4. That measurement is the size of each of the 3 sides of your triangle. For strawberry- The circumference measurement is the length of the curved edge of the half circle. Don’t forget to add seam allowance to your pattern pieces.

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Putting the pin cushion together-
for all pincushions- Sew up the seams. Stuff firmly. Decorate with embroidery or appliques if you’d like. I put some cut-out leaves around some of mine to make them look like flowers. I also stitch a small second pincushion on the top as a place to hold my needles. It looks like a cherry on top!

When I used the broken glass, I wrapped the broken top of the glass with some quilt batting so I would not cut myself and the sharp edges would not cut the fabric. When doing an “over a stem” make-do, you will have to leave the bottom open enough to fit in your base. The ball or strawbery is gather up around the base with strong (nylon) thread and tied as firmly as possible. You can put a ribbon or something to hide your stitches.

To attach the “in a glass” make-dos, I used Goop glue and pushed the pin cushion into the opening as firmly as possible. I then clamped it by using many rubber bands and string to hold everything in place until the glue

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Update 7/09- this post has been getting a lot of traffic lately-  Thanks for visiting! I have written up and am selling a pattern for a make-do pin cushion here on Etsy.

20 thoughts on “make a make do pin cushion

  1. Thank you for the wonderful tutorial! They are all gorgeous, like everything you do. And it’s such a great way to use broken items.

  2. Mimi I love your ideas on making pincushions the way you do it is a brilliant Idea and gives me some ideas also.

  3. i loved this idea! i have a serious thing for pretty cordial glasses, and have a few dozen…i don’t drink cordials! i am always needing pincushions in my sewing room, i’ll have to try a couple of these with some. you are so clever! the tourist boys are too cute too!

  4. Thanks! But just so you know- the make-dos are not my original idea- I am just explaining the way I have done them. People have been making them forever- sort of like patchwork quilts- using things over and over :-)

  5. Hey – there’s the pincushion you made for me! The blue and purple one with the mint leaves around the edge. Just having it makes me want to sew, although my creative energies have been channeled into painting walls this past week. However, my daughter is already planning the dress she wants me to make her for her junior prom, so I suspect that the pincushion is going to get a good workout in the not-too-distant future.

  6. Hi-

    I’m writing a little article about Make Do’s on Supernaturale. Can I link to you, or better re-publish your tutorial?



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  8. Thanks…I tried it….. I took it to college and they all said wow!!
    …..and all thanks to you…

  9. I am a collector of antique makedos and new ones too. i spoke of them on my blog, and someone asked me what they were. For the heck of it, i looked for a link about makedos and found you. Very nice makedos. Come visit my blog and I’ll show you some antique ones from my collection. Visit my store too! I’ll link you to my blog, ok?

  10. Pingback: 41 Free Pincushion Patterns »

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  12. This is the best and most practical idea and pattern I have foundand it leaves lots of room for personal creative additions

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