Pincushions are overlooked yet extremely vital sewing accessories. You won’t realize how precious it is until you have to pick one among many needles from a flat surface or lose your favorite.
Perhaps you’re more familiar with the tomato cushion, which has been popular from back in the day. You can design yours to be simpler or more fun and sophisticated like doughnuts, hedgehogs, cupcakes, and turtles; the creativity is endless.
Regardless of the shape, size, object, and how darn cute a pincushion is, the filling is the most important aspect. It is what’s inside that makes a pincushion great.
So, what should you stuff a pincushion with? The best and most common stuffing for pincushions is crushed or ground walnut shells. This material packs together tightly and keeps your pins sharp. Alternatives include sawdust, fine-grade steel wool, poly-fill, batting or roving, fabric scraps, sand, buckwheat husks, or crushed glass.
If you are a DIYer and wondering what to fill a homemade pincushion with, this article offers the ultimate answers. Read on to find out the different items you can use to stuff a homemade pincushion with.
Qualities Of Good Stuffing For Pincushions
Before deciding on a filler for a homemade pincushion, you must acquaint yourself with the qualities that make pincushion fillers suitable for the job.
- Weight and Stability – Weight and stability are significant considerations when choosing a filler. The ideal weight is not too light and not too heavy. Can’t find an in-between? You can incorporate two fillers for balance. The stuffing must offer stability and body that fills the space and prevents the pincushion from flipping over or flying away while in use.
- Sharpening and Cleaning – Besides being pin holders, pincushions also act as sharpening and cleaning stations for needles and pins. This, of course, depends on what is stuffed inside. Not all fillers are capable of executing this simple yet essential job. Some fillers can potentially blunt your needles.
What Is The Best Filler For Homemade Pincushions?
The best filler for pincushions is crushed or ground walnut shells. If you had already done a little research prior, you probably already know this.
Their weight is just right. They pack up tightly, forming a stable cushion, and sharpen your needles and pins as well. Walnut shells are also eco-friendly and non-toxic.
However, crushed walnut shells tend to trigger allergic reactions, especially for anyone allergic to nuts. The shells usually release the nut oils that soak through the cushion after some time.
If you are among the sensitive types or stay with someone who is, your sixth sense is likely already warning you about using it as a filler for your pincushions. You should be looking at other hypoallergenic alternatives.
What Can I Use Instead of Crushed Walnut Shells?
There are a bunch of alternative materials you can use in place of ground walnut shells. The following are the 8 best stuffing for your homemade pincushion.
1. Sawdust Or Pencil Shavings
Sawdust is a byproduct of wood. You might love its natural and eco-friendly appeal. Though lightweight, it holds shape really well.
Sawdust is readily available. You can’t fail to get some at your local carpenter. And if you are lucky to have a handyman in the family who enjoys working with wood, it will be at your disposal. You can also make the sawdust yourself. You only need a piece of wood and a plane, saw, or sander.
Have school-going kids? You could accumulate the pencil shavings from sharpening and use those. The bits of graphite in there do wonders in maintaining rust-free needles, as graphite sucks the moisture from the air.
One downside of using sawdust is that it might contain chemicals if it originated from chemically treated wood. In addition, inhaling this type of dust can be harmful to your health. If you choose sawdust as a filler, make sure you work with a mask to prevent the dust from entering your lungs.
2. Fine-Grade Steel Wool
Steel wool is a pretty cheap and readily available material. It is lightweight and compresses easily to form the bulk and fill the pincushion sufficiently. It is best combined with other fillers to add weight.
As iron sharpens iron, so does steel wool sharpen your stainless steel needles and pins. Every time you stick them in and take them out, they are rubbed clean and sharp. Unfortunately, steel wool might be too coarse or abrasive for delicate hands. It is best to go for a fine or very fine grade steel wool and use gloves.
It also gets rusty in saline and humid climates, so you might want to check this off your list if you live in humid areas.
What’s not to love about polyester fiber filling? It is soft, fluffy, cushy, and so satisfying to squish. This is the stuff used to fill in plush toys and stuffed animals.
Though you probably shouldn’t be squishing your pincushions, this material is also is lightweight, machine washable, and allergen-free. These qualities make such stuffed pincushions safe, sanitary, and durable.
Poly-fill compacts nicely and gets chunky without being too heavy. To avoid a polyfill pincushion being knocked over, you might want to add poly-pellets or sand at the bottom for added stability.
Both polyfill fiber and pellets can be bought affordably, and you get so much more than you actually need. The only downside with poly-fil is that it is a synthetic fiber. Polyester is made from plastic, a toxic product that some people may find repelling.
Several sewists claim that poly-pellets make the sharp ends of the needles blunt.
4. Batting Or Roving
They are slightly more expensive than poly-fiber, but you need very little. Just make sure to add some weight at the bottom, for example, using pennies, nickels, steel shots, or washers.
Wool is particularly loved if organic and still contains lanolin which conditions needles and makes them as shiny as they were when new. Notwithstanding, wool is not hypoallergenic, so you must consider that when choosing the fiber to use.
5. Scraps Of Fabric
Like sawdust, fabric scraps are usually a readily available and free resource you can get from a seamstress, which is presumably yourself. They make lightweight stuffing but don’t pack up adequately. Fabric scraps-filled cushions might also have stability issues if used on their own.
This option works best in combination with other materials like sand or pellets to add some heft and fill up the empty spaces.
Sand is one of the most readily available materials you can use. If you’re lucky to live by the beach then you’ll have an unrestricted supply. Just be sure not to bring in creeping creatures with it. Otherwise, it is sold in many hardware and pet stores too.
Sand has just the right weight and stability needed for a pincushion. It also compacts well. The only problem with sand is that it can get messy, more so when it starts leaking through loose seams. To avoid this, you must stuff it in a sheer sac or lining first, then stitch up the seams tight.
In some cases, store-bought sand has been associated with specific respiratory issues as well as chemicals, which is something most people want to stay away from. If you opt to go with sand, it is key that you know and trust your sources.
7. Buckwheat Husks
Buckwheat husks are a great alternative to crushed walnut shells and they bear a close resemblance. The only difference is that buckwheat hulls are hypoallergenic since the plant is not a member of the nut family.
They make great pincushion stuffing with excellent weight, compactness, and stability. Unfortunately, buckwheat hulls are not easily accessible to everyone and might be hard to come by. Luckily, it is available online if not within your locality.
8. Crushed Glass
Who would have thought crushed glass could make the list? Well, it has, and it is made blunt by polishing. It has good weight, packs up neatly, and sharpens your needles. It is not the easiest thing to find though. You must don gloves and a mask if you choose to use ground glass.
Can You Stuff A Pincushion With Rice?
Yes, you can use rice to fill pincushions. Rice is particularly helpful for adding weight when used in conjunction with polyfill, natural fiber batting, or fabric scraps.
You possibly already have it in your pantry so you don’t have to go searching far and wide for it. However, you may not want to use rice because of these two issues that can arise with rice as stuffing.
Rice, being dry cereals and food, is likely to attract unwanted guests; vermin or bugs. They can sniff it out from a mile away.
If pests have never been a problem for you, you must know that the rice may also start to rot inside if the pincushion ever comes into contact with water. The same goes for yellow peas, lentils, and other dry foodstuffs that people might suggest.
How Do You Stuff A Pincushion?
Now that you’ve got your filling picked out, you’re probably wondering what the next step is. We’ve found a handy tutorial from the Fat Quarter Shop channel on YouTube explaining how to fill your pincushion.
And there you have it. That’s an ample list of stuffing for you to choose from for those whimsical pincushions to show off, give as gifts, or exchange.
The list may not be exhaustive as you can find folks using all sorts of things like accumulated hair from brushes, ground coffee beans, straw, bird gravel, lavender, etc. As we’ve seen, each has its pros and cons. You have to weigh your options and depending, on your preference, choose one which best suits your needs.
Consider your budget, safety, material availability, durability, and sanitation needs. Whatever your choice, ensure that it keeps your needles in place and in pristine condition.
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