How to: Add Weight and Emery to Your Pincushion

Four Patch Pincushions So I have a little pincushion addiction. I love making these little guys and after making a few dozen of them, I’ve figured out a few tricks to make them even more useful. The most important part is adding some weight. I also add covered buttons for a special pop. For my own and those I sell locally, I make emery balls.

The weight is really a necessity to make the pincushion usable. If you’ve ever had one that was filled only with polyester batting, you know how light it is. Great for shipping, but sucks for keeping your pincushion on the table. Instead it seems to just float away.

I use a few things to weigh down my pincushions. Generally I use the ground walnut shells. You can buy them in bulk at pet stores, but for personal projects, it’s just as easy to pick up a small bag at your local quilt shop. They come in plain and lavender scented, if that’s your kind of thing.  You can also use short-grain rice or lentils if you are in drier climates. Even here in the PNW I’ve never had an issue with rice, but I’ve hear that others have.

But how do you get the weight in there? I’ve seen a few where they just mix it in with the stuffing, but I prefer to keep it strictly at the bottom, so I add a layer to the bottom of mine.

Cut out three 5-inch squares of top fabric, muslin and bottom fabric. Baste the muslin and bottom together, then RST, sew the pincushion in its twisted form. Trim the corners and turn right sides out.


Unpick the basting stitches in the space left for turning. This gives you two cavities inside the pincushion. A skinny one on bottom and the large one on top. You can see I’ve filled the bottom with lentils already. The then top space is ready to be stuffed.

IMG_8143 IMG_8144

I prefer to use Sweet Dreams 100% cotton stuffing rather than Poly-fil. It tends to not lump up, is heavier and I like the way the needles slide into it better. IMG_8145

After stuffing the pincushion, you can make the emery ball. The emery is great for sliding your pins and needle into as a sharpening tool.  Some people swear to pack the whole pincushion full of it, but it’s not cheap and it’s really heavy, so I just go for a simple ball.

First spray-starch the fabric, then trace a circle with a wide-mouth canning jar. Using hand quilting thread (it’s heavier and less likely to snap), baste 1/4″ or less around the entire circle. Start and end with the threads coming out close to each other on the same side of the fabric to make it easier to cinch. IMG_8128

Pull the threads a bit to create a bowl and pour a little less than 2 Tbsp. of emery in. Use however much suits you. IMG_8131

Pull the threads tight and knot it really well. Then cut a 5/8″ circle (use a button to trace the circle!) of felt and find some  coordinating embroidery floss. Using a long needle, thread 18″ of embroidery floss through just-off-center of the felt, through the emery ball, then take a stitch and head back up through the ball and the felt again. Add glue all around the top of the emery ball, covering the top completely. Try to avoid gumming up the floss. Slide the felt circle down and press into place. IMG_8133

Thread both ends of the embroidery floss (or one end at a time if need be) and take a couple of stitches around the center seam joins in your pincushion top. Add your covered button and voila!

Now you’ve got a pincushion that won’t fly off your table and an easy way to keep your needles and pins sharp!

1 thought on “How to: Add Weight and Emery to Your Pincushion”

  1. Thanks for sharing this! In addition to hearing about your emery ball, I also appreciated hearing about how you weight a pincushion. I usually totally fill mine with crushed shells but I like your idea too.

Comments are closed.

Scroll to Top