How to Make a Pin-Sharpening Pin Cushion

07 Jul 2008


My pins and needles really take a beating, and I've noticed that they're all dulling a bit. So I thought I'd try to make a pincushion that's also a sharpener.

This is based on those little strawberry-things that dangle from the tomato pincushions. They're filled with metal filings, and you poke your pins into them to sharpen.

I didn't have one of these, but I did have some grade 00 steel wool. So I made up a pincushion (the adorable design from Joelle Hoverson's book) and put this together.

Steel wool comes in pads, so first, I unrolled one...

...And tore it up a bit. (Makes a huge mess, as you can see.)

Then I stuffed my pincushion with it. I got two pads in there, and then had to stop. I probably could have used a half-pad more, but:

...I got worried about how much my raw edges were fraying. (Next time, I'd put some Fray-Check on them before stuffing.) Also, I got worried that my fingerprints were wearing off.

Anyway, then I finished off the pincushion. Yeah, it's a little wonky.

But, I've been testing pins and needles, and it works great! Just a few passes in and out, and they're nice and sharp again. Cool!

Obviously, this pincushion is way too large for such a project, but I needed an excuse to make it. (You definitely do not want to store your pins or needles in a cushion like this - they can rust.) What would be perfect, though, is those bottle cap pincushions!


Yes, hair works - I gathered the clippings from a haircut into a pretty handkerchief, tied it up with a ribbon and got an immediate pin cushion that has worked very well at keeping pins and needles sharp and shiny. I was told it has something to do with the natural oils in the hair. Ah, those Victorians.....

Well, aren't you just the cleverest one around?! Your comment about rust has my mind jittering about...doesn't someone make a scouring pad out of brass? Would that work? Hmmm....

Such pretty fabrics, and the link to the embroidery ones are also so cute! I want to make those too!

What a neat idea!! I so need to sharpen my pins. Love the design too!!

Wow! Thank you Diane. Cool idea and I didn't know what use my strawberry had!

I'm so lucky to have stumbled upon your blog (from whipup)! Steel wool is brilliant! I've been wondering what I can use besides that sharpening "sand" that I hear is very expensive. Love it! **adding you to my bloglines** :-) Thanks!

This is fantastic! (And fingerprints are over-rated...)

That is brilliant! Adding steel wool to my Lowe's list...

Great idea.
I like the warm and sunny fabrics you've selected.

I love how you always do such varied projects, you're always game for something new.


Brilliant! I am SO sharing this with my readers!


You're awesome, as always!

Dona, running the needle through your hair isn't to sharpen the needle, it only helps it slide throught he fabric better.

This is so neat! One question, though.... why does the steel wool make your pins rust if you leave them in it?

Update: my test foil-ball with pins stuck in it has been sitting for just over three weeks. Pulled the pins out this morning, completely rust-free.

Shila: rust can form over time if the steel wool comes in contact with oxygen and water. So having your pincushion in humid conditions for a long time could result in rust. Any pins you'd left in the pincushion would rust in that environment as well. Keep in mind that the steel wool is pretty tightly compressed inside the pincushion, so moisture can get trapped inside there. Safest bet is to keep your pins in a regular stuffed cushion.

I always collect those little bags and things that they put in things to keep the moisture out of items...(desiccants). They come in medications, and know, the little bags that say DO NOT EAT. (LOL!)
I put them in with my pins and needles to keep the rust away. I wonder if you added a few of them to your pincushion if it would keep away the rust. Especially using a very small one in the bottom of the bottlecap pincushion.
I keep my little strawberry in my sewing basket....and bring it out and sharpen all my needles that I use frequently, every couple of months. I also sharpen my plastic push pins with the strawberry. Makes them slide into the cork board better!!

This is such a good idea, I am forever swearing over blunt pins .. thankyou so much for posting this. Far better than my attempt -

great idea, my pins areoften blunt.I'm going to make one

Hmmm... I've heard of people using very powerful magnets with some success, and I've seen people push the pincushion against a table at various angles. (Dangerous to your fingers, though.) I finally gave up on storing/losing my needles in a pincushion and make a little needle book.

I love this idea but have another question. I know I have needles inside the cushion I'm been using for do you get them out w/o cutting the cushion open? Any thoughts are helpful. Tnks

I never place my needles in my pin cushion. I've created a "needle cushion" out of cardboard, quilt batting and cotton velvet. I cut everything to the desired measurements and glued the batting to one side of the cardboard. I then stretched the velvet over the batting and attached everything with an ordinary office stapler. Next, I tacked a length of ribbon to the velvet on the back using a strong thread. Imagine how picture wire is strung and you'll get it perfect. It's hung on a cuphook over my sewing table. I added a fabric flower to the center point of the ribbon's length to cover the cuphook.

In addition to the convenience of having all of my favorite needles literally at my fingertips, the holder makes an attractive piece of "art" for my sewing room. Very refined and elegant for cheap, cheap, cheap!

when storing or leaving needles in a pin cushion I leave a length of thread attached. That way if the needle goes in you have a way to pull it out.

Great idea! Thank you for sharing it. :)

I've seen these before with actual iron filings. Very unlikely you are going to get rust from iron filings when they are sewn into something like this. The needles most people are working with are either stainless or zinc coated. They aren't going to rust either. You would have to throw the cushion in a bucket of water to get rust inside the custhion and then leave your needles in there for months to get rust on them. I make iron filings and turnings for sale on ebay for this specific project. The way raw (unprotected) steel rusts is by exposing it to ambient humid air for long durations of time, and even that is not a guarantee of rust. This is why metalworkers use acid/coffee grounds/and acidic baths to get rust to form on projects. Your pin cushion wouldn't have this problem unless you left it in a swamp. lol

Wow, Max, that's excellent information! Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing it!

Thanks for this sharp idea. My pins will be happier for it.


The salt can also sharpen the needles:-)

Great idea I loved it ^_^ <3

I use the wood shavings from my pencil sharpener to stuff pincushions (yes, I still use wood pencils). I think sawdust is a good pin sharpener.

I thought the little strawberries were filled with emery.

Re: aluminium foil to sharpen pins scissors etc - I have always understood that you should NOT cut aluminium foil with scissors because it blunts them, or spoils them!