A Sewing Brick or Weighted Pincushion

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Weighted pincushions were suggested by many mid-19th century home magazines as an alternative to sewing birds. Rather than fastening onto a table, these weighted pincushions could be used almost anywhere without worrying about a ledge or lip on which it must adhere. Bricks, lead and even wood could be used to produce these pincushions.

According to Miss Leslie's Lady's House-book in 1850:

"It is too heavy to overset, and far superior to a screw pincushion, which can only be fixed to a table with a projecting edge. A brick pincushion can be set anywhere, even on a chair; and enables the person who has pinned on it her sewing, to sit always in an upright posture, which is a great advantage; as to be obliged to stoop incessantly over your work, is extremely injurious to health.

All mantua-makers and seamstresses should be provided with brick pincushions. They can be made at a very trifling cost: and, with renewed coverings, will last twenty years or more."

Instructions for brick pincushions appear early in 19th century documents including American Girl's Book 1831 and later editions, Godey's in 1835, A Workwoman's Guide 1840, A Treatise on Domestic Economy 1842, and Miss Leslie's Lady's House-book: A Manual of Domestic Economy 1850 and later editions. Instructions continue to be included in home making advice publications into the early 1900s. Although not all references to the brick pincushion include instructions, those that do appear to be identical with only slight variations in wording.

Get a large clean brick, not in the least broken or scaled off at the edges, and cover it all over with strong coarse tow linen, or thick cotton cloth, sewed on tightly and smoothly with strong thread. Then make a bag of thick linen, allowing it to be two or three inches larger each way than the top of the brick. Stuff the bag as hard as possible with bran or with clean wool; (not cotton, as it will prevent the pins from going in.) You must put in at least two quarts of bran, but most probably more. You can procure bran at a feed-store, or from a stable. In making this pincushion, you should wear a large apron, and keep the whole apparatus on a waiter or tray. Use a spoon for putting the bran into the bag; and press it down as hard as possible. When the bag cannot hold any more, even by tight squeezing, sew up the open end. Fit the bag evenly all round to the top of the brick, and sew it strongly to the coarse linen covering. Then sew a piece of green baize on the bottom, where it sits on the table. Afterwards cover the whole pincushion (except the bottom) with thick strong silk, or damask, or some other substantial material. It is best not to ornament it with bows, as your thread may catch round them when you are sewing.1

Smaller versions of the pincushion made with wood blocks were suggested "...to hold the pins you may want when cutting out and fixing work on a bed; for, having flat bottoms, they are not liable to roll off. You may also make a very handsome toilet pincushion with a block for its foundation."2

1 Miss Leslie's Lady's House-Book; A Manual of Domestic Economy, Eleventh Edition, 1850, pages 385-386

2 Ibid, pg. 386

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