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