Pincushion doll and thimble purse – 3

Now that the cross stitched skirt of my pincushion doll is completed, I need to make the padded pincushion base itself, to wrap the skirt around.

This is the image from the front of the chart pack, so that you can see what it is I’m aiming to make:

Stitch & Frame Shop image

I found a lovely piece of Dupion silk in my stash, that I bought at a doll’s house fair about 15 years ago. It’s almost the same shade as the one on the doll in the picture. I’ve been keeping this piece of silk for ‘something special’ for years, but the piece of silk is very small and narrow, so for most things, it hasn’t been quite big enough. But for this it’s ideal.

Pincushion doll - 6

I cut the silk according to the instructions – a long piece for the sides, and a circle for the base. The skirt is supposed to be formed around a lid from a container four inches in diameter, to make a solid base for the doll. So, we’ve all got four inch jars hanging around in our cupboards, haven’t we? No? Well, I haven’t, anyway. So, I compromised, by cutting four circles of corrugated cardboard and gluing them together, and then gluing two huge washers on top, for added weight – these are about two inches diameter.

Pincushion doll - 7

Then the fun part. The instructions said to measure the circumference of your base, and then mark this length out on the long piece of silk, then fold the two short sides together and make a seam, forming a tube. OK so far. Then ‘simply’ pin one end of the tube to the edge of the circle, with a half inch seam allowance, to make a kind of bag. Hmm. Easier said than done. It was like setting in a sleeve in a very small, slippery blouse. I decided to divide the tube edges and the circle into quarters with pins first, which helped, but the fabric was very slippery, frayed easily, and the pins kept falling out. Eventually I managed to get the fabric pieces eased together, though, and then backstitched around the circumference of the circle, half an inch in, to make the base seam.

Pincushion doll - 8

The top edge is turned over next, and long running stitches are worked around it, through both layers. The long stitches are so that the thread can be gathered up tightly around the waist of the porcelain half doll, after the pink silk ‘bag’ has been stuffed tightly with wadding.

Pincushion doll - 9

The weighted base is inserted just before stuffing the bag:

Pincushion doll - 10

At this point, it all got rather complicated, and I felt a bit like an octopus, as I needed so many hands at once – so I stopped taking process photos and concentrated on getting the porcelain half doll in position and vertical, with the seam of the pink silk base at the back,  all the wadding inside the skirt, the circular base seam exactly on the edge of the cardboard base all the way round, the gathering threads pulled tight enough so that the half doll didn’t fall out……photos as well would have just been one thing too much.

But I managed it. Just. But by then it was bedtime.


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What would you like to stitch for your doll’s house?

This time of year is when I do most of my designing of miniature needlepoint for doll’s houses, for my embroidery kit business – it must be something to do with Spring being just around the corner!

A selection of kits from my range - on fabric counts from 18 canvas, to 40 count silk gauze
A selection of kits from my range – on fabric counts from 18 canvas, to 40 count silk gauze

This year, I wonder if there is anything that you would like me to design, that isn’t in my range yet?

I am particularly keen to ‘fill the gaps’ in the selection of matching items. For instance, for *some* of the range, there are carpets, cushions, bellpulls, etc, all with matching designs on them ….but sometimes people email me and say things like ‘Is there a footstool that co-ordinates with the Prudence carpet?’ or ‘Is there a bellpull that goes with the Eleanor bolster and footstool?’

Having raised the idea, it usually prods me into designing what is being asked for…, if there’s something that you would like to stitch that you don’t see listed in the online shop yet, just email me with your ideas to, or add a comment below, and I’ll see what I can do!

To see the sets of matching items that *are* already available, there is a page that shows them all photographed in their ‘family groups’, here.

Here’s a few of the ‘families’…..

The 'Summer Roses' family - my best selling kits
The ‘Summer Roses’ family – my best selling kits
A trio of wallhangings on 22 count canvas, based on the Cluny tapestries
A trio of wallhangings on 22 count canvas, based on the Cluny tapestries
The 'Tree of Life' group - I'm already planning the addition of a firescreen to this set
The ‘Tree of Life’ group – I’m already planning the addition of a firescreen to this set

So, what else would you like to stitch for your doll’s house?


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Pincushion doll and thimble purse – 2

I’ve managed to get all of the cross stitching done on the skirt of the pincushion doll now, and while it was still on the frame it looked like this:

Pincushion doll - 3

As I mentioned in my previous post, I did find the repetitiveness a bit tedious, but it’s not as if it was a surprise to have to do it!

After completing the cross stitch, I attached the beads – these are ‘berries’ that add highlights to the leafy border, and the centre of each bow above the hearts. Then I worked the little bars that the cord will be threaded through. These were interesting to do – usually, when working any ‘bars’ for cording, they are buttonhole stitch bars, which can take a long time to stitch, and often stretch out of shape. These, I found, were more successful (and much quicker to do). They are cross stitches covering six threads by two, with gaps of eight threads between each one. But the clever bit is that each cross stitch is wrapped around twice (not going through the fabric) before going on to do the next stitch. Very clever, and very simple. I’ll have to remember that, next time I’m making a drawstring bag.

Pincushion doll - 3a

Then I lined the skirt with a piece of unbleached muslin (the instructions said to use cream silk, but I didn’t have any).

The next fun part was making the cord to go through the cross stitch bars. It’s a good thing I already knew how to do this, as the instructions just say, ‘Make the cording with a 54″ skein section of 112 Fir’. Hmm. A bit more detail would have been useful here, I think. And maybe a diagram or two, for those who haven’t made one before?

The instructions said to thread the cord through the bars, ‘non-knotted end’ first. I could only get this to work when I used a ‘sling’ of sewing cotton passed through the end of the cord, so that it was a blunt-ended needle which went through the bars first – the cord was too soft on its own.

Pincushion doll - 4

But it does look good now that it’s finished. I think the Caron Waterlilies thread is really shown off well in the bottom stripes of the skirt, here. Using plain DMC wouldn’t have looked anything like as good:

Pincushion doll - 5


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February 8th is the ‘Festival of Broken Needles’ in Japan

I came across a description of this ritual, which takes place each year in Japan, whilst idly surfing. It is a ritual which takes place in Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples each year. I think it’s a lovely idea – it made me think that we should be more aware of how important our sewing tools are to us.

Used and broken needles, inserted into the block of tofu during the ritual
Used and broken needles, inserted into the block of tofu during the ritual

The Festival of Broken Needles is a ritual of thanks, called Harikuyo in Japanese (hari meaning needle, and kuyo meaning a Buddhist memorial service) for the working tools for the sewing, embroidery and tailoring trades. The ritual dates back about 1500 years. Memorial services are usually held for spirits of the dead, but it is also common for services to be held for inanimate objects that have successfully fulfilled their earthly purpose, too.

The stitchers dress in fine kimono and gather all the needles that they’ve used or broken during the past year. As part of the thanksgiving service, they go to the altar in the temple and plunge their old needles into a block of tofu, which is surrounded by a display of sewing accessories and food offerings such as fruit and rice cakes.

The sacred service is to show respect to the needles that the stitchers have used during the past year, to show how thankful they are, and to request that the power and energy of the needles will help the stitchers to improve their skills in the year to come. No sewing takes place on this special day.

After the service, the slab of tofu and the needles held safely in it are taken to a sacred final resting place.

What a lovely thought!


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