Not currently on display at the V&A

Pin Cushion

1725-1750 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Pincushions in the eighteenth century were both functional and decorative items. They had been in general household use from at least the sixteenth century, and were popular as courting and wedding presents, as well as New Year's gifts. The methods used to create them varied. Flat-quilting is where two pieces of cloth are stitched together with no wadding in between. A single or double line of stitching creates the pattern.

Pincushions were also customary presents for a new mother, and frequently filled with pins that enhanced the stitched design or spelled out poignant messages. Wishes of good health were common at a time when infant mortality rates were still high. Such pincushions were presented after the baby arrived, as there was a superstition that if given before, they could increase the pain felt by the mother during birth.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Quilted and pinked silk satin
Brief Description
Circular pin cushion of silk satin, England, 1725-1750
Physical Description
Circular pin cushion of cream silk satin. The top is flat-quilted in running stitch in cream silk thread. A central circle design contains a rosette and the remainder of the ground is divided into small squares. The circumference is decorated with a frill of cream satin, the edges of which are scalloped and pinked, and within each scallop are three punched holes. The frill matches that of the baby wickerbasket (see T.36-1969).
Dimensions
  • Diameter: 5.5in
  • Diameter: 13.9cm
  • Depth: 2.5in
  • Depth: 6.3cm
Gallery Label
[#5] [#4] Flat-quilted pincushions Possibly made by or for Amy Burningham (1708-77), Hampshire 1740s Celebrating the birth of Amy Burningham's son Henry, these pincushions were handed down to the first-born son of every generation, eventually coming into the possession of Henry's great-great granddaughter Mary. Pincushions were customary presents to a new mother. They were given after the baby arrived, as there was a superstition that given before, they could increase the pain felt by the mother during birth. Silk V&A:T.37, 38-1969(20th March 2010)
Object history
The object was received in a quilted baby's basket along with a number of other pin cushions and items of clothing. According to the donor, the collection of objects had been kept in this manner and handed down in the family since the eighteenth century. A small note pinned to one of the garments states; 'The things belonged to my father, Henry Burningham, who was born February 10th 1741/2'.



A genealogical trace suggests that the items were made by or for Amy Burningham (1708-77), and used in relation to the birth of her first-born son, Henry, in 1741. They were then passed down to the first-born son of each generation. The line is Henry Burningham (1741-1808), Thomas Burningham (1772-1846), Henry Burningham (1799-1895), Henry George Charles Burningham (1831-1905).



Historical significance: In the eighteenth century, the birth of a child was celebrated with delicate cot quilts and other objects that often mirrored adult fashions. These were usually handed down within the family, as were a wide range of quilted items from tiny pincushions to large bed covers. Often passed through the female line, they were also given to the first-born son of every generation - a sign of how prized they were as family heritage. The stories attached to them reflected social and family connections.
Historical context
The eighteenth century home of the Burninghams was Hussey's farm. Henry's son, Thomas Burningham, became a wealthy landowner, and built Froyle House near Alton, Hamptonshire. The estate extended to nearly 1050 acres, including gardens, parkland, woodland, five farms, small holdings and cottages. Most of the household contents remained in the family until the mid-nineteenth century.
Summary
Pincushions in the eighteenth century were both functional and decorative items. They had been in general household use from at least the sixteenth century, and were popular as courting and wedding presents, as well as New Year's gifts. The methods used to create them varied. Flat-quilting is where two pieces of cloth are stitched together with no wadding in between. A single or double line of stitching creates the pattern.



Pincushions were also customary presents for a new mother, and frequently filled with pins that enhanced the stitched design or spelled out poignant messages. Wishes of good health were common at a time when infant mortality rates were still high. Such pincushions were presented after the baby arrived, as there was a superstition that if given before, they could increase the pain felt by the mother during birth.
Bibliographic Reference
Sue Prichard (ed.), Quilts, 1700-2010 : hidden histories, untold stories, London: V&A, 20103
Collection
Accession Number
T.37-1969

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record createdAugust 22, 2008
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