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Layette pincushion

  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    1784 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Cotton with cotton fringing, pins

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    On short term loan out for exhibition, case C7685

Layette pincushions are just one type of these objects: pincushions in general have been available since at least the 17th century, and were once of much greater importance sartorially than they are now because pins were used to fasten garments, as well as for needlework and lace-making.

Layette pincushions were given as presents to women who had newly or recently born babies. They were in theory useful as well as symbolic, because even baby clothes in the UK were often fastened with ordinary pins until the successful marketing of the safety pin in the 1870s.

In some areas it was considered very unlucky to give the pincushion before the birth: not only was this over confidence that the outcome would be successful, but there was a superstition about pins and birth pain. 'For every pin a pain' and 'More pins, more pain' were traditional sayings, and some women would remove all the pins, no matter how elaborate the pattern.

Physical description

Baby's layette pincushion, of ivory-coloured twilled cotton woven with a self-coloured stripe, the fabric used to make the pincushion with the stripes running horizontally. The front of the pincushion is stuck with hand made pins to show an inscription, with a pair of voided hearts and an enclosed crown above, a tree to one side, and a flower and a coronet beneath, accompanied by two sets of initials and the date. The pincushion is edged with matching cotton fringing, and has a plain back.

Place of Origin

England (made)


1784 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Cotton with cotton fringing, pins

Marks and inscriptions

'Health to the Little Stranger'

M H 1784/ T H
Initials of owner and/ or children with date of presentation


Height: 11.7 cm maximum (without fringing), Width: 16 cm maximum (without fringing), Thickness: 5.3 cm maximum

Object history note

With B.2, 4-2009, part of Lot 569 in the Sale of the Roger Warner Collection at Christie's South Kensington, 20-21 January 2009. The three pieces combined were bought for a total of £579.38, so notionally £193.13 each.

Historical context note

Roger Warner (1913-2008) was a well respected antiques collector as well as dealer.

Descriptive line

Layette pincushion, baby's, ivory-coloured cotton, with the words 'Health to the Little Stranger', made in England, 1784.


Cotton; Cotton fringing; Pins


Stitching; Pin sticking

Subjects depicted

Coronets (crowns); Tree; Crowns (headdresses); Hearts, voided; Stylized flowers


Birth; Children & Childhood


Museum of Childhood

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