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Pin cushion

Pin cushion

  • Place of origin:

    England (embroidered)

  • Date:

    1600-1630 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Canvas work in coloured silk, silver and silver-gilt thread, with satin back and silver and silk thread tassels

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 56, The Djanogly Gallery, case 9

Object Type
Pin cushions served both functional and decorative purposes. Used for holding the large numbers of pins required to fasten clothing, they were often richly embellished. Along with expensive combs, brushes, and scents, the pin cushion adorned a lady's dressing table.

Materials & Making
This pin cushion is decorated in canvaswork. Worked in wool, it was a popular form of embroidery, particularly for furnishings such as wall hangings, cushion covers and table carpets. For smaller items, like this pin cushion, silk, silver and silver-gilt threads were often used on a ground of finely woven linen.

Subjects Depicted
The pin cushion bears a pattern of thistles, gilly flowers (carnations), cornflower, rose, borage with a squirrel, birds and insects. These naturalistic forms were typical of the period and match similar designs that decorated clothing.

Physical description

Rectangular pincushion

Place of Origin

England (embroidered)


1600-1630 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Canvas work in coloured silk, silver and silver-gilt thread, with satin back and silver and silk thread tassels


Height: 15.3 cm including rings, Width: 27.4 cm including rings, Depth: 5.5 cm, Height: 18 cm approx., including tassels, Width: 32 cm approx., including tassels

Object history note

Embroidered in England

Descriptive line

embroidered, 1600-1629, English

Labels and date

British Galleries:

Enormous quanitities of pins were used for the fastening of clothing. Elizabeth I was supplied with 24,000 'pynnes of diverse sorts' just for her coronation. Pins secured the petticoat in a ruffle above the farthingale (hoops that supported a skirt), and held the curves of the ruff in place around the neck. Several dozen might be used for one ensemble. Such a quantity required large pincushions, like the canvas work one here. These pins were found in written documents that were dated between 1620 and 1635. [27/03/2003]


Embroidery; Textiles


Textiles and Fashion Collection

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