Introduction: Emery Pincushion - Keeps Pins and Needles Sharp - Sew Useful Entry

Picture of Emery Pincushion - Keeps Pins and Needles Sharp - Sew Useful Entry

Are you familiar with the little strawberry that comes along with the famous tomato pincushion? Do you know the purpose of that strawberry? It's an emery pincushion. Its purpose is to sharpen your pins and needles. It is filled with a mineral called "emery". Emery resembles fine metal shavings. It is used as an abrasive in industrial applications and also on many useful household items such as emery boards.

Well, that little strawberry pincushion just wasn't suiting my needs. I needed something larger, something that could sit on its own on my table. I searched high and low for a larger emery pincushion with no luck, so I decided to make my own.

The result? Here it is. This pincushion is small, as far as pincushions go, but large for an emery pincushion.

I'm offering these emery pincushions for sale and entering them into the Sew Useful contest because I feel they are so practical and they're just not available. They serve a great function for anyone that sews. There's just nothing else out there. I saw a need for something, both for myself and for others, and I've fulfilled that need. I saw a gap in what's available in the commercial sewing world, and I believe I've filled that gap with something handmade. What's better?

You can find my etsy listing for the contest at

That listing isn't for sale until after the judging on June 18th. If you'd like to purchase a finished pincushion or the loose emery, you can visit my shop at . They're both available there.

You may re-create this pincushion for your own personal use. You may not sell pincushions made using my pattern.

Ok, on to the instructions....

Step 1: Prepare the Fabric

Picture of Prepare the Fabric

Here is a list of the materials and tools needed:
muslin fabric, approximately 5"x5"
decorative fabric, approximately 5"x6"
matching thread
sewing needle
sewing machine

You can make your pincushion any size and shape. The finished pincushion I'll show you today measures 2 3/4" x 1 1/2".

You're going to make the pincushion out of muslin, then cover it with decorative fabric. I do that because I don't want the tiny emery particles to escape through seams and pinholes.

Fold the piece of muslin in half. The fold is now on the left sie. Draw your lines as shown below. The muslin rectangle should measure 1 1/2" x 2 3/4".

Fold the decorative fabric in half, right sides together. The fold is on the left side. Draw your lines as shown below. The decorative fabric rectangle should measure 1 3/4" x 3".

Extend the vertical lines that you drew by about 1/2" inch above the rectangle.

The solid lines are your sewing lines. The dashed lines are where you'll fold it later.

Step 2: Sew

Picture of Sew

Now you'll use your sewing machine to sew across the bottom and up the side on each piece of fabric. Be sure to sew all the way up to the top of the vertical line that you drew.

Don't sew on the dotted line.

I used red thread in the picture below. That is for demonstration purposes. You should use matching thread.

After sewing on the solid lines, trim to 1/4" or less along the bottoms and sides. Trim across the top, just above the top of the vertical sewing line.

Step 3: Turn

Picture of Turn

Now you turn each piece inside-right. You have two sacks now, each with one closed end and one opened end. The muslin tube is slightly smaller than the decorative one.

Step 4: Fill

Picture of Fill

Now you'll fill the muslin sack with emery. I use about 1/8 cup for pincushions this size. Fill it to just below the dashed line inside the sack.

Step 5: Sew

Picture of Sew

This is probably the trickiest step.

Use a straight pin to pinch together the top of the sack. Insert the pin as close to the emery as possible. It will help keep the emery in the sack while you're sewing.

Use the sewing machine to sew the sack closed. Go back and forth a couple of times to make sure the sack is closed securely.

Again, I used red thread in this picture so that you can see it. You should use matching thread.

Trim across the top, just above these sewing lines.

It's not very pretty at this point, but "function over form" is what we need for now.

Step 6: Finish It Up!

Picture of Finish It Up!

Fold the top down on the decorative sack. Fold it to the inside of the sack. You should fold it on the dashed line that you can see on the inside of the sack.

Insert your filled muslin sack.

With needle and matching thread, sew it closed. Use a blind stitch so that your stitches will be virtually invisible.

That's it! You're done!

Now jab all of your pins and needles into that baby. You'll never have dulls pins again!


Nana Sandra (author)2017-03-28

I just purchased emery (powder). How do I ensure that the emery doesn't sift through the fabric I use? I am about to make a few pincushions for friends who sew, but I need to figure out how to keep the emery in place.

Allan Wells (author)2010-07-15

Thanks very much for this instructable. The sewing was easy but I couldn't obtain any emery powder locally so used fine cut sand instead-works a treat ! Apparently any medium to fine grade abrasive with a hardness of 5 or above will do eg aluminium oxide, carborundum, garnett, quartzite, sand (silica) and even crushed glass or glass beads. Emery has a moh hardness of 7 to 9.

marcolinux (author)Allan Wells2014-03-03

scrub sponge works too. It is not as heavy, but is cheap, easy available and can be cut in many shapes.

dottyral (author)Allan Wells2012-05-16

I can't speak of any of those others, but emery works wonderfully. I sell it in my etsy shop (link in the instructions).

twinkleshine (author)2013-02-18

so sweet! thank you!

firefly68 (author)2012-05-15

dottyral, I am very impressed with the cushions in your shop. Who knew the humble pincushion could be so gorgeous?!

dottyral (author)firefly682012-05-16

So kind of you! Thank you! :)

mybb (author)2009-01-27

dental supplyindustrial supplyHere is an industrial supply co that has bulk emery

And here is dental supply company that has emery in smaller amounts.

I hope this helps

dottyral (author)mybb2009-01-27

Thank you mybb. The emery from your dental supply company doesn't give any specifics about the emery. I'd be very careful with emery from the other site too. There are so many grades of emery and not all of them are well suited for pincushions. Too fine or too coarse doesn't work well for our purposes. After many years, I've found that the emery that I purchase is the most suitable for pincushions.

ldesimon (author)2008-09-11

I didn't know those pincushions contained emery. Where can you purchase emery?

dottyral (author)ldesimon2008-09-11

Hi there. I purchase emery in bulk from an industrial supply company. I sell it in my shop at in smaller quantities for pincushion making.

UltraMagnus (author)2008-07-01

what sort of place sells emery powder? i am in the UK so don't want to order from the states

dottyral (author)UltraMagnus2008-07-01

Qwerty, that's pretty funny. I hadn't heard that one. :) UltraMagnus. Sorry. I don't know of a supplier in the UK. I do ship to the UK if you'd like to have a look at my shipping costs.

qwerty90210 (author)2007-12-28

I always thought it was a pepper that came with the tomato

ryzellon (author)2007-08-12

Here's a mock-up of an emery-wristlet
I think the photos are pretty self explanatory, though the crudeness might be a bit confusing. (Sorry, I had to improvise on materials.)
If Dottyral, or someone who's pretty adept wants to make this, you're welcome to write up an authoritative account. These steps are really vague and aren't going to be very helpful to someone very new to sewing.
(I hope the images will be accessible in full size...)

Here's what's going on in the photos:
Pouch of tiny metal rings == Pouch of emery
Green lens cloth == Foam block/pouch of packed poly-fill
Blue card == Scrap of stiff plastic (ex-credit card, etc)
Pink/peach tissue == Decorative outer cloth

Vague steps:
- Make a little emery pouch
- Make a foam block about the size of the emery pouch
- Cut a bit of credit card so that it's a little larger than foam/pouch
- Cut decorative cloth so it'll go around your wrist in one dimension, and around the stack of emery/foam/plastic in the other.
- Make sure stack and cloth will fit snugly, sew cloth shut on long side + one short side
- Stuff stack into center of pouch, sew on either side to hold
- Close final side of pouch
- Add velcro

Possible variations:
- Try tapering the long pouch at either end: it'll make the wristlet less cuff-like and give the velcro some reinforcement to hang on to.
- Put a broad swatch of velcro on one side to make the wristlet adjustable

dottyral (author)ryzellon2007-08-23

Great job ryzellon!!!

woodknot (author)2007-06-14

Domi Arigato Gazai Masu! (Thank you very much!!!) I can't wait to make one. I have a pincushion that is similar with elastic to go around the wrist, but probably contains sawdust. Would you suggest I make one with emery in it for my wrist?

dottyral (author)woodknot2007-06-15

Hi Woodknot, well I would suggest making one with emery. I know that people used to fill pincushions with sawdust to weigh them down and maybe to sharpen the pins, but I would guess that emery does a better job. People often fill pincushions with a combination of emery and wool. The lanolin in the wool conditions the needles. Since emery is rather heavy, if you want to make one for your wrist, I would probably add some wool or polyfil. Then it wouldn't be quite as heavy and wouldn't spin around on your wrist. Making emery pincushions for the wrist has been on my 'to do' list for a while now. Hopefully I'll get to it someday! Good luck!

VanessaEtsy (author)2007-06-14

dottyral, you rule! I love this idea.

dottyral (author)VanessaEtsy2007-06-15

Awww. Thanks Vanessa! That's so nice!

dottyral (author)2007-05-30

Terrific bethwalk and thanks!

bethwalk (author)2007-05-29

Fabulous tutorial! I'm new to sewing, and I'm really grateful for good instructions--and these are good. Glad you are entering this project into the etsy contest--

dottyral (author)2007-05-23

Thanks Craftchi!

craftchi (author)2007-05-23

Great tutorial. Images make it very clear. Thanks!

dottyral (author)2007-05-20

Thanks glassartist!!

glassartist (author)2007-05-20

Great instructable!

dottyral (author)2007-05-19

Thanks unjust! Yes, there are different grades of emery. I don't know much about the industrial stuff. I sell the perfect emery for pincushions in my etsy shop.

unjust (author)2007-05-19

great little instructable. as a reasonably adept sticher i was never aware of emery pincushions and always wondered why the lil cushion was so tiny. where does one aquire a cup of emery bits? does it come in various grades and if so what grade is appropriate?

dottyral (author)2007-05-19

Oh, thank you mje!

mje (author)2007-05-18

Excellent instructable! Great illustrations and descriptions.

dottyral (author)2007-05-18

Please let me know what you think of my instructable. Was it clear and easy to understand? Thanks!

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