(This tutorial is for the purpose of sharing how I took a "pillow" style pincushion pattern and turned it into a boxy shape. I first tried it with the "Tuffets" pattern from Miss Rosie's Quilt Co., but have since done it with other patterns of a similar style--see below.) You will need a pattern, like this one from Miss Rosie's Quilt Co. (Or you can take any pillow-style pincushion pattern and adapt it.) Your pattern should have a border around the center design in order to create the box. I like to use at least 1" cut strips to surround the center design before proceeding with construction of the box.
Choose the Tuffet, or other pillow-style pincushion you would like to make, and follow the pattern instructions until you have the top made. The Tuffet pattern has a lining built in to the construction process, as shown below.
To do so, just center your finished top on a square of muslin and stitch right next to the edge of the top, to attach the two pieces. I have updated my instruction photos using a small pineapple block.
After trimming away the excess muslin, cut a piece of backing fabric to match the top. Place right sides together.
Mark a 2" space along one side, for the opening. To avoid problems later on, center your opening better than I have here.
Stitch onto the fabric at one of the opening lines, backstitching to secure the seam. Then proceed to stitch a 1/4" seam around the pincushion, as shown, stitching off of the fabric as you come to the other opening line, backstitching as before. This will prevent the opening from tearing wider as you turn the pincushion right-side out, and as you stuff it. It also creates a cleaner, smoother closure.
Now you prepare the corners for the stitching that will form the box. If you don't have a wide border on your pieced top, you may want to make sure you don't stitch the design into the corners. Open up the "envelope" you have created enough to see the corner where the center design and the borders meet. Insert a pin into that corner.
Lay the "envelope" flat with the pin showing on the top side. Now I use an Itty Bitty Eights ruler to see how far in I can stitch my corners without catching the design, marked by the pin. The photo on the right shows that I used the 1/4" seam as my guide to line up the 3/8" lines (I have most often used the 1/2" lines, but have even gone as far as 3/4", if my border on the pincushion top is wide enough to accommodate that). That is as deeply as I can stitch the corners on this pincushion without catching the piecing in the corners. Mark the corners on the top and bottom, as shown below.
Now you will need to grasp the top and bottom of the cushion in the middle, and pull them apart. Make sure you catch the pieced top when you grasp the "lining" side.
Choose a corner and fold from the tip of the corner to the inner corner of the square you drew on the top and bottom. Crease to create a straight line of the lines you drew on the front and back, as shown below.
To make sure the seams are lined up place a pin through one side at the intersection of your drawn line and the 1/4" seam line. Flip it over and make sure the pin comes through at the same point on the other side. If, not, reposition until it does.
Keep this pin perpendicular to the fabric while you pin through all of the layers with a pin on either side of it to keep the fold intact for sewing.
Remove the perpendicular pin, and sew along the line with no backstitching. I like to stitch this line with a larger stitch length so that it will be easy to undo if the corner didn't match up.
Use your finger to push the corner out to see if the seams match. If you are satisfied with it, stitch back over the seam with a smaller stitch length and backstitch at the start and finish.
At this point I also like to take a second line of stitching 1/8" away from the first, to reinforce the seam, backstitching over the whole seam. Trim off the tip. (I made a mess of that first seam, but it looks okay from the outside, so I didn't fix it.)
Repeat this process on all four corners.
I like my box-style pincushions pretty firm, so as it fills, I use my finger to push the shells into the corners. I go for an "over full" cushion, and then gradually let out a little bit of the filling until I can overlap the folded edge of the opening to create an even closure.
As I get the edges to match up nicely, I insert extra fine pins straight down into the overlapped side, catching the seam allowance of the piece underneath. If it needs smoothing or repositioning, I can just remove pins and try again until it is to my liking.
There will be a dusty residue on the fabric from the crushed shells. I take a lint brush or old toothbrush and whisk it away. I obviously haven't done it yet in this photo.
Now for the stitching--I do NOT use a whip stitch.
If you have not tried the ladder stitch before, Google videos of it. To me it gives an invisible finish I cannot get with any other method.
I also highly recommend the use of the long, slender Milliner's needles. They glide smoothly through the fabrics and take fine, even stitches. I use the same stitch and needles for sewing bindings, as well.
And there you have it--a small, box-style pincushion with a smoothly stitched closure.
Isn't it cute? This is a tiny one. It is 2" square and under 1" deep.
Here it is with another recent finish.
I make no claim that this is the only, or even easiest way to do this. If you have a better method, please share! Let me know if you have questions.
P.S. Just days after this original post, I took another "pillow-style" pincushion pattern from this magazine. It is called "Poor Lil'
Punky, and is by talented quilt jewelry designer,
Julie Letvin. I used the same technique as described above to turn this pincushion into a boxy-shaped Lil' Punky. Worked like a charm!