Sewing Tips: To The Point!

Sewing Tips: To The Point!

Sewing pins are an absolute requirement for sewing, but they’re also one of the essential items that we tend to neglect.

How often do you consider the maintenance of your pins? Do you keep track of your pins and ensure that their points are sharp?

There are so many different ways to store pins, some safer than others. We all know the little boxes that pins are stored in when sold for retail are terrible – they make a tangled mess of the pins and break easily, leaving your floor riddled with sharp booby traps – so there has to be some good alternatives out there.

Thankfully, there are quite a few alternatives! Here are some storage methods that I’ve used in the past.


The Tomato Pincushion:

This is a timeless classic. You know the one – with the little strawberry attached via a vine to the top. It’s small, red, and adorable. While not big enough to store all of your pins, it will provide a reliable source of storage for a large portion of them (at least, until the cat gets a hold of it, the silly monsters).

There’s something special about this pincushion, though. More specifically, about the little strawberry attached to it. The strawberry is filled with emery sand; a fine grain metallic sand that’s more commonly known for its role sandpaper and nail files. Running a straight pin or sewing needle through this strawberry a few times will shave down the points, helping to maintain their sharpness. This will keep them ready to pin even the most delicate of silks.

Just about everyone who sews has owned one of these tomatoes at a point in their lives. I’ve had several, since my cats keep managing to dig them up from where I’ve hid them and tear all the saw dust out!



Another classic method that I use to hold my pins. I’ve been told it’s not good for the points of the straight pins, so you may only want to use this technique if you frequently replenish your pin collection (or if you manage to lose or break them constantly and are forced to buy new pins more often).

The great thing about using magnets is that the pins are usually forced down flat against the magnet. This means that your fingers will be poked less often than if they were in a regular plastic bin.

Magnets are easy to obtain and can be stored in handy-dandy places.

Project idea: make a wrist strap with a small magnet, for use while doing fittings, or laying your pattern (this will be less obtrusive than a traditional pin cushion).


Bobbin storage case:

Sometimes the best storage methods are completely unconventional. The bobbin storage case just happens to be the right width for straight pins as a pin organizer. The kind that works best has thin plastic separators between where the bobbins would be in rows inside the case. The rows are just big enough for the pins. The separators keep all the pins lined up in the same direction to keep fingers from being poked to death during the retrieval process.


Create your own Emery Sand Pincushion:

Want to keep all of your pins sharp while also having them conveniently stored? Back on the topic of a more traditional pincushion and the emery sand mentioned before, customize your own pincushion to maintain and fit all the pins you need.

Emery sand can be purchased online, for around $5-$10/pound, and can be found in smaller quantities as well. Pair some of this with your favorite fabric, some cotton, and maybe a little bit of decoration, and you’ll have an amazing pincushion that is not only unique, but also extremely functional.

If you don’t have access to emery sand, you can also use some steel wool. However, if you decide to use steel wool, don’t store your needles in them for long periods of time. It can cause the needles to rust. Instead, use the steel wool pincushion to sharpen your pins right before a project.


How do you store your pins and keep them sharp? Let us know in the comments below!



  1. L. R. Marsh

    I use a stainless steel auto shop magnetized bowl for my pins. The bowl is usually used to hold small automotive parts such as lug nuts, screws, tools, etc. But it keeps my pins portable and handy. I recommend you try it. Thanks

  2. Linda

    when my son was younger–maybe 5 or 6, and wanted to “help me”, I had him run my pins through the strawberry to sharpen them. A win-win. He was entertained and was doing something useful for me.

  3. Alys -- AmyCat

    @Laurie Healy: I keep my needles in the pincushion… but only if they’ve got thread in ’em.

    Unless I’m doing “fussy bits” (neck facings, pleats, etc.), I don’t bother with pins… If I’ve cut accurately, and since I’m almost always using natural fibers like linen, cotton, and wool (rather than “slippery” crap like polyester and acetate), I can line up my edges and just go…

  4. Laurie Healy

    I loved your article! I’ve used all different kinds of pins, dressmaker, quilting, glass head, etc. so I’ve made all different kinds of pin cushions and keep the different pins in their own cushions. I’ve not heard of being able to purchase emery sand, though, so I’m definitely going to try that. One word of caution, don’t keep sewing needles in pin cushions. They tend to get lost in the cushion. When my Aunt passed away I inherited one of her very old pin cushions that was disintegrating and when I took it apart it had 60 sewing needles in the middle of it!

    1. Sandy

      Yup, I’d destroyed a tomato pincushion by running a huge (3/32″, at least) bodin-needle through the strawberry (should have just filed the burr off with an emery board, really!), so I replaced it and, knowing that needles had disappeared into the old one, cut it apart . . . . and found 45 needles. I may never need to buy another one.

  5. Kathy Ritscher

    All great ideas. My idea is for the bend and dull pins to discard. I use a small baby food jar. I cut a hole in the top and drop in broken needles, bents pins and other sharps. No pricking in the trash.
    I really like the idea to make own pincushion! I’ve used baby food containers, the rectangle plastic type to store pins.

    1. Author
      Michaela Smith

      Hi Kathy! Wow, what a great idea! I’ve never thought about using a baby food jar to throw away the unusable pins.

  6. vivian edelson

    I had absolutely no idea about the strawberry/emery bag – and I’ve used a tomato cushion since I was a teen – thank you for writing about it and pin care –

  7. DeeDee

    Yolanda, I LOVE the suggestion on the larger emery bag. Often times people would ask me what that little strawberry was for. I told them it was to sharpen their pins. I have no idea WHY I knew that, but it is a little known fact. Anyone got a little pattern for the emery bag they’d like to share?

    1. Author
      Michaela Smith

      Hi DeeDee! We have a couple pincushion patterns on our blog. To modify them for use with emery, you’ll want to make an inner pouch that contains the emery sand so that it doesn’t leak out, and then put that inner pouch into the pincushion. This can be done with any pincushion pattern, but I figured I’d link to ours. 😉

      You can also make an extremely simple rectangular pin cushion, by just using two layers of fabric (one as an inner pouch to hold the emery sand, and the other to wrap around it). Basically making a small pillow out of emery sand instead of cotton. 🙂

  8. Colleen

    WOW, since a youngster. I thought that a :TOMATO: as a pin cushion was ODD. I did have fun swinging the thing around by the “Berry on Top” until Caught. It may not have been explained why it looked like it did, if it was “I Forgot” Now I want one……
    Thanks You So Much for This Useful Info 🙂

  9. Yolanda

    What a great article! It’s something I’ve not read about anywhere else. I have my mother’s little emery bag that she had on her pin cushion. It has been re-covered 2 or 3 times. You have given me a good idea, though. To have a larger cushion filled with emery would be nice!

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