This beautiful piece of silk on silk embroidery has been safely rolled up for months, waiting for me to find the time to finish the project. I started it way back in March, 2020 . Here is a link to the first post I wrote about the pin cushion.
I was inspired by three different historical references. First and foremost is a petticoat thought to have belonged to Queen Anne of Denmark held in the collection of the Burrell Museum, Glasgow. Having seen and photographed the petticoat years ago when I was in Glasgow, I had access to close up photos that I had taken. This helps enormously when I’m working on an historically inspired piece.
Secondly, a painting of Elizabeth Vernon, the Countess of Southampton, which shows a large pin cushion her dressing table. Granted, it isn’t an embroidered pin cushion, but it is a very important part of getting dressed every day. Much of a woman’s dress, such as the one she is wearing, was held in place using pins. Just look at how many pins are in the pin cushion!
Thirdly, I again used botanical drawings from the Trevelyon’s Miscellany of 1608. It’s one of my favorite sources for designs as well as history.
In my imagination, the embroidery was meant to replicate a small piece of the petticoat that might have been found and turned into a pin cushion as a way to preserve the scrap of beautiful embroidered fabric.
It’s now been made into a pin cushion, filled with crushed walnut shells, trimmed with gold twist and ribbon tassels at each corner. It looks just as I imagined it would look. However, I’m not sure I’ll be putting any pins into it – ever!
As you know, I love the drawings/designs of Thomas Trevelyon. They take me back to the Elizabethan era where I feel right at home. If I could time travel (and choose to be wealthy and healthy!) I’d go back and live in the past for a week.
One way for me to stay connected with the past is through historically inspired embroidery. My next project is a large pin cushion using four small motifs of Thomas Trevelyon.
The idea for a pin cushion comes from this portrait of the Duchess of Southhampton, which shows a large pin cushion on her dressing table. (She had an interesting life! More about that another time…)
While researching this project, I came across a wonderful web site entitled “Extreme Costuming”. The author, L. Mellin, wrote a wonderful article about the use of pins in dressing an Elizabethan woman. Here is an excerpt from that article.
“I was not aware of how common these simple items were to the wardrobes of the Elizabethans. Pins were made in many sizes, from the “great verthingale pynnes” used to hold heavy skirts, to the smallest pins used to hold veils and delicate fabrics. Janet Arnold documents the pin purchases for Queen Elizabeth in a six-month period:
“Item to Roberts Careles our Pynner for xviij  thousand great verthingale Pynnes xx  thowsand great Velvet Pynnes and nyne thowsande smale hed Pynnes and xix  thowsand Small hed Pynnes all of our great warderobe” (Warrant dated 20 Oct, 1565)
While the number of pins for the Royal household seems extraordinary, considering the elaborate clothing effects required by the Queen and her attendants, one wonders that she didn’t need more.
Pins were used to hold skirt flounces, farthingale boning, ruffs, cuffs, partlets, veils, jewels, and generally everything that needed to stay in place. They were carefully kept, and straightened and sharpened periodically. Pins were not left in clothing (oxidation of the metal will stain the fabric, and if moved carelessly, the pins could also rip the fabric), but stored in pincushions.
The well-known portrait of the Countess of Southampton shows her at her dressing table, upon which sits a large pin cushion stuffed with round-headed pins. The bag and pincushion sets in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London suggest that pins were also carried on the person to effect emergency alterations, and given as gifts.
The four small motifs I chose from Trevelyon’s Commonplace Book are below.
From these four images, with editing, I created a pattern. Now I’m choosing threads, fabric and stitches.
The corners of the pin cushion will have ribbon tassels just like this one from the V&A Museum in London.
This post is a bit premature since I haven’t written about how I finished Trevelyon’s Pocket yet…but I’m so excited to share the finished piece with all of you, so, I’ve decided not to wait!
It’s been a longer than usual project, being interrupted with a move from Berlin, Germany to Ames, Iowa and home remodelling in the middle. All told the process, including research, design, set up, embroidery, and assembly, took over 300 hours and I loved every single minute!
The finished size is a tiny 5 x 2 ¾ inches. The embroidery is done with Au ver à soie silk on white shot silk fabric backed with muslin/calico. The gold is chip work embroidered with gold check thread. The clasp is a small imitation pearl from an old bracelet and the loop I made myself with ivory embroidery silk. It’s lined with emerald green silk.
I hope you enjoy looking at this little bit of reproduced elegance from the the 17th century.
An announcement about the Trevelyon’s Pocket course will be coming in the next few weeks. If you’ve signed up for notifications about upcoming courses on With Threaded Needle you will receive an email about this course. If you want to be notified, please send an email to: kathy “at” with threaded needle “dot” com and I will put you on the list. Watch for an announcement on this blog and via Facebook as well.