Tomato pincushions are one of the cutest sewing machine supplies found in the sewing boxes of most sewers. They are sold anywhere that machines like the Janome 1000CPX are sold. Whether using Janome embroidery machines, quilting machines, or standard sewing machines, tomato pincushions with their attached strawberry pin sharpener are just about everywhere. Yet there is an interesting history about tomato pincushions that many people may not know about. These sewing machine supplies are more than just cute and utilitarian; there is actually a traditional meaning to the tomato.
The Important and Historic Role of the Pincushion
Pincushions originated during the Middle Ages and were called pimpilowes, pin-pillows, pin-poppets, and many other names. They quickly became essential accessories to anyone who sewed. Pins were expensive and highly valued tools necessary for garment making; protecting them was a priority. Beautifully engraved metal and carved ivory pin cases for safely keeping sewing pins came into use in the late 1300's.
Some years later, these cases were modified to include a little cushion on top or inside. By the late 1600's, pin-pillows of various styles had become another essential accessory used to prevent pin loss. By temporarily sticking pins in the pillow or cushion during sewing, they could be used as needed, then put back into the pin box for safekeeping.
Why A Tomato?
Tomatoes are vastly different from fancy ivory and engraved metal boxes; so of course there is an interesting story behind the creation of the tomato pincushion. Once pin-pillows became popular, many people put as much effort into creating these little cushions as they did making fancy pin boxes. Pincushions were made with the finest of fabrics, adorned and embellished to proudly hold pins. So much pride and detail was put into the creation of these accessories that they were often displayed in homes where visitors could see them.
The tomato became an important pincushion accessory a little later, during the Victorian era. It was widely believed during this time that placing a tomato on the mantle inside the home warded off evil spirits and brought about prosperity and good fortune. This belief was so widely held that if tomatoes were out of season, many people would instead display a fake one made of a sandbag created to look like a tomato.
These artificial tomatoes were frequently sewn and embellished with the same amount of care as many pincushions. The step of using them as a pincushion was a natural one, and a practice that became very popular. After a while, many homes had a tomato pincushion to both store expensive sewing pins and fulfill the traditional role of bringing good fortune as well.
Throughout the years, the tomato pincushion has remained an adorable favorite sewing accessory. Its traditional value of bringing prosperity may not be as recognized as it was; however, holding on to pins is still a useful purpose for those who sew. The history behind simple sewing machine supplies is something fun to learn. Whether a person sews with Janome embroidery machines like the Janome 1000CPX, or uses any other brand of machine, pincushions are a practical sewing machine supply to have available. The unique history of these cute little tomatoes might even give more value to those who own them today!