DIY Craft Tutorial: How to Make an Altoids Tin Pincushion and Notions Box
Small boxes and tins, like an Altoids tin, are perfect materials to recycle and repurpose into charming, yet handy pincushions. These little boxes or tins have the added convenience of a little storage for notions like pins and needles, a thimble, measuring tape, or buttons.
A Note About Materials:
There are a number of different materials and supplies that you can use to make this pincushion.
I used an Altoids tin for my pincushion, but you could use a similar small tin, wooden box, or a little cardboard box with a cover, like a small jewelry box. This tutorial can also be adapted for larger boxes or containers, but you may want to use different materials and glues.
Speaking of glues, I used a few different types depending on the materials I was using. I used basic white glue to adhere the paper to the sides and bottom of my tin. Then I used hot glue to attach my pincushion to the top of my box. Choose the best product to glue your materials depending on how and where you are using them.
Though I used decorative paper to cover the sides of the bottom section of my tin, you could also use more ribbon or washi tape for this purpose.
- an Altoids tin, or similar box with a cover - this can be made of metal, wood or cardboard
For the top of the box:
- a clean, dry, never been used sponge, or piece of soft foam to use as your cushion
- (optional) an egg sized amount of fiber fill or steel wool to add to your cushion if you want a more rounded top
- a piece of fabric that is at least 4 inches longer and 4 inches wider than the box or tin you are using - you can use almost any type of fabric, but a tightly woven material like wool or felt is less likely to show pin holes over time
- a piece of coordinating ribbon that is long enough to go around the circumference of you box or tin, and wide enough to cover the edge of the lid of your box and the side of your cushion (this will depend on how much padding you put in your cushion)
- embroidery floss and sewing notions to decorate your pincushion
- hot glue or tacky glue
- scissors, common pins, ruler, and a pen
For the sides of the bottom of your tin or box:
- decorative paper, ribbon, or washi tape that is wide enough to cover the sides of the bottom section of your box
- craft glue
For the bottom of your tin or box:
- (optional) decorative paper to cover the bottom of your box, or a strip of velcro to adhere your finished pincushion to your work surface or sewing machine
You can create a more rounded top to your pincushion by adding a padding of fiber fill or steel wool to your pincushion. I've read that putting steel wool in your pincushion sharpens your needles as you pull them in and out of the cushion.
Directions for Making an Altoids Tin Pincushion and Notions Box
1. Measure the height of the bottom section of your tin or box and cut a strip of paper, ribbon, or washi tape to cover the bottom sides. The bottom section of my Altoids tin was 1/2 inch high. Use craft glue to attach your paper or ribbon to the sides of the bottom, if needed. Make sure to position the seam in your material in the back of your box or tin.
(Optional) At the same time, you can trace the bottom of your tin or box on to a piece of paper to cover the base of your container. Again, use craft glue to attach this paper to your box. You can also add a velcro strip to the bottom of your box to stick your finished pincushion to your work table or sewing machine.
2. Next, turn your tin or box upside down onto your sponge or foam and trace around the top cover of your box. This will be the padding for your pincushion. Cut out your sponge or foam to be slightly smaller than the top of your box. This cushion may need more trimming when your assemble your pincushion.
3. Now place your cut out sponge or foam on the underside of your fabric. Cut a piece of your fabric that is about 2 inches larger on each side than your cushion. This is an estimate based on the thickness of the kitchen sponge I used. If you are using a very thick sponge of foam, you will want leave more fabric around your cushion. You can always trim it later.
Basically, you want enough fabric around your sponge or foam to wrap around your cushion and overlap on the bottom by at least 3/4 of an inch.
Then when your fabric is cut, round the corners a bit so they mimic the shape of your box or tin cover.
4. Now turn your fabric over so that the right side is facing up, and place your sponger or foam in the center of your material.
5. Using common pins, outline the placement of your sponge or foam on the top of your fabric. This will allow you to sketch your design and make sure it is centered on your pincushion (see below).
6. Using a pen (I used a thin Sharpie), mark your decoration for the top of your pincushion.
Decorating Your Pincushion with Simple Embroidery
I'm not an expert in embroidery, but I'll share how I decorated my pincushion. You can add whatever design your wish. If your sewing skills are a bit lacking, you can just sew on some pretty lace, pieces of cut felt, beads, or buttons.
For my pincushion:
1. I drew a very simple design of a dandelion puff.
2. I used some green embroidery floss to make some basic stitches for the stem, then filled in the leaves with two colors of green.
3. Then I cut out a small square from one of those plastic net bags that come around onions or potatoes. I pinned this over the circle at the top of my flower.
4. Next, I made a set of stitches in a small circle in the center of my flower, making sure to capture the vegetable bag in these stitches. I used a little orange floss for these stitches and ended each one with a V stitch.
5. Then, I made another row of stitches around my circle using a red thread. I ended each of these stitches with another V stitch. I continued around my flower until my circle was filled.
6. Once all my stitches were complete, I trimmed my vegetable bag in a circle around my embroidery. Not bad for my minimal skills.
Assembling Your Pincushion
1. Using a sewing needle and thread, make a running stitch around your pincushion fabric, leaving about 1/2 of an inch border. I used bright thread so you could see my stitches, but you can use coordinating thread for your project. These stitches will not be seen on your finished pincushion.
2. Next, turn your fabric over so the right side is facing down. Place your fiber fill or steel wool (if you want to add this), and then your sponge or foam cushion in the center of your fabric.
3. Now pull on both ends of your running stitch (beginning and end) to gather up your fabric around your cushion. You may need to adjust your cushion materials inside your fabric pouch for a smooth fit, or slid your fabric a bit to make the gathers even around your cushion.
4. As you tighten and smooth your fabric around the cushion, occasionally place it on top of your tin or box. If it seems like your cushion is going to overhang on the sides of your box, you may want to trim your cushion some more so it fits better on top of your container.
5. At the same time, continue to check that the front of your cushion is looking smooth and that your gather appear even. Once your fabric is snug and smooth around your cushion, tie the two ends of your running stitch together to secure your gathers.
6. I also took my sewing needle and thread and made some additional small stitches to pull the fabric tighter around my cushion.
7. Working quickly, cover the top of your tin or box with hot glue. You will want to place a row of glue around the edge of the top of your container, but you also want to put some glue in the center to adhere the middle of your cushion to the top of your box.
You will have to work quickly, as the hot glue will start to harden. If you are using a large tin or box, you may want to use tacky glue instead.
8. Place your cushion on top of the glue, making sure all your fabric edges are tucked under and that your cushion is centered. You may want to put a weight (like a bean bag) on top of your cushion as it dries to get a tight bond. Let your cushion and box dry completely.
9. When your cushion is dry, take some ribbon and glue it around the sides of your cushion and the edge of the top of your container. I used fabric glue to place my ribbon. Position your ribbon so the seam is in the back of your box. You can use a pin to hold it in place while it dries. Now let your pincushion dry overnight.
10. Once your ribbon is dry, you can add additional embellishments to your pincushion. I wound some twine around the edge of my pincushion for a finishing touch.
This finished pincushion is perfect for holding small sewing tools and materials and pretty enough to display in any room!
Copyright © 2015 by Donna Herron. All rights reserved.