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DIY Craft Tutorial: How to Make an Altoids Tin Pincushion and Notions Box

Updated on May 12, 2016
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Donna enjoys using her arts background to create fun craft projects with a special focus on using repurposed or handy household materials.

How to Make a Pincushion and Notions Box from an Altoids Tin
How to Make a Pincushion and Notions Box from an Altoids Tin | Source
Little boxes and tins make wonderful pincushions because they also have storage for small sewing notions
Little boxes and tins make wonderful pincushions because they also have storage for small sewing notions | Source

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.

Project Materials

Materials for making an Altoids tin pincushion and notions box
Materials for making an Altoids tin pincushion and notions box | Source

Tip:

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.

  • 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


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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.

Cutting the fabric for the top of your pincushion
Cutting the fabric for the top of your pincushion | Source

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.

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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

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basic embroidery on a pincushion
basic embroidery on a pincushion | Source

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.

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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

Making a running stitch around your fabric for your pincushion top
Making a running stitch around your fabric for your pincushion top | Source
Putting your padding in your pincushion
Putting your padding in your pincushion | Source

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.

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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.

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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.

Finishing your Altoids tin pincushion and notions box
Finishing your Altoids tin pincushion and notions box | Source

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!

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Copyright © 2015 by Donna Herron. All rights reserved.

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    • poetryman6969 profile image

      poetryman6969 2 years ago

      I never really thought about what could be behind a pincushion. Learn something new every day!

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 2 years ago from Chicago Area

      OMG! That is sooooo cute! I would've never thought to use a sponge as a pin cushion base. You are so creative. Even though I don't have the time to devote to crafty things these days, just looking at these cute projects is inspiring. Maybe one day... :) Voted up, beautiful, awesome and sharing!

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 2 years ago from Norfolk

      purl3agony

      Very cute, love projects which recycle everyday things. Nice Images too. You did a great job as usual. Well done.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 2 years ago from The Beautiful South

      I have one of these boxes and this would be such fun to do! Thanks for sharing and I will share yours too!

    • purl3agony profile image
      Author

      Donna Herron 2 years ago from USA

      Hi poetryman6969 - So glad you enjoyed this hub! Thanks for your comments. I appreciate it!

    • purl3agony profile image
      Author

      Donna Herron 2 years ago from USA

      Hi Heidi - Thanks so much for your comments, share, and support. Glad you are keeping busy, but I hope you get some time to relax and enjoy yourself :) Thanks again! Happy Spring!

    • purl3agony profile image
      Author

      Donna Herron 2 years ago from USA

      Hi sallybea! Thanks for your kind words! I'm sure you can think of some wonderful wet felting projects for Altoids tins, too :) Looking forward to seeing more projects from you. Thanks again!!

    • purl3agony profile image
      Author

      Donna Herron 2 years ago from USA

      Hi Jackie! I think Altoids tins are my new favorite craft material :) There's tons of great ways to reuse them. Thanks so much for your comments and share. I appreciate it!

    • profile image

      Sarah Martin 2 years ago

      A-dorable!! AND you found a place for some of those net bags to go...awesome!

    • purl3agony profile image
      Author

      Donna Herron 2 years ago from USA

      Thanks so much Sarah! I think vegetable bags might be one of my new favorite craft materials. I'm going to start looking for different color net bags in the grocery store. This will be a great way to add more veggies to my diet, too :) Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!!

    • Besarien profile image

      Besarien 2 years ago

      Oh, this is awesomely inspiring! So pretty and so handy too. You could tailor the fabric and embroidery to the recipient. This would make a lovely diaper pin box for an ecologically conscious new mom or a fabulous care package sewing kit for a freshman in college. Voted up!

    • purl3agony profile image
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      Donna Herron 2 years ago from USA

      Hi Besarien! Thanks for sharing your wonderful ideas! I love the idea of using this pincushion as the base for a sewing kit for a college student - or anyone living on their own. Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 2 years ago from sunny Florida

      What an adorable little pincushion to give or to have on hand for our own use. The delicate little design on top makes it really special.

      Congrats on HOTD..this certainly deserves it.

      Voted up+++ shared and Pinned to Awesome HubPages.

      Angels are on the way to you this morning ps

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 2 years ago from Norfolk

      Just popped in again to say very well done on your HOTD - you really are making a beautiful habit of this now! Very well deserved.

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 2 years ago from Chicago Area

      I knew this would be a Hub of the Day winner as soon as I saw it. Congrats! Keep this cute and creative hubs coming. Happy Weekend!

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 2 years ago from the short journey

      Cute project--your handwork is so nice. I have seen some delightful projects that use the tins and this is no exception. Congrats on your Hub of the Day award for this recycling craft!

    • purl3agony profile image
      Author

      Donna Herron 2 years ago from USA

      Thanks pstraubie48! This pincushion has become quite handy since I made it. I keep a little sewing kit inside for quick repairs and mending. Thanks, as always, for your comments and support!! Have a great weekend!

    • purl3agony profile image
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      Donna Herron 2 years ago from USA

      Hi Sallybea!! Thanks so much! I'm just trying to keep up with your wonderful tutorials :) Have a wonderful weekend!

    • purl3agony profile image
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      Donna Herron 2 years ago from USA

      Hi Heidi! Thanks so much for stopping by again :) As always, much appreciated. Hope Spring has come your way. Have a wonderful weekend!

    • purl3agony profile image
      Author

      Donna Herron 2 years ago from USA

      Thanks, RTalloni! I must admit, I really enjoy making things out of these little tins. I've got another idea up my sleeve - I just need to finish the mints in the tin first :) Thanks again!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

      Very cute idea and a beautiful hub! Congratulations on HOTD! Well deserved!

    • profile image

      Kathy Carr 2 years ago

      Very creative. Love the idea of convenience. Great job!

    • purl3agony profile image
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      Donna Herron 2 years ago from USA

      Thanks, FlourishAnyway, for stopping by and for your support. I appreciate it!!

    • purl3agony profile image
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      Donna Herron 2 years ago from USA

      Hi Kathy - Thanks so much! So glad you like this project!

    • Huntgoddess profile image

      Huntgoddess 2 years ago from Midwest U.S.A.

      Wow, this is very useful, very easy, and very cheap!!

      Just what I need! My mom always used little containers like that for her sewing things. She used to sew by hand all the time. She hated sewing machines.

      I always thought how cool it would be if I could decorate them, but did not know exactly how. Now I know!

      Thanks, and congrats for HOTD.

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 2 years ago from Arkansas USA

      What an excellent tutorial and a fun, useful project! I really love how you did the flower. Beautiful job, well deserving of Hub of the Day honors!

    • Nicoinstitches profile image

      Nico 2 years ago from Ottawa, ON

      Love it. What a good idea

    • purl3agony profile image
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      Donna Herron 2 years ago from USA

      Hi Huntgoddess - I think your mother will love this! Good luck with your own little pincushion. Thanks so much for your kind comments :)

    • purl3agony profile image
      Author

      Donna Herron 2 years ago from USA

      Hi Susan - Honestly, my embroidered flower was just sheer luck. My stitching skills are rather limited, but I'm very happy with how it came out :) Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. I appreciate it!

    • purl3agony profile image
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      Donna Herron 2 years ago from USA

      Hi Nico - Thank you! So glad to meet another crafter and knitter. Thanks for your comments and support!

    • profile image

      lldeguzman 2 years ago

      I believe my gf will like this and follow step by step. Thanks for this.

    • purl3agony profile image
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      Donna Herron 2 years ago from USA

      You're welcome! Thanks for stopping by. I'm glad you like this project :)

    • Huntgoddess profile image

      Huntgoddess 2 years ago from Midwest U.S.A.

      My mom passed away about three years ago, of lung canceer :-( but I always love these little projects anyway.

      This will be a great project to remember her.

    • purl3agony profile image
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      Donna Herron 2 years ago from USA

      So sorry to hear about your Mom. I hope this pincushion project brightens your day!

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Glimmer Twin Fan 2 years ago

      Oh how lovely and how did I miss commenting on this one! I know I saw it when it was HOTD. My bad. Love the flower and it looks so delicate. I my brother kept every altoid container he finished I'd send them to you to make about a thousand of these! Such a sweet project!

    • purl3agony profile image
      Author

      Donna Herron 2 years ago from USA

      Thanks! I have a bunch of smaller tins, about 1 1/2 inch square, that I'm trying to find a way to repurpose. They're too small to make pincushions out of, but I'm sure they can be used for some craft. Thanks so much, as always, for stopping by and commenting. I appreciate it!

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 22 months ago from East Coast, United States

      This is so cute! I love it! And everyone has one or two of these boxes laying around. I haven't used a hot glue gun for years and just found one in a box of craft stuff. Hope to have some fun with this one. What a nice hand made gift!

    • purl3agony profile image
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      Donna Herron 22 months ago from USA

      Hi Dolores! I really love this little pincushion and notions box. I keep it on a shelf in our living room, where I see it everyday. And it certainly makes sewing on a button or mending a hole a bit more fun. So glad you like it too! Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

    • purl3agony profile image
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      Donna Herron 3 weeks ago from USA

      Hi Angela - Thanks for your comments and interest in this tutorial. I'd be happy to be included in your round-up. Look forward to seeing the other projects posted on your site. Thanks again!

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