Pincushions & Bumblebees & Free Design

Maartha pc


I can’t seem to get bumblebees out of my mind. Like a song that keeps playing over and over in your head, the bumblebees will not leave me alone.


antique heart

vintage 1940


As I look over old projects, I realize that Charleen Madsen’s bees are buzzing on more of my creations than I realized. Photos have already been posted of Laurel’s Bee Happy outfit, the bee placemats and napkins and the linen guest towel. But there is more.

The two oval pin cushions were projects for classes I taught in Huntsville for Martha Pullen, in San Juan for Luis Medina, the Brother dealer there. The red yo-yo was included for technique, but also reminds me of the little strawberry that hangs from the most popular pincushion of all time, the tomato.


San Juan project


Nestled in the red yo-yo is a free standing bee. This was one popular class, taught in Huntsville, Knoxville, Myrtle Beach, Champaign, IL, Baton Rouge, San Juan, Philadelphia, Denver, Memphis and other places I have forgotten. The pincushion includes a variety of techniques, including fil tire’, appliqué and yo-yo’s, all by embroidery machine, embroidery edit, piping and others.

I have always been interested in pincushions, their history and the transformations they have taken through the years. Since the 1700’s, ladies have been poking pins into fabric pillows of one sort or another to keep track of this valuable sewing notion. There is an interesting post on the topic in another blog that you might enjoy if you, too, are interested.



from Julia Golson


I have given and received pincushions as gifts. Each one of the pictured pincushions was a remembrance of an occasion or person. Don’t we all have memories strewn about in our sewing rooms? For a sewing friend, a unique pincushion is a humble but heartwarming gift. I never want my friends to feel beholden, so I refrain from giving BMW’s or diamond earrings. But a pin cushion says “I care. This is useful. You don’t have to reciprocate.” At least, that’s what I mean to say.

from Sue Lord

from Sue Lord


There is a pin cushion at each of my sewing machines, at the serger, on the ironing board, cutting table and various locations around the sewing room. I try to make sure that each has straight pins, a large safety pin, a small brass safety pin, a handsewing and darning needle.  This sweet silver cat pincushion was a gift from Sue Lord when we roomed and taught together at Sewing at the Beach. I will share the story with you and hope that Sue, if you are reading this, will not mind.

teacher gift from Sewing At The Beach

teacher gift from Sewing At The Beach

Every January, the Myrtle Beach (South Carolina) Smockers and Stitchers host a fabulous 4-6 day school. It is held at an ocean front hotel and each of the four times I have taught there, it was very cold.

This particular year, my mother had come along to help me with the market. Like so many elderly ladies, she requires a lot more heat to be comfortable than those under seventy. In fact, 81 degrees is in the middle of her very narrow comfort zone. I had forewarned Sue that our room would be very tropical.

My mother and I shared a king size bed and Sue slept on a rollaway. It was positioned next to the sliding glass doors that went out to the balcony overlooking the ocean. I woke up in the middle of the first night, miserably hot and sweaty and looked toward the ocean, lighted with a full moon.

There stood Sue, in her thin cotton nightgown, plastered against those sliding glass doors, arms outstretched and head turned so her cheeks could enjoy the chill. She looked like she was making a snow angel. The outside temperature was almost freezing so the glass was like ice.

Even half asleep, I grinned but didn’t say a word. I walked up next to her, and pressed my body against the doors, just as Sue was doing. It felt delicious, like a glass of sweet tea in a heat wave.  Then Sue rotated like a chicken on a rotisserie, to expose her backside to the cool down.

Later we privately remarked that it was a good thing that our room was on the 6th floor,  as it was unlikely any moonlight beach walkers could see us. The next night, my mother slept in a polar fleece warm up suit with the thermostat was set at 75.

At that event, each teacher was given a little tin with an embroidered monogram. The lid is padded to serve as a pincushion and stores my Iris pins.



from my cousin’s 14 year-old daughter



One summer, my cousin’s 14 year old daughter came from Omaha to visit and learn to sew. On discovering that I, too, was a Mary Engelbreit fan, she gave me the tea pot pincushion in thanks.

1989, cross stitched gift by PlayGroup Mama Judy

1989, cross stitched gift by PlayGroup Mama Judy


In 1989, Judy, one of the PlayGroup Mamas, cross stitched the Trip Around the World pincushion for my birthday. I was on a quilting jag at the time so this was an especially thoughtful gift that I have used now for 21 years, thinking of her with each pin poke.

PC Becca


My greatest treasure is the precious little heart pincushion that my Rebecca made for me when she was about 7. She had already learned to smock, knit and sew a little. But when she asked me to teach her to appliqué, I was too busy getting ready for another teaching trip.

At the time, I was teaching out of town quite a lot. In my absence, she decided to teach herself appliqué and made this pincushion.   She told me it was to take on future trips, so I would think of her while I was away.  It still makes me a little teary eyed when I look at it.

Bob and I are spending 2-3 hours every day working in the yard. It seems that each time we move to a new area to weed or plant or mulch, we are disturbing the sweet work of more honey makers. Maybe that’s why I am so fixated on bee projects now. This time of year, we are all busy as bees.

If you are not too busy and would like to make one of the bee pincushions for yourself or a friend, just post  your request in the comments and I will send the machine embroidery files.  Please specify if you would like the 4×4 or 5×7 version.

Happy Mother’s Day to all.

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