Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Search for Just the Right Stuffing


Whenever I have made pincushions in the past, I have always just used polyfil to stuff them, and it has worked out fine. But for these new tetrahedron shaped pincusions that I have been making, I wanted to use something different, and I had two goals in mind...


I wanted the material to be natural, keeping with the whole idea of rural retro living, and I also wanted the stuffing to give some weight and firmness to the pincushion, similar to the feel of those old-fashioned tomato pincushions most of us have had at one time or another.


I know that traditionally often either sawdust, sand or metal shavings were used to fill pincushions. The weight of the filling helped keep small size pincushions from moving around when inserting and pulling out the pins, and they also helped to keep the pins sharp.

Now, I have no idea where to get metal shavings and saw dust seems just plain messy to me. Sand is easy enough to come by, but it's so... well I don't know, sticky? Invasive? It just seems that if you spill some, you are sweeping it up it for days!


After I did a bit of research on the internet though, I discovered another option... pulverized english walnut shells! Have you heard of this before? I didn't know such a product even existed. From what I read this is a favorite pincushion stuffing for a lot of sewers and the tiny grains help to keep the pins sharp.(Just one word of caution... this product should not be used by folks who have nut allergies, especially walnut allergies).

Now, where do you find pulverized walnut shells? The pet store of course! It seems to be used for both bird and reptile, (in exactly what way I am not completely sure, floor and bedding I think). I found a 5.5 lb bag in the reptile section for under $8.00. Plenty enough to stuff lots of pincushions!


It's kind of pretty, isn't it? You can see in this photo that it is really ground up very well. The grains are tiny, much like sand, but not as sticky. (I spilled some and had no trouble quickly sweeping it up, and the grains never stuck to my skin as sand does).


I was worried that getting the tiny bits of walnut shell inside the opening of the pincushion would be a challenge, but all I had to do was pour some in a paper cup, pinch the edge of the cup, and pour right in. The shells packed down nicely and in no time at all I had a nice solid feeling pincushion.


It even makes for a super-duper paperweight!

...........................

In other news, you may have noticed that I now have a tab bar under my blog banner. One of the tabs is for my new Rural Retro Designs site. It's technically another blog, but I bought the domain name and will be using it sort of like a website. While I will be posting regularly and invite you all to follow and lurk to your hearts content, I have decided, (at least for now) to not have comments. This is not because I don't like comments, as I do, I do, I really do!! It's just that we are all pulled so thin, and there is only just so much time in a day, I didn't want anyone to feel that added pressure of leaving me another comment on top of all the great comments you leave me here. In other words, I don't want to be a comment hog! I simply wanted a place where anyone can visit, with no pressure what's so ever. (Now having said that, I will do a complete flip-flop and invite you all to feel free to leave a comment here and let me know what you think!)

Have a great rest of the week, everyone!

45 comments:

Little Island Quilting said...

I thought you meant stuffing for the turkey to begin with!

Katie said...

Thanks for the great idea! I'm never quite happy with the way the poly-fill looks, so I'm totally going to try this. Thanks!

Karin på Ösäter said...

I have heard about the nut shells stuffing for a while now and didn´t understand it. But I will see if I can buy some here and give it a try! One must be open for new solutions. It might be good.

Nifty Quilts said...

Yea! Thanks for sharing the research. Your little pin cushions are so appealing.

Venus de Hilo said...

Fabulous idea... I have not been happy with polyfill-ed pincushions. Not that I make a lot of them, but with a better stuffing I might.

Hoola Tallulah said...

I always wondered why those tomato pin cushions were so heavy, it never occured to me anyone used anything other than wool or poly, or hair, I have seen some with hair, but that idea makes me feel icky.
So, I am loving he idea of pulverised walnuts, I bet it feels nice and heavy and super tactile. I drool every time I see your new store!

Marty's Fiber Musings said...

I think I enjoy your blog whether I can or will leave a comment or not....hey, and thanks for the info on the pc stuffing!

Kit Lang said...

Your new site is GORGEOUS. I especially love the gallery- how you've interspersed pictures of your offerings with pictures of the countryside is genius.

As is the nutshell idea! It has a very asian feel to me to do that for some reason - I love the idea of it. :)

Esch House Quilts said...

Isn't it great when you find something that is just what you need and it is readily available and inexpensive! I'll have to check out the pet store and give this a try. Thanks!

Lynn said...

I love that idea for stuffing. I have been looking for something natural with "weight" too.

However, if you are selling these I would be sure to include the stuffing material in the description. This could be very dangerous for someone with nut allergies.

My son's girlfriend is VERY allergic to nuts and I have become aware of some of the dangers.

Otherwise, it's a great, natural solution.

sbsudbury said...

I have used flax seeds to fill my cushions for a very long time. Whenever someone receives a pincushion from me they love the feel and inevitably ask what the filling is. Try it you will like it!

Dosfishes at Sparkle Days Studios said...

I like your au natural stuffing. Great idea. xox Corrine

Victoria said...

Lynn, never fear, I absolutely have the warning in my sales listing, just as I have warned here in this blog post. I also have the stuffing content listed right in the heading title.

sbsudbury, I had actually bought some flax seed right before I bought the crushed walnut shells. I very much like the feel of the flax seed, and intend to use it in another project; therapy heat packs, as the flax seed can be warmed in the microwave and the bags can then be applied to aching areas of the body... very soothing!

Alexis said...

Hee, when I read the title of this post on my Bloglist, I said to myself "if she's not talking about crushed walnut shells, she didn't find it yet." :)

Pieces of Sunshine said...

LOVE your pincushions and the walnut shell grits idea (nut allergies here so can't try it myself).

Your Rural Retro Deigns site is looking fantastic. I like the idea of a blog within a blog to separate your thoughts and posts.

Sarina said...

A clear plastic squeeze bottle also works well for the lizard litter - just cut the tip off a bit more. Love your work!

Ellyn said...

I bought a plastic storage container with a snap off lid for my walnut shells & I keep a plastic funnel in there, works great for filling pin cushions too!

Jane S. said...

My husband uses pulverized walnut shells in his rock tumbler -- not for rocks, but for polishing up dingy metal objects. The shells are rough enough to take the grimy stuff off but not so hard that they scratch.

Now I know that if I need pincushion filler all I have to do is visit his workshop. ;)

VivJM said...

Oooh, love those pincushions. I had never heard of using the walnut shells but sounds like they are just the job. Will defo try next pincushion I make.

Margie said...

Thanks so much for letting us know where to find the crushed walnuts. I had heard of them but didn't have a clue where to find them. Love your blog and everything you make and photos too. :-)

Rachel Hauser said...

I had always wondered where to find the walnut shells. Thanks for the tip!

Diane J. Evans said...

I love the pictures you take of your work, Victoria -- you have a real eye for what is a pleasing arrangement AND what will entice the viewer best. Your Rural Retro designs are so reminiscent of childhood days and country living -- good luck with the new shop!

Diane

Kathryn said...

Your new site and 'store' are just amazing, Victoria! So happy everything is flowing! And what a brilliant solution for the stuffing. I wondered what is traditionally used and what a great solution. While I'm at the pet store picking this up, I'll be buying slake lime for my natural indigo dyeing.

stitchinglife.com said...

Very inventive! I've not heard of this. Can you dye with it? If the pincushion gets wet, will the walnut shells stain...? The crushed shells look as if they have a wonderful texture.

Victoria said...

stitchinglife, interesting question. I did a test on a piece of very white cotton, and yes the walnut shells left a very small and very faint stain. This really doesn't concern me as, a) like I said it was a very light stain, and b) in all the years that I have been sewing and using pincushions, I have never gotten a pin cushion wet!

Robbie said...

I, too, use lizard litter (crushed walnut shells) in my pin cushions and have for years and years. In fact, it's all I use anymore.

I have noticed that it discolors my cottons slightly; it can give the light fabric colors a slightly dingy color before very long. My solution is to line my fabric pieces when I assemble the pin cushion. Of course it may only be an issue of the brand I have available, but it is a simple precaution.

I love your blog!

meli B said...

Do you think the walnut filling would be heavy enough to make a door stop? I am scared to use wheat as it brings mice and probably the flaxseed will too although it sounded nice so I have been searching for an alternative. I agree about the sand too. It will be forever leaking.

Victoria said...

Robbie, hmm.... I had not heard of this happening before, but I do line all of my pincushions, so I don't think this will be a problem. Thanks for sharing your experience though!

Meli, yes, I do think it would be heavy enough to work for a doorstop. Great idea!

deemallon said...

I use coarse sand from the hardware store, stuffed into a muslin inner-lining. This creates the ballast that I like pin cushions to have, and as a side benefit - sharpens the pins and needles as they come and go!

Cheryl Arkison said...

I've heard of this, but was unsure. Glad to hear that it worked out.

Kathy said...

While I have used emery sand (love that) because it sharpens the needles and pins I would say my fav is WOOL. Wool adds a lubricant to the needles and pins and is much lighter than emery sand or walnut shells (which are often used in tumblers to clean metal).
Try wool (you can buy bags of the kind you would use for felting - works great as a stuffing) - it will help your tools as well.

Corinnea said...

I have heard of it! I can imagine that the weight is good. The pin cushion is very sweet. I love your Rural Retro branding. Good luck on this new branch of your tree!

Katrina said...

great solution. i have a bag of poly fill that i'm using up but i don't want to buy anymore. thanks for the walnut tip!

libbyquilter said...

seems like a fabulous solution and i LOVE your pincushions~!!~

:-)
libbyQ

HollyM said...

I love your pincushions.You could also use a funnel to pour in the shells. also, I like to use raw wool roving in mine ( a friend gave me a bag.

mrchandler said...

Love this idea! Do you make your own patterns for the cushion? Love the little triangles

lindaroo said...

I think that pins and needles left in a walnut shell stuffed pin cushion tend toward stickiness. Has anyone else had this problem?

Victoria said...

Hmmm... I don't know why that would be as the walnut shells that I am using aren't at all sticky. If anyone else has had this problem, let me know!

Victoria said...

mrchandler - Sorry for the late response, I had missed your comment. It's more of a technique then a pattern. The triangular shape is actually constructed using two squares of fabric. It's in the way that they are sewn which creates the effect of triangles. I will try to remember to do a tutorial one of these days!

mrchandler said...

Thanks Victoria! It looks easy enoug and on my list to try. Love your ideas!

Katie Waller said...

Your pin cushion is lovely!

Anonymous said...

I am very late to this post, but I just got into this and I order my crushed walnut shells from Amazon. I would rather spend my time sewing than driving, so I tend to order as much as I can on line.

Nancy K. said...

I found 2 kinds of crushed walnut shells at the pet shop--one so fine it was like sand, and one with a larger grit. I'm thinking of putting some in a zip-lock baggie and inserting in the bottom of my pin cushion, then adding fiber-fill to the top. The walnut shell material will serve to flatten out the bottom and weight it. Maybe it will stay in the ziplog bag and not discolor the fabric or leak out.

Victoria said...

Nancy, that sounds like an interesting idea! The crushed walnut shells that I found were like a course sand. I did line all of my pincushions with a close woven muslin, and I have had no leakage or staining, even after several years of use!

DownHome Designs said...

I found this post in my search for pincushion fillers. I've really enjoyed reading all the input from everyone. Nothing like the voice of experience.
I saw them on Sewing With Nancy made in different sizes and one suggestion for the smaller one was to use them as pattern weights.
Thanks so much for sharing!