Used Sewing Machine Needles Pincushion (Tutorial)

A few months ago, I saw a picture of a little used sewing machine needles organiser pillow or pincushion. My first instinct was to go look for where I could buy one. Managed to find one on Madam Sew, but as I was preparing myself to buy one I thought: ‘I am sure I can make one and not spend any money on it and use my own headings and needles sizes’. It is actually not that hard.

For the pillows I made in this tutorial I did not buy anything new. I used supplies I already had. The pillows I’ve seen out there were all made in the same white or cream fabric. I thought that it would be a shame not to use all those fun scraps of fabric that I have leftover from my projects. The prints will further customise your pillows/pin cushions and add some fun. For this to work it is best for the front of the pillow to use a plain fabric in light colour, which will show the printed text better.

There are tutorials online that show how the printer can be used to print directly on fabric. When I tried it I nearly broke my printer because I did not have the patience to do all the pre-prep work needed. For me it was easier to use the light t-shirts transfers I already had. If you do a search online you can easily find one you can try if you do not have the transfer paper already. Just because it did not work for me does not mean it will not work for you.

Materials needed (to make one pillow)

  • light T-shirt transfer paper
  • 2 pieces of scrap fabric at least 10 x 12 cm of usable fabric – use a plain for the light colour for the front of the pillow. I recommend using cotton or a fabric that can take a lot of heat.
  • 1 piece of scrap ribbon 8-10 cm (optional) it does not matter how wide (preferably not wider than 2cm, but it is all up to you.
  • filling (pinched some from an old pillow)

step 1: Create the transfer template. I created my template in word processor. One box is about 7.5 cm x 5.5 cm. My advice is to use as headings the needle types and sizes you use most. I created on box and multiplied it 8 times to use the whole page on my A4 page to reduce wasting the rest of it. If you want to use the same one I used you can download the mirror image here (it is A4 with 8 templates)

step 2: Print the template on the transfer paper. During this step make sure you print the mirror image of your template on the transfer paper, otherwise you will end up with the mirror image of what you want being fused to the fabric. The link above has the mirror image, all you need to do is to print it on your printer. Because we are only printing lines and characters and in one colour the normal print setting should do it.

Step 3 – Separate your templates. If using the download template, before fusing it to the fabric, cut them away. Trim away excess paper in such away that there are a few mm between the ink and edge of of the box.

step 4 – Fuse the template to your fabric. To make sure you can see the writing on the fabric I advise you use a light colour plain fabric for the front of the pillow. For my samples I reused the muslin/calico fabric I used before to make some toiles. The pieces need to be at least 12 x 10 cm of usable fabric to make this work. Make sure you follow the instructions that come with your transfer paper and allow the time advised to make sure your transfer paper is fused to your fabric correctly.

Tip! It is important to use an iron that can has a high temperature. My iron that has a fabric sensor did not work with this. Had to get out my old iron and get the highest setting on to get the iron hot enough to fuse the transfer to the paper.

Tip! Do not use your table. I managed to burn mine even though I had a few layers of fabric in between. It is best to use an old wood chopping board.

Tip! Although the fabric can take the heat, you might still burn it. So, it’s best to use something to protect it, I used a teflon baking sheet. (I buy a lot of baking stuff I actually use in my sewing).

Step 5 – Cut the front of the pillow. Once the template was fused on the fabric I needed to create template around the template to cut around. I used a ruler and a heat erasable pen to draw lines on the fabric before cutting. I used the first and last lines on the template. From the line after the headidings on the left I drew a vertical line 4 cm away. From the other lines I drew the lines 2.5cm. Once this was completed I cut on those lines the front of the pillow.

If you use heat erasable pens, be careful not to touch the print with hot iron it will melt it. Just hovering above the lines will do the trick and erase them.

step 6 – cut the fabric for the back of the pillow. Using the front as a template which put over the printed fabric I’ve cut the back of the pillow.

Step 7 – Add the ribbon (optional). There is no right or wrong position. Fold the ribbon and half and add it to the right-hand side of the front of the pillow. I prefer to add it at the top closer to the top corners Like in the pictures below. But you can add it in the middle if that’s what you prefer or the just of the corner on the vertical sides. Just make sure it is not too close to the seam it runs parallel to as you might risk catching it into the seam and will have to correct that.

You can skip this step if you do not want to add any hanging ribbon to your pillow.

Step 8 – mark the opening. I marked 5 cm opening on the side opposite of the text. Make sure that the opening is big enough so that you can turn it to the right-hand side. You can also mark the opening on the bottom of the pillow.

Step 9 – sew all the way around. I used my foot’s width to line my fabric and stitched around. My foot is about 0.7 cm wide. But 1 cm seam allowance is ok. Sew all the way around starting the marks you made for your opening and stopping at the other.

Step 10 – clip the corners. I carefully clip the corners making sure you do not cut the thread. I like doing that to reduce the bulk in the corners.

Step 11 – Press the seam allowance on the opening. Before turning to the right-hand side, press the seam allowance around the opening. To avoid melting the fuse, you can use your your finger or seam press tool. you only need it a little crease to make it easier later to stitch the opening shut.

Step 12 – turn to right-hand side. Use the point turner or a tool that will not make a whole in the fabric to gently push the corner out.

Step 13 – Stuff your pillow. Get some stuffing and push into your pillow shell. The more you can stuff in there the harder your little pillow will be. I put enough to make the pillow firm but not too much I could not sew it closed. For ny pillows I’ve used the stuffing from an old pillow I keep for projects just like that. However, you can just buy the stuff if you want. The pillows are small that it might not be worth buying stuffing for one pillow.

Step 14 – Stitch the opening closed. Pin the opening closed. Stitch is shut. You can do this on the machine. But I did not like the look of it, and for my pillows I hand-stitched them closed using a ladder stitch so that there are not visible stitches on the outside.

Below is a picture of the first pillow I made where to save time I topstitched the opening on the machine. I really do not like the look of it at all. So I used hand sewing instead, which to me looks much better and more professional.

And you are done. You can use it to organise your used sewing machine needles. I think they are great as presents for your sewing friends.

This tutorial first appeared on


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