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How to make an emery pincushion

I have been wondering for some time why my pins no longer felt sharp… and eventually, my mind came round to the fact if my scissors become blunt so will my pins and needles!!

So I have been on a research mission, to my delight I have discovered emery for pin cushions. I had never heard of it before. It is a little like sandpaper but as sand, a fine powder.

Emery for pin cushion

Inevitably I had to try it out, and whilst I was at it make a super cute, and easy emery pin cushion. Naturally, I turned to my scrap box and decided to have a go at some random quilting.

Learn how to sew an easy pin cushion using fabric scraps. This free pin cushion pattern uses emery so that as you use the pin cushion your pins and needle are sharpened. #fabricscraps #pincushionpattern


If you prefer wrist pin cushions they are super easy to make, and if like me you like sharp pins add some emery to the stuffing.

Emery Pin Cushion Tutorial


Cut out random shapes from your fabric scraps. I used three fabrics cutting out four pieces from each.  Sew two pieces of fabric together, and then press.

Stitch fabrics together

Sew on your third fabric. Create four applique squares measuring 1 1/2″.

Scrap fabric squares


Four scrap squares

Sew your squares together to make one larger square. Cut out the base of your pin cushion 2 1/2″ square. Place right sides together, stitch three sides together. Turn right side out and press seam allowance in on the open edge.

Next create a sack of emery to place inside the pin cushion at the top. Cut out two pieces of fabric 2 1/4″, sew four sides together leaving a small opening to add your emery. Fill with emery.

Emery pocket

Hand stitch this seam up. Zig zag your seam allowances.

Insert your emery sack into the pin cushion. Fill up underneath with some polyester filler.

Assemble emery pinchushion

Finally, hand stitch up your open seam – I suggest using a ladder stitch. Add a button on the center of the top of the pin cushion for decorative purposes.

Learn how to sew an easy pin cushion using fabric scraps. This free pin cushion pattern uses emery so that as you use the pin cushion your pins and needle are sharpened. #fabricscraps #pincushionpattern

I’m looking forward to sharp pins!! Fancy more scrap fabric projects? check out my pinterest board for further ideas, especially if you are like me you cannot stand sending fabric to landfill. Would love to know how to sharpen your scissors? I’ve tested three different methods for So Sew Easy here.





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Saturday 26th of June 2021

Alternative to emery you may use very fine crushed walnut shells, additional to sharpening the oil stops any rusting.


Tuesday 15th of December 2020

When I was a child my Grandmother used to run a dull pin through her hair to make it smoother. It always worked.


Saturday 29th of December 2018

Wow this is so helpful and informative, regarding the history of Emery. Thank you for sharing this : )


Monday 15th of May 2017

Thanks for the tutorial. I put it in my Pinterest folder for my followers and as a reminder to get busy making pincushions!


Thursday 18th of May 2017

Thanks for pinning Patty:)


Monday 15th of May 2017

Hi! I bought one of the last few buckets of Emery 400 grit from a US importer with the last remaining supply to make pincushions a few years back. The grit must be very fine, a grit of 400 or higher number to actually sharpen pins and needles. I did a lot of investigation on the subject back then. Most people selling pincushions on Etsy, when I asked what size grit they were using, responded, "65" and seemed unaware that such coarse grit serves only to dull, not sharpen needles or pins. The reason they were getting the 65 grit was probably because emery could no longer be imported and the roughest grade is all we have here anymore, plus it was the least expensive. True black emery is the original grit used for centuries, and in more modern times, for really good waterproof sandpaper and comes ONLY from Turkey. The British invaded Turkey at some point way back and controlled the emery trade for years. In recent years, Turkey forces seized the mines and will no longer sell to the USA (not sure about Europe). The substitute quality grit used now for good sand paper is made from silicon carbide. Many people are most familiar with the low quality (reddish brown) corundum which cracks and deteriorates quickly.

Do you remember your mom or grandma having a red tomato pincushion with an attached strawberry? That strawberry was filed with emery. I never knew that when I had one and wish I had not discarded it.


Monday 29th of November 2021

I still have my red pin cushion! I better pull it back out! Thanks for the info!


Thursday 3rd of August 2017 located in NJ, USA and we carry Turkish Emery Sand as well as ready to use pincushions. The best size for the emery pincushion grit is between 80-100. The reason for that it's thin enough to not dull the very tip of the needle and not too thin to leak from pinholes. We always recommend using extra inner cover made with tight weave fabric like not see through muslin fabric.


Thursday 18th of May 2017

Thanks for sharing the history of Emery, I had no idea it only comes from Turkey. Interestingly the emery I bought for the pincushion doesn't state it's grade but I am going to trust ts OK as specifically says its for pincushions :)

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