It’s unusual to find one of these delicious layette pincushions in the wild, particularly one with such a charming motto. Most of them by now have found their way into museums around the world such as the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Victoria and Albert has a lovely collection as well.
These little pincushions with their deliberately ambiguous mottos were given to new mothers to welcome their babies’ arrival much as we would send a card today, they weren’t intended for general use, and certainly not meant for the baby! Usually given after the birth since the outcome of a pregnancy was much more uncertain 200 years ago, nevertheless, the mottos often refer to the baby as “babe” or in this case “little stranger” since the crafting and preparation of them was an elaborate enterprise which took some time.
These Regency pin cushions can be dated by their pins. If you look carefully you can see that the heads of the pins were individually hand made and applied to each hand sharpened shaft, it was an exacting process of many steps with separate jobs for each family member. You couldn’t just go to the store and buy a packet of pins, they were valued possessions.
This example displays a lovely cross stitch wreath centered on the silk satin of the cushion. The inscription, “Welcome little stranger,” surrounds the wreath on three sides, and the sewn edge seam is covered with a soft thick silk fringe.
CONDITION is good. The silk is frayed as you can see in the photographs, but still holding together. The embroidery is in good shape and the pin motto is only missing a few pins, perhaps borrowed for a sewing task by a busy mother. The back of the cushion shows a round discolored spot, likely from an adhesive label at some point in its long life. Measures 4 ½” x 5 ½” and approximately 1 ⅝” thick.
I often feel that the womanly arts don’t get the credit they deserve. It’s a testament to the time, and skill, and talent needed to make such a lovely item that we are still enjoying it 200+ years later - and the creator probably did all this in a whalebone corset by candle light. Enjoy!