“Vintage” Baby-Shoe Pincushion

Julie Yonge © 2011

Home - Articles  - Readers' Showcase  - Novices - Search-


  • Baby shoe (can be purchased or a garage sale find or your own little salvaged first pair of high tops)
  • Paint (just acrylic craft paint in browns and black)
  • Ink Pads (I use Staz On in various brown and brown-red tones)
  • Small bit of muslin
  • Small bit of wool or wool felt
  • Bits of lace or trim
  • Silk ribbon for roses, purchased roses, or even tea bag roses
  • Buttons, beads, broken jewelry for added touches
  • Left over coffee or tea for staining lace, ribbon, and/or tags
  • Poly-fill
  • *optional – emery or other nice filling for pincushion
  • Glue (I use Aileen’s)
  • Needle and strong thread

I love making pincushions – it seems you can use almost anything to create one; glass candlesticks, compotes, silver goblets, thimbles, salt cellars, and even shoes. I had wanted to make one using a baby shoe for quite some time so I thought I would jump in and make a few for Christmas gifts this year. This is definitely not a new idea, but here is my take on a baby-shoe pincushion and perhaps it will inspire you to create a magical little shoe of your own!

Since I haven’t had a lot of time lately, I haven’t had a chance to do any garage sale hopping so I purchased some little baby shoes (size 0) at Wal-Mart. They were totally white and I wanted them to have a vintage look, so I painted them. (picture 3) Before I painted them, I took out the shoe laces. I did a base coat of all brown on the shoe and let that dry. Then I went back with a little black and other tones of brown to make sure it was totally covered and had a nice worn look. I noticed that with the acrylic paint once dry it had a lack of “polish” or shine so I went back with a small make-up sponge and my Staz-On ink pads and added some browns and red browns on top of the painted shoe. That added the little sheen I was looking for – now they appeared as if they had been polished many, many times; layer after layer. You could probably even use actual brown shoe polish, but I did not have any on hand. Be sure to let this all dry very well before moving on. Let me say at this point that it is not necessary to completely cover your shoe if you don’t want to. If you have a nice vintage white high-top baby shoe, you may just want to add paint or inks just a bit to give it a more worn or scuffed look. Since my find was a brand new little shoe, I painted the entire thing to get the vintage-look I was hoping for; it was really necessary for my shoe.

I went to my stash and decided on various laces, tatting, trims, etc. that I would use to decorate the shoe and took these, along with the shoe laces and dropped them in a coffee bath to give them all a nice vintage look to match my shoe. I use my husbands left over chocolate-flavored coffee and it really smells so nice. I also put a few paper tags in the coffee bath which, once dry, I would stamp and use as gift tags. While all these little tidbits were drying, I went back to my shoe and stuffed it with poly-fill. I also began work on what would be the actual pincushion.

To make the pincushion, you will need only a small piece of muslin and a small piece of wool or wool felt. The size will depend on the size of your shoe opening of course. I use the muslin as a lining to the wool because I like to put emery shavings in my pincushions and the muslin helps the emery not to leak through the wool once pierced with pins. Since my little shoes were so small, I only needed a circle about four inches in diameter (across). I would measure the distance across the opening of your shoe and then cut a circle in diameter about 2-2 ˝ times that distance.

For example, my little shoe’s opening was only 2” across, so I made my circle 4” in diameter. I cut the muslin and wool circle and then ran a gathering stitch around its circumference with a nice strong thread. I carefully gathered this circle into a nice tight little tuffet and tied the thread in a good knot. The tuffet or cushion won’t completely close once gathered together because of the bulk of wool and that is fine. The opening that remains should not be more than the size of a quarter or so though, just enough that you can poke your finger in as needed to shape the cushion when you begin to add your filling. I poured my little tuffet about three-fourth’s full of emery shavings and then used poly-fill to finish stuffing it, get it to the shape I wanted, and hold in those shavings. You want a nice plump little cushion.

Before I put the cushion in the shoe opening, I put the coffee-stained shoe lace back in the shoe, but I chose to not use the very top shoe-lace openings because my shoe was so small and I knew I wanted the tongue of the shoe to come forward a little bit so I could add lace and roses later. But, that is a personal choice. You can completely lace up your shoe if that is your preference. When I tied the bow on my shoe lace, I also added a bit of coffee-stained music fabric, just for some added texture.

Again, the next step has some preferential choices as well. Depending on the size and opening of your shoe and the size of the lace you are using, you can either glue your cushion in first, or you can glue your lace on first. If you are using a longer lace, you may want to overlap your lace to the inside of the shoe and then put in your cushion. The lace I used was rather narrow, so I put my cushion in first and then added the lace to the outside edge knowing that I would need another trim to cover where they met. Make sure you have filled your little shoe well with poly-fill before you glue in your cushion so that the cushion doesn’t go too far into the shoe and get lost. I used the end of a paintbrush to help me adjust my cushion, kind of like a shoe-horn. Pull the tongue of the shoe forward a bit as you are gluing in your cushion to enable you to add lace or other decorative items there.

As you can see in the pictures, it is very easy to change up how you decorate the shoe.

For some I have used the tips of pretty hankies, some lace, some tatting, etc. I took a small piece of lace or hankie and glued it down in the back of the tongue and also overlapping the front of the tongue to cover any areas you don’t want to show. Again, the end of a small paint brush was handy to push things into place. Once I was happy with the placement of the lace or hankie, I then added the silk roll-ribbon roses. I put a button on the knot of the tied shoe lace bow, and added trims, buttons or beads around the top edge of the shoe at the cushion, stamped my tag, tied it to the shoe lace and voila!

If you Google "baby-shoe pincushions," you will see that there are unlimited ideas for how people decorate them. Different fabrics and decorative items are used depending on an individual’s style. One site that I especially liked and wanted to share with you is:
The Feathered Nest at http://the-feathered-nest.blogspot.com/ . She has wonderful ideas and available tutorials on many of her cute projects.

Home - Articles  - Readers' Showcase  - Novices - Search-

Copyright © 2002 - 2011, All Rights Reserved
Editor: Published by: Pretty Impressive Stuff