Monday, January 7, 2013

The Scoop on Emery

I had a question about emery. I get a lot of questions about it.

If you look back on my blog you will find some nice tips about how to handle emery so it goes where you need it to. I also include a little history just for the fun of it. Click here.

Emery is a coarse sand like mineral that is used in pincushions to sharpen and clean your needles. It also gives your pincushion a nice weight so your pincushion doesn't scoot away from you when you poke into it.
I once ordered a very fine emery and it made my strawberry emery so hard it was difficult getting a needle into it!

Some of the emery I bought in the past came looking rather dusty. I stuffed a pincushion with it and when I tapped my pincushion on the table to settle it into place, a cloud of dirt came to the surface and my pincushion was ruined. Yikes! Its important to buy quality emery from a source you trust.

Its usually black with a gray or brown tint to it. Its like coarse sand. I get mine from The Cheswick Company on Etsy. Cathy is a talented fiber artist and her materials are second to none. Her service is quick and she has been a pleasure to work with. I used to get mine from an Etsy shop called LoveLaurie, but her shop is down indefinitely. I've tried a few other shops but these two are the best.

The Cheswick Company sells emery by the pound. I used about 1/4 cup per pincushion so a pound will make about 5 pincushions. It's about $7.50 per pound. It looks like this-

I don't pour emery directly into my pincushions. It can migrate through the poly fiberfill and get stuck in the seams. So I make a little pocket with muslin and stuff that into my pincushion. The shape of the muslin pocket mirrors the shape of the pincushion. I like my emery layer to be about 1/4-1/2" thick. I will run a stitch or two through the pocket once its in the pincushion to keep it from shifting to one side or the other.

For my apple and pear pincushions I only add emery to the bottom to keep them from tipping over.

I like to stuff the rest of the pincushion with poly fiberfill. I like how soft and plump they look with both types of filling. Occasionally, I will use a few layers of scrap wool. The natural wools are supposed to be a good needle conditioner. I think my attention to the things you can't see is what makes my pincushions extra special.

I read in another blog that because some needles are only steel plated, so it's not ideal to store your needles in emery. That makes sense. So adding a thick layer of fiber fill is a gentle alternative to a full emery pincushion.

The only exceptions are my strawberry emery pincushions. These are stuffed nearly full with emery. I add a layer of batting around a inner berry made of muslin. I then stuff that into the outer berry fabric.

Some fiber artists use 2 layers of muslin or forget the muslin all together. I've tried both and found that my technique gives the berry a soft feel while offering a pure emery core.

You can also use crushed walnut shells to weight your pincushion. I don't think the shells sharpen your needles, but I'm sure they keep them clean.
This is what crushed walnut shells look like. I ordered mine from Dashton4. Her service as wonderful and she has a great selection of patterns and wool circles for Penny rugs.

I know that there are people who have sensitivities to nuts. I wonder if perhaps these shells may trigger a reaction for those folks. I could be wrong, but I hate to take a chance so I nearly always use emery in my shop. If I use the walnut shells, I am certain to make that known in my description. If anyone out there has a nut allergy, I'd sure appreciate some feedback on this issue.

You can also order steel shot from The Cheswick Company. I haven't used it so I hate to offer an opinion.

I've noticed a few Pinterest Pins showing steel wool as a pincushion filler. I would highly NOT recommend that for a few reasons. First, steel wool rusts and disintegrates. Can you imagine looking at your beautiful pincushion in 5 years only to discover rust stains coming through! I would cry. I also think it would break down and your pincushion will flatten out eventually. Whenever I see that, I leave a comment to try something else. I think if you are going to spend time doing something you should just do it right. Its worth the time and the cost is so reasonable.

I think I have a booming pincushion business because while pincushions are easy to make, gathering all of the right supplies can be more expensive than buying a pincushion from me. I often dream of using some of the lovely felted and quilted fabrics other artists have created to make a cushion. If you have any questions on how to use your beautiful works to create a cushion, take a look at one of my tutorials, or drop me a line. Better yet, check out my tutorial on how to draft a pincushion pattern. Just go for it!

When it comes to pincushions, I've learned how Not to make them through trial and error. I use the pincushions I make. When I create a new design, I often take it through its paces to see if it holds up. A few styles I created were real dogs. They were floppy, saggy or just plain silly. I know that for a collector, a pretty pincushion has it's place but they should be more than just a pretty pincushion.. I love my collectors because they let me play to my hearts content. But most people want a pincushion that works well. I like filling that need while adding some style to the whole thing while I'm at it.


margaret said...

very interesting reading about the various ways of stuffing, what about sawdust, I have used it and usually joiners are only too glad to ivet theirs to a welcome home,

Bev said...

Oh, thanks for that! I was wondering about emery. I will probably not make many pincushions because, you are right. It's cheaper and MUCH MORE FUN to buy them from you!

Thanks and cheery wave!


Jill and Paul's Wedding said...

I think anyone can make a beautiful pincushion. It just takes time and the right materials. I working on my patchwork skills to do the ideas I have in my head.

vicki said...

Hi sweet JIll - I have just loaded your blog in for my Grow Your blog party per your request and comment on my June posting. Please refer to my blog for the latest updates and prepare a special post for the 19th. I hope you make lots of new friends -- everyone needs to see your beautiful designs - maybe this will even bring you more business!