M18508 | Pincushion

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Anonyme - Anonymous
Eastern Woodlands
Aboriginal: Huron-Wendat or Maliseet
1865-1900, 19th century
Birchbark, moosehair, stroud, cotton thread, dyes
4.7 x 6.7 x 10 cm
Gift of the Estate of Miss J. J. MacFarlane
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Pincushion (12)
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Keys to History

Pincushions of various shapes were made by women from several Aboriginal nations. A range of sewing accessories such as needle and scissor cases fashioned from birchbark and richly decorated with moosehair embroidery were also made. Even the Ursuline sisters took up this kind of craft work, which they called "convent work."

The different Iroquoian versions of the pincushion, made from cloth or velvet, were much appreciated by Victorian women. The sewing baskets, made of birchbark and embroidered by Huron-Wendat women, were also highly prized, as were the ash baskets that they made.

  • What

    No woman's sewing basket could be considered complete without a pincushion. In the Victorian era there were pincushions of various shapes and sizes, and the embroidery on them was sometimes very elaborate. But almost everyone could afford these the utilitarian and often highly decorative objects.

  • Where

    Objects like this were made for tourists and sold in urban centres as well as tourist destinations such as the Huron-Wendat village on the outskirts of Quebec City, which had been drawing tourists since the 18th century. The Iroquois sold beaded objects in their villages and in nearby tourist attractions, the most famous of which was Niagara Falls.

  • When

    This pincushion dates from the second half of the 19th century, but similar ones were made and sold into the early 20th century, along with other crafted objects produced by the Iroquois for sale at Niagara Falls.

  • Who

    Iroquois women fashioned pincushions in a variety of shapes. Huron-Wendat women also made these utilitarian objects. Some pincushions even resembled cushions and were intended mainly as decorations.