Thursday, September 20, 2012

Unusual Artifacts: A Layette Pin Cushion, 1778

Layette Pin Cusion
England, 1778
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Until the widespread marketing of the safety pin in 1870, baby clothes were pinned with the same, ordinary, sharp pins which were used for everything else. For this reason, the gift of a layette pincushion was traditional and entirely appropriate. However, many believed that a pin cushion should not be given unto after the birth since it was thought that pins in the home would make for a painful delivery. “For every pin, a pain” and “More pins, more pain” were common sayings. When a pin cushion was given as a gift, it was typically adorned with pins in a pattern with some importance or relevance to the situation. This English example from 1778 is made of hand-quilted ivory cotton which has been edged with cotton fringing. The topmost plane of the cushion has been adorned with a pattern of pins which show an escutcheon with a coat of arms used by the Pateshall family. The initials “AP” are shown above and the date (1778) below. On each side of the initials, a speckled bird with raised wings is depicted while a stylized flower is shown at each side of the date. Other pins make a floral border or tendrils. 

The curators at the V&A have, through careful research, deduced that this cushion was given as a gift in commemoration of the birth of one Edmund Burnam Pateshall of Allensmore Court on December 3, 1778.

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