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Handmade needle case and pincushion in the form of a book

 Single Item
JL 996

  • Request

An elaborately made needle case and pincushion in the form of a book, made by or for Martha Faulknor, probably dating between the 1820s and 1860s.


  • Creation: c.1820s-1860s


1 box

Language of Materials

  • English

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark and folio or page reference, e.g. JL 996].

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JL 996

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 17264


Handmade needle case and pincushion in the form of a book.

Biographical / Historical

Martha Faulknor, for whom or by whom the pincushion was made, was probably from Blairsburg, Iowa, born in 1815 and died in 1890, the wife of Samuel.

Custodial History

Sold at auction on 29 March 2014, lot 182, by The Cobbs Auctioneers, Historic Noone Falls Mill, 50 Jaffrey Road, Peterborough, New Hampshire 03458, USA. Subsequently sold on 20 April 2018 on Etsy by AmericanaAntiques.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchased by the Bodleian Library from The Second Shelf, London, in December 2019.

Physical Facet

An elaborately made needle case and pincushion in the form of a book, measuring 15cm x 9cm x 4.5cm. The case has ten fabric leaves, five on either side of a padded pin cushion, within leather covered and gold-tooled boards. The spine of the book is made from green silk stitched to the boards, and there are green silk ties and bows. The needle case and pin cushion has been carefully constructed from a range of fabrics and possibly reused book boards, or boards from a fancy leather good. Each thin board is covered and turned in on all edges with red tanned leather with an embossed imitation straight grain morocco pattern. At the centre of each board is a quadrilateral shaped onlay with curved concave sides in green tanned leather with an embossed imitation straight grain morocco pattern. There are concentric gold-tooled borders to the boards and the edges of the onlay made with a decorative two-line roll, one straight and the other in a wave pattern. There are eight different fabrics used within the book. Each board, and the lower part of the pin cushion is lined with a panel of green silk damask with a pattern of flowers within rows of rectangles. The panel on the upper part of the pin cushion is made from two carefully joined pieces of a green and pink silk damask with a floral pattern. The edges of the pin cushion are green and pink striped plain silk. The needle case leaves are made from three different coloured woollen fabrics in blue, white and orange. The blue and orange leaves have embroidered triangles around their edges, alternating pink and red for the blue leaves and pink and green for the orange. The white leaves have a cut and notched pattern on their edges and a blue woven stripe at the head edge. The spine is covered with a plain green silk fabric neatly stitched to the boards. At the head and tail of the spine and at the fore-edge corners of the boards are bows tied from green silk ribbon 7/16” wide. Stitched to the centre of the fore-edge of both boards was a tie in the same ribbon. Some 319 pins have been pushed into the three edges of the pin cushion so that their heads spell out the name “MART | HA FAULKNO | R.”. There are 10 further holes after the name from now removed pins marking either “I” or “1”, probably noting the first number of a year. The pins are all two-piece tinned brass common straight pins with applied wound wire heads. The heads of the pins are all the same size and type, a wound wire head stamped into a conical shape. One pin from F” was temporarily removed and is 7/8” in length. This style of conical headed pin is found in the Bodleian’s collection of dated pins after 1748, but is most common between the 1820s-1860s. Fifteen steel needles have been pinned for storage to the fourth woollen white leaf. There are three lengths of needle (left to right): (1-2) 1 3/8”; (3-12 & 15) 1 1/8”; (13-14) 1 ¼”, with number 13 being made from a thicker gauge of wire than the others. The eyes of all the needles are round and all the eyes have guttering. The condition of the needle case and pin cushion is remarkable, and it appears to have been little used. There is some old insect damage to the woollen leaves, one silk tie is now missing, and the other is worn.

Catalogue of Handmade Needle Case and Pincushion in the Form of a Book
Finding aid prepared by Andrew Honey; edited by Lucy McCann
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom