Mrs. Robinson's Pincushion
Huldah Perley of Boxford, Massachusetts married John
Robinson of Topsfield. They bought land in Westford,
Massachusetts and set up house. John Robinson became
famous as an officer in the militia at the North Bridge
in Concord and later as Colonel of a Massachusetts
provincial regiment. By the time the American Revolution
started in 1775, the Robinson’s had five children
between the ages of 9 months and 9 years. Among Mrs.
Robinson’s many household duties was sewing
and mending clothes for the entire family. Her pincushion
must have been used nearly every day of her life.
is not known exactly when Mrs. Robinson made this
pincushion.It may have been one she made as a girl
and brought with her to Westford, darning the holes
as it became tattered and worn. She may have made
it later in life, after her husband died, for the
buttons are said to have been from Col. Robinson’s
waistcoat. Or perhaps it was made from the remains
of an old upholstery fabric that was no longer needed,
as suggested by the fact that the design is not centered.
In any case, the pincushion was well used, repaired,
and used even more. After Mrs. Robinson’s death
in 1812, it was passed down through the Robinson family
until it was donated to the J. V. Fletcher Library
and subsequently to the Westford Historical Society
in 1983. It is now on display at the Westford Museum
along with other artifacts from the Robinson’s
home in Westford.
pincushion is worked in Irish stitch on 28 count linen.
Each of the cells outlined in black has a regular
shape, but the color patterns within each cell vary,
adding an element of randomness to the piece. As yellow
and green dyes tend to fade more, the faded piece
is currently dominated by blues and reds. However,
it originally included yellows, tans, and most likely
greens as well.
side of the pincushion is two pieces: one a needlework
in a different pattern of the Irish stitch, and the
other a small piece of damask cloth. The two are pieced
together as if the maker had not enough of either
one. The corner buttons are handmade. The origin of
the center button is not known, but there is evidence
that it was an original part of the pincushion, and
not a later addition.
included in this kit are for a close reproduction
of the top of Mrs. Robinson’s pincushion. The
original was a 28 count Penelope linen fabric with
wool yarn. The fabric in the kit is 25 count, 100%
linen, and the yarn is 100% wool. The pattern is the
Irish stitch, a very common stitch of the time, similar
to a bargello stitch today. The cell outline is duplicated
exactly, but the overall design has been centered
on the pincushion, unlike the original. The colors
are chosen as closely as possible, based on current
knowledge of 18th century dyes and close
examination of the original pincushion. There does
not seem to be any regular color pattern in the original,
which made each cell an individual color challenge.
The result is that although each cell is exactly the
same shape, each has a unique color pattern.
The reproduction and
kit were produced by Penny Lacroix, a Westford fiber
artist interested in Revolutionary War history. Special
thanks to The World in Stitches (Littleton, MA) for
their generous support in the production of this kit,
and to Stephanie Upton, an independent museum professional
and needlework specialist, who shared her expertise
on historical needlework and color selection.
sells for $30, and all proceeds from the sale of this
kit go to the Westford Historical Society. If you
encounter problems with this kit, please contact or
visit us at P.O. Box 411, 2-4 Boston Road, Westford,
MA 01886, Tel: (978) 692-5550.
2002 by Penny Lacroix
To purchase a kit for Mrs. Robinson's Pincushion,
visit museum store.