Tuna Can Pincushions

Tuna Can Pincushions

The other day my sister-in-law, Jennifer, gave me this “swell” (my daughter-in-law Meghan and I have decided to bring “swell” back into everyday use… it really is a “swell” word, but I digress!) Where was I, oh yes, Jennifer gave me this swell bottle top pincushion.
Isn’t it cute as a bug’s ear? I LOVE it. It is a perfect size for hand sewing and embroidery when you only need a few needles and pins. But it got me to thinking I needed a big pincushion for my sewing projects. Yes, I have several really cute pincushions, but to be quite honest, they are more cute than functional. So, I started on a quest to find a container that I could use to a larger pincushion. After hitting my recycling bin and tearing through my cupboards, I decided a tuna can would be perfect.

NOTE: Two very important things to remember when working with tuna cans. First… the edges can be razor sharp so be careful. After the can is buried under felt it will be fine, but while the edges are exposed, heads up! And next… tuna cans STINK! I actually opened a can of tuna just to get the can. (Not to fret, we ate it the next day 🙂 I removed the label and washed the can thoroughly. The can was sitting on my crafting table while I was getting other supplies together and YIKES… it was ripe. I washed it again. Still smelly. Finally, I ran it through the dishwasher and at last it lost the tuna smell!

After your tuna can is stink free, you can get started 🙂

Non smelly 7 ounce tuna can (see note above 🙂
wool or wool blend felt for bottom, side and top
embroidery floss
stuffing of choice
optional: dried lavender

If you haven’t done so already, be sure to check out our tutorial on tips forCutting Out Felt.

Cut out the side (teal). (Don’t cut out the bottom yet.) The side should be a strip 1 3/4″ x 10 1/2″. Note: I came up with the dimension by measuring the circumference of the can and using that as the length, then measuring the height of the can and adding an additional 1/8″. Although I think most tuna cans are the same size, you might want to check because you want an exact fit.
Using a 7″ plate, trace the plate on contrasting felt (lavender) and cut out. This will be the top. (Note: If you would like to make a mini pincushion, simply use the top of a soda bottle and scale everything else to size.)

There are two ways to embroider the side. You can either embroider it before you sew the side seams together or after. It is easier to embroider it flat, but if you have a design you want to run around the whole can, you will probably do that after. As for me… just learning… I did some before and some after. So… embroider if you want now, or wait until you sew the side together. (BTW… I will have a photo below explaining the stitches I used but go totally crazy with your embroidery. This is a wonderful time to try out new stitches. All of the stitches I used can be found in our Stitch Glossary, but if you want to be adventurous, visit this fabulous on-line stitching guide, HERE.)

Sew the side together using 2 strands of matching floss and an overcast stitch. (Note: After the seam was sewn together I added another yellow chain stitch linking the 2 sides together.)

Slide the band onto the tuna can. Place this on top of match felt (teal) and trace around the bottom. (You want to trace after the band has been added to the can so you get the correct dimension.) Cut out the felt.

Place quarter marks on the bottom and the sides using a disappearing marker.

From the outside (right sides) sew the bottom to the side using 2 strands of matching floss with an overcast stitch. Match quarter marks.

Slide the sleeve over the can, so the opening is not covered.

Using a running stitch and 2 strands of matching floss, sew a running stitch near the outer edge of the top circle.

Gather the stitch, adding stuffing, until it is the size of the inner can. When it is the right size, tie off the gathering, and stitch back and forth over the opening to hold the stuffing in place. (If should fit into the can snuggly.)

Stuff bottom of the can with stuffing or lavender. If using lavender, fill it about halfway. If using stuffing, stuff enough so that when it is compressed it fills half the can.

Place the top in the can so the opening is hidden and centered. If there are any gathers, smooth them out so they are evenly distributed around the can.

Using a blanket stitch and 6 strands of floss, sew the top to the edge of the bottom. Hide all starting and stopping threads inside the stuffing.

Embroider your pincushion any way you find pleasing. I just kept working up the side. Here are the stitches I used, but just have fun embroidering whatever you feel like:)

From bottom of can up:
Chain stitch – 6 strands of yellow floss
Running stitch – 6 strands of lavender floss (I wove it in and out of the chain stitch
Lazy Daisy stitch – 6 strands pink
French knot – 6 strands lavender in the middle of the pink flower
Blanket stitch – 3 strands yellow (used to sew the top to the bottom)
Chain stitch – 6 strands pink ( I made 2 rows, staggering the second row)
3 Detached Chain stitches – 6 strands yellow
Back stitch – 6 strands teal
Blanket stitch – 6 strands pink
Steam stitch – 6 strands yellow for circle and center spokes

Your pincushion is now ready to get busy and hold your pins and needles. They are so cute and there are so many beautiful stitches to try, you’ll be eating tuna more often 🙂

BTW… don’t you think these would make great Mothers’ Day gifts?










  1. This is so cute – and practical. Thank you for the tutorial! I love that you put lavender in the bottom – so smart. Your daughter-in-law’s pin cushion is so sweet too. One thing about those smaller ones – it’s hard to keep them stable. It helped when I put a round magnet on the bottom to attach to something nearby. If you wanted to hide the magnet, probably using a thinner fabric for the bottom would be good to be sure there was enough magnet power.

    1. Great idea. The magnet would just make it weightier, too!

  2. I was thinking the other day that I had to figure out a way to make a big pincushion to use when I am sewingu2014and here you have the perfect idea! And I just got a big box of felt scraps in the mail yesterday. Perfect timing! xoxo

  3. This is such an adorable idea. I want to make this for me!

    Thank you ladies,

  4. Using a small pineapple can is about the same size and no smell! I also love using a small sliced black olive can (again, no smell). It’s smaller than the pineapple can, but larger than the bottle caps. A small bag of sand in the can also adds weight. I admire your embroidery – on all your projects. It’s so even and lovely. But, how do you knot the thread and hide the knots when you embroider after putting together???

    1. Thanks for all your good ideas, Carol. I just used some chopped green chilies and the can is a lovely size… smaller than the tuna… bigger than a soda bottle lid. I find myself looking at my canned goods in a whole new light 🙂

      As far as how I hide my threads, read this post…

      Although it was written for quilting, the same idea applies, and I use this method sometimes.
      Usually, instead of knotting the thread, I enter the felt about an inch away from where I am going to embroider, and bring my needle up through the desired spot, leaving about a 1" tail stitching out of the felt. I then make a teeny tiny little stitch to lock the thread, then start embroidering my stitches. To finish, I do the same thing… make a teen tiny little stitch to lock, then slide my needle under the work coming up about and inch away from that little stitch. I pull on the thread a little, then cut it close to the surface. The thread pops under the top and is invisible. I do the same to the 1" tail at the beginning, pulling on it slightly, and cutting the thread close to the edge.

      The threads are now hidden, but are locked.

      Hope that makes sense without photos 🙂

      1. Thanks!
        I had the same reaction to the green chilies can I used the other night!

  5. What a fun way to display my stitching- I love this! Thanks so much for all the fabulous how-tos this week. I’ll be spreading the word!

    1. Thanks, Rachel! We always love to be featured on One Pretty Thing 🙂

  6. how darling! i might have to make tuna salad tonight.

    1. Hehe… yes, my menu planning is based around the cans I want to empty 🙂

    1. j’aime beaucoup ce porte u00E9pingles
      Bisous Michu00E8le
      I love this door pins
      kiss Michu00E8le

  7. I love the Lavender as well! I think I will try putting some eucalyptus in the bottom. It is such a relaxing smell for me. And isn’t handwork therapy for most of us? Now I can have some aroma-therapy. Thanks for the lovely idea!

    1. You are quite welcome 🙂 I adore eucalyptus. I make eucalyptus wreathes and I’m always plucking leaves off. I throw them in a bowl as is. If they start losing their scent, I run them under hot water, and like magic, they smell wonderful again! Have fun!

  8. This is so cute, have seen a lot of the soda cap cushions made into rings so your pins were handy on your finger as you sew, but they just did not appeal to me but the felt and the embroidery put this over the top! I use small cans of cat food and these would be great for this and oh, remember sardines? Those cans would be a new shape also!

    1. I’ve seen a lot of different crafts done in Altoid tins, which are much the same shape as a sardine can and wouldn’t have any sharp edges. I love how you think! It’s wonderful to be creative about being creative 🙂 Now you have me thinking about rectangular shaped pin cushions 🙂

  9. These are so cute, I’m thinking of doing mine with white denim, and silk embroidery. But im wondering if I could make a muslin inner filled snuggly with sand, to sharpen the neddles. Thanks for a very creative & pretty pincushion

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