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Quaker Style Pinball

Curated Submission
Ottawa, Ontario
DIMENSIONS in centimetres
Materials & techniques
Cotton, fleece; Knitting, braiding
Gift of Joanna McMann
Manitoba Crafts Museum and Library 3194.00
Pinballs are small round pincushions, famously made by Quaker girls in the 18th and 19th centuries. They are typically made from two knitted panels, which are stuffed and attached with a braid around the middle. Although pinball designs are based on Quaker cross-stitch motifs, most pinballs were actually knitted on extremely small needles known as “makkin wire.” These pincushions were extremely popular, and girls often made them to trade or sell. It seems that they were also used to hide correspondence: as notes have been found inside deteriorated pinballs.
This particular pinball is based on historical examples produced by girls from the Quaker school in Ackworth, England, during the 18th century. It was made by Joanna McMann using a design called “Tokens of Love” and is a product of several events held by the Manitoba Crafts Museum and Library. It is stuffed with fleece from a drop-spindle workshop conducted by Joanne Seiff, and it has been trimmed using a multi-strand braiding technique taught by Carol Kaye at the annual Made By You event. McMann used 1-millimetre needles to knit the exterior of this piece for the 2010 exhibition Casting On: The History of Knitting in Manitoba. She says of the pinball:

It comprises many of my passions, interests and experiences – two years of voluntary service with a Quaker organization, cross-stitch and needlework, knitting, miniatures, history, and the preservation (and continuance) of traditional women’s arts. I was taught to knit and embroider by my mother when I was a small child.

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