The recorded origins of pincushions date back to the Middle Ages of Europe. In the English language, they became known by many names: "pimpilowes, pimpilos, pimplos, pimploes, pin-pillows, pin-poppets".
During the 18th century, weighted pincushions became popular among seamstresses. In England, seam clamps attached to a table and designed for holding hems for sewing became common.
One popular design—a tomato with a strawberry attached—was most likely introduced during the Victorian Era. According to folklore, placing a tomato on the mantel of a new house guaranteed prosperity and repelled evil spirits.
If tomatoes were out of season, families improvised by using a round ball of red fabric filled with sand or sawdust. The good-luck symbol also served a practical purpose—a place to store pins. Typically, the tomato is filled with wool roving to prevent rust, and the strawberry is filled with an abrasive to clean and sharpen the pins.