Saturday, June 27, 2015


  • Place of origin:
  • Gloucestershire, England (possibly, made) 
  • London, England (possibly, made)
  • Date: 1620-1800 (made)
  • Artist/Maker: Unknown (production)
  • Materials and Techniques: Silvered brass

  • Object Type 
  • Pins were a necessity for the fastening of clothing and the arrangement of dress accessories in the 16th and 17th centuries. Their importance for women as a personal requirement and expense is reflected in the term pin-money, the sum originally allocated to meet this essential cost.

  • Places 
  • Before the mid-16th century the finest pins were imported from France, but their manufacture in England was encouraged under Henry VIII, and an Act for the True Making of Pynnes was passed in 1543, controlling their quality and price. Gloucestershire and London became the main centres of the pin-making industry.

  • Materials & Making 
  • As the industry developed in the 16th century the major advance in the manufacture of pins came with the use of a steel draw-plate with a graduated series of holes. Wire, which was usually brass, could be drawn through this to any gauge, permitting standardisation of the size of the pins. The heads were made from fine coils of wire that were soldered in place.

  • Enormous quantities of pins were used for the fastening of clothing. Elizabeth I was supplied with 24,000 'pynnes of diverse sorts' just for her coronation. Pins secured the petticoat in a ruffle above the farthingale (hoops that supported a skirt), and held the curves of the ruff in place around the neck. Several dozen might be used for one ensemble. Such a quantity required large pincushions, like the canvas work one here. These pins were found in written documents that were dated between 1620 and 1635.

Copy and photo from the Victoria and Albert Collection.

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