how to make a pinwheel

Pinwheels are a great way to store your pins,  especially for traveling because the pins don’t stick in to you or spill.
They are also a cool way to repurpose a doiley or fragment of some special textile.

Here’s what you need to make one:
heavy card or template plastic
batting scraps (I use 100 % cotton because it’s my favourite)
a doiley for one side and fabric for the other (or two doileys or just fabric)
strong thread such as quilting thread
darning or large embroidery needle
glue stick or doublesided tape

1. From either a heavy card or template plastic cut two circles between 3″ and 3 1/2″ in diameter. You can draw these with a compass but I usually just grab a mug or jar that is roughly the right size. You can cut four card circles and use two per side if you want to make the pinwheel more rigid – just cut glue or tape them together in pairs.

2. Using these circles as guide,  cut two circles from the batting. Use a dab of glue or tape to hold the batting to the card. Now cut two more circles of batting that are aprox 1/2″ bigger all around and glue or tape those to the other side.

3. On more card, draw another circle the same size as the first ones and then draw a second line aprox. an inch all around (it doesn’t have to be perfect). Cut out on both lines to make a ring shape. Place the ring on the doiley and use the window in the centre to decide on the placement of any embroidery. What you see in the window of the ring is what you will have on the side of the pinwheel.

4. Use a fabric marker to trace around the outside of the ring. Don’t trace around the inside. Cut out on the line and repeat the process on the fabric you have chosen for the second side of the pinwheel.

5. Time to stocktake : you now have two card/batting concoctions for the sides and two circles of fabric for covering them.

6. Thread a needle with a double length of strong thread (quilting thread is good). Starting on the right side of the fabric and leaving a 3″ tail, sew running stitches about 1/4″ in from the edge and roughly 1/4″ long. The last stitch should also bring the needle up on the front of the fabric alongside the first.

7.Turn the fabric wrong side up and place a card/batting sandwich on top with the larger size batting down.

8. Tie one overhand knot and pull the threads  to gather the fabric up tightly over the card/batting. Tie tightly and cut off excess thread. Repeat for the other side.

9. Rethread the needle with another double length of thread. Knot the end and secure the thread firmly by making a couple of small backstitches about 1/2″ from the edge as shown. Bring the needle out about 1/8″ from the edge.

10.The two sides are sewn together using ladder stitch. I hold the sides with my left index finger in between them. The stitches need to be about 1/8″ from the edge so that when you tighten them they will disappear inside the pinwheel. Insert the needle immediately opposite the first exit position and take a 1/4″ long stitch. Again insert the needle immediately opposite your last exit position and take another 1/4″ bite. You are aiming to produce perfectly straight lines with the threads that link the two sides. The way to do that is to have all your stitches exactly the same length and enter and exit at points exactly opposite each other.

11. After about every six or seven stitches pull the thread tight and the stitches will close up. In these photos I made a lot more stitches than that and then went back and pulled the thread at the sixth stitch so that you could see the difference between the tightened and untightened stitches easily.

12. Sew the whole way around the wheel, tighten all the stitches and then sew a knot to fasten off. Bury the tail and trim excess thread.

You’re done. Now you can put the pins in, sliding them between the two layers of card.

These are really quick to make and easy.

If you have any questions at all, leave a comment. And don’t forget to show us all if you make one!

40 thoughts on “how to make a pinwheel

  1. Thank you for the tutorial! I add this to my “making little presents list”!!! Sewing hearts and checking/ organizing my button jars plus crocheting tiny flowers on the way just now here.

  2. THANK YOU, you lovely gal, you! This is wonderful. I am just enchanted. I am making at least 4 of them to stuff my girls’ stockings with.

  3. Pingback: how-to: make a pinwheel | Design Website Blog

  4. Pingback: Tutorial: Make a pinwheel to store your pins · Sewing @ CraftGossip

  5. What a wonderful tutorial…thank you for sharing! These are just lovely. I will definitely be making a few of these for my mother-in-law…she will just love this. Thanks again!

  6. Hi Kirsten, thankyou so much for sharing your tutorial of the pinwheels, I am totally hooked, so far I have made 5 for pressies, they are so easy and I’ve been making them watching the tele at night.
    Hugs Kaylee

  7. this is such a fabulous tute
    i have never seen one of these and cant wait to make some!!!
    it took me a couple of readings to figure out what size to make the fabric, until i realized you add an inch to the outside circumference of the original circle, duh!
    thanks so much

  8. Kirsten, This is awesome! I made a few as gifts for sewing friends and everyone thinks they are too cool. May I have your permission to share your tutorial with my quilting friends at a getaway weekend in March? We usually do a fun little project for Midnight Madness to get us warmed up on Friday night. This would be perfect. I would give you full credit, of course!

    • Yes, of course, Tina! This isn’t an original idea. Pinwheels have been around for a very long time – I’ve seen some that must be at least eighty years old. Have a fabulous time at your getaway weekend! Kirsty

  9. Fantastic gift idea. I had forgotten how pleasurable small things made from recycle fabric can be.
    Very inspiring. Thanks Lee

  10. Very cute and what a great idea. I just got back from a trip and stuck myself with a pin!! ARRRRGH, wish I had known this sooner! :-) Thanks for sharing, I am off to make a few for myself!

  11. What a cute and useful idea! Such an innovative idea to use up scraps of fabric. I’ll be making some of these for Christmas presents. Thanks for sharing.

  12. I found your site the other day and now I can’t quit making these pinwheels. Posted a picture on a message board of the six I had made. On this message board we have what we call “Friday Night PJ Parties” where someone shows how to make a small project. They are asking me to show them how. I would like to ask you for your permission to do this before I say yes. Thank You so much for such a very fun and usefull project!


  13. I found your site the other day and now I can’t quit making these pinwheels. Posted a picture on a message board of the six I had made. On this message board we have what we call “Friday Night PJ Parties” where someone shows how to make a small project. They are asking me to show them how. I would like to ask you for your permission to do this before I say yes. Thank You so much for such a very fun and useful project!


  14. Ohh, c’est trop joli et quelle bonne idée pour utiliser des tissus aux beaux motifs.
    Merci pour le tuto.
    Passe une belle journée.
    Amitiés de France.

    • Dottie, yes, of course! While I made this tutorial, the idea itself is not mine – pinwheels have been around for a very long time. The CD idea is a good one. Hope your guild love it and make lots of pinwheels :)

  15. Pingback: What’s Up with You? | amherst thread tales

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