Barbara is making some strawberries and wants to know what the commercially made pincushion strawberries are stuffed with. (She’s stuffing hers with coffee grounds.) I’m so glad she asked. I know this! The little strawberries are stuffed with fine sand. I googled it just to be sure and found a very interesting short little history of the tomato pincushion here:
Excellent! Now I know that fine grain sand is called “emory.” Except that the person writing the very interesting short little history of the tomato pincushion probably spelled it incorrectly. I think it should be “emery” instead of “emory” mostly because that’s also the stuff that emery boards are made of.
Not being able to leave that one alone, I checked “emory” on Dictionary.com thinking maybe it is a British spelling of “emery.” Alas, no. “Emery,” however, is as “a granular mineral substance consisting typically of corundum mixed with magnetite or hematite, used powdered, crushed, or consolidated for grinding and polishing.”
So, perhaps “sand” isn’t quite right, but I think it’s close enough.
Be that as it may, I would now like to step up and correct a common misconception. These little strawberries are NOT to sharpen your needles. Seriously. If jamming the tip of your needle into soft fabric dulls it, how would jamming the tip of your needle into sand sharpen it?! Note the word “polishing” in the above definition?
An old hand quilter from way back, I have my own theory. When you hand stitch with the same needle over time, it oxidizes. That is, the nickel plating on the steel needle tarnishes. You might even have noticed that it turns black. It sticks a bit as you attempt to push it through a quilt, especially if the quilt has been sandwiched with a dense batting like cotton. The perspiration on your hands is responsible for the tarnish.
And how would you remove the tarnish? Stick the tarnished needle into the strawberry! Holding it by the needle end, pinch the strawberry, and slide the needle in and out, rotating it every so often. Tarnish removed! I rest my case.
Well, not completely. There’s one more thing. I think my little theory is further strengthened by the fact that, proportionately, the strawberry is usually way smaller than the tomato, except in Barbara’s really nice pincushion picture. If it were bigger you’d loose your #10 between inside the strawberry never to be seen again. Or, maybe it’s just because back in the 19th century strawberries really were that small. They were not the genetically engineered giants that we’re used to getting in the grocery store today. They probably tasted better too. The real ones. Not the ones with the sand inside.