Account books from the seventeenth century show wealthy households regularly buying large numbers of pins, and a well-stocked pincushion would have been an essential accessory for any woman of rank. Pins were central to the domestic manufacture of garments such as shirts, but were also used for holding garments together and attaching jewellery. Consequently many women carried small emergency supplies of pins with them in cases to remedy any deficiencies in their dress.
Traditionally France was the centre of pin manufacture, but by the seventeenth century English pins had developed a reputation for quality and English pin-makers were increasingly dominating the market. Pins were made by hand. The head and the shank were cut from separate coils of wire of different thickness and soldered together. Then the head was stamped to produce a smooth round shape. This laborious process rendered a pin an expensive luxury item, and this remained the case until the mechanisation of pin-making in the nineteenth century.