Craft That Trash!: Tuna Can Pincushion


Do you need a new pin cushion?

Here’s how to turn a tuna can into a pin cushion. It’s fast and easy and a lot of fun. The most time consuming part is designing your pin cushion and collecting all the materials. So why not make several when you’re at it? You can give some as gifts or make a bunch for a fundraiser or holiday fair.

This is also a suitable craft to do with kids. Let them choose colors and patterns, and then give them as Christmas gifts to their grandmothers and aunts, or even their teachers.

This is what you’ll need:


  • One empty tuna can (or another can of about the same size)
  • Fabric square about 22 cm/8.5″
  • Strong sewing thread and needle
  • Fiber filling
  • Hot glue gun
  • Paper, fabric or paint for the outside of the can
  • Optional: Paper glue if you’re decorating with paper. Hot glue works, but it can be a bit too thick and create lumps.


(UPDATE: In an unfortunate series of events, the photos for the steps to this tutorial have been lost. The directions are clear enough to follow without them, but new pictures will be back up soon. Remember you can ask in the comments if you have any problems! Thanks!)

First wash the can thoroughly. If it contained tuna in oil, wash it twice just to be sure you get all the oil out.

The next step is the fun part. Decorating your can!


If you want to paint the outside of the can, first you need to find a paint that will stick well to the can surface. For best results you want to use a primer before applying the paint.

If you want to paint the tuna can as a family activity, I recommend preparing the can (primer + base color) before use to make it more child-friendly. Remember to paint in a well ventilated area.

Note: Paint the can and let it dry BEFORE you add the pincushion.


Measure your can. The circumference is about 27 cm/11″ long and height of the side is 4 cm/1,5″, but this can differ among brands. Make sure to cut the fabric extra long to leave some seam allowance.

If you chose fabric, you can either just glue it on like paper or you can sew a ring, turn the raw edges inside and slide it onto the can. If it fits tightly enough you don’t even need to glue it in place. This is how to do it: Cut the fabric bigger than the size needed. Fold the seam allowance and iron it in place. With the wrong side out place it on the can and pull it tight and secure it with a pin. Pull it off the can and stitch. Press the seam open and turn the ring. Then slide it onto the can.


Just like with fabric, measure the can first.

Cut the paper to size and glue it on. You can choose any kind of paper: printed scrap-booking paper, a magazine page, craft paper, gift wrap, candy papers, print out a picture or draw your own design on white paper. Anything goes, but if the paper is delicate you should decoupage it. In that case use decoupage glue or white glue  and maybe a finish of some sort for extra protection.

The Cushion

Now that your can is all pretty, it’s time to make the actual cushion!

Cut your cushion fabric into a circle about 22 cm/8.5″ across. It’s easiest if you can find a plate about that size, place it on the fabric and draw around it.

Next sew big even stitches around the fabric. Then pull the thread and gather the fabric so you get a round bag with a small opening. Fill the bag with fiberfill. Hold the bag in the palm of your hand and push the filling against it. Make it as firm as you can and mold it into a nice round ball.

Pull the thread to close the opening and make a good knot. Push it into the can to make sure it fits and looks good. Once you’re satisfied with the cushion, shoot some hot glue all over the inside of the empty can. Push the fabric ball in with the opening/sewn edge first and hold it in place for a few moments to let the glue take hold.

Voila! Cute, practical, easy, cheap, and upcycled! What more can you ask for?

When I made my fabric covered pincushion Anna thought of stacking the cans and decorating them to match. Two cans stack onto each other easily, and you can keep buttons and thread in the bottom one. Fun!

How would you decorate your tuna can pincushion? Do you know of any other fun tuna can upcycling crafts?