Most commonly made in the 18 & 19th centuries, out of necessity. At that time the most common bases were broken candlesticks, teapots or oil lamps.
My sister had one (made from an old hand crank meat grinder) that she got from the quilt shop she works at. Well I knew I had one of those grinder things around. Don't remember where I got it from ... my Moms, Grandmas, a yard sale in Prescott-Yarnell-Buckeye-JoeCity?, a second hand store ... could have been any one of those places. In the "old house" I use to have it on the corner of my Hoosier cabinet in the kitchen. The handle on it is missing the screw that keeps it attached to the head. So whenever the missionaries came for dinner - at least one of them would reach out and turn that crank, the handle would fall off and they would have a horrified look- thinking they had broken it. The "old" missionaries would bring the new ones, stand back and watch them reach for that unattached handle - then produce a huge, "Man you are in trouble you broke it!" look. So funny watching them set each other up, when in fact I intentionally left it there to watch people do the same thing. :) Got to get amusement in life wherever you can, right?
Anyway- I made one of those adorable pincushions with mine this week. Its filled with dry lavender buds that are stuffed into a nylon knee high and tied to the rotating grinder part inside. Then covered with some brushed woven cotton fabric then embellished with old buttons from my stash. Love it!!