Simple Sewing: How to make a Patchwork Cushion


I have been promising  to write this article for a while now, and finally had time to photograph the process on New Years Eve- you will find I do things on odd days sometimes, the delights of being Self Employed!- anyhoo, Fella was at work and I spent all day designing, stitching and photographing Tutorials! What bliss indeed.

Making a Patchwork Cushion is the first lesson in my Beginners Sewing course, followed by Tote Bag and A-Line Skirt. Patchwork is one of the things my Mum taught me when I was learning to sew, and at the time I thought you could bash together some shapes and it looked fabulous. Of course, you can do this however; the reason Patchwork is such a wonderful way to learn how to sew is that it is often very obvious to see when, where and why it may have gone a bit wrong.

Now, I am all for a wonky edge, a humble bit of uneven hand stitching and  a shabby chic lopsided feel because I am a real fan of looking at things I made when I was learning to sew that I thought were fabulous, which now make me smile. Of course, I shall never stop learning (in fact, it gives me a real thrill of pride to discover I can turn out something which would have seen me agonising for hours, unpicking and settling for good enough a few years ago) however; often I teach people who are my age and they desperately want to skip that step! Patchwork, people! This is the way forward!!

Why, I hear you cry! Because it will teach you very neat seaming. That is all. If you can sew a gorgeously straight, neat seam you will find a lot of things come a little easier. Following a Seam Allowance guide seems to be the downfall of many however; it is the absolute key to making many things including garments.

Having said all of that, this is a great afternoon make for all abilities!

So, without further ado… the Patchwork Cushion Tutorial!

You will need:

2 or 3 Fat Quarters of Fabric or 1/4m or 1/4yd of each of the the Fabrics you wish to use

1/2m or 1/2yd of Backing Fabric (Denim, Calico, Cord, Wool, Velvet are all good choices)

Thread to match, Pins, Scissors etc, Iron.

Paper, Ruler and Pencil

I have made a miniature example, as you can see from the final picture I don’t quite need another Cushion! I also could not decide what fabric to make mine from, I had a little of this, and not quite enough of that so in the end I made a tiny one! This Pattern will make up a Cushion 48cm or 19″ Square which will nicely fill out a 50cm or 20″ Cushion Pad.

There is a 1cm or 3/8″ Seam Allowance included throughout this Pattern.

Firstly, draw a Triangle on your paper with the straight sides measuring 25cm or 10″, connect with the diagonal line to make the Pattern. As I said this includes the Seam Allowance.

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Once you have your Pattern, lay your Fabric out and, with one of the straight sides of the Triangle lying Parallel to the Selvedge (so your Grain Lines are straight) pin on, then cut round. You may be tempted to cut more than one out. Don’t. Fabric twists the more layers there are and decreases the accuracy. You will need to cut it out as exactly as possible (see middle picture). Try resting your Scissors on the table as you cut, this is how the pro’s do it as it rests the weight of the Scissors on the table so you aren’t holding them up, and allows you to cut incredibly accurately. You will need to cut 4 of one colour and 4 of another. 8 Triangles in total to complete this pattern.

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When you have all of then cut out, have a go at laying all of the pieces out to see which Pattern strikes your fancy. Above are 4 examples but it is surprising the different patterns you can achieve from just these simple shapes.

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When you have chosen a design, you will need to sew together along the long edge as illustrated above to make squares. Pin all four with right sides together, and all at the same time as it is enormously easy to get very confused. Pinning also means you will be able to sew them one after another which is not only quicker, it will allow you to concentrate on your seams one after another and become neater.

Pin at a right angle to the seam you will be sewing and the Sewing Machine will be able to sew straight over the pins. The heads of the Pins have to be sticking out of the edge of the fabric for this technique, and you should really use steel headed pins, and not the pretty decorative ones as they are thinner. This is a super useful technique as it is sometimes necessary to pin a seam to hold everything in place as it is sewn up.

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Now, with apologies to the seasoned hands reading this, I am going to quickly explain how I start and finish a seam. First, I’ll put the Fabric under the Presser Foot, line it up with the Seam Gauge (for this project that’s 1cm or 3/8″), and lower the needle in about 2.5cm or 1″ from the edge- illustration 1. Reverse stitch to the edge, illustration 2, then keeping the edge of the Fabric in line with the Seam Gague (you will never really look at the Needle), gently guide the Fabric until you have reached the end of the seam- illustration 3. Reverse stitch a couple stitches to secure and finish- illustration 4.

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When all four seams have been stitched, Iron with the Seams ‘out’. This is sometimes called ‘busting your seams’ and just means that each seam is ironed back on itself. As you may have noticed, Patchwork is very Seam heavy and this helps to reduce the bulk.

Lay out the patches again to remind yourself of where all the pieces go, then pin each Square to make a Rectangle as illustrated.

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When those two Seams are Sewn, Iron the Seams out again and lay the pieces out as before. Next, lay the two Rectangles right sides together and match the centre seams:

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Fold the top layer back 1cm or 3/8″ to see the Centre Seams and move along until they are matched. Don’t worry if this means your side seams are now a little mis-matched as this is perfectly normal.

Pin, then sew together using a 1cm or 3/8″ Seam Allowance. Iron this central seam out as best you can (it will be a little bulky), then lay this section aside and move on to the Backing Fabric.

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Cut two pieces of Backing Fabric 50cm/20″ x 40cm/16″. Using the Iron, press over one long side on each piece 1cm/3/8″. Then, press the same side over again but this time by 2.5cm/1″ so all raw edges are hidden.

Attach the Zipper foot to the Sewing Machine, and as illustrated Top Stitch along the bottom folded edge. There is no Seam Allowance for this, as you can see the Fabric hides the Seam Gauges, so you will need to line up the edge of the Zipper foot with the fold and follow that for a neat seam.

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Lay the Patchwork Front down flat, right side up (1). Lay one of the Backing pieces right side down on top, with the raw edges lining up with the front and the hemmed edge in the middle as illustrated in the above picture (2). Lay the second Backing piece right side down on top of the first, with raw edges lining up as before (3). Pin all around the edge then flip the cushion over and trim off any excess Backing fabric and neaten up the edges of the Patchwork too, if necessary(4).

cushion38 cushion39

About half way down one side, start to sew using a 1cm/3/8″ Seam Allowance. When a corner is reached stop just before the edge- you will need to judge this by eye- leave the Needle in, lift the Presser foot and spin the Fabric. When it is lined up again, lower the Presser foot and continue to Sew.

When the Cushion has been completely sewn around, reverse stitch to finish and clip the threads.

Finally, clip all the corners to make sure they turn out in to lovely sharp points.

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And your done!

As you can see, my little one turned out wonderfully however; I really don’t need another full size Cushion just yet. This is only half the sofa… there are more!!

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As ever, I would love to see if you make a Patchwork Cushion, or are inspired to make any of my projects or Tutorials. Please share here, Facebook or Twitter!

If you are inspired for further projects, check out my Patternless A-Line Skirt Tutorial here.

Happy stitching.

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