I had a trip to the fabric shop the other day to pick up some bits for a custom order I’m working on. While I was there I just happened to end up beside the remnant bin and found this cute fabric that I just had to have. I’m sure some of you know what I mean! And handily there was enough left in the bolt end to correspond nicely with the size of the square cushions the shop also sold. So I bought myself a present and a new project 🙂
Making cushion covers this way is so easy: there are no zips to add, you don’t need to add buttons and buttonholes unless you want to and you don’t need to line it. Simple! So simple you don’t even need a pattern to make it, you just adapt the ‘formula’ to the size of cushion you want to cover!
My lovely fabric is upholstery weight cotton, but you can use all sorts of fabric for cushion covers. You can even make them from old clothes you no longer wear but can’t bear to part with, as I have done previously with 2 of my husbands old T-shirts that he wanted to keep:
So the first thing you’ll need to do is gather all your bits:
- rotary cutter and cutting mat (or scissors)
- ruler (I have a quilting ruler which is much longer and perfect for this type of project) or tape measure
- tailor’s chalk or fabric marker
- coordinating or contrasting thread, depending what look you’re going for
- sewing machine or needle and thread
- the correct needle for the type of fabric (it is very important to choose the correct needle, so much so that I will dedicate a whole post to choosing the correct needle soon!
- Pen and paper to sketch out your pattern and for your maths!
I have a tendancy to not write patterns like this down and just remember what I want to do, a concept that my mother can’t understand! So for the purposes of this tutorial I’ll show you my working (gosh, sounds like a maths test… I promise it isn’t!!!) You’ll need 3 pieces in total, the first 2 are identical and are the dimensions of your cushion plus 10mm or 3/8 inch, plus two lots of seam allowance in each direction. I tend to sew 10mm or 3/8″ from the edge of the fabric, so I add a seam allowance of 15mm or 5/8″ so that there is enough fabric to work with, but you could also use a 20mm or 3/4″ allowance if you find it easier. Just make a note of which you are using and stick with it! The extra 10mm gives you a little more space to get your cushion into the finished cover. So for my cushion, which is 18″ square, my first 2 pieces will be:
18″ + 3/8″ wiggle room + (2 x 5/8″) seam allowance = a 19 5/8″ x 19 5/8″ square
Or in metric:
45cm + 1cm wiggle room + (2 x 15mm) seam allowance = a 49cm x 49cm square
The third piece will be the same width as the first 2 pieces and half the length, to create a flap which will cover the opening and keep the cushion in the cover. For mine this will be a piece:
19 5/8″ x ((19 5/8″) / 2) = 19 5/8″ x 8 3/4″ rectangle
49cm x (49cm / 2) = 49cm x 24.5cm rectangle
Now it’s time to measure, mark and cut the fabric. If you are using a piece of fabric which is already rectangular then simply draw your 3 pieces side by side, with the edges of each piece touching. This will save time and fabric, but if you’re not good at cutting in a straight line then leave a gap so you’ve got a margin for error! Also if your fabric has a directional pattern then make sure on the flap piece that the pattern is the correct way around when the rectangle is laid in landscape.
Once you’ve marked your fabric it’s time to cut the pieces out. Having recently treated myself to a rotary cutter, mat and quilting ruler I can highly recommend them: I didn’t think I used to spend all that long cutting out, but now it’s so fast in comparison I realise I must have been! They also make it so easy to cut long, perfectly straight lines.
The first piece of sewing we’re going to do is to hem the edge of the third pattern piece. Look at your piece of fabric and if it has a directional pattern then lay it right way up in front of you, long edges top and bottom, otherwise just choose which way up you want it to appear. I decided I wanted the big pink butterfly to be the right way up. Like so:
We are going to be hemming the lower edge so that the pattern sits the right way round when the cover is finished. Turn the fabric over, turn under the seam allowance and pin in place. Then using a straight stitch, sew from one short side straight across to the other.
To get a really crisp edge, and a more professional looking finish, press (iron) the seam. Trust me, it is worth the little extra effort!
We’re then going to hem the top edge of what will be the front piece, because it will form the opening. If you are pressed for time (or dont want to!) you can skip this step, so long as your fabric won’t fray, as this edge won’t be on show. I’m going to hem it as I’m a bit of a perfectionist and I like everything to be neat and finished! To form the hem lay whichever of the two identical pieces you want to be the front RIGHT SIDE DOWN with the top of the pattern away from you. Fold over the seam allowance from the edge furthest away, pin in place, sew and press.
Next we are going to attach the flap to the back panel. Lay the back piece RIGHT SIDE UP with the pattern the correct way up as you look at it. Lay the flap WRONG SIDE UP with the raw edge lined up with the top of the back piece. Pin in place, and sew with the same seam allowance as we used in the hems. We are going to attach the front piece to the opposite end of the back piece by laying the back piece RIGHT SIDE UP again and putting the front piece WRONG SIDE UP with the hemmed edge furthest from you and raw edges aligned at the bottom. Pin in place and sew. Note that in the picture I’ve only turned back the front panel to show the other layers, not because it’s to be sewn in that position!
Now we need to put the layers in the correct order before we sew the sides, otherwise we won’t be able to get our cushion in! Lay the back piece RIGHT SIDE UP then fold the flap over it so that you see its WRONG SIDE and then the front piece over the top WRONG SIDE UP. If you’ve sewn the pieces together the right way round this should just be a matter of layering them, if the pieces aren’t the correct way up now is your chance to fix it! Carefully pin both sides of the cushion together. You will see now that we have already sewn the top and bottom together. If you are using very thick fabric you might find it easier to use mini bulldog clips as they will hold your layers together better. Once it’s pinned it’s time to sew the sides shut, and our cushion cover is nearly complete!
Before we turn it right way out we need to trim the seam allowance at the corners so that the fabric will sit properly. If you skip this step your cushion won’t have square corners, so it’s worth doing it. All you need to do is cut straight across the corner as close to where the stitch lines cross as you can without cutting them. I always cut off a little more down the edge just to make extra sure it sits as it should.
Once the corners are trimmed, if you have used material that can fray you might like to finish off the edges to stop them unraveling. You can either stitch over the edges or, as I did, use a pair of pinking shears which will stop the edges fraying.
Finally turn the cover right way out through the opening and push out the corners with something like a knitting needle to get a nice sharp corner.
This is your chance to make sure they’re sitting as you want them to, and if they aren’t then turn it inside out again and carefully trim away a little more of the seam at the corners. Once your corners are all sitting nicely give the whole cover a final press and voila! Your cushion cover is complete!
Just in time for a nice nap 😉