Designing your own cushions
Cushions can be made from scratch, which gives complete freedom of choice in the matter of shape and filling. This will be necessary when cushions are to fit a window seat or follow the shape of a chair seat, but for scatter cushions you can choose from a wide range of ready-made shapes and sizes. Sometimes scatter cushions do need to be custom- made to match the size of a fragment of antique textile, or when making cushions with a theme – children love cat or flower-shaped cushions. The inner covers of cushions arc made of calico, sateen or down-proof cambric, according to the filling that is to go inside.
Feathers have always been the elite filling for cushions and their supreme softness and natural resilience is unchallenged, but feathers can work their way out through some weaves. Fibrous kapok can become lumpy and foam chip fillings are unavoidably so. Lightweight polyester cushion pads have the advantage of being washable, but they do not possess the supple quality of feathers. For thin squab cushions and deeper box or welted ones, choose a foam filling but check that it matches flammability safeguards.
Most furnishing fabrics and even some dress fabrics are suitable for covering scatter cushions, but for chairs or window scats use firm woven cottons or linens, or even fabrics of upholstery weight if they are not too thick. For sheer extravagance, delicate lace or hand-painted cushions are the ultimate accessory.
SOFT FURNISHINGS MAKING CUSHIONS
Any cushion starts with a cushion pad. To calculate the amount of fabric and work out the pattern for a cushion, measure the pad and plan the main panels of fabric allowing 12 mm seams all round. For shaped cushions, either welted or plain, cut a paper template to fit the area exactly. If the cushion is an unusual shape – for a chair seat or a heart shape, for example – fold the paper in half before cutting it out to ensure it is symmetrical.
COVERING A BLOCK OF FOAM Using calico, cut a top panel and base panel to fit the foam block, allowing 12 mm all round for seams. Cut a strip of fabric for the welt on the straight grain, to fit all around the foam (see below).Join the ends to form a circle and fit it tightly around the foam. Clip into the seam allowances at corners and position the top and base panels in place. Tack together at the seams, leaving an opening in one edge. Remove the pad, stitch seams and press, then turn right side out. Insert the foam pad and slip stitch the opening by hand.
ENVELOPE METHOD This is a quick method suitable for calico covers or simple fabric covers with no piping. Start by measuring around the block of foam, to give the total amount of fabric required to wrap around the block. Add 3 cm seam allowance. Measure the length of the foam block and half-way down the welt at each end. Add 3 cm to give the total width of fabric required. Cut out a single piece of fabric to this measurement. 1 Join the top and bottom edge with a flat seam, leaving a 30cmopening in the center, or setting a zip into the seam if required.
This forms a tube. 2 Slip the tube over the foam pad, wrong side out, and pin a seam at each end. The seam line should be positioned in the center of each end panel, and be slightly shorter than the panel, allowing half the depth of the end panel at each end to make a neat miter. Remove the cover from the foam, tack and stitch the seam, then make short diagonal seams to form a neatly mitered end. Trim away the excess fabric from the seams, turn right side out and press. Replace the foam pad in the cover and stitch up the opening, or close with the zip.
SCATTER CUSHION Cut out the top cushion piece from fabric, allowing 12mm scam allowance all round, and make a paper template from it. Cut the paper across where the zip is to be inserted (about a third of the way down), and spread the pieces 2.5cm apart to allow for the zip. Make a template of this shape and use it to cut the fabric piece for the back. Insert the zip. Apply any decorative trims to the front panel of the cushion. Position the piping or a frill around one cushion piece if required, raw edges together, the piping or frill facing the center of the cushion piece. Tack and stitch in place.