A client asked me to make her a bunch of cushion covers. OK, so it’s not the kind of exciting design/couture work I seek to attract but it’s more of a challenge than hemming jeans and good experience for getting the hang of pricing which should reflects the time taken and skill involved. Two kinds of fabric were supplied and my brief was simple; no piping and no trims, just squares of 60cm and rectangles of 40cm x 60cm. All with concealed zips at the bottom. Without thinking too deeply, I quoted £10 per cushion.
Hm, perhaps not enough. Next time, I’ll take into account the fabrics used. On this occasion, I had messy velvet (but beautifully thick velvet, just like the short nap of Blogstalker’s forehead. In fact, I should have paid the client for allowing me to sew it!). The striped fabric took caution too, not only in matching the design at the side seams but, prior to that, in cutting, as the position of the stripes had to be the same if you laid out all the cushions side by side on a sofa.
The first cushion always takes the longest as you work out a method and discard a few false steps. I’ve laid out a how-to-sew in case it helps someone else but also to help me next time, if I forget after a while. Also, my research came up with a simple solution to the saggy corners problem which I’ve outlined below in the how-to-cut Tutorial 2.
(If, on the other hand, you’re after a fun cushion cover, for example for a teenager’s bedroom or den, here’s a tutorial from the archives for a zip-free cushion cover.)
Tutorial 1: Sewing a Cushion Cover with a Concealed Zip along the bottom
The advantages of having zip on a cushion cover are many. You can take out the pad occasionally and bash it into shape – or top up with filling. If your fabric permits is, the covers can be laundered. And unlike with a cover that has an opening at the back, both sides of the cushion can be on display.
When buying zips, choose a colour which most matches the fabric at the point where the zip will be placed (e.g. with my client’s stripy fabric, I had to choose between beige or grey). You need not buy the most expensive zip; unlike with a garment, these zips will not get frequent use.
Size matters: zips need not be quite as wide as the cushion; a few centimetres shorter is fine (and cheaper, as zips go up in price with length). In fact, it’s easier to open and close the zip when there’s some fabric at the ends to hold on to as you pull the tab.
A paper pattern is a good idea: size of cushion pad plus 1.5 seam allowances all around. Make sure you use a set square, or equivalent, to ensure you draw right angles.
1 – Begin by finishing the bottom seam allowances of the fabric pieces; that is, the sides which will take the zip. I used an overlock-style stitch, keeping to the 1cm seam guide but you can zigzag. Press to embed stitches if your fabric permits it but don’t trim – that will come later. Then, using the invisible zipper foot, attach zip to the middle of the two fabric pieces leaving each end of the fabric pieces unsewn for 3cm -4cm.
2 Change to an ordinary zipper foot. Sew the remaining 3-4cm, to the end of each side, keeping to the 1.5cm seam allowance. Move zipper tape out of the way to get as close to the zipper stitches as possible.
3 – Sew the sides, first one then the other, from the zip downwards, keeping the fabric pieces flat. Before sewing the opposite side, measure against the first stitching line to make you’re retained the dimensions of the cushion; especially if your fabric is moving about a lot. To stop velvet pieces from sliding against each other, I pinned on both sides of the stitching line. Finally, sew the side opposite the zip, first measuring from the zip AND OPENING THE ZIP SO AS NOT TO SEW THE COVER CLOSED! :-)
4 – Attach ends of zipper tape to seam allowances. Hand-sewing is fine: I used a machine, with zipper foot. Trim seam allowances.
Tutorial 2: Cutting the Fabric to Create Plumper Effect
These are my own cushions, made from very expensive Designer’s Guild fabric and really cheap IKEA cushion pads! They get sat on, squashed and generally abused. As you can see, the corners look rather ’empty’. I made a third cushion after following this method of reducing the amount of fabric in the corners so they fill better.
1 – Fold your pattern into 4. Mark a half-way point from each folded side to opposite cut side. On the corner with the four cut edges, mark a square of 1cm (for a larger cushion, increase to a larger square, eg. 1.5cm for a 50cm cushion, or 2 cm for a 60cm)
2 – Cut in a straight line from half-way marks to the inner corner of the square
3 – The new pattern has a subtly curved shape. Use this to cut your fabric and sew by the method in Tutorial 1
The cushion looks no different from a square one, but there’s a subtle improvement in shape.
Wow, that was traumatizingly square! I might need to make something sirenish and for myself, to recover.