Designing a cushion with scraps and shopping from your stash

I had a few miscuts as I made the blocks for the QUILTsocial Spectrum QAL 2020 with the gorgeous Blue Stitch collection from Riley Blake Designs. Technically, these pieces are not miscuts, but once or twice I make half-square triangles (HSTs), and I wasn’t happy with the color or the value. The pioneer spirit in me says that one must never throw anything away!

Every time I made flying geese units, I saved those little corners and made HSTs with them. All these bits got tucked into a bag. When I saw that Claire Haillot’s spectacular cushion made with her leftover pieces of fabric, I had to do something as well.

I dug out the bag of HSTs, and without a clue as to what to make with them, I laid them on the table. 

An assortment of blue and white half square triangles

I’m a very visual designer, so I played with the HSTs for a bit. I decided to start by making five large pinwheels. (I call this the divide and conquer technique for designing.) The larger HST units finish at 2″, so each pinwheel would be 4″ finished. I laid those out to see what it looked like, and then I started playing with the smaller HSTs, which finish at 1″. See how that math is going to work? 

Five pinwheel blocks with smaller HST units

Let’s see – if I made a few more of the smaller HSTs, I’d fill those gaps between the pinwheel blocks. I could have laid the smaller HSTs out a million different ways, but this is the way I decided to sew them together. This square is now 12½” unfinished. 

The cushion top measures 12½” unfinished.

You know me and twirling seams – I twirled the seams as much as I could, but in some instances, it didn’t make sense. Since this project wouldn’t be quilted, I didn’t worry too much about it, but I did want the piece nicely pressed and flat. 

Twirled seams on the back of the quilt block

Now, what do I do with it? I thought it might make a nice cushion to match the quilt. There’s no chance to pop out for supplies because of the lockdown, so at this point, a well-stocked stash comes in very handy! My first thought was to make a 12″ pillow, and I did have a 12″ cushion form. But I also found a 16″ pillow form, and this was perfect. Just wait until you see how perfect it was. 

A 16″ cushion form

You know me and cushions; I hate those dog ears on the corners, and I didn’t want to trim from the pinwheels, so I decided to add a 2″ border around the block. I auditioned the fabrics for a nice border and cut 2½” strips. After pressing the borders, I centered and trimmed the piece to measure 16″ square. A large 20½” square ruler is a huge help for this kind of work. Remember to trim the cushion front to the same size as the cushion form. You do not want to add seam allowances, as this will result in a loosely fitting cushion cover. 

Trimming the quilt block using a large square quilting ruler

I needed a zipper to make the hidden zipper flap exactly like I did in last week’s post, Easy zipper insertion and tips for outstanding cushion covers. I checked through my stash of zippers (okay, only one of two boxes of zippers I have) and found the perfect color. It was too long, but I added a new zipper stop with the sewing machine and cut off the excess. I also found a perfectly matching spool of thread. Who says we buy too much? It’s great to have these supplies handy when you need them. 

Shopping in the stash to find a matching zipper

Here’s the hidden zipper flap. This one happens to be closer to the top of the cushion than the ones I made last week. I make a random cut when I insert the zipper. I never put it in the same place twice! It doesn’t matter, but you might be more particular than I am and want to position the zipper in a specific location on the cushion back. 

The hidden zipper flap

I layered the backing and the top together and trimmed away the corners, exactly as I did when I made last week’s cushions. The two pieces were pinned together and ready to sew when I thought I should do something with all those seams. If this cushion cover gets washed, what will happen to all those seam allowances? They might fray, and it’ll look messy on the back. Granted, it’s inside the cover, but still… I’m trying to make my projects look pretty so they stay looking pretty and well-constructed. 

The front and back of the cushion cover pinned together

I unpinned the two pieces and dug out some lightweight, fusible interfacing. The interfacing will fuse those seams in place and provide some extra body to the cushion cover. 

Lightweight fusible interfacing

I cut a 16″ square of the fusible interfacing for the back of the cushion cover. Be very careful if you haven’t trimmed the corners off the fusible interfacing – you don’t want those corners to stick to your ironing surface! Use a Teflon pressing sheet underneath the fusible interfacing or trim the corners away. 

Pressing the fusible interfacing to the wrong side of the cushion cover

I started out using my Singer Steamcraft Plus iron, which I love. When working with the fusible interfacing, you have to press and lift, press and lift. It would take a bit of time to get everything pressed in place.

Pressing the fusible interfacing with a steam iron

Then I realized I have something even easier for pressing this than the Singer Steamcraft Plus iron! While I waited for it… wait for it… to heat up, I trimmed the excess fusible interfacing from the cushion front. 

Trimming the excess fusible interfacing from the cushion cover

What was easier? The Singer Steam Press. Oh yes. this is perfect. I’ll quickly get an even overall heat so that fusible interfacing is well-adhered over the entire piece, including the edges. 

A steam press

The Singer Steam Press didn’t take long to heat up, and I was ready to go. I pressed one half of the cushion cover, and then I pressed the other. Within a minute, the fusible interfacing was adhered in place, right to the edges. 

Using the steam press to fuse the fusible interfacing to the cushion cover

Then I carefully pinned the front to the back. Notice my pins are well inside the edges of the cover. 

The cushion cover pinned to the cushion back

Why did I pin it like that? I used the PFAFF admire air 5000 one-touch air threading overlock machine to stitch the two layers together. Don’t forget to open that zipper part way before you do this final step! 

The PFAFF admire air 5000 overlock machine

I allowed for a ¼” seam allowance, and the width of the four-thread overlock seam is ¼”, so I didn’t need to trim anything away. That’s easy enough to accomplish by positioning the edge of the project just to the left of the knife so nothing gets cut off. That’s super easy, and I love that I got a beautiful seam with the edges beautifully finished at the same time. Best of all – it was fast!

Serging the seam without trimming

I used a yarn needle to tuck the ends of the thread inside the serged seam. I usually use a metal bodkin, but it’s in a very safe place at the moment. So safe that I can’t find it. That’s never happened to any of us, right? 

Use a yarn needle to tuck the thread ends into the serged seam.

Here’s the cushion cover before I tucked the cushion form inside. I love it, and I love it even better because I used up the leftover HSTs, and I created it on the fly. No significant thinking, no drafting, no calculating, just a lot of doing! 

The cushion cover

I want you to know that my version of the Spectrum QAL quilt was tucked away in a corner of the studio as it awaits a label, so I wasn’t influenced by the quilt at all. But look at what happened. 

I made a 12″ (finished) block from my HST leftovers. The blocks in the quilt are 12″. And when I added that border to the edges of my cushion cover, what fabric did I choose? The same fabric I used for the sashing in the quilt. Oh, my goodness! I could not have planned it any better if I’d tried. 

It goes to show that we should trust our instincts because they are always right. At least mine are when it comes to quilting. I swear I have a sixth sense when it comes to making stuff up. I had a good chuckle about it and did a happy dance. 

The border on the cushion matches the sashing in the quilt

Here’s the finished cushion. It’s a bit busy on the background of the quilt, but it looks amazing and I’m thrilled to pieces with it!

The finished cushion and the quilt

Here’s another shot of the cushion on the back of the quilt. Do you see why adding borders to the quilt block is essential when making a cushion cover? It allows you to round the corners off to make the dog ears less prominent. Take a good look at this cushion cover. Can you tell I rounded the corners? No!! But if I rounded the corner on the pinwheels, it would be more obvious. And you get to see the entire block. Notice how the quilt block stands out in the center of the cushion, and we can see the whole block. If I had used a 12” cushion form, the block edges would be on the sides of the cushion form and not nearly as visible. 

The cushion sitting on the back of the quilt

By the way, I consciously used the same fabric for the back of the cushion as I used for the back of the quilt. 

The back of the cushion matches the back of the quilt

There you have it. A great project to use up leftover HSTs or other small bits. I got a great design lesson from the process, and I now have a matching cushion for my quilt. 

A huge thank you to Riley Blake Designs for the gorgeous Blue Stitch collection. It just makes me happy when I look at the quilt. You can’t go wrong with classic blue and white. 

Guess what? I’ve got more to share with you! Remember the selvages I cut off as I worked on Block 2 of the Spectrum QAL 2020? Well, I have not one, but two projects I’ll share with you made using the selvages. Be sure to come back to see those!

Have a great day!


This is part 1 of 3 in this series

Go to part 2: Selvage edge zippered pouch tutorial: Blue Stitch

Related posts

Spectrum QAL Block 12 with Pam Voth: Delightful Collection by Riley Blake

Spectrum QAL Block 11 with Pam Voth: Delightful Collection by Riley Blake

Spectrum QAL Block 10 with Pam Voth: Delightful Collection by Riley Blake