Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Pleated/tucked cushion

My inspiration was this "pintuck pillow" at the Long Thread.  I hesitate to call mine pintucks because they are quite wide really.  Hooray for maths, which helps you to make the cushion right first time, in any size!

Tucks are 1/4" and spaced by G as shown.

First, choose your finished cushion size, X.  Mine was 20.5" each side.  Then choose how many 1/4" tucks you want, Y.  I went for 16 tucks on my cushion.  For Y tucks, you'll have Y gaps between rows of stitching, and we want to work out how big these gaps will be by calculating G = X/Y.  For me, G = 20.5"/16 = 1 9/32", or 1 1/4", close enough.  When we make the tucks, we'll centre them on the cushion, so that there's a gap of G/2 at each side of the cushion before the tucks start.

How big should the fabric be?

Each 1/4" tuck uses 1/2" of fabric, and we also need to add 1/2" all round for the seam allowance when we cut the cushion back.  So approximately I'll need a piece X + Y*1/2" + 1" wide by X + 1" high.   For me this is 20.5" + 16*1/2" + 1" = 29.5" wide, by 20.5" + 1" = 21.5" high.  If you can, it's better to cut out a piece a few inches larger than this all round.  This is because it's easy for your tucks to pull light fabric off-square or for the piece to end smaller than you intended.  Just a 1mm error on each seam makes over 1/2" error by the time you have tucked the whole 16!  So do all the tucks in a bigger piece and cut it back to size at the end.

Making the tucks

You'll be making tucks parallel to the short edge of your fabric.  Each tuck is made by ironing the fabric wrong-sides together, then stitching a scant 1/4" from the fold.  This is quilter-speak for slightly smaller than 1/4", so that by the time the fabric is opened out and pressed then you have used 1/4" exactly.  This is because the stitching line never presses perfectly open (the fabric is not infinitely thin!).  After each tuck, I like to open the fabric out and press the fold toward one side.  I think it's satisfying to watch it come together, plus I love to iron.  But not laundry, that would be boring.  :-)

The first crease should be at least 1/2" + G/2 + 1/4" from one end.  This is the seam allowance, plus half-a-gap, plus the 1/4" tuck size.  I ironed my first crease more than 1/2" + (1.25"/2) + 1/4" = 1 3/8" from one end.   Actually, I probably did it 2" from the end because I'd given myself the wiggle-room discussed above.  Then, with the piece still folded wrong-sides together, I stitched the 1/4" seam as discussed.

It's then just a matter of pressing and stitching and pressing again for each tuck.  The next tuck should be made by pressing the fold in at a distance of G + 1/4" from the last stitching line, which for me was 1.5".  Then once you've stitched and pressed you'll find the stitching lines are separated by G.

A word on picking threads, as the stitch line is visible in this project.  Always take your fabric with you and look at a length of the thread unwound from the spool and lying over the fabric.  You're unlikely to get a good match without doing this, as the thread can look very different on the spool!  If in doubt, go a shade darker than the fabric, not lighter, as this will blend better.

Making up the cushion

Cut your front back to the intended size, for me this was 21.5" square (for a 20.5" cushion with 1/2" seam allowance all round).  I find a quilters' square, self-healing mat and rotary cutter are good for this job.  Make sure your tucks are central on the cushion front as you do this!

I added a button back to my cushion.  Details on how to do this (and fabric amounts) are here.

You can just stitch the front directly to the back, but I prefer the look of piping.  I made my own covered piping using strips of fabric and piping cord.  One is supposed to cut bias-strips at 45 degrees to the grain, as the fabric flexes and bends better, and I'd imagine wears better too.  However, I am cheap and ignored this as it leaves you with either (a) two very large annoying triangles of fabric left and an empty wallet, or (b) nearly used-up fabric, but piping with many seams in it, or else yards and yards of piping.  Anyway, more on piping in the aforementioned post on button backs.

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