We first met Laurel Waldron when we worked with The Make Lounge in Islington. PR and fashion writer by day and seamstress, crafter and sewing teacher by night, Laurel is a lady with many talents. We always relish the chance to grasp the trickier techniques of a pro sewer, so we invited Laurel to share her cushion fringing, tassel and beading how-to…
Autumn is once more upon us and though the days may be getting shorter and wetter again I, for one, love it. Why? For it affords the perfect excuse to spend Sundays indoors at my beloved sewing machine, happily beavering away to a soundtrack of musicals! It’s also the perfect time of year to cosy up the home with some new cushions, quilts and throws, which brings me to a little something I’ve been working on recently…
If, like me, you are of the mindset that more is more, these cushions are for you. Think indulgent, luxurious, Great Gatsby-esque styling and you get the picture. Whilst Laura Ashley’s range of fabrics is just that, the addition of a few trims can transform something like a simple cushion into an object of wonder. The size of your cushion depends on the amount of fabric and trim you will need, but usually half a metre is more than enough. For the trim, measure around the four edges and then add an extra 15cm just to be on the safe side and allow for any mistakes.
For this I used the Kirin Stripe Marble Grey fabric, a crisp white cotton with wide silver grey silk stripe, teamed with a simple grey 8cm long fringe from Barnett Lawson (www.bltrimmings.com ).
1. First, draw yourself a pattern. Brown paper is the perfect weight for pattern cutting, but baking or wrapping paper would also be fine – just don’t use newspaper as the print will come off on your beautiful fabric! Measure out a pattern the size of your cushion pad, and then add 1cm to each edge for seam allowance. If you want your finished piece to look particularly plump, scrap that last 1cm addition for added fullness. Fold your fabric in half and pin the pattern piece on through both layers, being careful to keep it flat. Then cut out so you have a pair.
2. Place your two pattern pieces right sides together, and carefully insert the trim, in between the two layers. The fringe needs to be hanging down inside the cushion at this point so when it is turned the right side out it’s then on the outside. If the edging of your trim is wider than 1cm (your seam allowance) you may need to place it slightly higher than the edge of the fabric so it does not show through the seams. Pin in place, sandwiched between your two pieces of fabric.
3. When you come to a corner, this is where it gets a little fiddly. If you were to place the trim flat around a corner it would not ‘stretch’ around the corner when you turn the cushion the right way out. To overcome this, you must create a little fold in your trim at the corner to ensure a neat finish – see picture below. Do this by pinning straight along one edge to the corner, then folding the trim at 90 degrees to go down the next edge – a little fold will be created for you.
4. Once you have pinned three edges, stitch in place using a straight stitch and adhering to the 1cm seam allowance.
5. When you come to the final edge, you will need to leave a large portion of it open in order to get your cushion pad in. Stitch the trim and fabric together from about 5cm from each corner. Then, for the middle portion, stitch the trim down to one side of the fabric only. This will leave the edge open, but means the trim will be held in place so it is not slipping about when you try and hand stitch the hole up later.
6. Before turning through, trim across the corners at 45 degrees, being careful not to cut a hole in them. This gets rid of that little bit of excess fabric that would otherwise bunch up when you turn the cushion the right way out, and prevent you getting perfectly pointed corners! Insert your cushion pad.
7. Finally, pin the open edge and then hand stitch the hole closed using a slip stitch. It takes a little time but it is worth it for a professional finish!
The fundamental technique for working with trims is always the same, however depending on the thickness of them you may need to add a couple more steps. For the second cushion I used the Villandry Velvet in amethyst and a beautifully rich purple tasselled fringe (have a look in your local haberdashery for similar).
As it was an upholstery trim it was heavier, and therefore a bit trickier to work with than a lighter weight dressmaking trim, however with the right equipment it still produces a beautiful result.
As the edge of the trim is wider that the 1cm allowance, rather than placing the edge of the trim to the edge of the fabric, you will need to place the edge slightly above the seam allowance – see picture below – so that it doesn’t show through your seam. When working with a thicker fabric and trim, it is also important to use the right number of needle; finer, lower number (i.e. 60 or 70) needles are designed for lighter weight fabrics, whereas when working with heavier fabrics such as these a high number (such as 90 or 100) is required – working with a needle that is too fine will cause it to snap.
Corners can also be more bulky than when working with a lighter fabric or trim. The bulk of this trim didn’t allow for the folding used before, so you may find that you need to cut your trim and mitre the corners together. When you cut across them after finishing, you may also need to make the cuts deeper than with a lighter trim and zig zag the edge to prevent it from fraying (see image below).
Saving the best until last, my favourite was the Villandry Velvet in grey, trimmed with beading.
Once again, the main steps for creating the cushion are the same as for the first project. This trim was also only 1cm wide, so there was no need to allow for extra in the seam allowance as with the Tasselled Cushion – the edge of the trim can be placed flush with the edge of your fabric pieces.
When using a beaded trim and folding the trim to go around the corner (see Step 3 in the instructions above), depending on the spacing between your beads, you may find that there is too high a concentration of beads which could make it both difficult to sew and messy to look at.
This is easily rectified by removing some of the bead strings – but be warned! If you cut them and other rows are on the same thread everything will come undone, so be careful to cut from the bottom of a string, remove the beads, and then knot the leftover thread so that the rest of your beads don’t end up falling off (see picture below) It can then be finished in the same way as the other cushions.
I hope you enjoy some autumnal sewing afternoons!
Love Laurel x
For more information about sewing projects, commissions or private tuition visit Love Laurel or follow me on Twitter @LoveLaurel
Did you know that Laura Ashley sell fabric by the metre? To use our fabric for a crafty project of your own take a look at our full range of fabrics here