Fun and Funky

Materials

  • 25cm each of a selection of at least 10 cotton fabrics for the top and piping – Anne used 13 different fabrics in three contrasting colours
  • 60cm of medium-weight calico for the base layer of the blocks
  • Embroidery threads to coordinate/contrast with the fabrics – Anchor Alcaza threads were used here
  • Bobbin thread
  • 25cm each of three faux suede fabrics for the cushion back to coordinate with the top
  • 50cm (20in) open-ended polyester zip
  • 2.8m of #5 piping cord
  • Cotton and polyester threads
  • 65cm square cushion pad will give a nice plump cushion
  • Freezer paper

Note: 1⁄2in seam allowances have been used throughout

Finished Size

63cm (25in) square

Skill Level

Beginner

You can download a pdf copy of the original magazine pages for this project here, Fun and Funky

A painting by the Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky (Colour Study: Squares with Concentric Circles, 1913) inspired the design for this bold cushion. Reverse appliqué by machine is an easy technique to work but it does use a lot of fabric, as there are multiple layers. If you have pieces of fabric in your stash that are at least 10in square then you could make a casual ‘scrappy’ version.

Preparation

  1. Cut 8in pieces of freezer paper on which to draw your appliqué motifs (this is smaller than the block size). To give the design harmony, only three variations of asymmetrical ‘circles’ were used, although one was also used in reverse for which a separate pattern was prepared: the patterns can be reused. Draw your design freehand so that you have three ‘layers’ (concentric circles) plus the background. (Note that one motif has the central circle divided into two, giving five layers in total.) Mark registration lines on each layer before cutting out, keeping the outer layer intact. See Figure 1.
  2. Cut out nine 10in squares of calico for your base layers, assuming that you have one five-layered block.
  3. Cut out a selection of 10in squares of cotton fabrics: Anne found it easiest to plan the layers for the blocks as she went along, so don’t cut too many squares out when you start off.

The Applique Blocks

TIP! Crisp, tightly woven fabrics are much easier to cut back than ‘soft’ cottons, which tend to fray

Figure 1: Ideas for Template Shapes
Figure 1: Ideas for Template Shapes
  1. Select the layers for your first block. Remember that some of the fabrics will only have small amounts exposed. Also bear in mind the contrast between adjacent layers. Make a note of your chosen arrangement.
  2. Layer the fabrics, RS up, with calico on the bottom and then the lightest to darkest, bottom to top where possible. If you have a light fabric as your top (background) layer, don’t place it on the darkest fabric as it will show through. Tack the layers together.
  3. Place the outer layer of your freezer paper pattern onto the top square, making sure that it is placed centrally. Iron in place and then mark the stitching line onto your fabric using a quilter’s pencil. Iron the next layer in place, matching up the registration marks, and draw the next stitching line, and so on until all lines are marked. Remove the freezer paper pattern and put to one side to reuse.
  4. Fill your bobbin with bobbin thread and select an appropriate embroidery thread to coordinate/contrast with the layers that will be exposed – most likely the top thread will be different for each stitching line. Use a size 90 needle and be prepared to change it often as you will be stitching through five layers of fabric, which will soon blunt the point. Set your machine to a wide, close satin stitch. It’s a good idea to stitch a test sample to make sure you are happy with the stitching, and keep a note of your settings for future reference.
  5. Stitch around all of the stitching lines, overlapping the last 1⁄4-1⁄2in for security; take the threads to the back of the block and tie off.
  6. Now the fun bit! Carefully cut away the top fabric/s to expose your chosen layout
  7. Repeat to make eight more blocks. Trim the blocks to 9 1⁄2in square, making sure that your motifs are centred.
  8. Join the blocks into three rows of three using a 1⁄2in seam allowance and press the seams open. Join the rows in the same way. Remove the tacking apart from that around the outer edges of the cushion top.
Cushion front
Cushion front

Cushion Back

  1. Cut three 9 1⁄2in squares from each piece of faux suede. Lay out into a pleasing three by three arrangement. As faux suede is a synthetic fabric it is best to join these blocks with polyester thread; use a size 90 needle and, if you have one, a Teflon foot, as this will minimise the risk of the fabric sticking to the foot as you stitch. Join the blocks into rows using a 1⁄2in seam allowance and finger press apart.
  2. Using a zipper foot insert the zip centrally between two rows of blocks, concealing it in the seam. Stitch the remainder of the seam at either end of the zip. Join the final row of blocks to this piece.

Piping and Finishing

  1. A ‘scrappy’ piping has been made with the fabrics used in the cushion top. You need to cut and join enough 1 3⁄4in wide bias strips (which will give a 1⁄2in seam allowance) to go around the cushion plus a few inches overlap. Join the strips using diagonal seams, pressed open to reduce bulk.
  2. Encase the piping cord centrally in the binding strip, matching up the raw using a longish stitch and an approx. 1⁄4in seam allowance.
  3. Attach the piping to the RS of the cushion top: use a normal stitch length and stitch about 1⁄4in from the piping. Line up all the raw edges, but curve the piping around the corners – you can mark a line to follow using a saucer or something similar. As you stitch around the corners you may need to clip the piping seam allowance to ensure the piping lies flat. Start stitching a few inches from the beginning of the piping. When you get near to your starting point, cut the top fabric strip so that the ends overlap by 1in, folding under 1⁄4in on the top piece. Cut the piping cord so that the ends butt up. Insert the beginning ‘tail’ into the top piece and finish stitching the piping to cushion top.
  4. Join the cushion front and back by placing RS together; undo the zip slightly, keep the cushion front uppermost. Stitch as close to the piping as possible by using a zipper foot. Trim the cushion corners, remove the tacking, and then turn RS out and insert the cushion pad.
Cushion back
Cushion back

First published in Popular Patchwork November 2005