Retro Cushions


Depending on the variety of patterns andtones (or scraps) you wish to use, thesequantities will give you plenty of scope forvarying the patterns:

  • Four different fat quarters of coordinating fabrics
  • Coordinating thread
  • Isometric paper (from all good stationers)
  • Card
  • Tacking thread
  • Fabric for the inner cushion
  • Stuffing

Finished Size

14in (35cm)

Skill Level


You can download a copy of the original magazine pages for this project here, Retro Cushions

When every home magazine we look in is full of patchwork re-live your early enthusiasm for paper piecing with these colourful, nowadays so trendy, cushions.


  1. This cushion can be made with any size hexagons. If you have forgotten your school maths lessons here is how you construct a hexagon with a pencil and compass..
Figure 1
Figure 1: How to construct any size hexagon
  1. For a 2in hexagon open your compass by 1in and draw a circle. Without changing the position of your compass, place the point on the circumference of the circle and draw two arcs on the circumference where the pencil point touches.
  2. Now place the point on one of these arcs and draw two more arcs. Continue in this way until you have six arcs crossing the circumference.
  3. With a ruler and pencil join these six points and you have your hexagon. Cut out. This is your master template. Draw round this onto paper for the templates you will use in your sewing. You could use isometric paper instead.

Sewing the Hexagons

  1. Janet has used two methods. One is the traditional method of sewing through the paper but this does blunt your needles very quickly, so Janet has devised a method that does not involve actually sewing through the paper.
  2. First make your templates. If you don’t have isometric paper construct your own hexagon as above. Janet chose to make small cushions and used a 2in hexagon. The cushion will be seven times the size of the template used, therefore at the widest point Janet’s cushion is 14in.
Figure 2
Figure 2: Traditional method of tacking over papers
  1. Traditional method. Cut out 49 paper templates from thick paper for each side of the cushion (magazine covers are ideal). Pin the paper templates onto the WS of the fabric and cut out with scissors, leaving a 1⁄4in seam allowance all round. Fold the fabric over the template and tack all round through the fabric and paper. Make sure you keep the fabric tight to the edge of the template without folding the paper inside. Figure 2.
  2. New method. Try this method, which avoids sewing through paper, blunting your needle and having a stiff piece of work to fight with. Pin the template onto the WS of the fabric as before and cut out with a 1⁄4in seam allowance all round. Fold the fabric over the paper as before but this time do not stitch through the paper. Make a small back stitch on the first corner and then take your needle to the next corner. Continue in this way and after six stitches it’s done. Press it with a hot iron, slip the paper out and it’s ready for the next one. If you have 15 or so papers you don’t have to sit at the ironing board! Make your 98 pieces.
Figure 3
Figure 3: New method back stitching the hexagon corners
  1. Whichever method you choose to use you should now be ready to make the flowers. Put two hexagons RS together and overstitch them using a coordinating thread. Each flower has a contrasting centre so take care to add the hexagons to the correct sides. Press each flower well. Continue until you have seven flowers for each side of the cushion.
  2. When you have enough flowers make up each cushion side. You must arrange the flowers on each side in exactly the same way if the two sides are going to fit together. Follow the layout in Figure 4. Press each side well.

Finishing the Cushions

  • Put the two cushion sides RS together, placed so that you don’t have any hexagons of the same colour meeting. When the sides are positioned correctly you should be able to see six complete hexagons from the underneath side poking out. Fold these over. Turn your work and do the same with the six hexagons poking out on the other side. You should now have a straight edged hexagonal shape.
  • Stitch the front and back together along five sides. Press your work. Now is the time to remove either the paper templates if you have used the traditional method or the tacking stitches if you have used the alternative method. Leave the paper/tacking stitches in at the opening for a while longer. Turn your cushion cover the right way out.
  • Janet suggests not trying to insert a zip, as the opening is too small (a zip that goes round two sides can distort the shape). Instead make the inner cushion to the correct size, remembering to leave a gap, and insert it into the cushion cover empty. Then stuff it and close the gap. Finally, close up the gap of the outer cushion, removing the papers/tacking stitches as you go.
  • If you have a collection of unfinished hexagons languishing in a cupboard from your early patchwork days then this could be the ideal project to use some of them up, and if they are from the 1970s even better, as the colours and fabrics are back in fashion!
Layout Diagram
Figure 4: Layout diagram

First published in Popular Patchwork January 2006