Simple Squares


These material quantities are sufficient to allow for the odd cutting mistake

  • Scraps of patterned blue (at least 10cm worth)
  • 10cm of fuchsia pink
  • 20cm of mottled purple
  • 20cm of mottled blue
  • 30cm of blue for cushion back
  • 50cm cushion pad for plump cushion

Note: Seam allowances are 1⁄4in for imperial and 1cm for metric do not mix measurements stick to one or the other

Finished Size

49cm (19in)

Where to buy

  • If you dont want to dye your own fabrics then choose fabrics with a similar mottled effect in your local quilt shop
  • Other fabrics can be used for fussy cutting too, try flowers. geometric patterns or animals
  • Dyes are available mail order from Kemtex on 01257 230220. A starter kit with four colours is available. For details of other products see

Getting Started

  1. Fussy cutting is a technique where you use a paper window to select the best piece of fabric for an area. Cut a hole 2in (5cm) square in the middle of a piece of A4 paper. Spread out the patterned fabric and move the hole over the fabric until you find an area you like, put a pin in the middle and continue selecting areas.
  2. When you have found eight different sections, check to see that you can cut a 2 1⁄2in (7cm) square from each of them without cutting into the next one. Use a small 2 1⁄2in square ruler to cut the eight squares from the fabric. If the children are helping, you can draw the 2 1⁄2in (7cm) square on the reverse using the pins as guides and they can cut out with scissors.
  3. Cut five 2 1⁄2in (7cm) squares from mottled purple. Assemble into a nine patch using the photo for guildance. Children can hand sew the patches following a line or you can sew by machine; it depends on the ages of the children. First, join the pieces for the top row into one line and repeat for the middle and bottom sections. Then join the three sections into one piece.

Handy Hint! Press the seams on the top and bottom rows to the left and the middle to the right. When you come to join together, the seam allowances should nestle together nicely

  1. Cut four strips of pink 6 1⁄2 x 2 1⁄2in (17 x 7cm). To both ends of two strips sew the remaining four blue patches. Press the seam towards the pink strips, away from the corners.
  2. Sew the two pink strips with no ends to two opposite sides of the centre nine patch, press towards the pink border. Sew the strips with corners to the remaining two sides. The corners should meet nicely.
  3. Cut two strips of mottled purple 10 1⁄2in x 2 1⁄2in (27 x 7cm) and two 14 1⁄2 x 2 1⁄2in (37 x 7cm). Sew the two short strips to opposite sides of the centre panel. Press towards the purple border and then sew the remaining two longer strips to the last two sides.
  4. Cut four strips of blue 3 x 14 1⁄2in (8.5 x 37cm). Cut four corner pieces 3in (8.5cm) square from patterned blue again choosing the sections carefully as you did in step 1. Sew the corner squares to both ends of two blue strips and press towards the corners.
  5. Sew the two blue strips without corners to the sides of the centre panel and press the seam towards the border. Sew the remaining two pieces to the last two sides and press the completed centre well.


  1. This simple cushion has no backing and quilting, but if you wanted you could cut a piece of wadding and backing fabric and add some quilting detail. Detail could be added to the pattern or simple straight rows through the borders. Younger quilters could also add detail with puffy paints or fabric pens and perhaps a sequin or two!
  2. Cut your cushion back fabric into two pieces 12 x 21in (30 x 55cm). Neaten the two longer sides by pressing under a 1⁄4in (1cm) hem and pressing under the same amount again. Stitch in place with a row of machine or hand stitching.
  3. Lay your pieced cushion front right side upwards and place the two cushion back sections on top right sides down. Overlap the hemmed edges in the centre to give a piece just larger than the cushion front. Stitch all round using the edge of the cushion front as a guide not the backing fabric. Trim away the excess and clip the corners to reduce the bulk. Turn through the gap in the cushion back. Give the corners a poke with a blunt pencil to make them look nice and square. Insert the cushion pad and admire your finished cushion.

Tips for working with younger children

  • Dont even think about seam allowances or worry about wobbly seams
  • Never unpick anything
  • For an easier version, ignore the corner squares and sew the border strips in place and then cut to fit each time. This helps if you have ignored the seam allowances! You could add opposite sides together as here or work round the cushion clockwise which would be more like a log cabin effect
  • Let the children choose their own fabric choices even if you dont think they go. Dont try to guide them: they will be much happier with the result if it is what they want rather than what you think is suitable

Tie Dyeing

Tie dye is a good summer activity as you can work on the lawn and not worry about spillages.

Before you begin

Make sure you are wearing old clothes that wont matter if they get a bit of extra colour this will happen however careful you are.

Remember that dyes are chemicals and while not dangerous should always be treated with caution. With small children ALWAYS mix the dye powers beforehand and let them work with just the liquid as the dyes are harmful in powder form if inhaled. Always wear a face mask when mixing the dyes (sold in diy shops), especially if you/they are prone to asthma.

Follow the instructions that come with your dyes. Whichever sort you use, some sort of fixative is usually needed. Without this, the colour will washout again. Dylon tins of cold water dye can be used or use Procion dyes from a specialist supplier. You can mix the colours. If you buy a blue and a pink, you can mix to produce a purple. If you have some old t-shirts you can dye those at the end of the session too.

To make the patterns

Small circles are made by tying something in a bunch of fabric. Try different size buttons, ceramic baking beans, bits of gravel and rock. Coins are good too, 5p and 1p are recommended. For children too young to tie knots tightly, try elastic bands (the postmen drop them and it is a good game to see how many you can pick up on one walk), round a wedge of fabric. Lakeland Klippits too can be used on folded fabric to produce strong lines. For the mottled effect shown here the fabric was torn into strips and plaited and then dunked in the dyes. Use a polyester or thicker crochet thread for the knots as this doesnt break as easily.

The dyes will always dry lighter so leave them in for the recommended time. Wash out the dyes and leave to dry with the knots still in. When the fabric is dry you can cut away the knots or remove the elastic bands and admire your fabrics.

First published in Popular Patchwork Volume 14 Number 8 - August 2006