Striped Kaleidoscope


  • Striped fabric – enough to cut four identical triangles each 17 1/2in x 9in.
  • 0.5m of toning fabric of similar weight – for back of cushion and frill.
  • 18in square of wadding.
  • 18in of lightweight cotton for backing of cushion top.
  • Five 3/4in buttons.
  • 16in cushion pad.

Finished Size

16in x 16in plus a 2in frill.

Skill Level


The basic technique for this cushion is strip piecing. Long strips of fabric are joined together to make a new fabric from which the four triangles that make the cushion square are cut.

Figure 1: Draw in the diagonals to make a cross
Figure 1: Draw in the diagonals to make a cross.

Paper template

  1. On a piece of paper at least 17in square (newspaper or wrapping paper will do), draw an accurate square in the centre measuring 16in x 16in. Draw in the diagonals to make a cross (Figure 1).
  2. Choose one triangle and draw a line around it 1/2in away to allow for turnings (Figure 2). Cut along this outer line to make the template.


  1. Furnishing fabric, provided it is not too heavy, is ideal for the cushion top as it is made to withstand the wear. You may find a striped fabric that you can use without too much strip piecing, as I did; all the stripes except the solid red one come from the same piece of curtain fabric.
  2. Alternatively, you can use a selection of pieces from your scrap bag, provided that all the pieces are of a similar weight. You can mix pattern with plain, perhaps choosing one pattern and finding plains to go with it. When you are looking for plains to go with the colours of a print, remember that a shade darker or lighter than the colour used in the print will often give life to the piece, rather than having an exact match. Before you start to cut, fold the fabrics and place them so that you can see how the strips will look.
  3. You need sufficient strips to make enough fabric to cut four identical triangles that each measure 17 1/2in x 9in. Err on the generous side. Depending on your fabric you may be able to make the right amount all in one length, but you are more likely to have to create two rectangles each about a yard long, as shown in Figure 3.
Figure 2: Draw a line 1/2in outside one triangle, to allow for seam allowance
Figure 2: Draw a line 1/2in for seam allowance.

Making up the cushion top

  1. Cut out the strips for the cushion top. Remember to take the 1/4in seam allowance into consideration when you are calculating the width and number of strips. Make some wide strips and some narrow ones to add variety. Measure each one carefully to ensure that the width along each strip does not vary.
  2. Machine stitch the strips together, right sides facing, along the long edges and press the seams open.
  3. Place the triangle template on the strip pieced fabric (Figure 3). Cut out the triangle; there is no need to add turnings because you added them for the template. Cut three more, making sure that the seams will come in the same places on all four pieces. Lay out the pieces to see what the cushion will look like.
  4. Piece two pairs of triangles (Figure 4), pinning them carefully to ensure that the stripes meet correctly. Tack and machine, allowing 1/2in seam allowance. Check that the joins meet correctly. Press the seams open.
Figure 3: Place triangle template on strip pieced fabric
Figure 3: Place triangle template on strip pieced fabric
  1. Stitch together these two large triangles, paying particular attention to the centre. Press the seam open.
  2. Layer the backing fabric, wadding and cushion top, and quilt. On the cushion shown, on the outer strips I quilted in the ditch (or along the edge of the stripes printed on the fabric), and on the inner strips I quilted a wavy line along the centre.
  3. Cut out the frill and cushion back from the fabric as shown in Figure 5, with two pieces for the back, each 17in x 10.5in, and four pieces for the frill, each 4in x 26in.
Figure 4: Stitch triangles together in pairs
Figure 4: Stitch triangles together in pairs
  1. To make the cushion back, turn under 1/4in of fabric, then 1 1/4in to make a hem down one long side of each back piece. If the fabric has a pattern, check that these hems will be in the right position when the back pieces are overlapped for the buttons and buttonholes.
  2. Stitch on the buttons on the hem of one back piece and make buttonholes in the hem of the other back piece. Fasten the buttons and treat the whole as one piece.
  3. To make the frill, join the short ends of the four pieces, right sides facing, making a circle, and press open the seams. Fold the strip in half along its length, wrong sides together, and press. Tack the edges together.
  4. Tack the frill to the front of the cushion top, with raw edges level, using a 1/2in seam allowance. The strip is considerably longer than the sides of the top, so make small pleats as you go, using the seams in the frill to help you divide up the surplus evenly.
  5. Place the right side of the cushion back to the right side of the top and stitch together with the top uppermost, using a 1/2in seam allowance.
  6. Press the seams, then turn the cushion cover through by unfastening the buttons. Press again when the right way out, and insert cushion pad.
Figure 5: Layout for cutting cushion back and frill
Figure 5: Layout for cutting cushion back and frill

Barbara's website can be found at

First published in Popular Patchwork Volume 6 Number 8 - January/February 1999