For me, craft and feminism go hand in hand– and these cushion covers, as well as being practical, bright and pleasingly kitsch, celebrate some of the sassiest sisters in our history.
Made from felt and all the fun bits from your stash, these ladies are easily customisable so you can create your own icons – have a look at my list. I want a Dolly Parton cushion so badly! The cushions would make the perfect present for anyone who appreciates a little hussy in their homeware.
Ladies to lounge (on)
Rosie the Riveter
Mad Men’s Peggy Olsen
Just Sew Stories by Katie Allen, £16.99, published by Hardie Grant, available at Amazon.
© 2022 Katie Allen / Hardie Grant Books · Reproduced with permission.
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You Will Need
Making the cushion cover
These loose cushion covers are essentially a rectangle
folded around, with one end tucked inside the other, so
there is no need for zips or any other fastenings. Yay!
1. Press your white rectangle and coloured rectangle, and
place one on top of the other. Pin in place. Sew around
the four sides leaving a 1.5 cm (5?8 inch) seam allowance.
Leave a gap of about 10 cm (4 inches) on one edge.
2. Cut off the four corners (being careful not to cut the
stitching) and turn the cushion right side out through the
gap. Poke the corners out with something pointy like a
pencil or chopstick.
3. Press the rectangle flat, folding in the raw edges of the
gap. Sew the gap closed.
Making your lady
1. Draw a template for the head and shoulders of your lady
on a piece of paper. I drew a rough oval, approx 20 cm
(8 inches) tall and 15 cm (6 inches) wide with a small neck
and shoulders approx 20 cm (8 inches) wide. it doesn’t
have to be perfect! Cut out.
2. Press your felt and pin the template in place. Cut out.
3. Now it’s time to make your lady’s face. Copy my
cushions on p. 91, or make your own by looking up
photos of your lady online or in books.
Sketch an eye, eyebrow and nostril shape on to paper
and cut out. If you need help, use my diagrams
opposite. Use these as templates to cut out of black or
brown felt – then turn the template over and cut out
another set. Now is the time to trim your shapes to
make them more idiosyncratic – Frida Kahlo had a
mighty monobrow for example.
4. Fold a piece of paper in half and draw half a mouth on
one side. Cut out, and use your symmetrical template to
cut a mouth shape out of red or pink felt.
5. Assemble your pieces on the head-shaped piece of felt.
Remember that eyes are actually located half-way down
the head. Carefully tweak the angles of your pieces to
adjust your lady’s expression – one eyebrow higher than
the other for a saucy minx, tilted eyes for a sad or in charge
look. Use pins to keep them in place until you are
happy with the position, then fix with a little fabric glue.
Hand sew the facial features in place with matching
thread, then take out the pins.
6. Trim the sides of your head shape to make the face look
more like your lady – she may have slimmer cheeks or a
7. Choose a large piece of felt for the hair, place the head
shape on top and pin in place. Sketch out the shape of
the hair using dressmaker’s chalk and cut out. If you are
creating a fringe, cut out a forehead-sized piece from
the hair-coloured felt, using the head piece as a
template. Then place the hair on top of the head, and
trim to the length you desire. Pin in place.
This is the fun bit – it’s time to rummage through your stash
for all the gaudiest, most glittery beads and ribbons you
Making the cushion
1. Place your cushion pad in the centre of your fabric
rectangle, on the wrong (white) side. Fold the remaining
fabric around it. The idea is that you are creating a tight
envelope, with one side tucked under the other.
2. O nce you feel that it is in the right place, pin it and mark
with a fabric pen on the coloured AND the white cotton
where the top piece of fabric rests on the under piece.
3. Turn the cushion over. Place your lady in the centre.
Once you are sure of her position, pin her in place.
4. Turn the cushion over again, and take out all the pins.
5. N ow it’s time to sew your lady on. Using a ‘skin’-
coloured thread and zigzag stitch on the machine, follow
around the outside shape of her head. Sew around the
outside of her face. Remove the pins.
How to make ribbon flowers
Cut a length of ribbon, about 10 cm
(4 inches) long.
Knot a piece of thread and stitch loosely but
neatly along one edge of the ribbon.
When you reach the end, pull the thread and
push gently on the ribbon so it gathers into a
rosette shape. Stitch together through the
centre, tucking in raw ends.
Finishing the cushion
1. Place the cushion cover piece right side up, and fold the
two sides in as before but inside out. Match up the top
flap with the marks you made before. Pin in place.
2. N ow stitch along the top and bottom edges of your
cushion cover, leaving a 1 cm (3?8 inch) seam allowance.
3. Turn your cushion cover the right way around, poking
out the corners with a pencil or chopstick. Give it a good
4. N ow stuff your cushion pad inside – it should be snug
but moveable. And you’re done!