Saturday, 21 February 2009

I made this! - Birdcage Cushion

So far this has been my most adventurous creation. A birdcage cushion for my friend. Have had a great response on flickr so I thought I would post a mini how-to for making a piped cushion. As usual I spent a while digging around online to see how to do piping so I hope this is useful to some!

On this piece I used my favourite Romo Sapporo heavyweight linen/cotton as the front and a fine mink linen (used to be a blouse) for the back. The piping was a lime green linen blend which was quite stretchy. The design was inspired by my friends necklace (the friend I gave this cushion to). I liked the idea of enclosing the appliqué in stitching so I embroidered the back of the cage first, then appliqued the bird and then stitched over the front bars!

I've included a couple of detail shots too of the appliqué and the buttons as it always helps to have a closer nose at how things are made!

Here goes . . .

  1. Once you have cut your fabric (and embellished with appliqué, beading etc) make your piping. With mine I cheated and didn't cut on the bias - this way I was able to use a really long length with only one join. It depends on your fabric really - but as this was already stretchy I got away with it. (Piping Tip - don't sew to close to the piping cord - try to leave about 3-4mm - this way you can hide this stitching in your seam - see point 7.
  2. Pin your piping facing inwards onto the front of your cushion as shown. I just judged everything by eye - but you can always measure to make sure everything is keeping square.
  3. On the corners snip up close to the stitching on your piping to enable it to curve - you can choose whether to create a sharp corner or rounded corner - don't worry if the piping looks too scrunched up as when the cushion is turned the right way out the piping will stretch out.
  4. Once pinned in position you will be left with the ends meeting eachother - don't panic! Take time to work out where the cords meet and just trim the cords not the fabric on the piping - it helps if you have about an inch of raw cord poking out one end and a hollow "sleeve" of fabric coming off the other end. It's a little fiddly but tuck in the end of the sleeve (to hide the raw edge of fabric) and then poke through the raw cord from the other end. If you cut your cord right both ends should meet and sit flat nicely. If you feel it is too bulky trim off any excess fabric from the piping - but make sure you leave enough to tuck in the sleeve and to hide the raw cord!! Pin in place - once stitched this should all hold in place nicely - see my detail shot of my ends.
  5. OK - using a zipper foot (or even better a piping foot if you have one) set you needle to the left so that your zipper foot isn't squashing your piping too much but so that you stitching will fall slightly inside your stitching on your piping. I found I hade to push my piping sideways towards the needle when sewing to prevent the foot pushing my piping in too far - but be careful not to sew through you fingers doing this (it hurts!!).
  6. Once you have sewn all the way around it is time to place your backing in position.(I had already cut and sewn two flaps with buttonholes for the back - but this will vary depending on what kind of closure you have chosen). Place the back face down on top of your piping to make a piping sandwich. Put a few temporary pins in the hold the position but turn the whole cushion over to pin the fabrics together (so that the inside of the front section is uppermost). This will make sense in a minute . .
  7. Once you are happy with your pinning - make sure that your piping is still facing in towards the centre - you can do this by feeling through the fabric. Now this is the tip I searched for hours for - all you have to do is to use your stitched line (from where you sewed the piping to the front of the cushion) as a guide and follow it all the way around. If possible try to sew in from this line - that way you will create nice crisp piping and hide the lines of stitching from your piping and the front cover all in one fell swoop - fantastic!!
  8. When you have finished sewing trim off the excess fabric to neaten up and to improve the seams when reversed and triangle cut the corners to reduce the bulk.
  9. Now you can add your buttons if needed (Tip - put in the cushion pad first to judge where the buttons should go!)
Hope you found this useful - let me know if this has helped!


  1. Shelly, thanks for the how to! I've never tried piping and you really inspired me. I love your bird cage pillow!

  2. I like the way you've done this posting, very informative, great close up pictures and the cushion cover is delightful.

  3. Thanks guys! Nice to get some feedback. Still struggling with the formatting - but hopefully this info will help some people that are looking for any tips and tricks as I was a few weeks ago!

  4. I love this cushion, great instructions too!