This is a tutorial for my method of repurposing a wooly jumper (sweater) to make the backing for a crochet cushion cover.
I love to crochet cushion covers, I really do. It's an easily realised project that doesn't take too much time or yarn to create satisfying results. However, there's something slightly disheartening about crocheting a cushion back once you've already completed the front. It makes one sigh a little and cast about for an alternative. And so my idea for using an old recycled jumper was born, and this is how I like to make up all of my cushions.
Firstly a few general words about cushions and jumpers. I generally like my cushions to be on the generous side, so my covers are made to fit over a standard 18" (45cm) square cushion pad. And generally speaking, I would choose a feather filled pad over a polyester filled one cos I think they make for nicer, more satisfying plumpety-plump cushions. Just my own, humble opinion though.
So for this size of cushion, your jumper needs to be a reasonable size :: no skimpy-skinny woolens here I'm afraid. You need to look out for a UK clothes size 14 or above to be able to make this size of cushion. The jumper pictured above was labelled as a size 12/14, and it was the perfect size. And better still, you can usually (although not always) create two cushion backs from this size of jumper by using the sleeves as well as the back and front.
I also try to choose natural fibres to match whichever yarn I've used to crochet the front with. So in this case I'm using a pure wool jumper to go with the pure wool yarn I used for the crochet. My cotton crocheted covers have been backed with cotton jumpers.
To begin, you need to dissect your jumper.
Cut the arms away from the body, then trim off the ribbing around the neck and cut out the seams (you can throw these away). You will then be left with four pieces of flat material.
Now for each cushion you'll need to cut two rectangles to form an envelope-style back. The larger rectangle is cut from the back/front of the jumper, and the smaller one will come from one of the sleeves.
The finished back should measure approx half an inch bigger than your crochet all the way round :: so in this case, for an 18 inch cushion I need to make a 19 inch square for the backing..
First start with either the jumper front or back.
Using the bottom ribbed edge as your starting point, measure/cut out a rectangle which is 19 inches across the bottom edge, and 14 inches high, as shown above.
Now for the sleeve...open it out and cut out a rectangle measuring 19 inches across and approx 8 inches high (or as high as you can get it depending on the width of the sleeve), as shown above.
Making sure you have right sides facing uppermost, first lay out the small rectangle. Then place your large rectangle on top (with the ribbed edge at the top), overlapping it by 3 inches (or less if your smaller rectangle is shorter).
However much your overlap is, you should make sure the finished size of your cushion cover is right :: in this case 19 inches altogether.
Pin in place (or tack/baste of you prefer), as shown above.
The next stage is to do a little fray-prevention. I use the sewing machine to stitch a zig zag stitch around all four sides of the square. At the point where the two pieces overlap you will be zigzagging through both layers, which holds them nicely together. Don't worry too much about neatness...this stitching is just a small precaution to stop the raw wool edges from unraveling/fraying over time, but will not be seen of course.
You will be stitching the crochet front to the jumper back with right-sides-together.
So lay out your jumper square with right side uppermost.
Place your crochet square on top, with wrong side uppermost.
Pin the crochet front in place leaving a half inch allowance all the way around the edge, stretching out the crochet a little if you need to (picture above).
Now for the hand stitching :: use a darning needle and choose a yarn to match your jumper. Secure the yarn at the bottom corner, then working from right to left, make neat oversewing stitches going through each loop of the crocheted edge (as above).
Make the stitching as neat and straight as you can, remembering to keep the crocheted edge about half an inch from the zigzagged jumper edge.
The word I like to keep in my mind when doing this stitching is "Homespun". This does not need to be perfect immaculate stitching folks. So long as it is reasonably straight and you are catching through most the loops with no big gaps it'll be fine.
Remember that when you get to the bit where you have the 3 inch overlap, you should stitch through both layers of the jumper.Stitch all the way round all four sides until you come back to where you started.
Now you can turn the cushion cover so that the right sides are outermost, pushing out the corners as best as you can. See in the above picture, you can see my wooly hand stitches, and the corner is a bit on the round side, but on the whole it looks OK.
Right....now for the button edging/fastening.
As in the picture above, you'll be crocheting directly into the ribbed edge of the jumper to make this edging. Don't be daunted...it's easy I promise.
Choose your yarn :: I always go for a contrasting colour, but there's no reason why you shouldn't match the edging yarn to the jumper colour if you prefer.
Choose your hook :: it'll be much easier to crochet this edging using a smaller hook, say a 3.5mm, as the hook end is more pointed and will push through the jumper more easily. It also makes for a tighter/neater buttonhole edge when worked on a smaller hook.
I'm really sorry I didn't think to photograph this next bit, so I hope you can get what I mean.......Thread the end of your yarn onto a darning needle, and on the right hand side of the ribbed edge, insert your needle (from the outside) into the seam. Now turn the cushion cover inside out and pull the needle through to the back/inside of the cushion cover where you can do a few overstitches to secure the yarn end on the inside seam allowance. When you turn your cushion cover back round the right way, your yarn should then be coming out of the cushion at the seam ready to begin hooking on the far right edge, as shown above.
You will be working a line of double crochet (US single crochet), using the ribbing as a guide for the spacing. So insert your hook into the jumper, as shown above....
Continue to work along making your dc/sc stitches, inserting your hook into each "space" of the jumper rib, as near to the edge as you can. Keep your tension quite loose so that the whole thing doesn't become too tight. When you get to the end, chain 1 and turn your work.
You'll now be working with the wrong side facing you, as shown above.
Before you begin on the second row, you'll need to do a little maths to calculate the spacing between the buttons. I'm so sorry if this is going to seem complicated, but I'll explain it as best as I can.
First count the number of dc/sc stitches you just made in the first row...mine was 55.Now decide how many buttons you're going to use...I used 6 x 18mm buttons.
Six buttons means seven spaces, right?? (if it makes you feel any better, I had to draw this out on paper to check).
So you need to divide the total number of stitches by the number of spaces...in my case it was 55 / 7 = 8 (well almost 8, it was actually 7.8 so I rounded it up).
Therefore, using this calculation, I knew that my button hole loops had to happen roughly every 8 stitches.
Working out of the stitches of the previous row, work 7 dc(sc) stitches.
Chain 3, as above (this is your button hole loop)
Now skip a stitch (the 8th stitch where your button is gonna go), as pictured above.
Work 7 dc/sc stitches, *chain 3, skip the next stitch, work 7 dc/sc stitches*
Repeat between **, working your way along till you reach the end of the row. Fasten off.
You should have 6 button hole loops, reasonably evenly spaced.
To finish, thread the end of your yarn onto a darning needle take the yarn through the seam from front to back, so that your end goes through to the inside/wrong side. Turn the cushion cover inside out and work a few overstitches into the seam allowance (as you did when you started) to secure the end.
And there you have it.......a neat(ish) row of evenly(ish) spaced button hole loops!!
Now using some pins and the button holes as a guide, make a row of markers to show where the buttons will need to be sewn on.
Stitch the buttons on securely....
Was it worth the effort?? Are you loving the wooly-buttony-goodness?
Ps...a little note about making a ripple cushion....it's not possible to hand stitch this cushion in the same way as I've described above. When I made my ripple cushion, I simply placed the right sides together and machine stitched it all the way around, making the stitches as close to the edge of the crochet as I could. On the two wavy ripply sides, you will need to stitch across in a straight line, ignoring the ups and downs of the rippled edge, does that make sense???As always, if you come into any difficulty with your cushion-making, please just leave me a comment and I'll try to help as best as I can.
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xx Thank you xx