Making Silk Cushion Covers – Using Ready Made Ones or DIY?

I was prompted to write this article after an exchange with a lovely silk painting colleague about painting silk cushions. So thank you Christine for your inspiration.

It was about the question of using the silk cushion covers which are ready made or making your own from scratch. Well, this one may seem like a no-brainer. Those of you who like sewing will make the cushions from scratch and those of you who don’t like sewing or just can’t be bothered will go for the premade ones.

However, I am one of those artists who does both. And I wanted to share some pro’s and con’s of using either of these methods to create your gorgeous works of art.

So let’s start with the ready made ones. For those of you unfamiliar with them, I have a photo here of one for you to look at. The front and back panels are sewn together which means only one seam is closed. That’s where the zip is and you can make this either the top or bottom. You can stretch the 3 sides open cover on a frame and paint it to your heart’s desire. One advantage is that the shape is extremely easy to stretch (being a rectangle). Another advantage is that the zip is already sewn in which has to be a huge plus. The only thing that you have to do after fixing the dyes, is to fold the cover in half outside in, pin the edges and then sew the remaining 3 seams to complete your work. Iron the seams into the silk and then that’s you finished. You can turn it the right way round and pop a cushion pad inside.

That all sounds great and it is. However, I have found one or two niggly things that can spoil the look of the finished cushion. When you are painting the area around the zip you will find that the dye doesn’t get absorbed very cleanly into the silk, due to the double thickness of the fabric and the metal teeth lying underneath. I always put something inbetween the zip and the double layer of silk above it so that there is less marking.

Something else that can be a little bit messy is the area alongside the zip seams – the little holes where the needle punctured the silk. When you paint here, the colour can become uneven.

Tip: So this is what I do. On both sides of the zip close to the stitching I draw a straight gold line going full width of the cover. If there is any blotchiness and unevenness this stays within the enclosed area around the zip and doesn’t spread onto the rest of the cover. You can see this quite well in the photo.

There is one last thing to watch for. These covers are mass made and you will find the odd one that is rather irregular in shape which means that when you fold it over the two sides don’t match. That means you’ll have to take a ruler and measure out new edges to keep it all straight. It gets a bit tricky when the piece looks more like a rhombus than a rectangle. 🙂

On the whole, they cut down assembly time. No frustration at the overlock machine not performing correctly. So there’s a lot to be said for them.

And what about the other option, making the cushion cover completely from scratch? I rather like doing this. You can freely create your front panel in any way you choose. The back panel can then either be made in the same material or in something contrasting. I like brightly coloured dupioni silks for quite a classy look and durability.

As for the zip, you can pay someone who is well-versed in sewing to insert it into the panel for you. It’s a job that shouldn’t take more than 15-20 minutes for someone who knows what they are doing. And this won’t cost much at all. They might then even quickly overlock the 2 panels together for you. If you’re a hobby person who enjoys doing this sort of work, then it is no great hardship to do the complete sewing job yourself.

So the downside is that it takes quite a bit longer to put together and it involves sewing in a zip. The advantage is that the completed cushion is quite robust if you have chosen to use a sturdier silk for the back panel. And it will have a really unique look to it.

Whatever you choose to do, hand painted silk cushion covers are a beautiful addition to your living space and are certainly a topic of conversation when friends come around. And they are a great joy to create.

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