Prepping Fabric: Amy Butler Floor Cushions

Our TV room really isn’t big enough for lots of furniture.  So I thought the floor cushions I saw in Amy Butler’s in Stitches would be a great solution.  Plus I could use some cool fabrics to make them.  I decided to do a test run making a floor cushion for E’s room.  It turned out to be super easy.  You cut two big squares out of muslin, sew it together and stuff it and make a pillow, then sew up the cushion fabric and slip it over.  Attach the buttons (with a 5 inch doll-making needle) and voila!  It made me laugh that this, of all projects, was the one I decided I needed to do a test run on since it’s probably the easiest thing I’ve ever made.  Little E seems to really like the zoo pattern too and bouncing on his pillow.  He’s also trying to pull out the buttons so I’m glad I followed the instructions to use extra-strong upholstery thread.  He’ll get bored with it soon enough so I’m not too worried about it.  By the way, the Fabric is Alexander Henry’s 2D Zoo in the Pool Colorway–bought at Purl Soho.







So, I decided to move on to making the grown-up’s cushions.  I ordered some Joel Dewberry Ginseng fabric from Quilt Arts–it was on sale which I took as a sign.  Last Friday night I sat down and decided to try to “block” the fabric the right way.  Normally I try to just cut it so the pattern repeats are nicely centered, but apparently fabric wears better if you cut it along the grain.  I tried the “pull a thread method–you pull the threads on the edges to even it up–when you can pull one thread off from edge to edge, you know you’ve straightened the fabric (fabric tends to get off while it’s sitting in the bolts).  That did not work–perhaps because it was upholstery weight?  I’m not sure.  So I tried the slightly more risky snip and tear method–snip into the selvage (the finished edge of the fabric, if you think of the two sides as being what is cut out for you by the store, this is the top and bottom and doesn’t ravel), and rip along the grain line.  Once I got over the fear of destroying my fabric (you have to be careful or it can split the wrong way) it went quickly.  It was kind of fun and given how thin the strip started out and how wide it got, it was easy to see just how much the fabric needed straightening.

Fabrics for floor cushion


So far so good?  Not exactly:  It would seem like pattern should be evenly printed across the entire edge of the fabric–that is, each repeat should be cut across at exactly the same poitn along the lenght of the tear.  In other words, that little butterfly and that flower should be the same across the entire fabric.  But as you can see, this is not the case.  Does this mean the fabric has been printed improperly?  Is this the design (seems unlikely)?  Did I do it wrong (I don’t think so:  I checked the fabric by threading it after I ripped and was able to pull the one single strand from edge to edge, indicating that I had properly straightened).  Joel Dewberry falls in the category of “designer fabrics” so I would have thought it would be printed on grain. 

Half a butterfly to the right of the grey flower
Half a butterfly to the right of the grey flower
Just a little bit of the butterfly

Just a little bit of the butterfly

When you fold selvage to selvage on the other hand, it seems to work perfectly–you can see how the pattern repeat is cut across by the fold at exactly the same spot up and down the length of the crease. 

Anyone have any thoughts?  Is this common?  I think I will just cut it so it “looks right” and forget about the grain line for now.  But I am curious about whether I’m doing this right or what’s going on.  All the sewing manuals absolutely insist you MUST do this.  Not such a big deal in this case (it’s just pillows) but I can see how it would matter if you are making clothing…And not to beat up too much on Joel Dewberry, I tried this with some other fabrics for projects I can’t yet post about (gifts–nothing more dramatic than that) and the same problem.

Ah well.


2 thoughts on “Prepping Fabric: Amy Butler Floor Cushions

  1. Sara – You had me with the photo of Little E. What a handsome child.

    On the prepping and grain-straightening of fabric, I must say I’ve sewn pretty intensively over the years, and have had no true disasters related to grain or uneven patterns, even without being as careful as I should have been. On plaids, geometrics, and t-shirt-type knits , I’ve sometimes had to find a pattern line and fold the fabric along that, rather than selvage-to-selvage.

    I can remember as a kid helping my mother straighten uncut pieces of wool and other heavy fabrics before she cut out the pattern pieces. My sister and I would take diagonal ends of the uncut length of fabric and pull on them, then we’d take a good look, and perhaps fold it, to see if we’d gotten it straight. But I think that most machine-woven fabric these days is fairly straight, grain-wise. It’s the printing of the pattern that is more likely to be off.

    Just get it as straight as you can, visually, and then cut, and enjoy it. Match patterns along seams, to the extent it’s possible given the curve or angle of how two pieces fit together, and you’ll be OK.

    Pillows are great for splashes of color, and tying disparate pieces of furniture together in a room, and just for comfort, too. See how comfy Little E is!

    Frantzie Couch
    Lawton, OK

    • Thanks Frantzie! You are a master (mistress?) of many trades! I figure, like you, it makes more sense to go with what looks good–I can always use the straightening to good effect with solid fabrics in the future. I’m going to try my first sewing project for myself soon too, as soon as I can get someone to help me take my measurements to figure what on earth my size is (those pattern sizes have no basis in reality!). My husband may be drafted but he is not too excited, stating “is this something I could get in trouble for?” So we’ll see. I’m glad to know you’re there to provide some guidance on the sewing as well as the cooking angle!

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