Split Square Cushion Pair

It has been a while since I have made any cushions, but some of our cushions around the house need refreshing, so in the next few months I’ll be making several, in amongst my other projects.

The trigger for these two cushions was Mary Etherington and Connie Tesene’s new book Sew Charming – Scrappy Quilts from 5″ Squares  (published by Martingale), which contains smallish projects using charm squares or scraps. Mary is running quilt-alongs from the book on her Country Threads Chicken Scratch Blog, and the first pattern was Split Square. The pattern in the book is for a wall-hanging or table topper, but I decided to make two cushions instead.


Mary and Connie’s latest book

I don’t have many Charm packs – when I buy fabric it is usually in 1/2 metre lengths.  Irresistible bundles, well they tend to be fat quarters. But I do have a few…

The pack I used was Lilac Hill by Brannock and Patek for Moda. I have had this for at least 6 years, and have never known what to do with it. I just liked the fabrics…

The pack contained 42 5″ squares in four different colour-ways: brown, purple, green and red.  The split square pattern involves slicing the charm square down the middle and inserting a strip of contrasting fabric. I decided to make two contrasting but related cushions: one in brown/green/purple and one in red/purple/green. 

The finished split squares are 4″, so I figured that 4 x 4 squares for each cushion, plus a border 2″ wide would fit my 20″ cushion inserts perfectly.

I started with the lay-out for the brown/purple cushion.


Some of the brown/green/purple charm squares

I decided to have diagonal rows of colour: brown-purple-green-brown-purple-green and to bisect each square with a contrasting colour: brown squares with a green strip, purple squares with a brown strip and green squares with a purple strip. I pulled Moda Marbles  fabrics from my stash for the contrasting strips.

Then I made a layout for the red/purple cushion, again 4 x 4. This was more of a challenge, as there weren’t as many squares left to play with! 


The red/purple

I stuck to my diagonal rows, and in the end had brown-green-purple-red-purple-red-green. The insert would be green for the red (and one brown) squares, red for the green squares and brown for the purple squares. I used brown so that the cushions would be clearly linked to each other, and also because I wanted to use dark brown for the border of both cushions (they are for our den, which lots of wooden bookshelves and a dark brown sofa). I didn’t have a marbled red the right colour in my stash, so I used a shot red from Oakshott Fabrics instead. It is lovely, and the shot effect gives the cushion a little extra ‘zing’. I’ll be using that trick again!

To make the split squares you slice the charm squares in half, and insert a 1 1/4″ inch strip (3/4″ finished size). You can do this by cutting 5″ strips the right width, but I was feeling lazy, so I cut strips 1 1/4″ wide for the width of my yardage, and sewed 3 or 4 half squares on at once.


Adding the inserts the lazy way…

Then I pressed them open, cut them to size, and added the other half of the matching square.


Ready for trimming

The charm squares are of course no longer square when you have added 3/4 of an inch in one direction, so trimming to 4 1/2″ was the next step. To do this I used a Creative Grids 4 1/2″ ruler, which made it really easy. The strip has to be centred in the square, of course, so I used some pink ruler tape to mark the location of the right hand side of the insert when it was centred in the square so that I didn’t make any stupid mistakes whilst trimming. Then I didn’t need to count or think, just line up and cut.


The ruler with a line of pink tape to aid centring the square

To make the trimming even easier, I used a rotating cutting mat. Trim, turn, trim, turn etc. A great tool for trimming small units in multiples.


A trimmed square on the rotating cutting mat

Then I checked the layout, and that my strips were alternating between horizontal and vertical.


The trimmed brown/purple split squares

Then I sewed them together, pressing the seams to one side (I find that more robust for a cushion).


The brown/purple top

And repeat…


The trimmed red/purple split squares


The red/purple top

Then I added a 2 1/2″ (2″ finished size) dark brown border to each of the tops.


Purple/brown with border


Red/purple with border

Then I layered them with cotton batting and a backing of unbleached calico (muslin), as that would be invisible inside the cushion, and quilted both tops. I stitched in the ditch round all the squares and then stitched a line 3/4″ away from each side of the inserts, to make the inserts stand out, and to emphasise the stripe. Then I quilted 3/4″ away from the centre in the border, then another 3/4″ across from the first line. The distance of the quilting in the border echoed the width of the inserts and tied the whole thing together (well, that is the idea!).



I quilted the brown/purple cushion with green thread and the red/purple cushion with red thread.


Detail of quilting

I still, of course had 10 charm squares left over from the pack of 42, so I decided to use them as part of the back of the cushions. Having made that decision I decided to make a really scrappy back for each cushion: one purple and brown, one red and brown. I find scrappy backs are a really good way of using up cuts that are too small for much else. I have a small selection of fat eighths bought long ago that I find to small for most of my current needs, and this is a great way of using them up. I even used some home-spun plaids for these backs.


The scrappy back of the brown/purple cushion


The scrappy back of the red/purple cushion

I made double-layer cushion backs: an outer layer of quilting cotton and an extra inner layer of plain calico (muslin). I find the extra body this imparts to the back of a cushion well worthwhile, and it also means that here is no visible stitching from the Velcro fastening on the back of the cushion. An explanation of the method in more detail can be found in my Blackford Beauty post from April 2013 (see Small Projects). I added a label, pinned everything right-sides together and stitched the backing to the top. I checked that everything was okay, and then neatened the raw edges on the inside of the cushion with my overlocker.


The inside of the cushion front, quilting lines visible


The inside of the cushion back, showing the edge of the remaining charm squares

I turned the tops right side out, turned out the corners and pressed along the edges to set the seams.


The completed red/purple cushion cover

Then I popped the cushion inserts inside the covers, and I was done!


The Split Square Cushion Pair

I am very pleased with how these turned out, a really nice pattern and a big effect for a simple addition to the basic charm square. They look great on the dark brown sofa in our den (the above photo was taken in my studio). I also liked that I managed to use all the charm squares by piecing the backings. 

The next cushion features triangles…

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