Applique Handmade Cushion Cover – Fish Design

This cute fish cushion cover has been made from a few  scraps of material and some old jeans, yet looks as though it has just come out of a high street boutique. You too can get this look with this step by step tutorial to guide you through. So grab your tools and get cracking.

Here’s what you need


coloured thread (this can be matching or a contrast colour)

Small pieces of felt (optional)



Fuse a web (optional)

Fabric marker or pencil



Here’s what you do

The first thing you need to do is decide what fabric and colours you want to use. We kept our colours simple and used the same fabric on the fins and tail. This would be a great opportunity to use up all the little scraps of material you have. Place the fabrics next to each other to find the effect you want. Sometimes it’s better to mix all sorts of colours and patterns together. This fish is ideal, as you can use a fairly plain pattern for the body and go wild with the other pieces.

Print out the fish template HERE, or the link above and cut out all the shapes. Use the thickest card your printer will take so that you can use the templates again. Do not use your best dressmaking scissors for this job. (Adult supervision is required)


For this tutorial, we have used a product called fuse a web.

It looks like grease proof paper, but has adhesive on both sides. The glue is activated when it comes in contact with heat. It is simple to use and when positioned and stuck, makes it so much easier to stitch round shapes. Once you have cut out the fish templates, lay them out onto fuse a web and cut them out roughly, making sure that the fuse a web is slightly bigger than the template. Don’t worry if you don’t have fuse a web, you can draw straight onto your fabric.

You now want to stick the fuse a web onto your fabric. You will see that one side is a like greaseproof paper, while the other side has a sheen to it. Place it sheen side down and follow the instructions on the pack with regard to ironing it to the fabric. For most fabrics , use a piece that is larger than the fuse a web. This allows the edges of the material to get a good bond. Take extra care when working with felt as this will stick to your iron and make a mess. It is better to cut the felt marginally smaller than the fuse a web so that you don’t get the iron anywhere near the felt.

Next, lay the templates down on the fuse a web side and place them so that the writing doesn’t show.

This is so the fish parts will be the right way up. It’s not crucial for the fish as the fins and tails could go either way round. Draw round the shape with a pen or pencil. If you are putting the fabric straight onto your panel and are not using fuse a web, make sure you use a washable fabric pen or pencil so that the lines don’t show. Put the templates in a safe place so you can use them again and again.

Using a sharp pair of scissors (adult supervision is always required), carefully cut round the lines.

You may notice below that the fuse a web stops the fabric from fraying. The glue holds it together and gives a crispness to the edge.

Do the same for all the pieces and lay them out to check you have got them all.

At the last minute, we decided to give the fish some air bubbles. We freehand drew some onto the leftover white felt we had and cut them out.

Once you are happy with your design, set it aside so you can make the panel.

We all have them don’t we?

Jeans that we no longer want or fit us. Make sure they are clean, and then start cutting them up. This is a personal choice on how you want to take them apart. You can cut them so that the seams are in the material, however, for applique it is best to have the smoothest surface you can get. With this in mind, we removed all the double stitch seams.

It is best to use all kinds of jeans and at the very least, two pairs. You want to see that they are separate pieces, as it will give a nicer effect on the finished cushion.

We have an 18 inch cushion pad and decided to have 4 strips on each side. We cut 4 X 22inch lengths by 5 inches wide This width takes the seam allowance into consideration. 22 inches is longer than we need, but it gives us a bit of wiggle room. We used two different pairs of jeans to achieve a striped denim look.

Please note that the number of pairs of jeans you need will depend on their size and how narrow or wide the legs are.

Take two lengths and place them right sides together and secure with pins or clips.

Most machines nowadays come with a 1/4 inch foot. Don’t worry too much if it’s slightly wider, as long as you are consistent with your stitches. Watch the edge of the foot as you are sewing and keep it on the edge of the fabric. If you are a bit nervous with sewing, slow the speed down on your machine until you get more confident.

Once you have joined two lengths, finger press the join open. This simply means, laying your fabric wrong side up and opening the seam and running your finger down the join.  If you prefer, you can iron the seam open. If you are using denim, the finger method works fine.

Turn your pieces right side up.

Sew down either side of the join, again using the foot as a guide. If you look carefully at the picture below you can see an arrow on the foot. This is where the needle enters the fabric and the stitch is formed.  It is a useful guide to follow down the length of the seam. It is worth getting to know your machine feet to see if there are any markers on yours you can follow. We used a matching thread on the front of the panel. If you want, you can use a contrasting thread to sew this seam but bear in mind, it may take away the attention from the applique.

Although this is the back of the panel, you can see the effect it would give with a contrasting thread. We have been a bit thrifty here too. If you keep the bobbin full with white thread, and just change the top colour, it will save you money and make your prettier colours go further.  It is worth noting though that some machines work best when you have the same thread for the top and bottom stitches. We are lucky as our machine seems to like everything, and never gets cross when we mix and match.

Believe it or not, there is a line of stitching on both denims. You don’t have to sew along the seams, but it does make the panel sit nice and flat and we think it’s definitley a step worth taking.

Join the other lengths together in the same way. As you can see, we went for the striped denim look. Measure the width of the panel and cut the length to match. Our width was just over 18 inches so we cut the length that measurement.

Lay your pattern out on the finished panel.

We chose to have the stripes horizontally on the denim panel, as we thought it represented the sea.

With applique, you want to add the pieces in the layers they would naturally form. The top fin lays behind the body and the tail and bottom fin lay on the top. Carefully remove the backing on the fuse a web and place them back into their correct position. Follow the instructions on the fuse a web to stick them to the panel. Never iron directly onto your pieces as you may burn and ruin them. It is always an idea to have a cloth between them and the iron.  This will be explained on the packet. Once they are stuck you can stitch round the edges.

If you are not using fuse a web, pin your pieces into place. It is easier if you do them one or two at a time.

The next step is another personal choice.

Most machines nowadays have decorative stitches on them. You want to choose one that looks similar to a blanket stitch or you could choose a zig-zag. A top tip is to get an off cut and have a play first. Try out the different stitches to see what effect they give. Just bear in mind that you really want one that will secure the edges so that they don’t fray.

Sew round the outside of all the shapes to secure the edges.

Once you have sewn the edge, turn the panel over. Pull the threads through to the back, tie a knot and cut leaving about a cm. Doing this means you don’t have any ends showing on the front of the panel.

The fish just needs it’s eyes and kissable lips. As these are made from felt you need to be extra careful when pressing them on the panel. Felt doesn’t like heat and should never be in contact with the plate of an iron.

We used a contrasting thread for the lips as we didn’t have the exact shade of pink. We also added some air bubbles to finish off the fish.

All you need to do now is turn it into a cushion.

Make a 2nd panel. If you want to add a fish on this side too, how about making it in a different colour. That way, you will have two looks for the price of one and can turn it over when you fancy a change. To make the panels the same size, use the first panel as a template for the 2nd and cut it out. We cheated a bit with this step. We didn’t want to match the sides up so we changed the direction of the stripes on the back panel. The front panels are horizontal, but when we cut the back, we turned it 90 degrees so the stripes were vertical. This meant that we didn’t have to line up the stripes.  If you don’t get them exactly right it makes the cover look homemade rather than “handmade”.

You can now add a zip so that the cover can be removed for washing. If you don’t want to do this step, make sure that your inner is washable. It is best to use a zip that is longer than you need. You can cut off any excess zip once the cover has been made. Line the zip up with the right side of the zip facing the right side of the fabric. Using the zipper foot on your machine, sew close to the teeth, along the bottom edge of the front panel. Zips are harder to see if they are placed at the bottom of the cushion.  You may need to move the zipper pull out of the way.

The first side of the zip has been inserted.

To place the second side of the zip in the right position, lay the panels down and line up the two bottom edges of the material. You will see where the zip needs to be placed so it lines up. Secure with a clip and then sew down the 2nd side.

The zip has been inserted below. To finish, sew a line of top stitching as we did with the strips on the panel. Although this is not essential, it has an important function as it stops any material getting stuck in the zip as it is opened and closed.

The teeth of the zip are now well out of the way of the seams and will work perfectly.

To complete the cushion, line up and sew the other three sides. Before you do this, make sure that you open the zip or you won’t be able to turn the cover the right way out. Once you have turned it out, insert your cushion. The zip looks great and very professional.

All you need to do now is give it pride of place in your home and we’re sure it will be admired by all.

These are great for the angler in your life or how about making lots for your kids bedroom. Although jeans are a fab source for recycling, before you throw out your old clothes, see if any of them can be used. It will save you a fortune and help the  environment too.

We love seeing your creations so don’t forget to tag us in your makes #CraftyCoCreations

Happy Sewing

The Crafty Co



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