Geeky Sewing Bee: The Prisoner inspired cushion covers

A couple of years ago I made a Village resident-style cape as part of a Prisoner-themed cosplay outfit. I chose a red/blue/yellow/brown colour scheme to match those seen during the chess match in the classic episode Checkmate. The remnants of the brightly coloured fabric have been knocking around in a drawer for a long time, so I finally put them to good use by designing a pair of cushion covers – with village colours on one side, and Number 6’s famous jacket lapels on the other.

The covers are designed to fit snugly over the cushion like a pillowcase, with the lapel edge over the opening. This way there are no zips or buttons required but they are still easy to take off to wash! The following measurements are the ones I used to fit a 45cm square cushion – but you can adapt them to any size or shape of cushion you want to use. To make them you will need:

  • Cushions!
  • Cotton fabric in four Village colours of your choice – half a metre of each colour is more than enough for a pair of covers.
  • A metre of cotton fabric for 6’s jacket. Although it appears black, the fabric I used is, like the jacket McGoohan wore, a very dark brown.
  • White cotton twill tape for creating the edge of the lapels. I bought a couple of metres in case I had to redo anything and this was plenty. You could use bias binding instead if you prefer.
  • A very small piece of fusible interfacing, if you have it.

To measure out the coloured stripes, you will want to first add 1cm to the overall size of your cushion so that the cover will fit comfortably over it. That made my cover 46cm, which is 11.5cm for each of the 4 stripes. As I like to use a seam allowance of 15mm that adds 3cm to the dimensions, so my overall length is 49cm, and the width of each stripe is 14.5cm. I marked the outer cutting lines and the inner dimensions for sewing.

You should have 4 identically-sized pieces in your chosen colours. Choose the order you want them to be in on the finished cushion. To sew each pair of adjacent panels together, simply pin them right-sides together and sew along the seam allowance. Then press the seam to one side. Once all four are joined you will have a complete square. The wrong side should look something like this:

6’s jacket side is trickier! It is made up of two panels which overlap like a pillowcase once completed.

The first panel is the layer that will partly overlap beneath the lapel edge.

You want the width to be close to 2/3 of your total cushion width.

Mine is is a rectangle 31cm wide (28cm plus seam allowance) and 49cm long (46cm plus seam allowance).

The second panel that will sit on top – overlapping the first – will be a wider rectangle with one edge cut to the shape of 6’s lapel. The length of the panel is 49cm to match the others. The bottom width, which is the widest part of the panel, should be just over 2/3 of the cushion width – mine is 34cm (31cm plus seam allowance). I used tissue paper to design the shaped edge like this – the width at the top edge will be determined by the angle that you create for the lapel.

Now you want to put the famous white edging onto the two panels. I started with the smaller panel as the straight edge makes it easy to get used to dealing with the twill tape.

First of all, with the right side of the fabric facing you, pin the tape so that 1/3 of it overlaps the fabric.

Make sure you pin it securely all along the fabric, as you will need to sew very carefully close to the edge of the tape, and any movement will cause it to become skewed.

Turn the panel over to the wrong side, and fold the excess twill tape to the fabric, pinning it all the way down.

You should now have the edge of the fabric completely enclosed by the tape. The tape showing on the wrong side should be twice the width of the tape showing on the right side.

With right side facing you, very carefully stitch all the way down the twill tape, with locking stitches at the top and bottom. Try to get the stitching as close as you can to the very edge of the tape. When you turn the fabric over and look at the wider side of the tape you should see the stitches down the centre of the tape. If you use thread that matches the colour of the twill tape then the stitching on the right side will be almost invisible. Below I have added arrows to show where the stitching is – on the right side (left) it is almost at the edge, while on the wrong side (right) you can see that it is down the centre.

The fiddliest part of the whole project is sewing the twill tape onto the edge of the lapel shape. I cut two pieces of tape – one to sew from the top of the fabric down to where the lapel breaks; another to sew from the break down to the bottom of the fabric. On each piece I left around 2cm excess tape to fold over the lapel break to the other side to leave a clean edge at the break itself. Pin it down in the same way as you did the first panel – 1/3 of the twill tape to the right side of the fabric, 2/3 to the wrong side. To get the tape sit nicely on the curves just pull it into place and pin it securely. Twill tape has enough of a stretch to it that you should be able to achieve the curved edges without any bunching. Stitch the tape on the right side as close to the edge as you can.

You can see from the right side-wrong side images below how the two separate pieces of tape sit over the break in the lapel. The wrong side is a little messy, but will not show on the finished cushion. To make it extra secure I cut a small square of fusible interfacing and tucked it in between the twill edge and fabric on the wrong side before ironing it.

Almost there! Time to put the pieces together.

  • Place the square of coloured stripes with the right side facing up.
  • On top of it, with its raw edge aligned to one edge of the coloured square, place your shaped lapel piece with the wrong side facing you.
  • Finally, with its raw edge aligned to the other edge of the coloured square, place the rectangular lapel piece with the wrong side facing you. The twill tape edges of two lapel pieces should comfortably overlap in the middle of the square and the shaped twill edge should be completely hidden by the overlapping panel.

Now you can sew around the whole of the outside of the square using your seam allowance.

Snip in at each corner so that, when you turn it inside out, you get nice sharp corners for the cushion.

You may also want to finish the seams off with a zigzag stitch to prevent fraying.

Now turn your covers inside out, using the flap that opens between the two lapel pieces. The finished covers will look like this!

Insert your cushions and voilà! Now you can sit in comfort while you plot your next escape from The Village.

My next project is going to be another cushion cover, since I have a third cushion insert to put to good use. Listeners will know that one of our other big passions is Twin Peaks, and I have a variety of leftover red pieces in different types of fabric. So, a cushion styled on the Red Room curtains, perhaps? Watch this space…

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