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Improv Patchwork Cushion Project

Improv patchwork cushion project

This improv patchwork cushion project is a great way of scrap busting. Plus you can use the quilt as you go method to add great texture too. 

This pretty improv patchwork cushion is a lovely way of using those beautiful scraps of fabric you simply cannot throw away. Plus it can be an introduction to quilt as you go too. 

How to do improv patchwork


Use our envelope cushion tutorial to calculate the size of backing fabric you will need to back the cushion. 

You can either use plain fabric or calico to support your patchwork, or if making a quilted cushion like I did use wadding. I used Vlieseline R80 biodegradable wadding (find stockists here

1 cushion pad 

Co-ordinating sewing thread. I used Gutermann 4021 variegated thread

Scraps of fabric for the crazy patchwork or 5 fat quarters. I used City Lights from Northcott fabrics plus a couple of coordinating solids. 


Use a 1/4 an inch seam allowance throughout.


My cushion pad was 18 inches

 Cut 2 pieces for the back of the cushion. Use our envelope back tutorial to figure out the size you need. For an 18 inch cushion I cut 2 pieces 18 x 12 inches.  

Cut 4 pieces of plain fabric/calico/batting for the back support for your patchwork. For a square cushion this needs to be the width of your cushion pad divided by 2, plus 1/4 an inch (to account for the seam allowance when joining the panels). 

So for my 18 inch cushion each of my 4 pieces of wadding was 9 1/4 inches square. 

Note: If you are making a rectangular cushion think what size each piece would be if you divided your cushion front into 4, then add 1/4 an inch. 

Quilt as you go beginners tutorial

I am going to give the instructions for making the quilt as you go version of this cushion because I love the texture it gives (see above). If you are just making a patchwork cushion then join each piece as instructed but skip the quilting stage, and go straight onto attaching the next scrap. 

Cut a piece of fabric and place in the centre of one of your squares of wadding. The easiest shape to work with has four irregular sides.

Place the scrap in the centre of your square of batting then quilt into place as desired. I quilted with quarter an inch lines. 

If making the improv patchwork cushion (without quilting) then simply place your first scrap and skip to the next stage. 

Quilt as you go beginner's project

Select the next piece ensuring it is the same length as the side you are going to attach it to.

Lay it face down on top of your first scrap and stitch along the joining edge to secure in place. Press it open. 

If not making the quilt as you go improv patchwork cushion skip the next step. 

Quilt the new scrap as desired. I echoed the joining the seam with straight lines quarter an inch apart. 

How to make a patchwork pillow using the quilt as you go method

Cut another scrap the same lengths as one of the sides of your new shape. Place it right side down to join it, then fold it back and press open, then quilt. Don’t worry if the scrap is a little larger than required, you can trim any over hanging bits of fabric one you’ve finished your square. 

Modern quilted patchwork cushion project

Select the next piece of fabric and attach as before. Work your way out to the outer edge of the square. 

Improv piecing

You can piece a few of your scraps together before sewing them onto your block. This helps to break up longer strips so it’s not just one big piece of a single fabric. 

Quilt as you go cushion cover project

Once you’ve reach the edge on one side go back to your centre shape and start working outwards from another edge. Eventually you will have the whole square covered in fabric. 

Trim off any excess fabric that goes beyond the edge of the square. 

Scrappy improv patchwork pillow project

Start on your next block. You can also piece fabric before starting a block to get a larger centre piece that features more than 1 fabric as I’ve done above. 

Quilt this strip all as one, then add a strip to one side and work outwards as you did before. Repeat until all 4 blocks are complete. 

Improv patchwork quilt blocks

Once all 4 blocks are finished decide upon your desired layout. Join the 2 top blocks by sewing along 1 edge with a quarter inch seam allowance. 

Repeat for the 2 bottom blocks, then join the top and bottom blocks. Trim your finished panel to ensure it is the same size as your cushion pad. Put your finished cushion front aside for now. 

Envelope back quilt as you go cushion tutorial

Get the 2 backing pieces you cut for your cushion. Make a double fold hem along one long edge of each. Do this by folding the edge over by 1/4 an inch, press, then fold another 1/4 an inch. 

Take it to your sewing machine and stitch into place. As per our envelope cushion tutorial place the backing pieces on front of the top, right sides together with the folded hems in the middle. Align the edges with the edge of your cushion front and sew right around the edge. You may wish to overedge stitch, zig zag or overlock the edges to prevent fraying. Trim the corners and turn the right way out. 

If you’d like photos of these stages click here. 

Envelope back pillow cover tutorial for beginners

Put your cushion pad into the cushion cover, now your improv patchwork cushion cover is finished. See the back above and the front of the cushion below. 

Improv patchwork pillow cover tutorial

Below you can see an improv cushion cover made without the quilting, the maker (Little Miss Fancy Frocks) also added a border. To do this you need to reduce your squares by the width of the border, and make sure you allow for the seam allowance to add the border too. 

They also used the same method to work a much larger piece to make a quilt as shown below. A brilliant way to bust your scrap stash! 

Crazy patchwork pillow tutorial for beginners
Free improv quilt pattern
Scrappy improv quilt blocks