How to create hand painted XO cushions – without zip

I am loving the current graphic ‘alphabet’ trend and what better combo of letters than the loving XO!  These instructions will work for any letter (like the initial of your childs name perhaps?) or any shape (a heart or cloud would be so adorable)…so use your imagination and get creating!

XO Cushions

I recommend this be handled by an adult or child 8 years and over…by all means though… the ‘adults’ may like a helping hand from our pint sized miniatures?…who doesn’t love a bit of paint on the kitchen table?

First off WHAT DO I NEED?
-a copy of your design explore fonts etc in word to find a unique look to suit your home
-paint brush
-medium weight linen – one piece cut 37cm squared and two pieces cut 37cm x 25cm
-40cm cushion insert
-Yupo – found at art stores
-fabric paint – I used Derivan Screen Ink in Fluro Magenta – again available at art stores
-ruler (a metal ruler and/or set square are ideal)
-blu tac
-print out of image or letter you are wanting to create
-plastic container & water
-A4 cutting board & scalpel (optional but a better way to cut straight lines)
-flat surface



This can be done either by copying a photocopy print or, in my case, A4 was not big enough…so I enlarged my chosen design onto yupo.

Mark out a grid on both the photocopy and on the chosen size of yupo paper (in my case I cut a 28cm square of the yupo paper and used this as my work area).  The grid makes it so much easier to mimic the design on the A4 paper.  Using your pencil mark out key points onto the yupo and then complete your design.


Once you are happy with your design, just cut it out.  Scissors are great for rounded edges, but if you are dealing with straight edges you may prefer to use the metal ruler, scalpel and cutting board…


Step two: LETS PAINT!

Now the fun part begins!  First you need a flat surface to work on and have your linen cut and ready.  Blu tac the back of your shape onto your fabric…this ensures your design doesn’t slip while painting.  OH…this is why yupo is so fantastic…it won’t get wet, it is washable and you will be able to reuse your shape over and over…


Quick work is required with the painting to achieve the ombre effect we are wanting.  Firstly, dab your brush straight into the paint and make small outward strokes around half of your shape, around 1-2cm in length…


THEN…put a large dab of paint into a plastic container with 2 teaspoons of water…mix well and then start another layer extending your already painted area…blending last layer with the new layer…REPEAT on the other side of your shape so the entire design has been painted around…


…your painting should now be approximately 3-4cm around your shapecushion-painting-2

ADD 1 tablespoon of water to your paint mixture to make it more watery…paint remainder of fabric ensuring your strokes are outward and blending with the other layers as you go.  While the paint is wet it is very difficult to see the effect…but if you have diluted the paint with each layer and blended…you will have a great, unique design.  Once your fabric is all painted, remove your template and let dry.cushion-painting-step-3


After your fabric is dry how great does it look!cushions-dry-from-painting

Step 3: SEWING

First you need to hem one 37cm edge of each of your 37x25cm envelope pieces…this is done simply by double turning the edge of fabric…linen is a lot easier than many fabrics for this…your finished hem should be about 1cm… if this is completely scaring you…let me know…I will do a separate tutorial on this…or you can find someone to do the sewing for you …


With your painted shape facing upward, right side up, place one of your 37cm x 25cm pieces flush with the top of your cushion front…right sides together…ensuring your hemmed edge is placed more than half way down your shape (as above)…place your other 37cm x 25cm piece, right sides together, flush with the bottom of the cushion front, ensuring hemmed edge is in correct position as below…then pin all layers into place

cushion-pinned-for-sewingNOW…the fun part…just sew around all 4 edges!  I used an overlocker around my edges, but if you do not have an overlocker there are 2 options (depending on your machines settings) …

Sew around your cushion with a straight stitch (.75cm seam allowance) and then repeat with a zig zag stitch to neaten edges…


Sew completely around your edges with a more decorative stitch that will finish off your edges like the ones pictured below…
cushion-sewing-machine-settings This is how the overlocker looks…cushion-sewing


So there you have it!  You have sewn a cushion!  WELL DONE!!  PAT ON THE BACK!

Now turn your new creation right side out and give your new baby an iron to fasten the ink and make your artwork washable…


The finishing touch is simply a cushion insert!  There are so many options on the market…but coming from a more environmental point of view I LOVE using the Innergreen cushion inserts which are made from recycled PET bottles…they also have a lovely firm feel and give your cushion such a scrummy plump look.  You will have noticed that your cushion cover is approximately 35cm square and I have suggested a 40cm cushion insert?…that is how you get the extra plump look!  All cushions I create have a larger sized insert than  dimensions of the cushion.



AND YOUR DONE! Congratulations!  Go decorate your new space with your creation and send me a pic!  My little girl LOVED the cushions in her cot…laying on them…playing with them…bouncing off them…but they are not allowed for bed time! xxcushions-with-zara

if you experience any difficulties or are not understanding any of the steps, please just email me at and I will clarify…alternatively…if you love these cushions but don’t have the time to be making one…email me and I will happily create one for you…they are $45 each without insert xx


10 thoughts on “How to create hand painted XO cushions – without zip

  1. Hi Amanda, This is a great tutorial for an almost useless seamstress like me. I’m going to do this cushion for my niece for her birthday with her intial. You make it look so easy. Thanks

  2. That is soo cool. I have a cushion fettish but had never thought about hand painting any. I will also give those inserts a wizz next time I go all out on a cushion spree…which won’t be long I feel!!

    • I was experimenting to get a watercolor ‘feel’ and it was just so much fun…they actually look a heap better in person…I was annoyed I couldn’t capture how great they look in any pictures 🙂 xx

  3. Pingback: How to Make a Mothers Day Gift | Macaroon Kids

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