Introduction: Kazakh Felt Cushions
This is a step-by-step tutorial for making Kazakh / Kyrgyz style cushions out of felt. Felt is made from wool and can be bought at a number of craft shops, but it generally works better if you can have it hand-made. Google is your friend in finding someone who makes felt in your area – such a person will know what you require when explaining what you need the felt for. The style of these pillows is that made for hundreds of years by the nomadic peoples of Central Asia. There are a number of traditional patterns you can use, but you’re of course also free to design your very own. Good luck!
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Step 1: Step One: Making a Pattern
Requirements: Ruler, pen or pencil, A2 white paper. Instructions: On your white paper, cut out a 50x50cm square (1). Within the middle of this square, measure out and draw another square, this time 35x35cm (2). Ensure that it is in the exact middle (7.5cm left on all sides). From this smaller square, draw and cut out whatever shape you like (3). However, make sure it’s symmetrical and don’t cut all the way to the edges (leave at least 2.5 cm). For a heart-shape fold the paper once, for a cross-shape fold the paper twice, and for a St. Andrew’s-shape fold the paper twice diagonally.
Step 2: Step Two: Cutting the Pattern
Requirements: Pins or clamps, scissors or a very(!) sharp knife, pen or pencil, three 55 x 55cm thick sheets of felt in different colours.
Instructions: Firmly clamp the three sheets of felt on top of each other, and clamp the 50x50cm sheet created in step one on top as well. Trace the outline with a pencil or pen. Remove the paper and cut the felt to size – make sure to do this neatly and carefully as a sloppy job will result in a sloppy cushion. Also ensure that you cut from straight above, as an angle will mean the size of the bottom felt piece will be different from the top one, and you don’t want that. After doing this, put the 50x50cm pieces to the side, take the 35x35cm pieces that are left, and again firmly clamp these together with the desired pattern produced in phase three of step one on top. Trace, remove paper, and cut, again taking care that all the three resultant pieces fit exactly on top of one another! This should leave you with the pieces below: three 50x50cm pieces with a 35x35cm hole in three colours, three 35x35cm pieces with the desired pattern cut out in the middle in three colours, and three pieces with the pattern only, also in three different colours.
Step 3: Step Three: Sewing It Together
Requirements: needle, wool thread.
Instructions: Place the pieces created in step two into one another, making sure that each complete cover has three different colours. If you’ve done a good job cutting, they should all fit reasonably well (don’t worry if you’ve got a millimetre of space here and there, it can’t be perfect and these little imperfections will sort themselves). Sew them together on what you consider to be the future inside of the pillow. If you’ve got hand-made felt, it should generally be thick and you do not have to go all the way through it. Instead, push the needle only halfway through the felt and bring it back up. This makes the stitching invisible from the front. Like the first image. After sewing all the pieces together in that manner, you should have what's depicted on the second image.
Step 4: Step Four: Adding the Back
Requirements: 50x50cm cotton or wool sheets in a uniform colour of your choosing, needle, wool thread.
Instructions: Place the items made in the previous step front-down on a flat surface. Then, pin or clamp the cotton or wool sheets on top. Sew these two together along the edges, leaving about half a centimetre between the stitching and the edges. In contrast with the stitching method used in the previous step, here you stitch all the way through both layers before coming back up in the fashion depicted in the first image. While sewing, make sure to leave an opening at one end, otherwise you can’t turn the cover right-side-out anymore. Like the second image.
Step 5: Step Five: Finishing Up
Requirements: 2500 grams of Washed or unwashed wool or synthetic pillow stuffing.
Instructions: Turn the pillow cover right-side-out. If using unwashed wool, wash the wool (let soak for 15-30 minutes in lukewarm water, rinse, rinse, rinse until reasonably clean). Leave to dry in a warm place until entirely dry – this may take up to two full days. After this (and also if you’re using washed wool), fluff it up with your hands by pulling the fibres apart. In case you are using synthetic stuffing, you can obviously disregard these steps. Stuff cushions and sew them shut - for a tutorial on how to do this expertly, please YouTube ‘sewing a pillow cover shut’. Lastly, you may wish to embroider patterns onto the cover to make it more authentic, or you could add tassels made from leftover scraps of felt.