Astrakan cushions: cushion makeover part 1

I have a dilemma. I have a couple of rather boring beige sofas that are very functional and very comfortable, but they lack a certain pizzazz. I mean they're beige for crying out loud - not magnolia or buttermilk or Devon cream - but beige: flat, dull beige with tones of smog-grey.

I've always been committed to not throwing things out if they still have life in them. I've been into up-cycling/ recycling since forever, so chucking them out for something more glamorous is a no-no! It has occurred to me that I could dye the covers, but that's far too risky. These sofas live in our family home in Northern Spain, and I can only imagine what slightly hot bodies, still a bit damp from the swimming pool might do to the dyed cloth in the heat of summer ... . I've got a nasty feeling that my friends and family might find that a lot of the colour had come away on their legs - which would not be a good result for anyone.

So my B-Plan is to inject a little interest with some strategically-chosen scatter cushions. Now, as it happens, I have lorry-loads of scatter cushions - no, honestly, I do. But none of them are appropriately dressed for what I have in mind. Now here's the master plan: I've bought a huge consignment of on-offer, cheap-as-chips, chunky wool in 2 colours, and I plan to knit/crochet my way to a new look with a collection of contrasting but co-ordinating cushion covers.

And here is my first cushion makeover:

Astrakan cushions: cushion makeover part 1
Astrakan cushion

Ta-dah: meet the Astrakan. It's pretty straight-forward to make. I decided to use the more time-consuming astrakan stitch on only one side, and use a plain double crochet that I could bomb through quickly on the reverse side. And this is how the reverse side turned out:

Astrakan cushions: cushion makeover part 1
The reverse side
The texture on the Astrakan side is really, divinely loopy. It sort of invites your fingers to dive in and tease the pile. And the best bit of all is that it's quite easy to do.

My cushion measured 21"/ 54 cm x 13 1/2"/ 34cm to start off with.

Here it is, sitting with its brother, waiting for its new coat on my (super-untidy!) desk.

The only down-side with this little project is that it devours - and I do mean devours - wool. I used about 500 yards of  Hayfield Bonus Chunky to make this little baby, but it has the very best texture you've ever scrunched in your fingers, and it looks like I spent a fortune on it in some la-di-da designer shop.

Anyway if you'd like to give it a go, here's what you need to do to cover a cushion of this size (21"/ 54 cm x 13 1/2"/ 34cm).

1. Using a 5:00 mm (American H/8) crochet hook cast on and chain 59 stitches. If you're working to another size, the trick here is to crochet a chain that is just slightly snug for the length of your cushion as it will stretch a bit with wear. Crochet your chain so that it looks maybe a couple of links short of the right length, and then chain an extra three stitches to turn for the next row.
2. Work a British Treble or an American Half Treble ( i.e. yarn round once, insert hook into the fourth stitch from the hook, yarn over again, draw the yarn through (3 loops on the hook) wrap the yarn over again and draw two loops through (there are 2 loops left on the hook), wrap the yarn over again and draw the last 2 loops through) and then carry on to do a Treble into each stitch in the chain. This should produce a row of 56 Trebles.
3. When you get to the other side do not turn your work around. There are no row-turns in this pattern. You keep the right side facing you at all times. Now chain 7 stitches and link them with a slip stitch to the front loop of the next Treble in the line. When you work your slip stitch you should have the chain up behind you, like in this photograph. Now chain another 7 and do a slip stitch into the next treble and carry on down the line to the last treble. Have a look at these photos to see how I'm placing my needle when I do that slip stitch:

4. Now, to start the next row,  you need to chain 3 and then work a Treble into the back of the slip stitch where the first chain 7 from the last row were joined in. Carry on across the row, working a Treble into the back of each of the 7 chain joining slip stitches. You should have a row of 56 Trebles when you finish.
5. Repeat rows 3 and 4 until the work measures the correct depth for your pillow, finishing on a Treble row which will be tidier and easier to sew up.
6. Cast off, darn in your ends and admire your work. You have finished the front of your cushion cover.

And it just wouldn't be complete without one of my high-tech crochet maps, drawn with the assistance of my super-sophisticated graphite software.

Now it's time to do the back cover for the cushion.

7. Cast on 57 stitches (56 stitches for the length of the cover and one stitch for turning. You need to work out your number if you used a different sized cushion - it will be 2 stitches less than whatever you went with for the front cover).
8. Work a British Double Crochet or American single crochet stitch (hook in, yarn over and pull yarn through the first loop on the needle (2 loops on the needle), yarn over and draw 2 loops through) into the second stitch from the hook. Continue like this all the way along the line, working 56 double crochet stitches in total.
9. Chain 1 stitch to turn, and work a line of another 56 double crochet stitches working into the front loops only of the doubles in the previous row. By only working the stitches through the front loops in this way you will incorporate a slight ridge from the unused back loops of the previous row, which gives the striped/ striated texture that you can see on the reverse side of my cover. Alternatively, if you're not bothered about having this texture, just work the rows of double crochet as normal.
10. Keep going until your back cover is the same size as your front cover. Lay the front cover wrong side down to compare them as it's impossible to see what you're doing with the Astrakan side face up!

11. When you've got the right size, cast off and sew the two sides together with your cushion in the centre.

Ta-dah! You've just made the Astrakan cushion. Stand back and admire your handiwork!

And now I'm off to work out a style for another, bigger cushion to pair with my little Astrakan. I'm thinking stocking stitch stripes of the same grey colour with the acid green might look good.

Watch this space, and I'll let you know how I get on.

All the best,

Bonny x