Red, white and blue American flag pillows and a DIY cushion cover on a church pew

DIY Bench Cushions

Nothing pulls together a space like fabrics; from upholstery to pillows, drapes, or cushions. Today I will show you how to make DIY bench cushions with custom piping.

If you can’t find exactly what you are looking for or you don’t want the high cost of custom, you can make it yourself!

Sewing Tutorial

This project is all about connecting panels of fabric. It’s that easy. Keep reading and I will show you how with step-by-step instructions. It does take some planning and patience but anyone can do this!

If you are a beginner, the tutorial does include a velcro closure, not a zipper, therefore it is also much easier and beginner-friendly.

You can skip the cording until you get your confidence up!

Things to Sew

For other home dec sewing projects click a photo below. For sewing craft and clothing projects see more sewing projects here.

Here are the sewing materials you will need for the cushion.

Project Supplies

Affiliate links are underlined.

Fabric for Cushion
Piping Fabric optional
Cording optional
Matching Thread
Closing Mechanisms Velcro Tape, Snaps, or Buttons
Straight Pins
Sewing Scissors or
Rotary Cutter
Sewing Board or
Safe Cutting Surface
Sewing Machine
High-Density Foam Cushion
Sharpie Marker
Electric Knife optional
Polyester Batting optional
Multi-Purpose Spray Adhesive optional
Scotchgard Fabric Protectant optional

Foam Seat Cushion

Let’s get started by taking measurements for the foam insert.

Measure your bench seat or chair. You will need the width, depth, and height of the cushion. Go online next to see what dimensions work best, because not all foam insert sizes are readily available.

I first chose a 1-inch height but then upgraded to a 2-inch thick soft support cushion foam (24″ x 72″ x 2″) from JoAnn Fabrics. It cost roughly $40.00 with a discount applied.

Many cushion sizes are available at fabric stores, Amazon.com, and other online retailers. This foam insert is similar to the one I ultimately used. HERE (affiliate link)

How to Cut Foam for Cushions

Use your dimensions to cut your foam to size. With a ruler and a straight edge, mark off the cutting lines with a Sharpie pen. 

The easiest way to cut your foam cushion is with an electric knife. If you don’t have one, a Xacto knife or sharp scissors may work if the foam is not too thick.

If you are using an electric knife, work in a safe cutting area and on a protected surface. Hold the electric knife straight up and down vertically.

Following your markings, cut the foam to size. This is very easy and kind of fun! The good news is you do not have to be perfect. Your cushion cover will cover most jagged cuts or flaws.

More good news, this DOES NOT destroy your electric knife. Yes, you can reuse your knife for food. No worries, it cleans up very well.

You can also reuse the foam cushion and recover it as many times as you want.

How Much Fabric

Next, you’ll want to figure out how much fabric you need to purchase. Using your bench seat or chair measurements, draw each shape on a piece of paper, and add in all of the dimensions.

You’ll need 7 different fabric pieces for today’s pattern. The top of the cushion, the bottom of the cushion, 2 side panel strips, 1 front side panel, 1 back side panel, and a flap for the back opening.

IMPORTANT Remember to add a seam allowance for each piece. I used a 1/2 inch seam allowance. See the drawing below for reference.

Fabric for Cushion Covers

It’s time to get your fabric. Take the drawing with your measurements to the fabric store if you need help determining the yardage to purchase.

Their staff will help you figure out the best way to lay out the pattern on the fabric and how much fabric you need.

Many fabric retailers have home decor departments with great upholstery fabric suitable for use inside or out. I purchased my fabric at a discount fabric store, SR Harris. (FYI: Worth a trip if you visit the Twin Cities!)

As you shop, consider the amount of use the bench will get. You may want a washable or easy-to-clean fabric.

You could also use a fabric protectant such as Scotchgard (affiliate link) to protect it further.

There are so many wonderful fabrics to choose from. Take time to pick the right type for your cushion. Consider where it will be used and how much it will be used.

Canvas

Cotton canvas is a great fabric to use for both indoor and outdoor cushions. It is strong, resilient, and also resistant to weather damage.

Waterproof outdoor fabrics, like Sunbrella, are available to buy by the yard. You can also buy long-term fabric protectors such as Scotchgard Protectant (affiliate link) and do it yourself.

Cotton and linen

These fabrics are commonly used in cushions. They are attractive, washable, and hard-wearing. Be aware that some linens tend to wrinkle more than others so consider getting a swatch to test first.

Synthetic materials

Manmade fabrics, such as microfiber can be a great choice as well. They are usually hard-wearing, washable, and durable which makes them a perfect choice for high-traffic areas in your home.

Silk or Wool

Luxurious fabrics can be a gorgeous choice for areas in your home that get less traffic or for furniture that is more decorative. These fabrics are generally more expensive and more delicate so they may not wear as well and require special dry cleaning.

Cushion Piping

Piping is a cord detail that you can add along the edge of your cushion seams as an accent.

Cording is made of strips that are cut diagonally on the fabric (also called on the bias). Strips that are cut on the bias, curve and wrap much better than those cut horizontally or vertically on the fabric ( the cross or straight grain).

If you do want to add a piping trim, you can make your own or purchase a variety of premade sizes and colors at most fabric stores. 

To make your own custom piping, here’s a tutorial to follow. The instructions walk you through creating continuous bias strips, connecting them, and then wrapping them around cording to make the piping you’ll use for your cushion.

It is very easy to do and allows you to pick any solid or pattern fabric or for added interest, you can contrast the fabric of your piping to your cushion.

Before you Sew

For the best results, take your time and thoughtfully prepare with these steps.

Prewashing your Fabric

Once you have purchased your fabric, pre-wash it. This will prevent future-fit problems. After it is dry, if it is wrinkled, ironing it will make the next step much easier and the cutting more precise too.

Layout and Cutting Fabric

It’s time to cut out your fabric. Measure out your pieces and think thoroughly before cutting.

Consider the direction of the pattern or stripes so they run the way you want, and connect well to the other sides of the cushion.

IMPORTANT Remember to add a seam allowance.

A seam allowance is an area between the raw fabric edge and the stitching line on the pieces of material being sewn together.

They typically range from 1⁄4 inch (6.4 mm) wide to as much as several inches. It’s up to you how wide you’d like to make yours. I used a 1/2 inch seam allowance for this project.

How to Make Cushions for a Bench

Let’s get started!

Below are the instructions for each photo numbered 1-6 above.

Piping

1 Purchase or make custom piping. DIY Piping Tutorial HERE, but piping is optional. Your cushion will look great either way!

Back of the Cushion

2 Prepare the opening on the back or one end of the cushion. This is where you will insert your foam piece. I am leaving the opening on the back length of my cushion so it does not show, but you could also use the end instead.

With the upper piece of the opening panel, fold under the raw edge (I used a 1/2 inch fold). Press the full length of the panel.

If desired, you can finish the raw edges on both the upper and the lower panel with a serger, zigzag stitch, or pinking shears. I am leaving mine unfinished. See below.

Topstitch the whole length of the top panel to secure the flap. Overlap and align the upper and lower so that together they are the same height as the other side panels. Treat this as your “one” back panel moving forward.

Topstitch the two pieces together where they overlap, at each end leaving an opening in the middle, large enough to comfortably insert the foam. Apply or sew the Velcro, snaps, or button closures in place.

Sewing the Side Panels of the Cushion

Now, with the right sides together, sew all of the side panels together at each end. You should have a continuous, looped “rectangle” when finished.

3 If you are adding a bias piped trim, pin, then sew the cording to the upper and lower edge of the side panels, all around the perimeter of the “rectangle”. Ending and starting the piping application in the back so it is hidden.

Bring the two roped edges together neatly. First, expose the cord by gently pulling back the fabric cover on both ends. Cut one or both rope edges so there is approximately a 1/2 to a 1-inch gap between them.

Now extend both fabrics out over the rope to cover. Tuck and fold one raw edge under. Now, take that folded edge and overlap the other raw edge. Pull together so it hugs it tightly. Pin and then stitch in place. See the image above for reference.

Connecting the Top and Bottom to the Side Panels

4 With the right sides together, stitch the top panel of your cushion to the rectangle side pieces. Then sew the bottom panel of your cushion to the other side of the rectangle.

Turn the cushion right side out. Give your bench cushion cover a good pressing. Pull it over an ironing board if possible.

This gives the cushion cover a nice finished quality. To press into the corners use a tailor’s ham or a rolled-up athletic sock if necessary.

Batting to Soften the Edges of the Cushion

5 For a softer-edged cushion, wrap your cushion in polyester batting or cut individual pieces of batting for each side.

Batting prevents slipping and provides a smooth appearance. The thickness of batting ranges from very thin to 1/4″ thick. It is available in cotton, wool, polyester, or a blend.

Use a spray adhesive such as Scotch 77 Multipurpose Adhesive Spray (affiliate link), to attach the batting directly to the foam and hold it secure.

Inserting the Foam Cushion

6 Now insert your foam cushion into the cover, gently tucking into each corner, smoothing the bumps as you go.

Keep working it until it fills out the cover nicely. Sometimes it requires a bit of adjusting and patience.

Congrats! Your cushion is ready for primetime!

Please let me know if you make a DIY bench cushion cover in the comment box below.

I would love to hear what you are working on or answer any questions you may have! For finished projects, please tag me @bebraveandbloom or use #bebraveandbloominspiration

Happy Sewing!
xo,
Cindy

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