12 Nov How to Make a Cushion Cover for a Chair
If you have an antique chair with good bones or even a chair that has outlived its cushion, you are lucky, because as they say, they don’t make them like they used to! If your chair is in good shape but the cushion is not, it’s an easy fix. Stay tuned. Today I am going to show you how to make a cushion cover for a chair.
Recently it hit me, how fortunate my husband and I are, that we somehow managed to inherit a treasured piece of furniture from each one of our 4 sets of grandparents. They are not necessarily valuable in resale terms, but they are priceless in terms of the heart. One of those pieces is a craftsmen chair from Chuck’s Grandfather. It’s not exactly our style, but we want to honor it and take care of it. And today it’s getting a little makeover.
Before and After
If you want to make a new cushion for a chair or bench in your home or one for outside, this post will walk you through it, with a materials list and step by step instructions. Let’s get started!
Sizing your foam cushion insert
There are different approaches to this project, but I think the best way to start is to determine the size of your cushion and wood base.
First, decide on the height of the cushion based on the chair or bench measurements, combined with what is available for purchase. Readily available cushions typically have heights of 1, 2 and 3 inches. Next, gather measurements for the length and width, the cushion footprint.
Making A Paper Pattern
For the pattern, any kind of paper or cardboard will work. I love the Medical Pattern Paper on Amazon (affiliate link). It’s relatively inexpensive and it’s nice and thin, like commercial sewing patterns. I used this for my cushion pattern. On the other hand, I chose rigid cardboard for the wood base pattern because it was stiff and could lay flat in the base of the chair to fit. I taped cardboard pieces together as the cardboard sheets I had were too small.
How many Pattern Pieces
You’ll need 3 pattern pieces at most. Use the measurements you just took and create paper patterns. Make one for the top of the cushion, one for the wooden base of the chair, and one for the side panel strip that goes around the cushion. Your cushion and wood base may be the same size or you may make them slightly different sizes. My cushion is a bit different because I wanted to round the side edges, whereas my wooden base needed to have sharp corners to fit snuggly in the chair. For the side piece, measure the length around the cushion and the height of your foam insert plus the wood plus approximately 3-4 inches to pull to the bottom of the base. If you are cording, you could also make a pattern for the width of the bias strip, but it is not necessary.
To make sure that your pattern is symmetrical, you may want to cut out half of your pattern shape and flip it over, then repeat it. As you draw each shape on paper, add in all of the dimensions. This process will ultimately help you determine how much fabric you need to purchase.
IMPORTANT Remember to add a seam allowance either into your pattern or when cutting out your fabric. This is the area between the raw fabric edge and the stitching line on the pieces of material being sewn together. They can 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 typically use a 5/8 inch (1.5cm) seam allowance.
How do I make fabric piping? What are bias strips?
Fabric piping also called welting or cording is the fabric-covered trim you find on a variety of upholstered furniture, slipcovers, pillows, and headboards. Piping gives all projects a tailored and professional look.
In simple terms, bias piping is cutting strips of fabric out on the bias (diagonal direction) of your fabric and wrapping it around cording rope. The cord that is sandwiched within the fabric gives the piping shape and strength. Cutting fabric on the bias better allows it to stretch and wrap around the curves of your cushion. Piping can then be sewn into the seam edges of your cushion and adds beautiful detail. For added interest, you might want to contrast the fabric of your piping to that of your cushion.
It’s worth the time to add it to your project and it’s easy, trust me! Never fear though, you can also purchase piping in a variety of colors and sizes. Or skip the piping altogether because your cushion will still look beautiful either way.
Shopping for fabric
Take these dimensions or your drawing itself to your local fabric store. Their staff will help you figure out the best way to layout 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. As you shop for fabric, consider the amount of use the chair or bench will get. Be sure it is thick and durable enough for it’s intended use. I purchased my fabric at JoAnn Fabrics.
Preparing your fabric
Once you have bought your fabric and brought it home, pre-wash it if you’d like, but chances are once your cover is finished and stapled in place, you won’t be taking it off to wash. You may, however, want to wipe it down occasionally. I would strongly suggest applying a Scotchgard Fabric & Upholstery Protector (affiliate link) to protect and waterproof it. Scotchgard works like magic and will keep your cushion looking new for much longer. Follow the directions on the canister for applying.
Other Tutorials on Bloom
I interrupt this blog post to quickly let you know that there are 2 other cushion cover tutorials currently on my site you may want to check out if this cushion cover post is not what you were looking for:
Okay, now back to the tutorial.
Are you ready? Let’s go! Gather the rest of your materials. Here’s what you’ll need.
Materials And Sewing Supplies
Fabric for Cushion and
Fabric for Cording optional
Cutting Board or a safe surface to cut fabric on
Cording Rope optional
Pencil with Eraser
Rotary Cutter or Fabric Scissors (affiliate link)
Staple Remover optional
Plywood for the Base (I used 1/2 inch)
Saw to cut Wood Base
Paper or Cardboard for Pattern
Straight Edge to help draw the pattern, optional
Electric Knife (to cut foam)
Scotchgard Protector, optional (affiliate link)
Step by step Instructions
Preparing the wood platform and the foam cushion
1 Measure the base of your chair or bench. Determine the size for the base and the cushion. They may be the same size or slightly different. It’s up to you.
2 Create a paper or cardboard pattern for the cushion, base, and the side panel. (A pattern for the side panel is optional as it is a straight long piece, but it can help when cutting out your fabric.)
3 Draw or trace the base pattern out on plywood.
4 Cut the plywood base out with a circular saw. Put the wood in place on your chair or bench to be sure it fits properly. Cut or sand to fit if necessary.
5 Trace the cushion pattern onto foam insert with a Sharpie marker or pen.
6 Cut your foam cushion to size with an electric knife. This is SO easy and kind of fun! Holding the electric knife vertically, cut on the marker outline. It does not have to be perfect.
It’s also worth noting, this DOES NOT destroy your electric knife. You can reuse your knife for food. No worries, it cleans up well. (Just don’t tell your guests what you’ve been up to.)
Starting to Sew
7 Put the cushion in place to see if it fits properly. Cut more foam off if necessary to fit.
8 Cut the batting to fit your cushion. There are 2 options. 1) For mine, I cut one piece that was slightly larger than my cushion. I used the cushion as my guide. My batting then sits on the top of the cushion and rolls over all 4 edges slightly. 2) But for more security, you could also add batting to the top, then wrap around the front of the foam cushion, continuing to the bottom. You do not need to cover the other 3 sides. In other words, skip the left, right and back of the cushion.
I used my sewing scissors to cut the batting and it worked great. After you have cut the batting to fit, smooth it and stretch it to fit over the cushion. You will find it stretches and forms very easily. Secure it with a spray adhesive like Scotch Super 77 (affiliate link). This adhesive holds the batting in place, which makes it much easier to put the cover on and keeps everything more secure when the cushion is in use.
Batting is optional, but it will protect the foam insert. Most importantly, it softens and smooths the square edges and improves the overall look.
9 Cut out your fabric pieces. You will need the top, and side pieces. If you making cording, you will be cutting bias strips of the fabric also.
Sewing the Cushion Cover together
10 You may have to piece the side panel together because it is so long. If you have more than one piece, sew the side pieces together now. With the right sides of the fabric together stitch the side pieces at their ends. Then on the wrong side of the fabric, press the seam(s) open. This will help the fabric lay nice and give the outside of your cushion a finished look (if it shows, LOL).
11 Make fabric piping. Read the above and see the tutorial here. LINK
12 Pin, then baste the cording around the top of the cushion.
13 To finish, overlap the cording ends where they come together, then stitch.
14 With the right sides together, sew the top cushion piece to the side panel around the cushion edge. If you are using piping, sandwich it between the two. I usually baste first, sew once around with a longer seam length. This ensures everything fits well before your final stitch. And if it doesn’t fit, the long stitches are easy to rip out. If all looks good, stitch around for one more lap with a smaller length stitch and closer to the piping.
15 To close up the side panel, overlap the two end. Trim if necessary so the overlap is an inch or two. Fold one end inside 1/4 inch and press to finish the edge. Use this finished edge to cover up the unfinished one underneath, by overlapping it. Stitch over the top of both so it closes up the back.
16 Another view of the overlap of #15.
17 Stitch vertically down the side panel to close.
18 The cover is finished and ready to “install” It’s a great time to give your cover a good pressing. Pull it over an ironing board if possible.
Wrapping and Finishing the Cushion
19 Optional. Trim the seam allowance in half, along the top of the cushion. It’s important to keep some seam allowance but you just don’t want it to be bulky.
20 Align the base, foam cushion and batting, then pull the cover over them until the top is positioned just right. Smooth with your hands and adjust so it is even, flat and taut.
21 You are ready to staple! You can do this alone, but it is helpful to have a partner to assist you. One person can hold the fabric tight and one can staple.
22 Review staple placement, pull up any that are not flush to the wood. Flip cushion to check for smoothness, adjust and staple more if necessary.
23 Plop the finished cushion in place…and take a seat!
Congrats, you are done! You now you have a professional-looking and comfy spot to sit! Enjoy.
Please let me know if you make a cushion cover in the comment box below. I would love to see your projects! Are you inspired to BLOOM & SEW? Tag me @bebraveandbloom or use #bebraveandbloominspiration
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