I’ve been wanting to make cushions for the art table chairs in our girls’ room for a while and I finally made it down to a craft store that sold foam this week to get started on the project.
The first step in making custom cushions is accurate measurements. Notice how the chairs are not true squares? The front measurement was 13” and the back 12”. The distance between the front and back was 11 ¼”.
Want to know a trick with cushions? Cut your fabric to the exact size of the foam. I know this sounds counter-intuitive. ‘But what about seam allowance?’ you’re thinking. The thing is, foam compresses. If you cut your fabric to the size of the foam, and then sew ¼” seams (or ½” if using heavier duty fabric), the compression of the foam once it is in the cushion cover will more than cover the seam allowance you are used to providing on other sewing projects.
I’m trying to use up my fabric scraps this year, so I pulled out a few larger, odd-shaped scraps I had from this fabric and was able to cut out four top and bottom panels for the two chairs.
I used this fabric to make custom piping for a bench seat for the girls’ godmother. I like that they’ll have a small piece of the project I made for her in their own room. See the pink trim on the cushion below? That’s the same fabric.
For the side panels I decided to use corduroy from an old pair of pants I’d been saving for just this kind of project. They’d developed holes along the belt loops so I had held onto them just for the pretty fabric.
After marking the measurements with a Sharpie, I used an electric bread knife to cut the foam. It cuts through that stuff like butter. Here’s a gif as proof.
Another make-your-cushions-super-great secret is to use batting!! Wrapping them in batting or putting a layer on the top and bottom will improve how the puff up in your cushion covers. I used an adhesive spray to affix the batting to the top and bottom of each one.
Don’t measure the height of your sides until you’ve added batting. While the foam is 2”, adding the batting made the total measurement just under 2 ¼” (I should know what that measurement is, but I don’t. I just mark to the line under that ¼”).
Grab your zippers and zipper pulls, or, if you aren’t like me with spares on hand, plan ahead and order them before you begin.
I like to sew the zipper plaques first. Use whichever technique you like. I generally use the first method shown in this video by Sailrite.
I like to sew the zipper plaques first.
If you need to attach extra fabric to the side panels, consider adding it to the ends in small amounts so the joins don’t show on the front of the cushion.
Attach the zipper plaque to the side fabric and then sew onto the bottom fabric piece.
Before you begin sewing the top piece on, make sure to mark your corners accurately. Fold them to each seam to make sure they match (the yellow mark in the photo below is my matching point.)
Next, make sure to slide on the zipper pulls BEFORE you sew the top piece onto the final assembly or you’ll be sad.
And finally, do not forget to sew your tie backs in between the seams as you go.
Whoohoo, you’re done! But, before you start celebrating, go over every seam to make sure they are secure.
Then take your scissors and round the corners so they turn prettier. I used pinking shears on the fabrics in this project. Check out my post from January to learn about their benefits, along with other important cutting tools for your sewing room.
When you turn the covers right-sides out, use your fingers to pop out each corner.
If you’ve done this right, your finished cover is going to look smaller than your foam; that’s because it is! Now is the time to put the cover on the cushion and here is where you’ll see how foam compresses to fit your new cover.
I’m going to use caps lock here to get across how important this next step is: DO NOT TUG OR PULL ON YOUR FABRIC TO GET IT ONTO YOUR CUSHION. I promise you, if you do that, your seams will pop. Instead, fold the cushion to slide it into the cover, and then slowly work the foam into the fabric, NOT the other way around. Just keep thinking ‘move the foam, not the fabric.’ Don’t be afraid to really get your hands deep into the cover and use them to maneuver the foam in place. Adjust, adjust, and adjust, until the cushion sits perfectly in the cover, with the lines of the foam matching the lines of the cover.
This project turned out just darling. The corduroy almost looks like velvet and I love the effeminate touch it brings to the room.
These cushions will inevitably get marks on them. That’s okay, they have zippers so they can be washed, AND, they are reversible. I can just flip them over if I need to.
My daughters loved these and immediately hopped on and got cozy.