sew your own chair cushion

I have this cute patio set, but I was having difficulty finding cushions - they didn't fit, were super boring, or were too expensive, so I decided to make my own.

Jo-Ann Fabric sometimes has a good sale on fabric and almost always has a good coupon. I got lucky - my fabric was on sale and I had a 50% off coupon for one regular-priced item.

Outdoor fabric - Originally $20/yard, I got 1.5 yards 50% off for a total of $15.
Foam - Originally $31/yard, I got .89 yards (32 inches) 50% off for a total of $13.78.

By the time I bought the thread as well, it cost $30 for 2 cushions. They ended up costing about the same as cheap cushions or cushions on a great sale, but they fit my chairs perfectly and are much cuter. I have 4 more to make for the kitchen chairs. That fabric was a bit cheaper, so they will total in at under $15/cushion.

What you'll need: 

Sturdy fabric - 1.5 yards per 2 cushions*
Foam the same thickness as your desired cushion height*

*Please see the note below about purchasing fabric.

Determine the size of your cushion.

Step 1: Decide how big you want your cushion to be. I made mine 16" deep (front to back) by 16" wide (si9de to side) by 2" thick (top to bottom).

Step 2: Determine the dimensions of your fabric. The fabric will wrap around the foam similar to how you wrap a present. The length will wrap around the back, top, front, and bottom, with an overlap allowing for the insertion of the foam. The sides will be sewn together with boxed corners.

Fabric length: (2 x cushion depth) + (2 x cushion height) + 3" overlap + 2" seam allowance
My fabric length: (2 x 16") + (2 x 2") + 3" + 2" = 41"

Fabric width: cushion width + cushion height + 1" seam allowance
My fabric width: 16" + 2" + 1" = 19"

Note: When purchasing fabric, think about how you want the fabric oriented (if there is a pattern). I wanted the stripes on my fabric running front to back, so I oriented the length of the cut pieces with the length of the bolt. Alternatively, the bolt should be wide enough to orient the cut pieces the other direction. This orientation probably requires the purchase of less fabric. 1.5 yards is being a bit generous, but I always get a little extra in case I mess up. I'll probably make a matching table runner with my extra fabric.

Cut your materials to size.

Step 3: Cut your foam to the desired cushion dimensions. I used a utility knife with cardboard underneath the foam to protect the table. It took about 5-6 passes to cut all the way through. If you have an electric carving knife like the crafts stores use, that would probably be much better.

Step 4: Iron your fabric so that it lies flat. Cut out your fabric to the calculated dimensions. Also cut 2 pieces measuring 2" x 24" - these are for the ties.

Hem the edges for the overlap.

Step 5: Lay the fabric wrong side up. Take the short end of the fabric, fold it over 1", and pin. Repeat with the other side. Press. Unpin and unfold.

Step 6: Fold over the same edges 1/2" so that the unfinished end touches the pressed crease. Fold again along the crease to create hem. Pin and press.

Step 7: Sew the pinned hems using roughly a 3/8" seam allowance.

Press the fabric where the edges of the cushion will be.

Step 8: Lay the fabric wrong side up. Fold over the hemmed end the following distance: cushion depth - 3" (Mine: 16" - 3" = 13"). Pin.

Step 9: From the folded crease, measure the following distance: cushion depth + cushion height (Mine: 16" + 2" = 18"). Fold over the other hem so that the crease is located at the point you just measured. Pin and press both folds. Unpin and unfold.

Step 10: Repeat the previous steps with the following change: add the cushion height to the distance of the first fold (Mine: 13" + 2" = 15"). The second fold will be the same distance as before. Pin and press both folds. Unpin and unfold.

Step 11: Fold over the long edges by (1/2 x cushion height) + 1/2" (Mine: (1/2 x 2") + 1/2" = 1.5"). Pin and press. Unpin and unfold.

Sew the cushion sides.

Step 12: With the right sides together, fold over the hemmed edges so that each fold lies halfway between the presses that mark the cushion's height. The hemmed edges should overlap - arrange them so that the larger piece overlaps the smaller piece when the cushion is right side out.

Step 13: Sew along the sides with 1/2" seam allowance; back-stitch over the section of overlap for reinforcement.

Make the ties.

Step 14: With the right side out, fold the fabric for the ties in half hot dog style so that it is now 1" wide. Pin and press. Unpin and unfold.

Step 15: Fold the unfinished edges to the pressed crease. Press. Fold in half again at the originally pressed crease. The unfinished edges should now be hidden.

Step 16: Fold in the short ends of the tie like the picture so that they are also hidden. You can also be less picky and not mess with the triangular-like folding - simply fold it over.

Step 17: Pin and sew the length of the tie.

Make the box corners.

Step 18: Pick one of the front corners of the cushion. (The overlap on the bottom will be towards the back.) The pressed creases should come together to form a triangle at the seam. Pin this area like the picture. Repeat with the other front corner.

Step 19: Do the same thing with the back corners except the ties will be inserted here. Fold the tie in half and push it into the triangle as shown in the picture.

Step 20: Sew across the bottom of the triangle to form the box corner.

Finish your cushion.

Step 21: Fold your fabric right side out, and insert the foam.

Step 22: Admire your work!

7/23/2012 Update: See the patio table runner and kitchen chair cushions in my next post.
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  1. Hello,
    When you say" Step 10: Repeat the previous steps with the following change: add the cushion height to the distance of the first fold (Mine: 13" + 2" = 15"). The second fold will be the same distance as before. Pin and press both folds. Unpin and unfold........which step (s) is to be repeated....step 8, 9? you have an "s" on step, which leads me to think I should repeat more than one step, can you help me please. Thanks.

  2. Step 20: Sew across the bottom of the triangle to form the box corner.

    Can you please tell me how far down to sew across the bottom to make the box. It doesn't say.

  3. hello I made it all the way up to step number 12 and now I am stuck


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