Custom seat cushions
A friend of mine just moved her photography business into a new office space and bought a half dozen gorgeous chairs for her clients to use while meeting with her. As pretty as they were, they were also a bit uncomfortable because they were solid wood. I offered to make her some new cushions, and she happily accepted. I’d never done this before, but it seemed like a fun challenge. It was also a way to finally use this sage green upholstery fabric I’ve had socked away forever… it matched her decor perfectly!
The first thing I did was go foam shopping. I thought I would get traditional foam that I’ve seen in sheets in the store, but I ended up discovering a product called Nu Foam densified batting. It’s a really dense, compressed polyester that holds up way better than foam. It’s cheaper, too — I bought a giant roll of it for half the price I would have paid for traditional foam. Once you have your foam or batting, cut it into a shape that fits your chair perfectly, making sure to cut curves at the back corners to accommodate the rails on the back of the chair.
Then fold the fabric in half, right sides together, with the folded edge farthest away from you. Line up the front (widest) edge of the batting with the folded edge of the fabric.
The next step is to cut the fabric to fit the batting, but first you need to do a little math to determine how big to cut it. The measurement you’re looking for is half the thickness of the batting plus 1/2″ for seam allowances. My batting was 1″ thick, so for me that meant 1/2″ + 1/2″ = 1″ total. If you use 2″ thick batting, the measurement would be 1″ + 1/2″ = 1 1/2″.
Use a marker and a ruler (my ruler is 1″ wide, which made this really easy) to mark the fabric all the way around the other three sides of the batting (skip where you lined it up with the folded edge), using your own custom measurement (again, mine was 1″). Make sure to mark the curves around the back corners as well.
Cut the fabric out on the marked lines, then grab your ruler because you need to take one more measurement. Stretch out the curved edge on the back corner until it’s straight and measure to see how long it is. Mine was 4″.
Add one inch to the measurement above and cut two pieces of fabric that are that long. The width should be the thickness of your batting plus one inch. For me, that meant two pieces of fabric that were 5″ long (4+1) and 2″ wide (1+1).
To attach the cushion to the chair, you’ll also need two pieces of 3/4″ Velcro that are about 5 1/2″ long. To cover the back of the Velcro, you’ll need two more fabric pieces that are 1 1/2″ wide and 6 1/2″ long.
Okay, now that all the math and measuring is done, let’s get to sewing! We’ll start by covering the back of the Velcro so it looks prettier. Take one of the long strips of fabric and put it face down on the table, and fold over one of the long sides. Put the fuzzy half of the Velcro on top, face up, and pin it in place.
Use the sewing machine to sew the Velcro to the fabric, along the edge. Continue down one long side, and when you get to the end, fold the fabric up again and tuck it underneath, then continue around. Go back along the other long side, tucking the fabric underneath again to hide those raw edges. There’s no need to sew up the fourth side, because it will be hidden later.
Do the same thing on the other fuzzy piece of Velcro, leaving you with two lovely covered pieces with three finished edges.
Now grab the main piece of fabric that will cover the cushion, make sure it’s still folded with the right sides together, and sew up both of the sides with a 1/2″ seam allowance. Do not sew the curved corners yet — just the sides.
Grab one of the corners on the front of the cover, where your new stitches meet the folded fabric edge. Pinch it so that it forms a triangle, and make a row of stitches a little ways in from the point. To determine where to sew these stitches, come in just as far as it takes to make your row of stitches exactly as long as your batting is wide (in my case, 1″).
Do this on the other front corner as well. This will create a boxy front on your cover, which will accommodate the square thickness of the batting perfectly.
Okay, now we get to have some fun… it’s time to attach the Velcro closures to the back corners. Start by opening up the cover and twisting it so that the side seam is on the table. The two corners you cut out should make a semi-circle. Take one of your covered fuzzy Velcro pieces and place it, face up, on the seam. Leave about an inch or so hanging off the bottom.
Take one of the remaining small pieces of fabric you have from before and place it, face down, on top of the Velcro. Hold or pin in place and use the sewing machine to attach everything together, about 1/2″ in from the edge of the main cover.
When you’re done, you can flip the fabric back and see that the Velcro piece’s raw edge is completely hidden now.
Fold the flap back up and pull it over to one side, twisting carefully, so that it lines up with the curved corner on the side.
It will take some finagling, but get those two edges lined up as well as you can along the curve and pin them together.
Use the sewing machine to sew along the pinned edge, and you’ll have your corner halfway made!
Do the same acrobatic twist of the fabric on the other side of that little flap, creating a fully enclosed corner with a piece of Velcro sticking out.
Grab the scratchy side of the Velcro piece and lay it, face up, on the piece, running it right down the middle of your little corner flap. Pin it in place, then sew it down across the end. Take a moment here to make sure your Velcro’s sides are lined up properly and you can form a loop.
Using the same method you just completed, add the Velcro and flap to the other corner. Your cushion’s cover is really starting to get some structure to it now!
You’ve got one wide opening on the piece, and it’s a bit bigger than we need it to be. Pinch it shut near one of the corners, and sew about two inches of it down flat, getting the stitches as close as you can to the corner flap without sewing over it.
Do the same on the other side, making sure to only sew about 2″ of it closed, so that you still have an opening about 6-8″ across.
Flip the cover inside out and check the finished cover to be sure it looks right and the Velcro pieces match up properly. When you’re satisfied, roll up the batting and stuff it inside, then smooth it out flat.
Do a slip-stitch to close up the remaining gap…
…and your cushion is all done!
To attach the cushion to the chair, just fold the Velcro straps around snugly and let them do all the work.
What a lovely addition these custom seat cushions made to the chairs in the studio!