Sewing Projects

How to Sew Seat Cushions

Sit on It Some More, Jen

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Updated August 25, 2020.

Right now the summer days are too hot for my taste and it is difficult to escape the heat.  Our area is built for the colder weather, so for the few weeks each year when it gets really hot, it can be very uncomfortable.  As a general rule, I think that sweating bullets while you are just sitting is wrong.

Thankfully, we live by the water and the breeze off the river often gives us a reprieve.  That is why we built a deck the width of the house out back.  My husband and I are still working on furnishing the deck so that we can enjoy the space fully.  To start, we wanted an outdoor couch to sit on and read, and from which we could enjoy the view.  In an earlier post I explained how good furniture cost more than I wanted to spend, and how I was sure we could build the couch ourselves.  My mom and sister suggested I purchase the seat cushions first, and then build around them.  Since good seat cushions would cost as much as a couch all complete, I decided to make those too.  The process I took to prepare the cushions is explained in the post: How to Make Seat Cushions.

Once the innards of the cushions are prepared, you can move on to creating and sewing the covers.  For help preparing my patterns and steps to make a box cushion I found a video tutorial from  Besides fabric, you will need thread and zippers.  A marking pen is really useful too.  I have tried the chalk pencils, but they are not clear enough.  The disappearing ink pen works better for me.  I also chose a strong upholstery thread for the project in the same color as my Sunbrella fabric.  Individual zippers did not come in sizes long enough for the long seat cushion, but the zipper roll pictured was available in a gray pretty close to the color of the fabric. I found it fairly easy to use and have had enough left over to use on several other projects.

Since the deck is uncovered and the cushions are not meant to be left out in storms, we have to bring them in when it rains.  However, the Sunbrella fabric will help to prevent wear from the sun and prolong the life of the cushions.   Using my Joann Fabrics app, I waited for notifications of sales and was able to get the cut of fabric for 50% off.  That is a huge savings for a quality material.  The color palette outside our house is cool tones, so I chose a light gray that I think was called gull. 

If you have a quilter’s rule, mat, and rotary cutter, those tools will make the next steps easier.  

Following your pattern, mark out the largest pieces on your fabric first.  The width of this bolt was just wide enough to fit the length of my largest piece, including the seam allowance.  Ink from the pen disappears somewhat quickly, so I marked and cut each piece one at a time.  Since I knew the width of the fabric when I purchased the bolt online, and because I calculated how much I would need and planned how to orient the pieces ahead of time, I could mark and cut the pieces in this manner.

Although I really like the durability of this fabric the cut edges were fiddly to work with.  Once cut, the weft would peel out and unravel the edge, so working more carefully became more important.  You may be able to see an example of this in the lower left corner of the photo above.  Pinning two pieces that were meant to go together as soon as they were cut made the fabric a bit less frustrating to work with.

The next step was to cut the edge pieces.  All of the edge pieces could have been combined to make one perimeter piece.  Although the bolt was long enough for that, I decided to cut four separate pieces and have the seams line up on the corners in the front or on the tops, as the case may be.  Looking at our living room couch cushions, I noticed that the zippers ran along one edge and overlapped to the sides a few inches.  This was a great idea as it would make getting the cushions in and out of the cases for possible washings much easier.  When adding the length to the zipper panel, be sure to subtract the additional inches from your side panels. 

Variations like this one are another example of why I often prefer to make something myself.  Pieces in your home will be more unique and special because you made them yourself and they are tailored to yours and your family’s needs.  Plus, the endorphins from the accomplishment is pretty great.

Line up your measured marks and cut out the edge pieces.

Then, measure to length and cut your zippers.  Remember to move the pull tabs off the length you are cutting and leave only the one you need per zipper.  This step will alleviate later frustration that could occur from having to get a pull tab back on a zipper!

As in the video tutorial, I began sewing my zipper panel.  Sewing a zipper or a button hole was something I had always thought would be really complicated until I did another project and my mom showed me how.  I was so surprised at how few steps there were to adding a zipper, and at the same time felt really proud of myself thinking, “Look what I can do!”

Except for that half an inch where the seam ripper went off course that I had to repair later, this came out really well.  As my husband said, “If I didn’t know that [error] was there, I wouldn’t have noticed it.”  

The zipper panels would be hidden within the couch, but I am happy to report that I did even better on the back pillows.  This one was a warm up. 😅

One step I would not have thought of on my own was to open the zipper a little when sewing the box cushion covers.  Once all the right sides are sewn closed, you will not have access to the pull tab unless you have opened the zipper a few inches ahead of time.  MAKE sure you do this.  I was very thankful for the reminder from the tutorial.

Sew together all of the edge panels, end to end.  Then, pin the right sides of the top and bottom panels to the edges and sew.  Remember that if you are doing a zipper panel longer than the longest edge, like I did, that you should not align that panel to the corners.  I found it easier to line up the panel opposite the zipper to the front edges of the top and bottom panels first, since they were the same length.  

Next, check your alignment and begin sewing.  This is a lot of fabric to hold onto at once.  Take your time and go slowly so the cushion cover doesn’t get folded over onto and sewn to itself.  The cover looks pretty good so far:

The photo below shows the zipper panel sewed to the top panel and overlapping the edge as described earlier.

The top panel is attached to the edge panels!  I had to stop and enjoy how this idea was finally coming together.  Seeing the right sides looking all clean was very rewarding.

Pin the bottom panel to the edges and sew the last panel in place.  Remember to open the zipper a few inches first!  

You can really see the fraying edges of the fabric’s weft in the photo below.  Even though my cut with the rotary cutter and quilter’s rule were very straight, this fabric had the tendency to unravel at the edges.  That is probably my only complaint about the material and the entire process.  I have not tested a scrap piece with pinking shears to see if that helped at all.  Once the panels were sewn together I didn’t have any further trouble with the fabric.  The material is excellent when turned right side out. 

Press open the seams with your iron when you are done.  Then turn your cushion cover right side out and stuff the cushion inside.  Repeat the process for the two back cushions.  

Following are some photos of the finished product.  I was and still am super excited with how they turned out.  They almost look professional.  Even more important: they are really comfortable, firm with a little give.

Here you can really see how the zipper overlaps the edge.

Making the cushions myself has been so worth it.  Though we did not have much opportunity to use them last summer (Thanks a lot EEE 😒), we are definitely getting more use out of them this year.  I am certainly glad I made these cushions out of durable materials, as I predict they will get a lot of future use in fort construction and imaginative play as our son grows older.  It is not a use I anticipated when I embarked on the project, but one I look forward to in the coming years that brings back good memories.  

Did you build forts from the couch cushions as a kid?  Do you think you will tackle this project too?  Best of luck if you do!  Contact me if you have any questions.

Check out the post on building the couch to go with these awesome cushions.  📯 (Tooting my own horn.)  You are just one more project away from enhancing your outdoor space.  I look forward to hearing about your renditions.

Until the next project,

Sewing Projects

How to Make Seat Cushions


Sit on It, Jen

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Jen Juggles It All is not responsible for any injuries, losses, damages, or otherwise negative outcomes that occur from use of or mimicking of activities on this site.  Continued use of Jen Juggles It All confirms agreement with the prior statement.  More information can be read in the disclosure policy and terms of service.

Updated August 25, 2020.

Furnishing an outdoor living space can potentially be a majorly expensive project.  To furnish a home with sturdy pieces you love, and that will last, is an expensive endeavor.  Why would an outdoor living space be different?

Although, if you are creative and patient, even though it could still be a little pricey the cost does not have to be exorbitant. Spending a little extra money in the end will be worth it: you will have stronger furniture, that will last you longer, and be exactly what you want.  While spending a little extra you will save money because you will not be paying out each year or two to replace the items, in addition to the money you save by doing the project yourself.

My husband and I would like to spend time out on our deck enjoying the view.  We just need furniture out there to make extended time outside more comfortable.  Beginning with an outdoor couch seemed logical.  This is something we could easily build ourselves.  (They did it on Trading Spaces all the time.  Did anyone else obsessively watch that show?) 

Both my mother and sister advised I purchase the cushions before building the couch so my husband and I could build the couch to the correct dimensions around them.  They also advised I use Sunbrella, or a similar fabric made for the outdoors, to help with the longevity.

Well, I looked around online at offerings at the patio stores and home improvement stores’, and the comments in the low reviews steered me away.  Even for the supposedly “good quality” cushions that cost more, people were saying that the pillows were sunken in after a few uses.  That was disheartening.  Why would I want to spend hundreds of dollars for cushions that would sink in and stay that way?  Perhaps you prefer a softer cushion or mattress, but I like them more firm.  Your muscles have to work harder to keep you comfortable when a seat is too soft.  After sitting for a long time you could end up more tired; as when a mattress is not supportive enough.  (I would love to have a source to cite this information to you, but I heard it over a decade ago and do not remember where.  I do know it must have been a reputable source though, because I would not have held onto the information otherwise.😉)  

Anyhow, I looked for a while for some cushions.  The kind with the Sunbrella or similar fabric cost about $500 for a single seat set and we were aiming for a loveseat.  I think we could have bought a whole loveseat for that $1000 price tag of cushions, but nothing was quite what we were looking for and I was sure we could easily build one for less.  The loveseat probably would not be as fancy, though I figured we could make it sturdier.  

I thought about it a little and determined I could make the cushions too.  I had sewn complicated enough items before, and my mom had sewn replacement cushions for an easy chair in the living room, so why couldn’t I?  There are plenty of tutorials on the internet to help.  A little research and some planning were all that I needed.

The Joann Fabrics store app was helpful too.  Texts came to my phone regularly telling me that a single item was 60% off, or a single cut of fabric was half price.  Using those notifications I bought all of the materials on sale; the foam and the fabric each costing me at most half of the original price.  

Before purchasing the materials, however, I needed a plan.  I based the dimensions for the cushions off those of our indoor couch, which we find very comfortable.  However, I made the height of the back cushions a couple of inches taller to give my husband, with his taller frame, a little more support when he sits.  

My mom added welting (the cord that runs along the edges of cushions) at my request on the cushions for the armchair inside, but that was not the look I wanted for the outdoor loveseat.  Admittedly, welting was more work than I wanted to do on this project too; so for that I was glad it was not the look we were going for outdoors.  

To figure out the amount of materials I needed, a pattern was necessary first.  The internet is such a great resource when you know how to look.  I had an idea of how to go about making a box cushion, and then came across this video tutorial from  The instructions are very clear and helped me to formulate a pattern for my box cushions.  I calculated how many yards of fabric I would need and which notions were necessary.  In the end we decided to use 5” high density foam (more money, but so worth it to have really comfortable cushions), batting (one roll of twin size was more than enough), Sunbrella fabric, zipper, and upholstery thread.  

Also bought on sale

I also bought some foam glue to secure the batting to the foam.  Once I got the spray glue home and read the instructions further, as well as some instructions online, I decided to return that glue.  The toxicity of it frightened me and seemed an unnecessary risk.  To replace that glue I purchased Aleen’s foam glue, which works like the Elmer’s school glue.  A bead of that adhesive along the edges held the batting in place just fine and was a lot healthier to use. 

Most of the winter and spring I waited for the sales to pop up as notifications on my phone, and I slowly made the purchases as they came.  Since I was teaching and it was track season, there was not much time to work on other projects, so it was ok with me that it took a little longer to gather the materials.  Once the local track season began to taper off and I had all of the needed pieces I was able to get to work.  My goal was to have the sofa completed to use in the summer.  

The first step, following the video tutorial was to cut out the foam.  Use your tape measure and a yardstick, or straight edge, to measure and mark the length with a Sharpie or similar writing tool.  Double check the measurement against your plans.  Measure twice and cut once.  You do not want to have to purchase more foam.  

When my parents downsized and cleaned out their house my mom found an electric carving knife in her hope chest.  She asked if I wanted it.  I remember thinking, “When will I ever need that?  I’ll just use a regular knife and not clutter up the kitchen,” and I said, “No thanks.”  Apparently, they are good for cutting foam.  Hindsight is 20/20 😅.  I thought that a reciprocating saw was pretty much the same thing and tried using that.  It worked ok.  I have since found out that my scissors work better and more cleanly and would suggest using those if you do not have one of the knives the tutorial recommends.  

As you may have guessed, my cuts were a little jagged.  I figured I could make up for them with a little extra batting and some squishing into the cushion cases.  Spoiler alert: It worked, but only because the cuts were not horrendous.

The next step was to cut the batting.  For the largest cushion, I chose to line up the foam on the batting, glue along the edges as I wrapped the batting around the largest sections, and cut the excess at the end.  

Begin with the biggest pieces and try to line up the longest edge of the foam with the shortest edge of the batting to get the most you can out of a space.  The goal is to have one large piece leftover instead of a bunch of small pieces.  You will waste less and have more to easily use in a later project.  For example, the long seat cushion will fit vertically on the twin size batting, but may not fit another sized piece of the same width, or the back cushions on the leftover section beside it: 

Not ideal

Now, if you orient the seat cushion horizontally on the batting it also fits, but the amount leftover on the side is not as large and you can fit both sides of the seat cushion on the same length as before, AND one of the long edges in the leftover on the end.  This leaves a larger section intact below and more to work with, creating less waste.  Move pieces around and measure before marking and cutting to get the most out of your materials.

Leftover material is more usable

Squeeze out a bead of glue along the edge. Not too much is needed; the glue is pretty tacky and grips well when you lightly press the batting into it.  

Even with the single large piece of batting, it was important to glue along the edges of each face to make sure the batting stayed in place. 

Once the final edge is glued, cut off the excess batting with some good scissors. I decided not to put any batting along the smallest faces in order to make stuffing the seat cushion into the covers a little easier.  Those ends would be facing into the structure of the couch and the added padding would not be as necessary.

After following the above approach, I chose to use the excess along the sides to cut the pieces for the back cushions and get the most out of my materials. The short edges fit there well.  I glued the edges, lined up the batting, wrapped the batting, and cut the excess.  Continue the process until all of the pieces are covered.  

Be sure to read the instructions on your choice of glue for drying times.  I believe I had to wait a few days before it was fully set.  That is not much of a problem, though, because you have your dimensions and can move on to the sewing!

Since this has gotten rather long, I have written about the sewing in another post.  I hope you are as eager to continue with the project as I was.  

Until then,