Admittedly, I still consider myself new to sewing, so tackling a DIY bench seat cushion was an ambitious project for me! I recently refinished my Entryway Bench and I decided that it needed a cushion. I’ve sewn many curtains, throw pillows and even hemmed clothing, but this is the first time I’ve tackled an upholstery project.
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I hope to share some of my “beginner” mistakes to help those of you who are learning with me. Sometimes, I get a little ambitious with projects and this was one of those instances. Looking back, I should have found the most simple method for making box cushions and followed those instructions.
However, I wanted piping on my cushion and I wanted to have a removable cover so I could wash it. So, my first lesson with sewing is to keep it simple (in the beginning). I happened to have enough time to dedicate to the learning process, but I know many of you don’t. Here are my best tips for sewing a DIY bench seat cushion.
THINGS TO CONSIDER BEFORE YOU START
- If you’re a savvy shopper, it might be about the same price to buy a cushion. I found one on Amazon, but it didn’t have a removable cover.
- It might be quicker and cheaper to buy an outdoor cushion (especially in the spring). If you cannot find the correct size, you could open one end and make it smaller.
- The supplies for this project are expensive. I found the best price on foam at Home Depot and I purchased my fabric, batting, and piping with a coupon at Joanne Fabrics.
- Make sure to pre-shrink your fabric. All this means is to wash it and dry it before you begin. This keeps it from shrinking and being too small, when you wash it later.
SUPPLIES YOU WILL NEED
- Upholstery Fabric
- Foam (I used 2″ foam)
- Plier Stapler or Spray Adhesive for Foam
- Sewing Machine (with zipper foot or piping foot)
- Tape Measure
- Self Healing Mat, Rotary Cutter, Ruler
- Electric Carving Knife or Utility Knife (to cut foam)
DIY BENCH SEAT CUSHION INSTRUCTIONS
CUT YOUR FOAM
To start your project, you need to measure the dimensions of your bench. Measure the length of the seat area and subtract an inch to allow for a little movement. Then measure your foam and mark a line to cut your foam to size. I only needed to cut about 1/2″ to make my foam the correct length.
The arms of my bench cut in, towards the middle of the bench. So make sure you have enough clearance for the foam to lift when your bench is open.
After reading and watching a bunch of tutorials, it looks like the best way to cut foam is with an electric knife. Put your foam off the edge of a counter or table and cut it following your mark. Be careful not to damage your counter or table.
I didn’t have an electric knife, so I tried a serrated knife and it didn’t work. I ended up putting my line on both sides of the foam. Then I cut about half way through the foam with a utility knife, flipped the foam over and cut it through. This worked pretty well. You can see how it cut in the picture below.
Now dry fit your foam on the bench to make sure it fits. Then mark the depth of the foam and cut it again.
Some people used batting and some didn’t. I think it just adds an extra soft and full layer to your cushion. Since I was using two foam blocks, instead of one continuous piece, I chose to use it. This way, the seam didn’t show through my fabric. I left the back edge of the foam without batting so it didn’t get caught in my Velcro. Starting at the top back of the foam, wrap it around the front edge and across the bottom. Then I cut it at the back bottom edge. You can see this in the picture below.
To attach the batting to the foam you can use a spray adhesive for foam or use a plier stapler. I chose to use the stapler and it left a really nice edge. You just pinch the side of the foam (about 1/4″ to 1/2″ down) and the top of the batting edge in the stapler and go all around the edge. I left about an inch in between staples.
MEASURE AND CUT FABRIC
Lay your foam on top of the fabric and then roll it over one time and mark a line. This will give you a general measurement for your top and bottom plate. Cut the fabric at the line. Then fold the fabric in half. Set your foam on the folded piece of fabric and trace it. Then cut both pieces together along the trace line. You want the top and bottom plate to be the exact same size as you foam. If this is confusing to you, watch this video.
Next, you want to cut match-up notches on the corners of your fabric and in the center of long runs. This will help you line up your top and bottom plate later on.
Now measure the depth of your foam and batting. My foam, with the batting, was 2 1/4″ plus 1/2″ seam allowance. So the depth of my boxing was 2 3/4″. Next, measure the length of the front of your cushion and the length of each of the ends of you boxing and add 1/2″ seam allowance to each. Then cut your front and two end panels of boxing.
For the back of the boxing (the velcro strip) I cut two lengths of fabric the same size. The depth of the cushion and the length of the cushion plus 1/2″ seam allowance for each. Then I ran them through my sewing machine with a strait stitch to create a hem on one of the long sides of each piece. See the picture below. These pieces will overlap each other. Then I sewed two parallel lines to hold down the velcro.
Here is what it looks like when it’s finished.
This is another area where I had trouble. I bought a package of Velcro that was five feet long. When I started the project I realized it was five feet, including both sides of the Velcro. So I only had 2 1/2 feet total of Velcro. I didn’t have time to run out to the store, so I cut the Velcro in pieces and ran a strait stitch along both sides of it. This created a lot of extra work and the closed side is not as smooth as I would like it. You want buy enough Velcro for one continuous strip on each flap.
The picture below shows the complete back Velcro boxing panel before it is sewn to the top and bottom plate.
MAKE YOUR PIPING
For your piping, you want to cut long, thin strips of fabric about 1 1/4″ thick. However, I did this and my piping was a pain to run through the sewing machine. Next time, I will cut it to at least 1 1/2″ thick and cut off any extra after I sew it. I ended up cutting 6 strips the length of my fabric. If you are using a patterned fabric, you may want to cut your fabric on the Bias. This just means cutting it on an angle. MADE Everyday has a very helpful video on piping.
Next, sew the strips together on a 90 degree angle.
Then open the the strip up in a strait line and cut off the extra fabric. It will look like this.
Then take your piping and fabric strips to the sewing machine.
Place your piping in the middle of the fabric strip and feed it through the sewing machine using either a zipper foot or a piping foot. I used a zipper foot.
ASSEMBLE YOUR PIECES AND SEW
Sew all of your boxing pieces together, making a rectangle. Then, using a zipper foot or piping foot, stitch the piping to the top plate of fabric. Then pin the boxing to the top plate and sewed it together. Stitch your piping to the bottom plate. Working with your cushion cover inside out, sew the bottom plate to the boxing.
Open up the Velcro and insert your foam into the cushion cover. It should fit snugly. You’ll need to work with the corners and move the foam around until it fits well. Finally, close up your Velcro and place your cushion on your bench.
Overall, for my first time through, this DIY bench seat cushion turned out really well. Sewing is definitely a skill that takes a lot of practice to master. But, now I have the confidence to tackle my outdoor cushions.
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I hope you found this tutorial for a DIY Bench Seat Cushion helpful! I tried to share all of my mistakes, to hopefully help you avoid some of them. Let me know your sewing stories in the comments. What was your first sewing project? Did it turn out how you expected?