Sitting pretty. That’s what you’ll be when you complete this lovely vanity chair pad. We took a simple center-tufted cushion design, then added deep double ruffles and long beautiful bows to attach the pad to the back of the chair. You’ll also want to check out our “keep-it-from-slipping-and-ripping-out-the-ties” trick at the end of the article.
Although our cushion was specifically designed to coordinate with the matching skirted vanity table, it would also be an adorable project option for a set of kitchen chairs or to update a desk chair. Voile is a perfect fabric to create the soft ruffles and lusicously long bows.
Today’s project features voile from Tula Pink’s The Birds & The Bees collection. This is an older collection that is no longer readily available. However, voile is still a popular substrate for many designer collections. We picked four pretty new options shown below at Hawthorne Threads. For a full selection, enter the word voile in the search field on the Hawthorne Threads website.
Sewing Tools You Need
- Any sewing machine (we recommend the Janome Skyline S5)
Fabric and Other Supplies
Our chair came from Ikea. Below is a bird’s eye view of the seat top along with a drawing of how the chair pad sits on the seat and where the ties are positioned in relationship to the back chair posts.
The fabric amounts listed below will accommodate this basic size. If your chair seat is quite a bit smaller or larger, make your pattern first, then use it to figure out your yardage.
- ½ yard of 45″+ wide home décor weight fabric for the seat cushion; we used a 54″ medium weight white linen (purchased locally) – sateen would also be a good choice
- 1 yard of 53-54″ wide voile or a similar draping fabric in a pretty print for the over ruffle and ties; we used Bee’s Knee’s in Sunset from The Birds & The Bees collection by Tula Pink for FreeSpirit Fabrics
- ½ yard of 53-54″ wide voile or a similar draping fabric in a coordinating solid for the under ruffle; we used a solid white voile
- ½ yard of Nu-Foam (or similar) for the cushion insert in a 2″ thickness
NOTE: Nu-Foam comes in various thicknesses and is sold as pre-cut squares or in pre-determined widths on a long roll that can be cut to length. Measure the seat size on the chair you would like to make a cushion for, and check to see if a pre-cut NU-Foam insert would better suit your needs.
- ONE 1½” covered button kit
- All purpose thread in colors to match fabric
- See-through ruler
- Long, solid ruler (metal is best)
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Fabric pencil or pen
- Hand sewing needle
- Iron and ironing board
- Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
- Straight pins
- Permanent marker
- Pattern paper
NOTE: This is also great opportunity to reuse other large pieces of paper around the house; such as newspaper, old wrapping paper, or shopping bags.
- Craft or serrated knife
Making a pattern for the chair seat
Chairs differ widely, so tracing your chair’s seat to make a simple paper template, like professional upholsterers do, gets the job done quickly and easily. Fold your finished pattern in half to make sure both sides are mirror images of one another. Trim as needed to insure your final pattern is accurate and true. Remember to mark the position of back chair posts on each side so you know where to position your ties
- Make a paper pattern of your chair seat to use to cut the foam insert.
- Using this foam insert pattern and a straight edge, trace the shape of your chair seat directly onto the foam with a permanent marker.
- Using a craft or serrated knife or large shears, cut out the foam insert.
- Using the paper pattern again, or using the cut foam insert itself (which is what we did), cut TWO seat pieces from the fabric for the main cushion (white medium weight linen in our sample). ADD ½” ALL AROUND FOR A SEAM ALLOWANCE.
- Remember to transfer the markings for the back chair posts onto the one of the two seat pieces.
NOTE: If you are unsure of your cutting skills, you can make TWO paper patterns, one for the foam insert and another using the first paper pattern as a base and drawing in the ½” seam allowance all around.
- From the fabric for the over ruffle and ties (Bee’s Knee’s in Sunset in our sample), cut the following:
TWO 6″ x width of fabric (WOF) strips for the over ruffle
TWO 9″ x WOF strips for the ties, then cut each of these strips in half to yield four 9″ x 27″ strips.
- From the fabric for the under ruffle (white voile in our sample), cut TWO 7½” x WOF strips.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
- Collect the four ruffle strips, the two at 6″ and the two at 7½”.
- Place the two 6″ strips right sides together and pin along one 6″ end. Stitch together, using a ½” seam allowance. Press the seam open to create one long 6″ strip.
- Repeat with the two 7½” strips.
NOTE: Remember the general “ruffle rule” of a starting flat fabric measurement that is two to two-and-a-half times longer than your finished measurement. In our sample, our finished length needs to be about 44″ (the measurement around the sides and front of our chair seat). Seaming together two WOF strips gave us a starting length of 107″ or just under two-and-a-half times the finished length. If you want a tighter ruffle, start with a longer length. If you want a softer ruffle, start with a shorter length.
- On each long strip, create a narrow (¼” or smaller) hem on both short sides and along the entire long bottom edge.
- You can make a simple double turn hem or a rolled hem. We chose to make a simple hem.
NOTE: If you are new to hemming we have tutorials on both techniques: How To Make A Rolled Hem and How to Make A Simple Hem.
- Place the under ruffle strip right side up and flat on your work surface.
- Place the over ruffle strip on top on the under ruffle, also right side up.
- Align the side and top raw edges of the two strips. The under ruffle (the solid) will hang below the over ruffle (the print) by approximately 1″.
- Sew two rows of gathering stitches along the top raw edge through both layers.
NOTE: If you are new to gathering, we (of course!) have a dandy tutorial.
- Pull up the gathers so the ruffle fits around the front and both sides of your chair seat. We gathered our strip down to 44″.
- Find the four 9″ x 27″ strips.
- Fold each strip in half lengthwise, right sides together, so it is now 4½” x 27″.
- Pin together along the 27″ edge and one 4½” end.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch along the 27″ edge, starting at the open end. When you are approximately 3″ from the pinned end, stop with your needle in the down position, pivot at a 45˚ angle and stitch across the end at a diagonal to the opposite folded edge, forming a point. Clip the corner and the point.
- Repeat with the remaining three strips.
- Turn all the strips right sides out and press. Use a long, blunt-end tool, such as a chopstick or long knitting needle, to gently poke out the corners.
- Fold a pleat into the un-sewn end of each strip, bringing the width from 4″ down to approximately 1″.
Assembling the seat cushion
- Find the seat cushion piece onto which you transferred the back chair post markings. Place this piece right side up on your work surface.
- Pin a tie at each of the back post markings, centering the pleated end of the ties over the mark and keeping the raw edges of the seat fabric and the tie fabric flush.
- The side ties go at a 90˚ angle to the back ties and ½” down from the back raw edge.
NOTE: You may want to fold up the ends of the ties and lightly pin them in place in the middle of the chair seat panel to keep the ties out of the way of the final seam.
- Find the gathered double ruffle.
- Pin the ruffle over the top of the seat piece and the side ties. The raw edges of the ruffle should be flush with the raw edges of the seat fabric.
- Start and end the ruffle ½” in from the back edge – you don’t want the ruffle getting caught in the back seam; it needs to hang straight down at the sides!
- Find the remaining seat cushion piece and place it, right side down on top of your other layers, aligning all the raw edges and sandwiching the ruffles and ties between the layers.
- Pin like mad! You want to be sure to catch all the layers but not the loose ends of the ties. And, you want the ruffle to be nice and even all around. Now is the time to gently adjust the ruffles if need be.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch through all the layers.
- You need to leave about a 9″ opening across the back to insert the cushion. The best way to do this, and keep your corners neat, is to start your seam along the back, approximately 2″ from one corner. Stitch to that first corner, stop with your needle in the down position, pivot, and continue the rest of the way around to the opposite corner. Stop again with the needle in the down position, pivot, stitch another 2″ along the back, and stop and lock your stitch. This insures you secure the back ties in the seam but leave a wide enough opening for the insert.
- Insert the NU-Foam cushion.
- Fold under the raw edges of the opening so they are flush with the sewn seam and pin in place.
- Thread a hand-sewing needle. Slip stitch closed.
- Using a scrap of the seat cushion fabric and a button cover kit, create one covered button.
- Find the center of the seat cushion and hand stitch the covered button in place, knotting it tightly against the bottom of the cushion.
- If you are new to making covered buttons, review our easy tutorial on making them and stitching them in place.
- Place the pad on the chair and tie it in place with generous bows. The tails of the bow should trail down the back of the chair.
If you’ve ever had a tie-on seat cushion before, you may have been saddened when the ties ripped out from the seam after only a little bit of use. This is because the chair pad slips and slides a little bit each time you sit down, putting stress on the ties. Before long, they succumb to the stress and rip out.
To prevent this, place a sheet of shelf liner (that same gripper fabric you use in your drawers and/or cabinets to keep things stable) under the cushion. It’s inexpensive and easy to find, and it will keep your chair pad from sliding around, extending the life of the ties.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Kathy Andrews, What Sew Ever