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Patio Party: Sitting Pretty Chair Cushions

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Your Patio Party guests will stay longer if they have somewhere soft and pretty to sit. Give your chairs comfort and style with a set of custom seat cushions. Outdoor furniture often comes with a set of basic cushions, but the standard colors are pretty bland and boring. It's much more fun to mix and match colorful fabrics to create a unique seating experience.

To figure out how big your cushions should be, measure the width and depth of one chair seat edge to edge. Then, subtract about an inch all the way around. This will be the dimension of your cushion insert. Stay with the original full measurement for the fabric pattern pieces; the excess will be taken up in the ½" seam allowance all the way around. In our example, our chair seats measured 20" wide x 18" deep. As you'll see below, this meant our cushion insert was cut at 19" x 17" and our fabric was cut 20" x 18".

Our sample was made using the beautiful fabrics from Heather Bailey's Freshcut collection. For information on where to buy, read How to Create a Fabric Pallet.

Editor's Note: We think of the Patio Party projects as special-occasion pieces – lovely party accessories to warm up the patio... and the guests. They are intended to be party-time, decorative pieces that would come inside after the fun is done. We chose not to limit our options to rugged outdoor fabrics; instead looked for the most joyful, summery fabric we could find, knowing it isn't intended to sit out in the rain. Of course, the instructions will certainly work with rain-resistant fabric, so feel free to substitute and make a set you can leave out for the season.

Sewing Tools You Need

Fabric and Other Supplies

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Fabric from left: Heather Bailey's Freshcut in Painted Mum-olive/gold, Finery-pink, Cabbage Rose-brown, and Stripe-gold; in back: NuFoam for cushion insert.

  • Fabric for seat cushion tops: 5/8 yard of 45" wide fabric will yield two seat cushion tops (you will need 2 yards of fabric total for six seat cushion tops, if you use all the same fabric for your tops): we used Heather Bailey's Freshcut in Cabbage Rose-brown, Finery-pink and Painted Mum-olive/gold, making two tops out of each fabric
  • Fabric for seat cushion bottoms: 5/8 yard of 45" wide fabric will yield two seat cushion bottoms (you will need 2 yards of fabric total for six seat cushion bottoms): we used Heather Bailey's Freshcut in Stripe-gold for all the bottoms
  • Fabric for seat cushion ties: ½ yard of 45" wide fabric will yield 24 ties, 12" in length (four ties per cushion for six total cushions): we used Heather Bailey's Freshcut in Stripe-gold
  • NU-Foam cushion insert on a roll, in 2" thickness (our sample required a 19" x 17" cut per cushion; 1 yard will yield two cushions; you will need 3 yards total for 6 seat cushions). See Hints and Tips below for more information about NU-Foam.
  • All purpose thread
  • Lightweight paper for drawing one cushion top, two cushion bottoms and one foam insert pattern pieces, at least four sheets that are 20" x 18"
  • Measuring tape
  • See-through ruler
  • Pencil
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Scissors
  • Straight pins

Getting Started

  1. On a sheet of lightweight paper, draw a rectangle 20" wide and 18" high. Cut along drawn lines and label this pattern piece CUSHION TOP. Set aside.
  2. On another sheet of lightweight paper, draw a rectangle 20" wide and 14" high. Cut along drawn lines and label this pattern piece CUSHION BOTTOM UNDERLAP. Set aside.
  3. On another sheet of lightweight paper, draw a rectangle 20" wide and 10" high. Cut along drawn lines and label this pattern piece CUSHION BOTTOM OVERLAP. Set aside.
  4. On another sheet of lightweight paper, draw a rectangle that is 19" wide and 17" high, cut along drawn lines and label this pattern piece NU-FOAM CUSHION INSERT. Set aside.
  5. Pin the CUSHION TOP pattern piece to the fabric you are using for the top of the cushion, and cut around pattern edges. Cut one CUSHION TOP per cushion. As noted above, we cut two tops from each of our Freshcut fabrics: Cabbage Rose-brown, Finery-pink and Painted Mum-olive/gold.
  6. Pin the CUSHION BOTTOM UNDERLAP pattern piece to the fabric you are using for the bottom of the cushion, and cut around pattern edges. Cut one CUSHION BOTTOM UNDERLAP per cushion. As noted above, we cut all six bottoms from the Freshcut Stripe-gold fabric.
  7. Pin the CUSHION BOTTOM OVERLAP pattern piece to the fabric you are using for the bottom of the cushion, and cut around pattern edges. Cut one CUSHION BOTTOM OVERLAP per cushion. As noted above, we cut all six bottoms from the Freshcut Stripe-gold fabric.
  8. Pin the NU-FOAM CUSHION INSERT pattern piece through the top layer of the NU-Foam, just enough to keep the pattern piece from shifting. Cut through entire thickness of NU-Foam around the pattern edges. Cut one NU-FOAM CUSHION INSERT per cushion. You'll need heavy duty scissors to cut through the NU-Foam.
  9. On the fabric you are using for the seat cushion ties (we used Freshcut Stripe-gold), draw 24 rectangles 13" high x 1 ¾" wide across the width of the fabric. The diagram below shows you the correct layout to maximize fabric yield. *
    Diagram
  10. Cut out the SEAT CUSHION TIES pattern pieces along drawn lines.

At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board

  1. On the CUSHION BOTTOM UNDERLAP panel, turn under the right side of the fabric ½" along the width of the panel and press. Then turn under another ½" and press again. Edgestitch along the folded edge to make a clean, double-turn ½" hem edge. This piece should now be 20" wide x 13" high.
  2. Repeat this procedure on the CUSHION BOTTOM OVERLAP panel. Turn under the right side of the fabric ½" along the width of the panel and press. Then turn under another ½" and press again. Edgestitch along the folded edge to make a clean, double-turn ½" hem edge. This piece should now be 20" width and 9" height.
  3. On one end of each SEAT CUSHION TIES piece, turn under the right side of the fabric ½" along the width of the tie (the 1 3/4" end) and press. Next, fold the tie in half lengthwise, lining up the raw edges, and press. Now open up the tie and fold each long side in towards the middle so each raw edge meets this center crease line Press both folded edges. Finally, fold the tie closed again, the long raw edges with be enfolded to the inside, and press. Edgestitch at tie end and down the length of the tie. You will have finished ties that are 12 ½" in length and just under a ½" in width.
    Diagram
  4. Pin two of the Seat Cushion TIES at each corner of the bottom edge of the CUSHION TOP panel, 1" from the side raw edge. For each set of two ties, they should be stacked on top of each other, and the raw edge ends of both ties should line up with the raw bottom edge of the CUSHION TOP. Topstitch through both ties ¼"from raw edge to attach them to the CUSHION TOP panel.
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  5. Take the hemmed CUSHION BOTTOM OVERLAP panel and pin the right side of this panel to the right side of the CUSHION TOP panel, lining up the bottom and side edges.
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  6. Now take the hemmed CUSHION BOTTOM UNDERLAP panel and pin the right side of this panel to the right side of the CUSHION TOP panel, lining up the top and side edges. The hemmed edge of the CUSHION BOTTOM UNDERLAP panel will now be lying on top of the hemmed edge of the CUSHION BOTTOM OVERLAP panel, and the Seat Cushion TIES will now be hidden inside the seat cushion prior to sewing. This makes what is called an envelope closure.
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  7. Stitch a ½" seam around all four edges of the seat cushion, being VERY careful to not catch the seat cushion ties in the seam. Feel with your hands as you sew near the ties to make sure they do not get caught under the presser foot.
  8. Trim all four corners of the seat cushion seam allowances.
  9. Using the envelope opening on the back, turn the seat cushion right side out. When you do this, the four ties that are now sewn into the seam on the back edge of the cushion will be revealed. Make sure to push out the trimmed corners from the inside to assure nice, square corners on the outside.
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  10. Insert a NU-Foam cut insert piece through the envelope closure, making sure to push out the corners of the seat cushion evenly.

Hints and Tips

NU-Foam

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 chairs you would like to make cushions for, and check to see if a pre-cut NU-Foam insert would better suit your needs. Because it can be a bit of a challenge to cut, it may be easier for you to buy the pre-cut NU-Foam inserts per cushion, as long as the sizes they make will work for your chairs. Just read through the above instructions and make measurement alterations for the pattern pieces accordingly.

Strong corners

When sewing corners on a seam, try backtacking and sewing over a few stitches once you reach the pivot point of the next seam. This way, these corners will be more reinforced when you clip away fabric and turn them inside out.

Contributors
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation & Instructions: Gregory Dickson

Other machines suitable for this project include the Bernina bernette 66 and the Baby Lock Crafter's Choice.

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Comments (10)

Mcmmimi said:
Mcmmimi's picture

Hi, thanks for this great and easy pattern. I would like to make my own placemats also. Do you have a pattern for those shown in the picture above?

Kim G. said:
Kim G.'s picture

Love this project. Last time I made cushions I used different colored shoe strings for the ties......makes them a bit unusual and everyone loved the idea.

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Kim G. - Shoelaces are a great idea!

Shay said:
Shay's picture
Thank-you so much, my DH accidently threw away last year's (pricey) cushions that I had intended to recover as needed. I need cushions and don't want to place a zipper or do covered cording as my time is limited, so this is the answer. Deepest admiration and appreciation.smilies/smiley.gif
lothlorien999 said:
lothlorien999's picture
Thanks; these look really cute and have clear instructions. I can't wait to make them.smilies/cheesy.gif
colleen_MN said:
colleen_MN's picture
forget making the ties, too tedious! use ribbon...
alicia.thommas said:
alicia.thommas's picture
sew_aggie: Good question! These cushions are intended for special occasions and are NOT designed to be left outside for an extended period of time. The goal is festive, party-pretty pieces to replace everyday cushions for special occasions. Although we mention that in the overall Patio Party article, I'm adding a note to this tutorial. You certainly could use an outdoor fabric if you are looking for a year-around cushion. The Nu-Foam is resistant to mildew and washable according to the manufacturer. Thanks for the feedback. -Alicia Thommas
sew_aggie said:
sew_aggie's picture
Is there any reason why you didn't use outdoor fabrics? Will these mold if left outside in the rain? Thanks!

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