This is a You Asked 4 It project that was on our list for quite awhile: the French Mattress Edge. It’s actually a hand-stitching technique. And although it is not at all difficult, you do need a longer, stronger needle and heavy-duty upholstery thread for the very best results. As you’ll see below, we also recommend quilting gloves to give yourself a good grip as you stitch.

We show yardage cuts and instructions for our finished sample size: approximately 20″ x 20″ x 4″. You could certainly go smaller or larger; you could even create the mattress edge on a round cushion. We originally used a home décor Jacquard by Waverly Fabrics. It was soft yet stable in a great neutral with a subtle texture – all great features to highlight the mattress edge.

The trick is to get the right fabric and interior core. Because you are grabbing and stitching through a large section of fabric, we recommend staying away from super heavy and/or crisp substates. As mentioned above, our Waverly fabric was a medium weight and very pliable.

For your core, don’t pick the ultra high-density upholstery foam; look for a softer yet still stable foam. We used Project Foam by Fairfield, which worked quite well.

The final softness trick is to wrap your foam core in one or more layers of high loft batting to add the final height to the cushion and give the cover fabric just the right “squishiness” to create the dimensional edge.

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Sewing Tools You Need

Fabric and Other Supplies

NOTE: SUPPLIES SHOWN ARE FOR ONE CUSHION – as mentioned above, our finished sample size is approximately 20″ x 20″ x 4″. You could certainly go smaller or larger – simply adjust the pieces of fabric, batting, and foam proportionately.

  • 1 yard of softer, medium-weight 54″+ home décor fabric; we originally used 54″ Mod Pods In Mineral from the Home Décor Jacquard collection by Waverly Fabrics
  • ONE 19″ x 19″ x 3″ foam block for the interior structure; we cut ours from a 24″ x 36″ x 3″ panel of Fairfield Project Foam
    NOTE: The mattress edge technique requires a certain amount of “squishiness” to the foam. The Project Foam worked great, and we feel was a better choice than traditional high-density upholstery foam.
  • 1½ yards of 48″+ high loft polyester batting; look for thickest batting possible – ours was approximately ½” – something similar to Quilter’s Dream Puff Batting would work well
    NOTE: Batting is available both off the bolt and pre-packaged in a great variety of densities and widths. The yardage shown above is the minimum width required to wrap the foam as described below. As mentioned, you want a super lofty polyester batting
  • All purpose thread to match fabric
  • Heavy-weight thread for tufting and edging in a color to coordinate with the fabric; we used Coats Extra Strong Upholstery Thread
  • See-through ruler
  • Measuring tape
  • Fabric pen or pencil
  • Seam gauge
  • Seam ripper
  • Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Straight pins
  • Long upholstery needles for tufting and edging
    NOTE: Tufting can be hard on needles, bending or even breaking them as you push and pull. No need to be scared, just have more than one needle on hand as back-up.
  • Standard hand sewing needle
  • Seam sealant
  • Quilting gloves, optional but handy for keeping a secure grip during the edging

Getting Started

  1. From the exterior fabric, cut the following:
    TWO 21″ x 21″ squares for the top and bottom
    TWO 5″ high x 41″ long strips for the sides
  2. Cut the foam into a 19″ x 19″ x 3″ block.
  3. From the high loft batting, cut TWO 25″ x 48″ panels.

At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board

Assemble and mark the side ring

  1. Find the two 5″ x 41″ side strips.
  2. Place the strips right sides together. Pin along both 5″ ends.
  3. Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch each end to create a ring.
  4. Flatten the ring, matching up the two seams at the center and creating folds at the outer edges of the ring.
  5. Place pins or make tiny notches at the top and bottom of both outer folds.
  6. You now have two sets of center marks/notches and two seams to use as positioning points.

Mark the top and bottom panels

  1. Find the 21″ x 21″ top and bottom panels.
  2. Fold each panel in half both ways to find the center of each side. Cut a small notch at the center of each side of each piece. Set aside.
    NOTE: Your notches should not be any deeper than ¼”.
  3. The cushion has nine, evenly spaced tufting points.
  4. Starting at the bottom corners, measure 5½” in from the side raw edge and 5½” up from bottom raw edge.
  5. Place a mark at the intersection of these two measurements to create the two bottom corner tufting points.
  6. Repeat to create matching points at the top corners. Then, place a tufting mark evenly between each of the corner points (5″ from each point) to create a square of EIGHT tufting points. Finally, place the final ninth point at the exact center (5″ from each of the four side points of the square).

Assemble the top and bottom to the side ring

  1. Place one marked panel right side up and flat on your work surface.
  2. Using all those handy notches/marks you made, match the side ring to the panel.
  3. Start by placing one SEAM at one corner of the panel. The seam should sit ½” in from the corner.
  4. Continue pining along the edge until you reach your next quarter mark on the ring. Adjust and pin so this quarter mark on the ring sits ½” in from the new corner – just like the previous corner.
  5. Make a small clip in the ring (about ¼”) to allow the ring to better turn the corner.

    NOTE: The Waverly fabric we chose was quite soft, and we found we only needed to snip into the non-seam corners. The seamed corners eased around without a snip. Your fabric may differ, and you may want to clip all four corners.
  6. Continue pinning the rest of the way around, using the same ½”-in pattern at the remaining corners. You are working right sides together, aligning the raw edges and matching the notches/pin marks. Pin generously as you go.
  7. Using a ½” seam allowance, sew around the entire edge. You are stitching right into the corner (seam or marked corner), stopping ½” in.
  8. With your needle in the down position, pivot to turn the corner. Continue stitching the next side.
  9. When done, you have formed the bottom of your box.
  10. Fold up the sides so it resembles the bottom of a gift box. The remaining panel is going to function like a “top” for the box.
  11. Place this remaining panel right sides together with the top raw edge of the side ring. As above, you are working right sides together, aligning the raw edges and matching the notches/seams.
  12. Using the same pattern as for the bottom panel, pin generously as you go around THREE sides, but on the FOURTH side, pin only about 1″ around each corner. You need to leave the majority of the fourth side open to insert the batting-wrapped foam. Using a ½” seam allowance, follow the same method as above to stitch around the three sides and just around the corners of the fourth side.

    NOTE: Make sure you securely lock your stitch at the 1″ point beyond the corners on either side. Getting the foam block into position takes a bit pushing and puts stress on the outer edges of the opening. 
  13. We took the time to add a line of seam sealant to each of the corners, top and bottom. This secures the little clips made to create the easing around each corner and helps prevent any fraying those snips might generate.
    NOTE: If you are brand new, check out our full tutorial: How to Insert a Rectangular Base into a Tube.

Wrap the foam block and insert into the cover

  1. Find the 19″ x 19″ x 3″ foam block and the two 25″ x 48″ panels of batting.
  2. Center the foam on one batting panel. Wrap the foam block like a present. There should be just a slight overlap along the top (this is where the “tape” would go in the present-wrapping analogy).
  3. Hand baste this overlap in place. It doesn’t matter if your stitches are a bit sloppy, or even if the thread matches. You are just holding the batting in place until you can slide the bundle into the cover.
  4. Fold in the excess along each side, again just like a present wrap. Baste each corner to secure.
  5. Center the batting-wrapped foam block on the remaining batting panel, but rotate the block 90˚ so your wrap will be opposite. By doing this, your top overlap seams will be perpendicular to one another, each side will have its own “present wrap,” evenly distributing the bulk around the foam.
  6. Find the cover. It should be right side out.
  7. Compress the batting-wrapped cushion as best you can and insert it into the cover, pushing it in as far as possible.
  8. Gently let go so the cushion unfolds itself. Work the cushion corners into the corners of the cover. Smooth the batting all around.
  9. Carefully pin the opening closed.
  10. Thread a hand sewing needle and hand stitch the opening closed with tiny, even stitches. We first stitched closed at wide intervals, then went back across to fill in with our smaller slip stitches.

Tufting and edging

  1. Thread one of the upholstery needles with a long, double strand of the extra strong upholstery thread.
  2. If you have a distinct top and bottom to your cushion, flip over to the bottom. If you don’t, simply choose which side you want to be the bottom. This is the side where all the knots will be. They are small and somewhat hidden into the tufting, but they will still show.
  3. Starting at the center tufting point, secure the thread at the point. To do this, simply make a small stitch through just the one layer of fabric. Knot the stitch.
  4. Push the needle back in at the marked point and all the way through so it comes out the top at the same marked center point.
  5. Make four to five stitches back and forth through the same point, pulling to create the tuft.
  6. Knot at the bottom and trim away the excess thread.
  7. Repeat to create a matching tuft at each of the remaining eight points, working from the center out. You can add a tiny drop of seam sealant at each knot.
  8. When the nine tufts are complete, you can move to the side edging. Re-thread the needle again with a long double strand of the heavy thread. The side edging is formed similar to a long hand basting stitch (but in this case, the ends of the your thread are knotted together).
  9. Start in one corner, about 1″ in from the actual point of the corner and about ⅝” below the seam within the side panel. As you did above with the tufting, anchor your thread.
  10. Push the needle up through and behind the seam, bringing it out ⅝” above the seam. Take a horizontal stitch approximately ½” in length, then insert the needle down through the cushion, coming out again ⅝” below the seam. Take another ½” horizontal stitch, and pass the needle upwards. You going up and down as you move horizontally. So, your stitches will be offset.
  11. As you cinch the thread, you create the “mattress edge” along the seam.
  12. When you reach the first corner, stop about 1″ from the end.
  13. Take a few small stitches to secure the first line of hand stitching, and to help facilitate the turn.
  14. Insert the needle at a slight diagonal so it comes out having turned the corner. You are still working ⅝” above and below the seam.
  15. Continue around the cushion to create the top mattress edge, re-threading as necessary. Hide your knots along the side panel rather than the top panel.
  16. When done, flip the panel to create the bottom mattress edge.
  17. We found wearing a pair of quilting gloves gave us a better grip to hold on to the needle
  18. … and to hold the edge in place as we stitched.


Project Concept: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Debbie Guild

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Mea Cadwell
Mea Cadwell
1 year ago

I’m smiling because I made very similar cushions, with very similar fabric, around 3 years ago and just came across your site today. I’d seen this style of cushion before but didn’t know the name of the style was French Mattress yet I plunged right into the project and hand sewed the edges just like you did in your tutorial.
It’s a small world.
You cushions look fantastic!

Liz Johnson
Liz Johnson
1 year ago
Reply to  Mea Cadwell

Hi Mae – thank you so much. I think there’s something here about “great minds think alike” 🙂

JoEllen Peterman
JoEllen Peterman
2 years ago

Very good tutorial. Thanks for posting it.

Liz Johnson
Liz Johnson
2 years ago

Hi JoEllen – you are so welcome. We’re glad you found us!

2 years ago

Do you think this pattern could be used as a cover for a floor cushion as well? I’m thinking to put a zipper on one side so it could be washed when needed.
Thank you

Liz Johnson
Liz Johnson
2 years ago
Reply to  Kerri

Hi Kerri – We’ve never tried that so can’t be 100% sure, but because it is a hand stitching technique, I think taking it on and off a lot and laundering it might be quite a bit of stress on the stitches. It wouldn’t be my first recommendation for a removable cover.

Karen J
Karen J
6 years ago

Sew many new ideas, sew

Sew many new ideas, sew little time

Peggy Hagberg
Peggy Hagberg
6 years ago

I love this tutorial. Great

I love this tutorial. Great for making dog beds. My dog would like one in every room.

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