This S4H exclusive design allows you to create a beautiful chair cushion with fancy accent piping and nice square corners but without any beads of sweat forming on your brow. There’s no side gusset; we use box corners instead. And the piping is attached as individual strips, so there are no tricky corners. You’ll be sitting pretty in no time. These easy cushions are designed for chairs with a solid back that can’t accommodate the more traditional ties used to secure most off-the-shelf chair pads. Our solution: gripper fabric on the bottom to keep the cushions from sliding. Of course, you could use them on any type of chair as an alternative to dangling ties.
We used quilting weight cotton, which might seem like an unusual choice for something that will be exposed to daily wear and tear. But our samples have easily stood the test of time. This is a S4H Classic Project that has been in use for several years in the home of one of our team members. Because we chose a quality designer cotton, there are no worn spots and very little sun damage. It’s one of the reasons we always promote the use of quality fabric. It’s not only better to sew with as you put together your project, the finished item retains its good looks.
Our chair cushions were originally made with fabric from the Flora & Fauna collection by Patty Young. This is an older grouping that can be hard to find. But because we’ve specified quilting cotton for all the elements, your choices are endless – from your own stash or brand new from your favorite in-store or online retailer.
Sewing Tools You Need
Fabric and Other Supplies
NOTE: Our sample chair measured 14¾” across the back, 15¾” across the front and 14½” from front to back through the center. 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, and use it to figure out your yardage. In general, the amounts shown below should be enough for TWO average seat cushions.
- Fabric for seat cushion tops: ½ yard of 44″ wide fabric should yield two seat cushion tops
- Fabric for seat cushion bottoms: ¾ yard of 44″ wide fabric should yield two seat cushion bottoms
- Fabric for piping: ⅓ yard of 44″ wide fabric should yield enough fabric for two seat cushions
- ¼” cording: 3¾ yards should be plenty for two seat cushions
- One apx. 12″ x 24″ package of anti-skid fabric; we used Dritz Anti Skid Gripper Fabric
- 1 yard of 18″+ wide 2″ thick NU-Foam by Fairfield cushion insert foam (or similar)
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 chairs you would like to make cushions for, and check to see if a pre-cut NU-Foam insert would better suit your needs.
- 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
- Iron and ironing board
- Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
- Straight pins
- Permanent marker
- Pattern paper or similar
NOTE: This is a great opportunity to reuse other large pieces of paper around the house; newspaper, old wrapping paper, shopping bags.
- Craft or serrated knife
- Make a paper pattern of your chair seat to use to cut the foam inserts. (Our chair measured 14¾” across the back, 15¾” across the front and 14½” from front to back through the center.) Simply place the paper on the chair seat and trace the outer perimeter. With a solid back chair, you’ll want to measure the depth to finish the path across the back of the seat.
NOTE: Chairs differ widely, so making 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.
- Keep this first paper pattern, it will become the template for the foam inserts.
- Make a second paper pattern to use to cut your fabric. Use the first pattern as your base, but extend it 1½” on all four sides. This provides the depth needed for the front part of the 2″ box corners plus the ½” seam allowance. (In our sample, that meant our fabric pattern was 16¼” across the back, 17¼” across the front and 16″ from front to back through the center.)
- Using the foam insert pattern (the first pattern) and a straight edge, trace the shape of your chair seat directly onto the foam with a permanent marker. We made six cushions, so we traced this six times.
- Using a craft or serrated knife, cut out each foam insert. We found it was helpful to use a board to help weight and hold the foam as we cut.
- Using the fabric pattern (the second pattern) and a straight edge, cut out the cushion TOPS.
NOTE: Our top fabric had a large directional print, which needed to be fussy cut so it was straight and centered on the cushion. We carefully cut our first piece, then folded that piece in half and used it to align all the subsequent cuts. If you have a particularly large design, you may need to buy extra fabric in order to accommodate the repeat of the design and be able to center your cushion pattern correctly.
- For each cushion BOTTOM, cut one strip 12½” x the width of fabric (44″ in our sample).
- Cut each strip in half. This yielded two 12½” x 22″ pieces for our sample. As overlapping panels, the 12½” dimension is the width, the 22″ dimension is the height. If you have a directional fabric, you will need to cut vertically and horizontally according to your motif. Our dragonfly motif was not directional and we do suggest that for your cushion back to make things easy.
NOTE: How did we figure this measurement? Go back once again to your foam insert pattern (pattern one). The width is the most critical. To your finished width (ours was 15¾” at the widest point but we rounded up to 16 to make the math easier) add 1½” for the outer box corner of EACH, 1″ for a hem along EACH overlap, and 4″ for a generous overlap. For our sample, the equation was: 15¾” + 1½” + 1½” + 1 + 1 + 4 = 25″ but you need to cut that in half because you need TWO panels. So, the final width was 12½”. The height was simply half the width of fabric to make it an easy slice across the main fabric panel. As you’ll see below, you’ll use your top panel as a pattern and will trim away the excess height for a perfect match.
- Cut 1½” x width of fabric strips from the piping fabric.
NOTE: The number of strips you need will depend on the perimeter measurement of your finished cushion (ours was approximately 65″) and how many cushions you are making. Figure out your perimeter by measuring each side and adding them all together; multiply that by the number of cushions you are making, then divide the total by the width of your fabric to get the final number of strips needed. In our sample: 65″ x 6 cushions = 390″ ÷ 44″ wide fabric = 8.86. You always round up, so we needed to cut nine strips total.
- Cut two 4″ x 12″ pieces of gripper fabric for each cushion.
NOTE: This size should work well for a basic chair pad. If your chair’s seat is quite a bit larger or smaller, you may need to adjust the the size accordingly.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
- Make a ½” double-fold hem along one long edge (the 22″ edge) of each cushion bottom piece (we had twelve pieces to finish for our six cushions). To do this, fold and press ½” along the edge, then fold and additional ½” and press again.
- Using a straight stitch, sew close to the inside folded edge to finish. Set aside the hemmed panels.
- Using one of the cushion TOP pieces as a guide, lay one cushion bottom piece face up on top of the cushion top piece, matching the raw edges along the BACK edge and centering it side to side. Lay a second cushion bottom piece, also face up, over the cushion top fabric, matching the raw edges along the FRONT of the cushion top piece. For our sample, the two pieces overlap approximately 4″.
NOTE: This overlap creates the back envelope opening, which allows you to insert the foam. It also means you can remove the covering and launder it after the inevitable Morning-Cheerio-Milk Incident.
- Pin securely, then flip the whole thing over, and trim the cushion bottom fabric flush with the cushion top.
- Repeat for each cushion bottom needed.
- Place a 4″ x 12″ piece of gripper fabric face up on a cushion bottom piece approximately 2″ from the long raw side edge and centered top to bottom.
- Sew the gripper fabric in place, stitching approximately ¼” from the edge all around. Remember to stop with your needle in the down position and pivot at each corner.
NOTE: The gripper fabric will not fray, so the edges can be simply straight cut and stitched in place; they don’t need to be hemmed.
- Repeat for all the remaining cushion bottom pieces.
NOTE: If the foot of your machine is sticking or dragging on the gripper fabric, you can switch to a Teflon® type foot, such as Janome’s UltraGlide foot, or you can try laying a sheet of wax paper on top, which is easy to see through and tear away, but helps a regular foot to move across without drag.
- Using a straight stitch, sew all of your 1½” piping strips together end-to-end to create one strip long enough to go around one cushion. This was approximately 65″ for our sample. Cut your piping cord into a matching length.
- Center the ¼” piping cord on the long fabric strip. Wrap the fabric around the cord, matching raw edges.
- Using a Zipper foot and a straight stitch, sew close to the cording to create piping.
- The piping will be sewn to the right side of each cushion top piece. Because of how our cushion corners are uniquely constructed (they are trimmed and boxed), you will stitch a length of piping to each edge individually rather than in one continuous length.
- To do this, center a length of piping along each edge, aligning the raw edges. Cut the long length of piping into shorter lengths so each length starts and stops ½” in from the corners. Pin each length in place.
- At each end of each piping piece, use your seam ripper to gently peel back the fabric to expose the cording underneath.
- Cut the cord back 1½” from each end – do not cut the fabric. Replace the fabric and re-pin. This removes additional bulk from the piping to accommodate the boxed corners.
- Still using a Zipper foot, stitch the piping in place, staying as close to the cording as possible.
- Repeat for each cushion.
NOTE: If you are brand new to working with piping, take a look at our tutorial about how to make it and attach it.
Assemble top and bottom
- Pin each cushion top to each set of cushion bottom pieces right sides together. Be careful with your pinning; you need to make sure the overlapping bottom pieces don’t shift when you sew.
- Using the Zipper foot, sew as close as possible to (right on top of is best) the previously stitched piping seam. This means the cushion top fabric has to be on top so you can see those previously sewn stitches.
- Repeat for all cushion tops and bottoms.
- With the cushion cover still wrong sides out, trim each of your four corners.
- Using both hands, pinch and pull apart the corner.
- As you keep pulling, the fabric will begin to make a little peak with the trimmed corner point at the top and the seam lines running down the middle of the front and the back.
- Carefully and precisely, line up these seams. The two seam allowances should fold opposite one another. This will help you align the seams. Remember when we cut back the piping in the steps above? This is why. As you align the seam lines and adjust the fabric folds to make a perfect triangle peak, it is very helpful to not be fighting with the bulky piping cord.
- When your seams are aligned and you have your perfect triangle peak, set your seam gauge to 2″ and slide it down the peak until it hits a width of exactly 2″.
- Make a couple dots with your fabric pen or pencil to mark this width line.
- Use your see-through ruler to connect the dots and draw a horizontal line across the peak.
- Check your measurements: you should have 1″ to the right of the seam line, 1″ to the left of the seam line, and 1″ from the top of the peak to the drawn line.
- Stitch along the drawn line. Stitch back and forth along the line two or three times to reinforce. In most box corners, we recommend trimming away the “excess triangle” close to the stitching line. In this case, because we are using just a lightweight quilting cotton, we recommend leaving that excess in place as a bit of extra reinforcement at the corner.
- Turn the cushion cover right side out and gently push out the corners with your finger to reveal the ‘box.’
NOTE : You’ll notice the piping is slightly offset at the corners. Now, there are bound to be some of you who are driven slowly insane by this off-set. To you I say, ‘But you didn’t have to make a gusset!!’ That’s the whole idea of this project. It’s a thick and comfy chair pad with nice boxed corners and a lovely piping accent, but you didn’t have to use the much-more-complex gusset technique. And, I bet, unless you spend the entire day down on one knee staring at the cushion corners, you’ll forget about that tiny off-set in about five minutes. I’ve forgotten about mine already. If you’d like to learn more about making a box corners, check out our full Box Corners Tutorial. If you’d like to learn about gussets and piping, try out our project: Box Style Tufted Floor Cushions.
- Insert foam and have a seat.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation: Kathy Andrews, What Sew Ever