Alfresco. Literally, it means “in the open air.” And doesn’t that sound wonderful this time of year?! Bring some beauty into your backyard with our cheery chair cushions complete with brightly colored poms on the ties that bounce in the warm breeze. Much of the beauty lies in our Waverly Sun N Shade fabric combo. The options in today’s outdoor fabrics are wide and varied: from traditional florals to bold geometrics. And they are available in such great color palettes, like the fiery orange of a spicy summer barbecue or greens as cool as an iced mint julep.
Our Pacific Northwest winters are known for their constant rain, wind, and snow. After the storms have passed, dragging away the protective tarps can be rather discouraging when you discover the punishment your outdoor furniture has endured. That’s where beautiful fabrics come in! Our sample patio still sported its winter grays when we first started measuring and dreaming. A bonafide “before” challenge with a wonderful “after” effect.
After wrapping the patio set in the vibrant colors and patterns of beautiful outdoor fabrics, we’re ready for a casual gathering in sizzling style.
I bet you’ve looked longingly at new outdoor chair cushions in the store or the pages of a pretty catalog, but they can be so expensive; and often, the fit just isn’t what you hoped for once you get them home.
Yet, making your own chair cushions may have seemed out of your comfort range; well… prepare to be comfortable! We’ve simplified the design to make these cushions easy enough even for a beginner.
Our cushions finish at approximately 18″ wide x 19″ deep at the seat x 22″ high at the back, excluding piping. The drawing below shows you the measurements we used to determine the final size for our chair. You can use this as a guide to adjust for your own chair. That said, checking online, we found our measurements were very close to many “generic” cushions you can buy from outlets such as Pottery Barn or Crate & Barrel.
Inventory fluctuates and differs by retail outlet. We love our original Pom Pom Play Peachtini and Panama Wave Sunset Waverly fabric combo, but there are many options to choose from to best match your outdoor living vision. Below are a few additional Waverly Sun N Shade pairings we found at Fabric.com. We’ve included the name of each fabric as a caption to make it easy to locate from your favorite outdoor fabric resource. Also… don’t forget you could use a single fabric for the cushions rather than choosing a second fabric for the inside back panel.
Sewing Tools You Need
Fabric and Other Supplies
Yardage shown is for FOUR CUSHIONS and includes extra for special fussy cutting and to allow the piping fabric to be cut on the bias.
- 2 yards of a 54″+ wide outdoor fabric for the inside back panels of all cushions; we used 54″ Sun N Shade by Waverly in Pom Pom Play Peachtini
- 7 yards of a 54″+ wide outdoor fabric for the inside seat panels, the full outside panels, the piping, and the ties of all cushions; we used 54″ Sun N Shade by Waverly in Panama Wave Sunset
NOTE: Check the Sun N Shade selection at Fabric.com for our combination as well as other options.
- 14 yards of ⅜” piping cord
- 5 yards of 18″ wide x 2″ deep foam; we used NuFoam by Fairfield
- TWO skeins of polyester yarn, in two coordinating colors, for the optional pom poms; we used dark yellow and turquoise, purchased locally
- Clover Pom Pom maker; we used 2½” poms
NOTE: You can certainly simply use a cardboard form to wrap and make poms; we used the Clover Pom Pom Maker since we were making so many and wanted to insure they were all uniform. We also have a tutorial on using this product.
- All-purpose thread to match fabric
- See-through ruler
- Fabric pen or pencil
- Iron and ironing board
- Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Straight pins
- Heavy duty hand sewing needle
- Download and print out the Chair Cushion Corner Template.
IMPORTANT: This pattern is ONE 8½” x 11″ sheet. You must print the PDF file at 100%. DO NOT SCALE to fit the page. There is a guide rule on the page so you can confirm your final printout is to scale.
- Cut out template along the solid line.
- From the fabric for the inside back panel (Pom Pom Play Peachtini in our sample), cut FOUR 20″ wide x 23″ high rectangles. We fussy cut our panels to best feature the motifs on the fabric since these are the panels that are most prominent.
- From the fabric for the inside seat panels, the full outside panels, the piping, and the ties of all cushions (Panama Wave Sunset by Waverly in our sample), cut the following:
FOUR 20″ wide x 21″ high rectangles for the seat panels
FOUR 20″ wide x 43″ high rectangles for the full outside panels
SIXTEEN 2″ wide x 15″ long strips for the long ties in each pair
SIXTEEN 2″ wide x 11″ long strips for the short ties in each pair
Enough 2″ wide bias strips to yield at least 504″ of piping. Yep… that’s a lot – 14 yards. It will certainly need be pieced together.
NOTE: If you are new to working with bias strips for piping, take a look at our detailed tutorial, How To Make and Attach Piping.
- From the foam, cut the following:
FOUR 18″ x 18″ squares
FOUR 18″ x 21″ rectangles
- Using the corner template, round the TOP CORNERS of all the inside back panels…
- Round the BOTTOM CORNERS of all the inside seat panels…
- Round ALL FOUR CORNERS of all the full outside panels…
- For the 18″ x 18″ foam panels, round TWO OPPOSITE CORNERS along one side of each panel – this rounded edge will become the bottom edge of the seat; then for the 18″ x 21″ foam panels, round TWO OPPOSITE CORNERS along on 18″ width – this rounded edge will become the top edge of the back.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
Inside panels and ties
- Pair up an inside back panel with an inside seat panel. Place the two panels right sides together along the inside 18″ edge (the non-rounded edge). Pin in place.
- Using a ½” seam allowance stitch together the panels. Press the seam flat.
- Repeat to create three more inside panels, using the remaining three pairs.
- Find all the tie strips. You should have 16 long strips and 16 short strips.
- Fold each strip in half lengthwise, right sides together, aligning the raw edges. Pin in place down the long side and across one end. Leave the opposite end open.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch down the long side and across one end, pivoting at the corner.
- Clip the end corners at diagonals; it will look like a triangle.
- Turn right side out, push out the corners and press flat.
NOTE: If you are new to making skinny ties, we have a great little tutorial on turning and pressing skinny straps.
- Repeat to create all 32 ties.
- Pair up the 32 ties into 16 sets of 2, each set containing one long tie and one short tie. Align the raw ends of the two ties in each set. Each cushion has four sets of ties.
- Find the sewn inside panel. Measure 3″ down from the top rounded corners and place a pin at each point. Place one pair of ties at each 3″ marked point. Align the raw edges of the ties with the raw edge of the panel so the off-set, finished ends of the ties are all facing towards the center of the panel.
NOTE: If doesn’t matter if the short tie is on top or the long tie is on top. But whichever way you choose, keep that pattern consistent for all the sets of ties.
- Machine baste the ties in place.
- The remaining two sets of ties go right above the horizontal seam line of the inside panel. Measure ½” up from the seam line on each side, into the back panel, and place a pin. As above, place one pair of ties at each ½” marked point. Align the raw edges of the ties with the raw edge of the panel so the off-set, finished ends of the ties are all facing towards the center of the panel.
- Machine baste the ties in place.
- Repeat to add four sets of ties to the remaining three inside panels.
Outside panels and piping
- Stitch the 2″ bias strips together end to end to create one, super long length. As mentioned above, if you are new to working with bias cuts for piping, we have a great tutorial.
- Find the matching length of piping cord.
- Wrap the fabric around the piping cord. The fabric is right side out. Align the raw edges of the fabric and pin in place.
- Attach a Zipper foot.
- Secure the fabric in place around the cording with a basting stitch, running your seam as close to the cording as possible. Go slowly; it’s important the raw edges of the fabric stay even with one another.
- When the piping is complete, cut it into FOUR equal 126″ lengths.
- Find one of the four full outside panels. Place it right side up and flat on your work surface.
- Starting along one side edge, pin a length of piping around all the entire panel, aligning the raw edges of the piping with the raw edge of the fabric.
- Leave about 1-2″ free at the head and the tail of the piping.
- At the starting/ending point, use your seam ripper to reveal the cord. Cut the cording ends so they butt together.
- Trim away the excess fabric, then re-fold it into place around the cording.
- Re-pin the piping so it is now a continuous loop around the panel.
- Machine baste the piping to the panel. We continued to use our Zipper foot.
NOTE: If you are new to attaching piping, the same Piping Tutorial has great step-by-step notes on joining and finishing.
- Place the finished inside and outside panels right sides together, aligning the rounded corners and all the raw edges, and sandwiching the piping between the layers.
NOTE: Prior to layering together, you may also want to lightly pin the ties to the back panel to insure they stay out of the way of the seam.
- Pin around the entire perimeter, leaving about 15″ open across the top: you want to machine stitch just around the top corners, leaving the straight section open.
- Stitch the layers together, using a ½” seam allowance. Remember to lock your seam at either side of the top opening. We continued to use our Zipper foot so we could keep our seam tight against the cord.
- Turn the cover right side out. Smooth and round the corners with your finger or a long, blunt tool, like a knitting needle or chopstick.
- Before inserting the foam, fully machine stitch the piping in place across the top opening against the back panel. Remember, it was only machine basted in the prior steps. It has been secured into the seam around the rest of the cover, but not across the top opening. You want it to be secure prior to hand-stitching the opening closed, so stitch across with a ½” seam allowance to match your sewn seam, staying right up against the cord. Now, when you hand sew the top shut, this section of piping will be at the ½” seam allowance just like the rest of the seam.
- Find the 18″ x 18″ foam piece (the seat piece). Compress it a bit and insert it through the top opening with the rounded corners going in first. Once inside, let it gently unfold and uncompress, then adjust it into position against the bottom of the cover so the rounded corners of the foam fit against the rounded corners of the cover.
- With the seat piece in position, pin the front to the back horizontally across the cover, right along the inside horizontal seam.
- Re-thread your machine, if necessary, with thread to best match the cushion (from both sides). We used natural in the top and orange in the bobbin.
- Stitch in the ditch of the original horizontal seam across the cover. This secures the layers, separates the seat from the back, and creates a fold line that will allow the cushion to sit correctly in the chair.
- With that horizontal seam sewn, insert the 18″ x 21″ foam piece (the back piece) through the top opening. The straight 18″ edge goes in first. Once inside, let it gently unfold and uncompress, then adjust it into position against the top of the cover so the rounded corners of the foam fit against the rounded corners of the cover and the bottom straight edge rests against the horizontal seam.
- Fold down the raw edge of the top inside panel so it is flush with the sewn seam, and pin in place up against the piping.
- Thread a hand sewing needle and hand stitch the opening closed with tiny, even stitches.
- Using a Clover Pom Pom maker, or your favorite method, make FOUR 2½” poms for each cushion: two in one color and two in a second color.
- Hand stitch the finished poms to the ends of the the TOP ties only. To mix it up a bit, we recommend stitching one color to the long tie on one side and to the short tie on the opposite side – vice versa for the second color.
NOTE: If you are new to making poms with a Clover Pom Pom maker, we have a good step-by-step tutorial.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Debbie Guild