A bench cushion is one of the top projects new sewers list as the decorating puzzle that finally got them thinking about making something on their own rather than buying. Standard bench cushions are certainly available in stores, but I think we can all agree that they never, ever, ever fit right. The piping and buttons are optional, but they add the professional finishing touches that make all the difference... and impress all those who will soon be sitting on your new bench cushion.
Our cushion was made to fit a 18" x 48" wrought iron bench. This is a pretty standard size, but remember, the beauty of this project is to make a custom cushion that fits YOUR bench! Simply measure the width and length, then adjust our measurements up or down accordingly.
Sewing Tools You Need
Fabric and Other Supplies
- 1½ yards of 54"+ wide décor weight fabric; we used a Mill Creek fabric by Raymond Waites Designs that was purchased locally. However, the possibilities are really endless to best match your personal décor style and/or favorite colors. Our friends at Fabric.com have a great upholstery selection; we're also big fans of the Waverly home décor fabrics.
- ONE 45" x 60" pre-cut of polyester batting; poly batting is available in a variety of sizes. As you'll see below in the Getting Started section, we needed two 19" x 49" pieces for our sample, which is why we opted for the size shown above. You could choose a pre-cut or buy locally as yardage.
- 1½ yards of 2" deep x 18" wide NU-Foam®; this densified polyester product comes in pre-cuts as well as a large roll; we used a 18" x 2" x 5 yard roll. For our bench, we needed one piece full width (18") x 48" – you could go this route or select a similar medium-density upholstery foam from your favorite local supplier
- 7¾ yards of ⅜" piping to coordinate with the fabric; we used pre-made cotton/poly piping from our local JoAnn Fabrics in a natural white
NOTE: You can buy pre-made piping or make your own (we have a tutorial on piping if you're new to the technique). If you buy pre-made, you'll want to shop in the home décor section in-store or online in order to find piping large enough for this application. The standard packaged piping by Wrights or others would be too small.
- Six 1⅛" - 1½" covered buttons; we used Dritz® 1½" Cover Button Kits
- All purpose thread to match fabrics
- Buttontwist thread to sew buttons in place; such as Coats Dual Duty Plus® Button & Craft Thread
- See-through ruler
- Fabric pencil
- Iron and ironing board
- Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Straight pins
- Hand sewing needle
- Longer, larger-eye needle for sewing the buttons in place
- From the fabric, fussy cut the following:
TWO 19" x 49" rectangles
TWO 3" x 19" strips
TWO 3" 49" strips
- From the batting, cut TWO 19" x 49" rectangles.
- Cut the NU-Foam® into ONE 18" x 48" rectangle.
- Cut the piping in half; you need approximately 140" for the top and 140" for the bottom (measure the perimeter of your finished cushion and add 8-10").
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
Layer the top and bottom
- Place one 19" x 49" batting piece flat on your work surface.
- Place one 19" x 49" fabric piece right side up on top of the batting, aligning all four edges.
- Lightly pin. Machine baste the pair together around all four raw edges. You will now be able to treat the two pieces as one.
- Repeat with the remaining 19" x 49" panels of batting and fabric.
Attach the piping
- Working on the right side of one fabric/batting panel, and leaving approximately 2" - 3" loose at the head, start in the middle of one 49" side and pin the piping all the way around the edge. The flange of the piping should be flush with the raw edge of the fabric/batting. When you get back around to your starting point, leave a 2" - 3" tail for finishing. Trim away any excess beyond that.
- Clip the flange to allow it to better curve around the corners.
- Peel back the piping fabric on the tail to expose the cording underneath.
- Trim the end of cording tail so it aligns exactly with the head of piping and lays flat against the fabric.
- Fold under the end of the piping tail fabric to create a clean edge. Wrap this folded end under and around the head end, overlapping about ½".
- Attach a Zipper foot. Machine baste the piping in place.
NOTE: As mentioned above, we have a full, step-by-step tutorial on piping if you're new to the technique.
- Repeat to attach the remaining length of piping to the remaining fabric/batting panel.
Make the side ring and assemble the top and bottom to the sides
- Find the four 3" strips.
- Pin all the strips right sides together and end to end, alternating accordingly... 19" end strip to 49" side strip to second 19" end strip to second 49" side strip. You should now have a ring o' fabric.
- Switch back to your regular presser foot.
- Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch all the ends together. Press the seam allowances open and flat.
- Place one fabric/batting/piping panel right side up on your work surface.
- Matching the seams of the side ring with the corners of this main panel, pin the side ring right sides together all around. You are working right sides together, aligning the raw edges, pinning generously as you go, and sandwiching the piping between the layers. Clip into the side fabric ring as needed to allow the fabric to ease and turn a neat corner.
- Change back to a Zipper foot. Sew around the entire edge with an approximate ½" seam allowance. The goal is to stitch as close to the piping cord as possible and keep your seam nice and straight. Depending on your piping and its flange width, your seam allowance might be slightly smaller or larger than ½".
- The corners are handled similarly to how you attach bias binding to a quilt (we have a good tutorial if you are new to this technique). You'll sew almost to the corner, stop and backstitch. Then, keeping your needle in the down position, pivot 90˚, fold the excess fabric of the ring along the seam and into the corner as you turn, then continue down the next side. Repeat this process at each corner.
- Fold up the sides so it resembles the bottom of a gift box.
- Place the remaining fabric/batting piece right sides together with the top raw edge of the side ring. It's as if you are setting a recessed lid into a box.
- As above, you are working right sides together, aligning the raw edges, matching the corners with the seams of the side ring, and sandwiching the piping in between the layers.
- Pin in place all around, but leave an approximate 10-12" opening along one of these 49" sides for turning the cover right side out.
- As above, use a Zipper foot to sew around the entire edge with an approximate ½" seam allowance. Remember to lock your seam at either side of the 10-12" opening.
NOTE: We also have a good step-by-step tutorial on inserting a rectangular base into a tube. The process here is essentially the same process; you simply have a very short tube and a very large base.
- Turn right side out through the opening. Push out the corners. Lightly press.
- Find the 18" x 48" piece of NU-Foam® or similar. Insert the foam into the cover. We found it best to roll both ends of the NU-Foam® towards the center until it was small enought to insert through the opening. Then unroll each end into place. It will be a snug fit, which is what you want. The NU-Foam® has a rough finish so it will grip against the batting on the inside of the cover.
- Starting in the corner farthest from the opening, gently push the NU-Foam® into place, working your way out through the opening.
- Pin the opening closed, being careful to fold in the raw edge so it is flush with the previously sewn seam.
- Thread a hand sewing needle and stitch the opening closed.
- Mark the placement for the three buttons. The row of buttons should be centered side to side (9" from each edge in our sample), and centered end to end. On ours, this meant we had one button smack dab in the center at 24" from each end with the other two placed 12" from each end. Measure and make these three marks on both sides of the cushion, using pins or a fabric pen.
- Using leftover scraps and the button cover kits, create six covered buttons.
NOTE: If you are new to making covered buttons, review our easy tutorial on making them and stitching them in place. It's easy with the Dritz® tools.
- Using the marks you made above, stitch the covered buttons in place. You are not stitching all the way through the NU-Foam®; that would make the cushion too wavy and uncomfortable to sit on. However, you are pulling the buttons tight enough to make them sink down a bit into the foam. As mentioned in the supply list, consider using buttontwist thread, which is heavier and thicker so you can pull your stitches nice and tight without snapping the thread.
- Flip over the cushion and stitch the remaining three buttons into place in the same position and with the same method.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Debbie Guild