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Make Your Own Removable Cushion Covers

Dateline: 04/04/98
Debbie Colgrove
Foam Removable Cushion Covers

As spring approaches and we get ready for time out doors, cushions and coordinating patio accessories help us feel right at home.


Planning The Cushions

Many decks have built in benches that upholstered cushions, bring the comfort of indoors to the great outdoors. The method described here, has zippers in a section of the back of the cushion. This is the best method for outdoor cushions to maintain water resistance with vinyl or water resistant fabric. Regular upholstery cushions directions can be found below.

Bench Illustration
  • Measure the area you want to cushion. It is best to stay on the supported area, to prevent extra wear and sagging edges.
  • Decide on the thickness of the foam you will purchase. This will depend on the area. For a flat, fully supported surface will need less thickness then a surface with wide spaces between the boards.

Taking Cushion Measurements

Once you have decided on the exact size of the foam, draw a sketch, to help you plan each cushion. All measurements must be accurate. As with making pillow covers, make the pattern the same size as the foam. The take in from seam allowances, makes a snug fitted cover.

sketch illustration

Measure the top of the cushion.

Top Of Cushion Illustration

Measure the distance around the edge of the cushion.

Distance around the edge illustration

Decide how long you want the zipper area. Leave at least 1-2" of non zipper area at the edge of each side, to maintain the shape at the corners. Although the urge to save on zipper expenses may set in, remember that the longer the zipper, the easier it will be to remove the cushion and the less likely you will be to break the zipper with pulling the opening to get the cushion in to the cover.

Zipper detail illustration

On most outdoor equipment, I usually opt for the larger zippers - when I replace tent zippers for instance, they usually come from the factory with a really inadequate zipper size (i.e., #5 and I replace with a #8). However, in seat covers which really don't get used hardly at all and only have to be strong enough to handle the slight tension caused from sitting on the cushion, a #5 is adequate. #7 would be a slightly safer bet for heavier fabrics and #8 would 'bombproof'. #10 would be way over-kill unless the scope of the project required it: (1000 denier cordura cover, 6" thick foam, being used on a daily basis by construction workers covered and mud, having to be taken off daily and washed type of thing....). Hope that helps a little - your questions are always welcome! Steve - Wy'East Fabrics (no longer online)


Making Your Pattern

Top And Bottom Of The Cushion Pattern Piece

  • Using the top of the cushion dimensions, Length and width, make perfect corners. Use a carpenters Square to draw this piece on pattern paper, brown bag paper, or taped together newspaper.
  • Make a note on the pattern piece to "Cut Two".

Side Pattern Piece

  • Using your Distance around the edge measurement Subtract the decided upon zipper measurement.
  • Add 2" to this measurement for seam allowance where the straight strip will join the zipper area.
  • Make a pattern piece the length you have calculated by the thickness of the foam.

Zipper Area Pattern Piece

  • Use the length of the zipper for the length of the pattern piece.
  • For the width of the pattern piece, use the side measurement minus 3/4" (if you are using a heavy duty zipper) for the area the zipper will use plus 1/2" for the 1/4" seam allowance to attach each side of the zipper, divide this measurement in half and cut two. (One strip for each side of the zipper.)

Calculating Your Fabric Needs

If you don't have fabric to lay the pattern piece out on, mark out an area of your floor the width of the fabric you plan on purchasing. Most calicos and cotton blends are 45" wide, while home dec fabrics are usually 54" wide. Lay out the pattern pieces in the marked out area to determining how much length of fabric you will need for each cushion. Remember to allow for cutting 2 of the top/bottom pattern piece and zipper strip pieces.

If the fabric is a one way design remember to compensate for laying all pieces in one direction. Make a mark at the top of all your cut pieces to prevent mistakes when you are sewing them together.

If you will be adding cording or piping to the edge seams of these cushions, be sure to allow for cording at the top and bottom of the cushion. The cording and piping can add extra strength and support to your finished cushion. It does not have to be the same fashion fabric as the cushion. You can use contrasting or a complimentary print to cover your cording for a designer touch.
Another method:
A zipper which wraps past the cushion ends for very easy cushion removal. If you still feel lost try a bit more reading with Cutting And Sewing Basics.

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