How To Sew a Cushion Cover With Ties
Some of our outdoor chair cushions had become faded and were starting to disintegrate so I decided to re-cover them. Although I am making mine for the outdoors, the same techniques apply for indoor cushions.
I didn't even attempt to look for ready-made cushions because my current ones have a slight angle to them and I knew I wouldn't find anything that same shape. These cushions are VERY simple! They are practically flat, there is no piping, there is no zipper, and you use the existing cushion as the filling. Note: You will not want to use this technique for cushions that are more than an inch or so in thickness.
- Sewing machine
- Correct machine needle for weight of fabric
- Straight pins
- Cushion (new or old one to re-cover)
- Tape measure or yardstick
Here's how you can whip up some cushions in a short amount of time.
1. Determine the Amount of Fabric Needed
To determine the amount of fabric, measure the length and width of the cushion at their widest parts. You will also need to account for the slight thickness of the cushion and allow for the seams. Depending on the size of your cushions you may be able to fit two cushions side-by-side on the fabric, thus saving money. If you're still unsure about measurements, you can carry the old cushion with you to the fabric store and have one of the clerks help you figure out the amount of fabric you will need. I used 2 yards of 45" fabric to cover my three cushions.
Make sure you know the width of your fabric before having it cut as they come in varying widths. Most decorator fabric (which is often a more heavyweight, durable fabric and will be on the large rolled bolts) will either be 54" or 60" wide. Dressmaker or fashion fabrics are usually 44-45" wide.
I decided to go with a stripe fabric, but you can choose any pattern you like that coordinates with your decor. The day that I went to purchase my fabric, they hardly had any outdoor (water-repellent) fabric. I was determined to get my fabric that day, so I ended up getting regular decorator fabric in the discount bin and applying water-repellent spray after I completed the cushions. These particular chairs sit on a patio that is beneath a deck so they are somewhat protected. Since they're so easy to make and inexpensive, it won't be a big loss if they only last one season.
Cut strips for ties
2. Creating the Ties
CUT LONG STRIPS OF FABRIC
*Note: Before you begin tracing and cutting you will want to iron your fabric so it is as smooth as possible. If it is too large of a piece to work with you can do some general measurements first and cut more manageable pieces. Just don't cut too small!
The first thing I did was to cut a strip of the fabric 2 inches wide the entire length of the fabric to use for the ties. Since I had a stripe pattern I wanted the stripe to run lengthwise on the ties. I just thought this would look better, but you could cut your ties across the width of the fabric too. I also was able to use the stripe as a guideline for cutting my long strip.
You will need four ties per cushion (two on each side to tie together). Most ties are around 8" long--you just have to make sure you have enough to secure the cushion to your own style of chair. You may need to cut a couple of strips to have enough for all of your ties. Just be sure to leave enough width (or length) in the remaining fabric to be able to cover the cushions! Also, if you want to center a pattern on the cushion you will want to take this into account.
A quality pair of scissors is a must!
Make the ties
CREATING THE INDIVIDUAL TIES:
- Cut each long strip into roughly 8" pieces.
- Fold each piece in half lengthwise and iron a crease into it.
- Next, open flat and fold one long edge in to the center crease you just made. Iron.
- Now fold the other side in to meet the first one. Iron.
- Now fold the whole thing in half lengthwise and iron a final time.
Fold back short edge
MAKE A FINISHED EDGE THEN SEW THE TIE CLOSED
Before you actually sew the ties closed you will need to create a "finished" edge at one end of each tie. To do this, slightly open the tie, fold under one of the short ends about 1/4-1/2", then close tie back together. You can hold this end secure with a pin. The other end will remain raw because it will be sewn inside the back seam of the cushion.
Begin at the "unfinished" end and sew close to the edge the length of the tie towards the "finished" end. Make sure you catch both layers of fabric. When you get to the end it will be thick because of all the folds of fabric. Go slowly. You may even need to crank the needle by hand. Remove the pin when you get close to the end. Backstitch at the end to secure the stitches.
Set all of your finished ties aside.
Stitch ties closed close to the edgeClick thumbnail to view full-size
What is you sewing level?
Trace the old cushion
Add seam allowances
3. Tracing and Cutting the Cushion Cover
Next, fold fabric in half with right sides together. Working on the wrong side of your fabric, you will want to trace around the outside edges of one of the old cushions. Note: This WILL NOT be your cutting line! You will probably need to remove the old cover.
After tracing, move the cushion aside and add 1/2" around all the edges for the seam allowance plus any extra to accommodate the thickness of the cushion. Since my cushion was about 1 to 1-1/2" thick, I added another 1/2" to the border. This final measurement will be your cutting line. It's always better to cut your piece a little larger because it's easier to take something up and make it smaller than it is to try to make something bigger!
You will need a top and bottom piece for each cushion. You can either cut out both layers at one time since the fabric is folded, or you can cut each piece separately. You probably do not want to cut out more than two layers at one time because the fabric can shift as you are cutting.
Pin each set of ties to cover
4. Attach the Ties
Now you get to secure the ties to one of the cover pieces. Since the top and bottom are the same it doesn't matter which piece you secure the ties to.
Take two of your completed ties and match up the raw edges to the back raw edge of one of the cushion pieces, stacking one tie on top of the other. In addition, you want to position the ties to the inside the side seam line so they won't get caught in this seam. The finished edges of the ties will be towards the interior of the cushion. It may be difficult to pin through all of this fabric so you may just need to hold in place.
Using a 1/2" seam, begin sewing slightly before one set of ties and finish just after these same ties. You can reinforce this by backstitching over the ties or put the needle down, pivot the fabric around, and stitch back the other way. Do the same thing with the other two ties at the other side.
When you are finished you will have two ties secured at each side of the back edge of this cover piece.
Pin both cover pieces together
5. Stitch Top and Bottom Together
With right sides together, place the other cover piece on top of the one you just attached the ties to. Pin all around the edges, leaving an opening along the back edge for turning the cover right-side-out.
Using a 1/2" seam, stitch the top and bottom pieces together. Begin at one side of where the opening will be, begin stitching, going over first set of ties. When you get to the corner, lower needle down into fabric, pivot, and turn to sew the next side. Continue in this fashion until you have sewn over the other set of ties and stop leaving an opening in the back edge.
A good machine doesn't have to cost much!
Clip and turn
6. Turn cover right-side-out and stitch closed!
Before you turn the cover to the right side, trim across the corners at a 45 degree angle to remove excess fabric that can cause bulk once turned.
Now turn cover right-side out, make sure the seams are flat, and give it a good ironing. Next, insert the cushion inside the cover. Once situated, pin the opening closed, being sure to fold under the seams 1/2". You will want to use plenty of pins to keep the opening closed.
You have two options for stitching the cushion closed:
1. Since the cushions are thin, you can do like I did and sew it up on the machine. This method can get a little fussy since you have to keep shoving the cushion under the presser foot, but I like how the finished edge comes out.
2. You can sew the opening closed by hand using a slip stitch. Make sure you make small stitches and double the thread so it won't pop open once people start sitting on it.
Choose whichever method you are move comfortable with.
Stitching the cushion closed
Close-up view of closure
That's it! Attach the new cushion to your chair and enjoy what your little hands have made :)
The final product!
Summary of Steps
- Cut and make your ties.
- Trace and cut out cushion cover.
- Attach ties to back edge of cushion cover, ends facing in towards center.
- Sew top and bottom cushion pieces together, leaving an opening in the back edge.
- Clip corners, if necessary.
- Turn cover right side out and insert cushion.
- Stitch opening closed, either by hand or on machine.
- Attach to chair and enjoy!
- Sew slowly over thick folds of fabric.
- Pin with the heads of the pins facing to the right (or towards you) so you can remove them easily as you sew.
- Do not sew over pins.
- If you have to stop sewing before the end of a piece, always have the needle in the "down" position to hold the fabric in place and keep it from shifting around.
- If you are having trouble with your fabric getting stuck when you begin your stitches, you can gently tug on the thread ends to help pull the fabric through the feed dog (the teeth under the plate that move up and down to push the fabric)
- If the final product will be washed and dried, wash and dry the fabric before cutting out pieces.
- Even though you won't see them, it is a good practice to trim your threads.
- Clip corners and curves before turning right-side-out.
- Have at least one quality pair of scissors dedicated to fabric only. Using scissors on paper will dull them quickly!
Questions and Suggestions
If you have any questions let me know and I will try to help you out. Also, if any instructions are not clear or appear to have errors, let me know so I can fix them. Thanks!