How to Upholster a Cushion Cover

  • 01 of 06

    Materials to Create a Cushion Cover

    Picnic bench cushion for comfortable seating
    Debbie Colgrove

    Do you need to bring a picnic bench in for extra seating when the whole family comes to visit at once? They may not notice it's a picnic table bench with a cushion like this one to sit on.

    Materials Needed:

    Continue to 2 of 6 below.
  • 02 of 06

    Cut the Foam to Size

    How to cut thisk upholstery foam.
    Debbie Colgrove

    Cutting a piece of thick foam can be a challenge and can leave you with an uneven choppy surface with many cutting methods but it's the best way to have a custom size be exactly what you want it to be. An electric knife and a little practice can assure smooth edges when you cut your upholstery foam.

    Measure and mark the foam. Using Rotary Rulers will help assure that you are marking true square. 

    Using an electric knife to cut the foam will give you a smooth cut. Practice on an area of foam you will not be using if you have never cut foam before. Protect the surface under the foam from any damage the electric knife could cause.

    Continue to 3 of 6 below.
  • 03 of 06

    Calculating Your Fabric Needs

    An example of how to calculate how much fabric you will need to sew a cushion cover.
    Debbie Colgrove

    Calculate the size you will need to cut the fabric.
    For the example shown here, we will be using a ½" seam allowance.

    For the Top and Bottom of the Cushion

    The length of the cushion plus 1" by the width of the cushion plus 1". Remember you will need two of these pieces, one for the bottom and one for the top of the cushion.

    For the Sides of the Cushion

    The thickness of the foam plus 1" BY the distance around the cushion plus 1" (Note: If the distance around the cushion is longer than your fabric, you will need to seam the sides. Make calculations so that your seam will be at the corners. Remember to add 1" for each seam for the ½"seam allowances. See the examples provided in the cutting diagram explanation below.)


    You will need to measure from the bench to the legs to know how long you will need your ties. I suggest doing this with a piece of ribbon and then measuring the ribbon so you know you have long enough ties to tie them. Cut four, one inch wide strips by the length you calculate. These strips will be folded in half lengthwise and then both edges brought in to the center fold to enclose the raw edges, ending up 1/4" wide. If your fabric is very heavy you may want to experiment on a scrap to make sure this will work with your fabric. Use ribbon or twill tape that matches your fabric if the fabric is very heavy. You may want more ties if you want to tie it on to the legs versus tying the ties together.​

    How Much Fabric to Buy

    Make a sketch of your needed pieces. You will need to buy fabric that is as wide or as long as your longest piece. (You can cut back on the amount of fabric by seaming the side pieces.)

    To Understand the Diagram

    In this example, the bench is 11" wide by 64" long and the foam is 4" thick.

    • The top and bottom would be 12" by 65".
    • The sides are 5" (the thickness of the foam plus 1") by 151"(The distance around the cushion plus 1")OR One piece that is 109" (64" plus 12" plus 12" plus 1" for the front and both sides) BY 5" for the thickness AND one piece that is 65" by 5" for the back of the cushion OR (Shown in Diagram) Two pieces that are 65" by 12"(for the front and back) and two pieces that are 12" by 5" for the ends and two pieces that are 65" by 5" for the front and back sides.
    • The ties for this bench need to be 25" long so they will be cut 1" by 26" and four of them will be needed.
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  • 04 of 06

    Create and Place the Ties

    Controling the ties so they don't get caught in your sewing.
    Debbie Colgrove
    • Fold one end in by 1/4" to enclose the raw edge.
    • Fold the strips in half lengthwise and press the fold.
    • Open the folded strip and bring the raw edges ​into the fold.
    • Press well!
    • With the strip folded sew along the edge to hold the folds closed.
    • Press again.
    • Measure the bench to know where you need to place the tie. Mark this measurement on the bottom fabric.
    • Pin the end of the tie that is not turned under to the edge of the bottom at the marking, aligning the end of the strip and the edge of the fabric, so the end of the tie will be in the seam allowance.
    • Baste the tie in place.
    • Repeat for all four ties.
    • Bring the ends of the ties together on the center of the bottom. Tie and pin them on the bottom fabric so they will not be caught in your other sewing.
    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06

    Apply Trim and Sew Side Sections to Top

    Sewing the sides on a cushion cover.
    Debbie Colgrove

    Place the trim so the seam allowance of the trim will meet your half inch seam allowance with the seam allowance of the trim over the seam allowance on your fabric. More on sewing piping and trim

    Sew the Side Piece(s) And Attaching the Sides

    • If Using One Continuous Piece - Place the ends of the strip right side together being sure that the fabric is a straight continuous loop.
    • If Using Multiple Pieces - Place each end of the front section even with one end of a side section.
      Join the ends using a ½" seam allowance.
      Repeat to add the back section to the other ends of the side sections.
    • If Using One Continuous Piece - Fold the top length in half to find the center. Mark the center.
      Place the seam of the side sections at the half mark. Match the edges and pin the side section to the top section.
      Sew the sections together using a ½" seam allowance, pivoting at the corners.
      Apply a seam finish.
    • If Using Multiple Pieces
      Align the ends of the strips and sew them together using a 1/2" seam allowance to create one continuous strip.
      Match the seams to the corners of the top section.
      Align the edges of the side section(s) and top section.
      Pin in place.
      Sew the pieces together, using a ½" seam allowance and pivoting at the corners.
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  • 06 of 06

    Attaching the Bottom and Finishing the Cushion

    Leaving an opeing to turn the cover right side out saves you using the seam ripper.
    Debbie Colgrove

    Attach the bottom and sides - Use the same method as attaching the top EXCEPT

    • For both methods mark the center back of the bottom section.
    • Mark an equal distance from the center for an area that will be larger enough to place the foam inside the cover.
    • Leave that area un-sewn to place the cushion inside.
    • Apply a seam finish to all seam allowances.
    • Turn the cover right sides out.
    • Press.
    • Once the foam is inside the cover and everything is smooth, pin the opening closed and hand sew the opening closed. Use a slip stitch to have the stitching as invisible as possible.