Monday, April 30, 2012

How To Sew Outdoor Cushions Part 2

With summer fast approaching, I'm making my outdoor projects a top priority.  I love to spend as much time outdoors as possible during the warm months of the year.  Some of our favorite things to do are:  Grilling of course, Smores around the fire pit and playing a few rounds of Progressive Rummy with family and friends.  So new cushions for the outdoor chairs is definitely at the top of my "to do" list.
A couple weeks ago I showed how to make a custom pattern for your outdoor chairs and today I'm going to show how to sew these cushions from the pattern you made.  If you didn't see the original post, you can find it 
Mine looked like this

My cushion is going to be boxed with 2" foam, welt cord and a zipper closure.

Cutting-  Cut 2 of your pattern pieces for each cushion.
              I measured the back part of my cushion to see how long I wanted my zipper to be.  Make sure  
              your zipper is long enough to stuff your foam through it when the cushion is done.
              My zipper is going to be 20" long, so I added 1" for seam allowance.  I'll be cutting my zipper
              21" long.   
              Now since your cushions might not be 2" thick like mine, here's a formula to determine how wide 
              to cut your zipper strips:  Foam thickness (2") divided by 2= (in my case 1") plus 1 1/8" my 
              zipper strips will be cut 2 1/8" wide by 21" long.  Cut 2 of these per cushion.
              For the boxing, measure all the way around your cushion, then subtract your zipper length and then 
              add a few inches for seam allowance.  It's OK to cut your boxing a little longer...better too long 
             than too short.  Add 1" to the width of your foam for seam allowances.  So my boxing was cut
             54" long by 3" wide.
             Instructions for cutting bias strips and covering welt cord are here.  Make sure you make enough 
             welt cord to go around the top and the bottom of your cushion.

After you've made all your welt cord it's time to start constructing the cushions.  Just take it step by step.

Step 1.  Welt to top and bottom cushion pieces-Fold your cushion pieces in half and find the center back of your cushion.  Make a small snip there.  Place your welt cord a 1/2" beyond this snip mark and begin stitching at the snip mark, leaving that first 1/2" of welt loose.
The first back corner of my cushion is rounded, so I simply cut into the welt about every 3/4" to make the curve of the corner.
But your corner may be squared off like my front corners are.  To make those corners, stitch up to, but not beyond 1/2" of the corner.  Stop with your needle down.
Clip into the seam allowance of your welt right at the place where your needle is down.
Raise the presser foot and pivot your cushion and welt.
Continue to stitch the welt all the way around your cushion.  Stop stitching 2-3" from the center back starting point.  Stop with your needle down.
Cut your welt 1/2" beyond the center of the cushion.
Open approx. 2" of the welt cord seam to expose the cotton cording inside.
Turn up 1/2" of the welt cord fabric and lay it flat on your cushion.
Lay the beginning part of your welt cord on top of this.
Now cut the extra cotton cord so that it butts right up against the beginning welt cord.
Fold the fabric over the beginning welt cord and stitch across it.
Following these instructions, add the welt cord to all your cushion pieces.

Part 2.  Zipper  I know a lot of people are intimidated by zippers, but these zipper instructions are EASY, I promise!  I use zipper by the yard, you can use a store bought zipper if you like, just buy your zippers a little longer and extend the actual zipper past the zipper strips on both ends.  If you are going to be making a lot of cushions, I highly recommend zipper by the yard.  First off, you can make your zipper what ever length you need and second off, zipper by the yard costs pennies compared to store bought zippers that I think run a couple dollars each.  I'll attach a link at the end of this post for some sources for zipper by the yard.
OK, back to sewing our zipper.  Lay your first zipper strip face down on the zipper and stitch close to the zipper teeth.
Stitch all the way to the end of your zipper strip and cut your zipper off evenly with the zipper strip.
Open out your zipper strip.
Now push the fabric over one side of the zipper teeth.  Not all of the zipper teeth, just one side, right down the middle.  Top stitch, aligning the right side of the zipper foot along the teeth.  This gives you a guide for the perfect distance away from those teeth and helps you stitch straight.

Now lay your second zipper strip on the other side of the zipper and repeat the steps.
When you top stitch this time, you will see that the fabric folds meet at the center of the zipper, hiding all the zipper teeth.
Here's what it will look like.
Now add your zipper slide.  Another reason zipper by the yard is so much better and easier, you can add the zipper slide after the zipper is more fighting zipper slides to get your stitching straight.

With right sides together, lay one end of your boxing against the end of your zipper and stitch.

Step 3.  Stitching the boxing to the first cushion side.  Fold your zipper in half and find the center of your zipper strip.  Clip on both sides of the zipper strips.
Match the clip mark in your zipper strip to the clip mark in the center back of your cushion.  Pin the zipper to the back of the cushion, clipping into the seam allowance where necessary to round the curves.
Stitch the zipper strip to the cushion getting as close to the welt cord as possible.
Continue to stitch the zipper and boxing to the cushion clipping in to the seam allowance as you did for the welt.  When you get to a corner, stitch right up to the clip in your welt and pause with the needle down.  Clip up to, but not beyond the needle again.  
Raise the presser foot and pivot the cushion and boxing.
Make sure you stitch close to the welt at the corners with out actually stitching over the welt.  Continue around your cushion until you get to within a few inches of the starting end of your boxing/zipper.  Extend the boxing past the starting point by 1/2" and make a clip mark here.
Remove your cushion from the machine and cut the excess boxing off at your clip mark.  Cut it straight across.
Using 1/2" seam allowance, stitch the end of the boxing to the end of the zipper.
Finish stitching the last few inches of the boxing/zipper to the cushion.
This is what your cushion should look like at this point.  Give yourself a pat on the back because you are past the hardest part of cushion making!!

Step4.  Boxing to the second cushion piece.  I've seen people try to make boxed cushions before and they had a hard time getting their corners to match up.  So here's my tip for helping to match the corners perfectly.  Start by matching up those little slit marks we cut in our cushion backs and the center of our zipper strip.  Now fold the corners of your cushion like this.

Make a small clip mark in the opposite side of the boxing strip.
This clip mark should line up with the corner of the second cushion piece.  You can pin it there if that helps.

Starting at the center back of our cushion, with our clip marks lined up, stitch the boxing to the second cushion piece.  Again, making sure your stitching is tight to the welt cord.
Clip around curved corners like you did with the first cushion piece.
As you're approaching your first corner, check to see if your clip mark is going to line up with the corner.  If it's just shy of lining up, don't worry about it, the pressure from your presser foot will stretch the boxing and by the time you get to the actual corner it will most likely line up.  If it looks like it is lining up past the corner, then you need to try to feed some of the boxing strip into your stitching.  I'm not saying to make little tucks!  I'm saying gently push the boxing towards your presser foot and needle as you stitch, easing this extra into the seam.  At the same time stretching the cushion piece on the bottom.  If your corner is within 1/8" of lining up perfectly, that is fine.  Anything more than that needs to be adjusted.
When you get to the corner, pause with the needle down and make your slit all the way to the needle, pivot and continue to stitching...just like you did previously.
Stitch all the way around your cushion.  Open the zipper and turn right side out.
Yikes!  Mine is a little wrinkly now.  If yours is too, give it a quick pressing and you are ready to put it on your cushion.  If you made your new cushion cover to cover an existing cushion, remove the old cushion cover before putting this cover on your foam.  You don't want the old cushion cover showing through and you don't want the old welt making lumps and bumps through your new cushion cover.
Here's few pictures of my finished cushions on my chair.  Add a throw pillow and it's an instant upgrade.  
Hmm....which pillow to feature on my chair?  I think I'm leaning towards this pottery barn inspired coral pillow.  Which one do you like better?
Now that my chair has a new cushion, I think it needs to be refinished....that will have to wait for another day.

Here's a link for zipper by the yard

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  1. What a great tutorial! Thanks for sharing! :)

  2. If only I knew how to sew. Beautifully done!

  3. This is a great tutorial! I just bought used patio furniture and want to redo the cushions!

    1. Katie,Sounds like my tutorial was perfect timing! Glad I could help. I would love to see pictures when you're done!

  4. Whoa, your tutorial and photos are top notch! Well done and your cushions look terrific. Love that red coral print fabric.

    1. Ann, Thanks so much!!
      It's not a coral's an applique technique I did in a post last week, you'll have to check it out! It was inspired by Pottery Barn and was fairly easy to make.

  5. I have been looking all over for something like this! So glad I found you through Sew Chatty!

  6. Thanks for another great tutorial. I like the way you joined the two ends of the welting. I usually overlap them, and let them both taper off into the seam, but they never look good. So this tip was especially helpful for me.

    I'm curious to know if your fabric is outdoor fabric, what kind of foam you used, and if this is the kind of thing you can leave outdoors rain or shine.

    1. So glad you enjoyed my tutorial!
      Regarding the fabric, no mine is not outdoor fabric. It is a canvas which will hold up like an outdoor fabric. The fact that it is off white it won't really fade much and the sturdiness of the canvas will not rot from the sun exposure and the tight weave and finish on the canvas will cause water to bead rather than soak through.
      I don't always use outdoor fabric when sewing outdoor pillows and cushions, because I know if they don't hold up until next year that I can just make another set. I used regular foam. When I say regular foam, I mean upholstery grade foam, not the stuff JoAnns Fabrics passes off as foam. If your fabric is outdoor fabric and water proof, then your foam will not be exposed to moisture.
      I have several sets of cushion covers for these particular wicker chairs. I will probably use these white ones during the summer months when there's no real risk of rain and use the old cushion covers for during the winter...the old ones held up just fine this last winter and they were not outdoor fabric either.
      If you're wanting to use a fabric other than outdoor fabric but are worried about it holding up, you can scotch guard it and virtually make it water proof.
      Hope this helps.

  7. Thanks for this tutorial, I need to re do some of my outdoor cushions. I would love for you to share this at my link party

  8. Looks fantastic! I wish I knew how to sew because I have a chair that is in desperate need of a recover.

  9. Hey there!! I just added myself to your followers for support, and wanted to invite you to check out an awesome Modcloth giveaway I'm having!

    Hope to see you there! Thanks so much!

  10. I love the PB inspired Coral pillow. Great tute for sewing a cushion!! I used to be so intimidated by zippers and after you do a few, your confidence builds. I love how you can't see the zipper either. Great job!!! Stopping by from Keeping It Simple linky party and your newest follower.

    Here is what I shared this week:

    1. Hi Alisha,
      I'm so glad to hear you say that about zippers! It's true! They are intimidating for so many people, but once you learn some tricks and methods there is nothing to them. I've timed myself before and I can put a zipper in in under 2 minutes! But I remember my early sewing days as a teenager spending at least an hour trying to get the stitching straight and fighting to sew around the zipper pull.
      Thanks for following!

  11. This is a super great tutorial! Defintely need to do this to some chairs we have! I would LOVE to have you share this at my link party going on!

  12. I'm always am so impressed by the quality of your tutorials. I love your cushions, and love both pillows, but love how the red pops! I almost sent you an email last week, I've been sewing my living area curtains, making by hand pinch pleated cafe curtains. I could not figure out how to do the calculations of pleats to spacing and end up at the correct window width (inside mount). After many hours, no days of frustrations I finally got it to work. Still don't know how the calculation part works. I've so pleased how they turned out. Really love the quality of work you do, as a sewer I can so appreciate it. Thanks for sharing your creative inspiration at Sunday's Best!

  13. I do love these cushions! So glad that you shared. Thanks for helping make Things I've Done Thursday a success!

  14. thanks for an excellent tutorial. i just pinned it so i can find it again when I am ready to sew my outdoor cushions. :)

  15. You have some crazy skills, just amazing! Thanks for linking up to Delicately Constructed Friday!!
    Hope you have a great weekend!

  16. Another great tut! I am still not convinced that I am ready to tackle a zipper though. Thanks so much for sharing on Tout It Tuesday!

  17. Featured you!

  18. Excellent tutorial! I'm making a cushion for my Lutyens bench and thIs is most definitely coming in handy! Thank you!

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