Longtime readers may remember that a few years back, I was complaining about wrestling patio cushions into submission on a sweaty summer’s day. Well, much like childbirth, I forgot the pain and agreed to do it all over again.
Recovering patio cushions is a great way to extend the life of your furniture and give it a fresh new look. I’ve sewn a lot of cushion covers over the years, but this time there was the added challenge of sewing heavy-duty semi-waterproof outdoor fabrics.
I do NOT like sewing heavy-duty semi-waterproof outdoor fabrics.
But I love my client, and I agreed her brown- and lime-green patio cushions could use a refresh, so I agreed.
And you know what? The end result was certainly worth the sweating and cursing.
Start by cutting a piece of fabric that’s at least two and a half times longer than your cushion — and 2” wider on each side. (If you go from selvage to selvage, you don’t need to hem the ends and nothing will unwravel in the wash. I like to do this whenever I can because it’s faster.)
Lay the cushion in the middle of the fabric (right side up) and fold each end over the cushion so they overlap. If the fabric’s a bit too long, just fold the ends under a bit. You want them to overlap by at least four or five inches so the back of your pillow doesn’t puff out of its cover.
If you want the cushion cover to have ties to secure it to a chair, now is the time to add those ties! They’re easy to make — just take a couple of strips of scrap fabric and sew two long skinny strips. Fold each strip in half, so you’re hanging onto the middle, and stick one strip in each of the top corners.
You want the strips hidden INSIDE the cushion cover (which is the “right” side) and just enough peeking out so you can stitch over them to keep them in place.
Pin up each side of the cushion cover and stitch. If you want a really snug cover for maximum poofiness, stitch a full inch away from the edges. If you like a looser fit, just use a normal seam allowance.
This final step is optional, but it really makes your cushion covers look as good as store-bought ones. If you’re covering a squared-edge cushion, fold and pin the corners of your cushion cover so the side seams run down the middle (sort of like you’re making a newspaper hat) and stitch straight across the bottom of the triangle.
It feels funny the first time you do it, but once you turn your cushion cover right-side out, you’ll love the nice crisp edge you get from this little trick.
Flip your cushion cover right-side out, and jam your pillow through the pocket you’ve made at the back. You’re done!
Once I had sewn covers for all of the patio furniture cushions, I sewed a simple slipcover for the backs of the two green folding chairs — basically just short, tight pillowcases. Don’t ask me about the three times I had to take out the seams and resew them because they were too tight to yank down over the chair backs.
After a very sweaty day of fighting with my sewing machine and wrestling oversized outdoor cushions, it was satisfying to finally set them up in their proper places — and enjoy a glass of ice water.
My client loves her “new” porch furniture, and I think I’m officially retired from sewing outdoor fabrics … at least until the next time someone asks.
Thank you for this post I tend to over think things but this is so simpe to do. I’m currently being asked to make covers for preexisting cushions and I’m not sure what to charge for just sewing them up. Do you have an idea as to what I should charge?
I also struggle with what to charge for sewing projects, but I usually pick an hourly rate ($20 or $30, depending on the complexity and who it’s for) and tell them how many hours it will be. For cushions, I’d guess you could probably make two cushion covers in an hour.
Thank you for your response, this really helps.