Make your own easy, economical cushions with upholstery foam

Upholstered Cushions

by Elizabeth Quinn

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New cushions can really brighten your decor, but ready-made cushions can be expensive and customized cushions for a sofa can cost hundreds of dollars. Fortunately, it is easy to make affordable cushions with upholstery foam. Longer lengths of upholstery foam are economical because they can be cut to make several cushions.

By making your own cushions, you can customize them for your needs. Spruce up that old sofa or armchair by replacing the sagging cushions. The look of a dining room or breakfast area can be easily changed with new chair cushions. Replacing or making new cushions for a window seat or a bench can also improve the look of your home. If your seating is limited, a set of floor cushions can provide cozy seating, while adding to your decor.

Beginning sewers with a little experience can make custom cushions for any need with this simple method, which only needs two pattern pieces.

First gather your materials:

  • Fabric marking pencil or regular pencil
  • Ruler
  • Tape measure
  • Rotary cutter or scissors
  • Zipper (chose zippers 3" to 5" shorter than the cushion width)
  • Upholstery foam; it may need to be trimmed to fit your furniture.
  • Upholstery fabric
  • Thread and hand sewing needle, plus a sewing machine

Constructing any cushion begins by taking accurate measurements. Measure your old cushion before purchasing upholstery foam. Cut the foam to the appropriate size before taking measurements for the cover.

You will be cutting two fabric pieces; the bottom will be smaller than the top. Measure the width and depth of the upholstery foam that has been cut to the appropriate cushion size, and add an inch to both measurements. Using the ruler to make straight lines, mark an area of this size on the fabric and cut it out. This is the bottom of the cushion.

Next, measure the height (thickness) of the cushion. Double this measurement and add an inch to it. Add this total to both the width and the depth measurements. This will give you the width and length to cut the cushion top cover. For example, the fabric for the top of a 24 x 22 x 3 inch cushion should measure 24 + 6 + 1= 31 inches wide and 22 + 6 + 1 = 29 inches long. Cut out the cushion top using the ruler to guide you.

The cushion cover will be shaped with darts at each corner. Center the upholstery foam on the wrong side of the top cover. Draw the outline with a pencil and remove the cushion.

Now, with right sides together, fold one corner of the top cover in half diagonally. Sew from the marked outline to 1/2" from the edge, at a right angle to the edge. Repeat for each corner and then trim each to a 1/2" seam. Press open.

Next, you will prepare the zipper area. With right sides together, pin the back edge of the top cover and bottom cover together. Place the zipper in the middle of the long seam that is formed. It should be at least an inch away from both the top and bottom of the seam. Mark where the zipper goes and remove it. Baste this area together with a 1/2" seam and sew the seams on each side of the basting in 1/2" seams.

Press the entire seam length open. Place the zipper face down on the basted seam, centered between the markings. Baste the zipper tapes 1/4" from the edge.

Turn the cover over and stitch the zipper in place, starting at the top. Lift the sewing machine's presser foot and pivot the material to sew the bottom of the zipper and come up the other side. Take out the basting and open the zipper slightly.

Pin the remaining three sides together, right sides facing. Sew with 1/2" seam, pivoting at the corners. Press the seams and turn the cover right side out. If needed, press again. Place the upholstery foam in the cover and zip. You have a great new cushion to liven up your decor.

Elizabeth Quinn is a professional writer and sewer. For more ideas and tips about products such as upholstery foam, please visit

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