If you had told me two months ago that my first design challenge of this year would be to relearn old forgotten sewing skills to make new cushions for a sentimental piece of furniture that has been hiding in my basement for years, even I wouldn’t have believed you.
But here I am writing about doing just that.
And it all started with finally finding the perfect canvas waterproof outdoor fabric from Fabric Wholesale Direct™.
Disclaimer: I was given the opportunity to receive a product in exchange for this post. However, this testimony to the quality of the product and my experience with using the product is all my own.
This project has been waiting a long time to be done.
Nearly 15 years ago I found this vintage mid-century modern loveseat in a thrift store. It has a small wooden frame with four separate cushions for the seats and backs of the loveseat. The price was very reasonable so I brought it home and had plans to remake the hideous dated brown cushions.
Despite my good intentions of having the cushions remade all those years ago, I struggled to find the perfect fabric with the right retro pattern and the durability to withstand use from large dogs.
Unfortunately, our dog Pippin decided to chew a chunky mouthful out of the frame of the loveseat so it had to be moved to the basement to keep it safe. Where it has sat for many years waiting for me to finally find that perfect retro-inspired fabric that I know it was intended to have all along.
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When Fabric Wholesale Direct™ contacted me about using one of their fabrics, I didn’t immediately gravitate toward the Ottertex® Waterproof Outdoor Fabrics as a first choice. I also didn’t have a specific fabric project in mind when I first started browsing the selections on their site.
Until I searched for retro-style fabric in their large inventory of available fabrics and the perfect Retro print in Aqua came across my screen. I was smitten and I knew that I had finally found the perfect fabric for new cushion covers for my little neglected loveseat.
So let’s return to the discussion about my long-lost sewing skills.
My mom was a very talented seamstress. Growing up she made a lot of our clothes because dressing four girls on one salary was tough. For extra income, she made cheerleading outfits, and prom dresses, and even made one of my sister’s wedding gowns. I wish I had paid more attention growing up to learn more.
Between Mama’s early teachings when I was younger, and my high school home economics classes, I learned just a basic understanding of how to load a bobbin, thread a sewing machine, and sew in a straight line.
Anything more complicated is just out of my skill set.
My desire to use this retro Aqua Ottertex® Waterproof fabric for the cushions on the loveseat gave me the determination to figure out how to make new box pleat cushion covers no matter what!
Armed with my mom’s sewing machine and time spent watching a YouTube video tutorial, I was able to do just that.
The finished cushions are far from perfect, I had several trial-and-error moments along the way, but I am so proud of myself for overcoming my insecurities about my sewing skills and making this project happen.
Here is how I made my first set of box corner cushions using Ottertex® Canvas Waterproof Outdoor Fabric.
Before I get to the details of how I made the box cushions, let me give you a few details about the Ottertex® Waterproof Canvas Outdoor Fabric.
The canvas has a plastic PVC backing with a waterproof coating making it mold and UV-resistant. It comes in a 60-inch width and is very flexible and easy to use with most sewing machines. The fabric is a bit heavy in bulk but I was very surprised with how easy it was to cut and sew even for a very inexperienced user like myself. The fabric is extremely durable and resilient which is a bonus for use in a house full of large dogs. You will see the PVC gray backing in the photos shared. The waterproof canvas line comes in many solid colors and different prints.
When shopping for any home decor fabric, Consider waterproof canvas as an excellent choice for stain resistance and durability, especially if you have pets.
As I mentioned before, I watched a YouTube video tutorial several times on how to make a box pleat cushion cover before I even considered this project.
I quickly found that the easiest way seemed to be a cushion cover made out of one long cut length of fabric, so these are the steps I am featuring here that worked for me.
This post is not meant to be a thorough step-by-step guide for how to make box cushions or a showcase of my excellent sewing skills. While editing these photos I had a good laugh at my amateurish techniques, but they still worked.
A couple of thoughts about this post:
- This post is about finding the perfect retro fabric for a beloved mid-century modern loveseat makeover.
- This post is not meant to replace watching videos on YouTube Channel to learn the best techniques on how to sew a box pleat cushion cover for your project.
- The takeaway is that I took the perfect fabric and tackled a new DIY project with limited skills and had great results.
Reusing the old foam cushion inserts with the new seat cushion covers was not an option.
I intended to reuse the original foam cushion inserts from the loveseat but when I finally removed those vintage brown covers I found that the cushions were a bit too far gone.
Thankfully I was able to purchase precut Airtex High Density foam chair pads from Joanns in the exact size of the bottom cushions at 22 x 22 x 3 inches and a second set of foam inserts to cut down to 22 x 16 x 3 inches for the back cushions.
To get the desired size for the back cushions, I only needed to make one cut down the length of the cushion with a serrated knife to create the custom size I needed.
Making the cushion covers from one large piece of fabric required some math to calculate the size cut needed. Below is the formula I used to measure and then cut each piece of fabric for the four cushion covers.
L = Length of the foam
W = Width of the foam
H = Height of the foam (or thickness)
S = Seam Allowance
Measure the foam cushion inserts for the dimensions of your cushion all around and add the figures based on these two equations:
L + H + S (Length + Height + Seam Allowance) =
W + W + H + H + S (Width + Width+Height + Height + Seam Allowance)
For my seat cushion, I would need to calculate for a piece that was 22 + 3 + 1 = 26 and 22 + 22 + 3 + 3 + 1 = 51. The length of fabric I needed to cut for the seat cushions would need to be 51 inches by 26 inches.
Using the same formula, the back cushions would need a length of fabric cut to 39 inches by 26 inches.
After calculating the width and length needed for each piece using the formula shown above, I marked the measurements on the back of the fabric with a white pencil and a long level before cutting it out.
No matter what size piece of fabric you need, make sure you pay attention to the direction of the printed pattern on the fabric and how it will be on the finished cushion once it is sewn.
Fold over the piece of fabric double with the printed design on the inside to start making the cushion cover. The fold in the middle of the length of the fabric will become the front edge of the box cushion.
Next, you will need to cut out a measured square from each corner of the length of fabric to make the box pleat corners.
The measurement needed to accomplish the cut is based on half the width of the height (thickness) of the cushion. The foam inserts were 3″ thick each so I measured each corner at 1 1/2″ x 1 1/2″ for a square cutout.
Each corner of the unfolded piece of fabric will have a corner cutout of 1 1/2″ x 1 1/2″. To sew the box pleat, fold the two cut edges together with the pattern facing together.
The seam allowance is 1/2″ to sew the two folded edges together at every corner.
Once all four corners have been sewed to create the box pleats, fold the fabric over, with the patterned fabric on the inside, and sew together the two open sides of the cover, starting at the folded edge down to the pleated edge.
The first seam I attempted with the box pleat was not very neat and even, so my skills improved as I continued to work on these covers.
Now you will need to cut out the corners and sew the folded edge of the project to create the second set of box pleats for the opposite edge of the cushion cover.
Since you already have sewn a 1/2″ seam along the side of the fabric to close up the cover, this set of box pleat cuts will be 1/2 inch shorter on one side. So the cutout will be 1 1/2″ by 1″ as shown below.
Once the folded edge of the fabric has been cut for a box pleat, you need to sew the box pleat differently than the first set of pleats. Start by opening up the fabric at the cut, aligning the cut edge and the seam edge together, and sewing the two edges together across the side seam of the cushion.
The box pleat on the folded side of the fabric is sewn across the side seam of the cushion cover.
With all the box pleats sewn, I was excited to finally flip the cover inside out to the decorative side to display the envelope-type box cushion cover and slide in the foam cushion insert.
The four box pleat corners will meet together to form the overlapped seams for the velcro closures of the finished cushion cover.
I used velcro strips instead of a zipper to close up the box cushion cover.
Considering I had already pushed my rusty sewing skills to the max, I didn’t attempt to sew in a zipper for each cushion. Maybe next time I will feel more confident about sewing in a zipper.
When I purchased the new foam cushion inserts, I also purchased several sewing options to close up the cushion covers once they were sewn together.
Even though this waterproof canvas fabric should be easy to wipe clean and keep clean, I still want to be able to easily remove the cushion cover for cleaning if needed.
Without a zipper sewn in, I decided to attach small strips of velcro between the cut edges of the canvas fabric to close up the open end of the cushion cover.
My options to close the cushion cover included heavy-duty velcro strips, Aleene’s Super Fabric Adhesive for an industrial strength hold for the velcro strips, or I could use heavy-duty upholstery thread and heavy-duty hand sewing needles to attach the velcro strips.
Honestly, I didn’t know which one would work the best but I think I purchased every option for a heavy-duty canvas fabric that I thought could work.
After some trial and error, I found that I could easily get a needle through the canvas fabric, but it was hard to push the needle through both the fabric and the velcro strip at the same time. It was doable, but the task would be tedious and result in very sore fingers.
In the end, I used the tube of Aleene’s Super Fabric Adhesive on each small cut strip of velcro, slid it between the unfinished seams of the cushion, and temporarily used packing tape across the edge of the cushion to hold the strips in place until the glue dried.
It is not the prettiest finished edge of a cushion, but it works. These edges will be hidden in the back of the loveseat anyway. And this canvas fabric didn’t fray apart at all during the sewing process so I think I am good with that.
Despite my crude sewing techniques, the seat cushions still came together to create a unique, one-of-a-kind set of cushions, influenced by my personal touch and style for my vintage mid-century loveseat.
As you can see in these photos the folded edge of the pieces of fabric on the covers becomes the visible front edge of the cushion and the top edge of the back cushion. Using just one piece of fabric to make the covers results in less visible seams on the edges.
Refinishing the wood frame is the next step.
This summer I will continue to work on this loveseat by figuring out how to repair the dog-chewed lower corner that is visible in the image above and to give the entire wood piece a fresh new finish. This is one of my DIY projects for the year that will be done in phases.
Since I still have the old cushions, I decided to put the old and new cushions side by side for a fun way to show the before and after of this makeover. We have decided that the old cushions will be saved from the landfill for a little while longer and will be used as dog beds inside the kennels.
Acquiring some things from my mom’s stash of craft supplies and tools last year when we started cleaning out our childhood home, has allowed me to try new things. Without her trusty sewing machine, I wouldn’t have attempted this project. I do have a little bit of extra fabric left over and I am excited to figure out where else I can use this retro print in my home.
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Proverbs 31:13 “She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands.”