How to Make Cushion Covers for Outdoor Furniture

This post may contain some affiliate links for your convenience (which means if you make a purchase after clicking a link I will earn a small commission which helps keep my blog up and running but it won’t cost you a penny more)! Click here to read my full Disclosure and Privacy Policy..

Have you invested money in nice porch or deck furniture only to realize a season or more later the cushion fabric is filthy, faded, or you just don’t like it anymore?

Filthy, faded, worn out cushions on outdoor chairs.

Maybe you’ve been looking for a used set of outdoor furniture but you don’t like the cushion fabric or it’s very worn and needs to be replaced.

Well, don’t worry, because cushions on outdoor furniture is one of those projects you can DIY if you know how to use a sewing machine.

Sewing Skills to Make Cushion Covers

To make your own cushion covers you need the following knowledge and skills:

Supplies and Materials to Sew Cushion Covers

The actual supplies may vary depending on the finished look you’re trying to achieve.

The following list will give you a good idea of what you’ll need to make your own cushion covers.

Note: You may be able to salvage some of the supplies from your existing cushions.

  • outdoor fabric
  • cording for welting/piping
  • pillow forms, batting, poly-fil
  • seam ripper*
  • zipper
  • needles for hand sewing opening closed
  • sewing machine
  • zipper foot and regular presser foot
  • machine needles appropriate for the fabric’s weight*
  • thread*
  • pins or clips*
  • scissors*
  • measuring tape*
  • sewing gauge*
  • marking pen or pencil*
  • paper
  • rotary cutter, mat, and ruler*

*Check out Essential Sewing Tools, if you need more information on these sewing tools.

Video Support

This post describes in detail all of the steps you need to make new covers for your outdoor furniture.

The video below includes demonstrations of many of the steps but not all of them.

See the time marks below the video for specific steps.

  • Introduction
  • 1:57 – Use the Old Cushion Covers
  • 3:04 – Measure and Record Cushion Dimensions
  • 7:38 – Determine Fabric Amounts
  • 8:57 – Do You Want Welting?
  • 10:09 – Make Pattern Pieces
  • 12:10 – Overview of Next Steps
  • 13:07 – How to Transfer Pattern Marks to Fabric
  • 16.27 – Pin Pleats in Place
  • 19:20 – Sew Pleats
  • 20:37 – Attach Welting

The video demonstrations end after the welting demonstration.

Good news! This blog post contains all of the information shared in the above video as well as all the steps not shown.

So, keep reading!

First: Take Pictures

Take pictures of the cushions from all angles before removing the covers. You’ll be able to use them as a reference when you sew the new cushions.

Take before pictures of cushions before removing covers

Second: Measure and Record Cushion Dimensions

After taking pictures of the cushions, you need to figure out how much fabric to buy for your new cushion covers.

To do this you’ll need to measure and record the dimensions of the old cushion covers.

Step 1: Measure the Old Cushion Covers

Take a close look at how the current cushion covers were constructed.

You want to locate each of the fabric pieces that were used to construct the cover.

Use a tape measure to get the dimensions each of those pieces that make up the cover(s) you’re going to replace. (See a demonstration at 3 minutes 4 seconds in the video above.)

Tip: Think in terms of rectangles and squares, not the actual shape of the cushion cover.

The measurements you take on the old cushion cover(s) don’t need to be exact. In fact, it’s better to be a little generous on the numbers.

Sketch out a diagram and label with the measurements. The photo below will give you an idea of what this could look like.

Sketch and write down measurements of cushions.
The bottom of the paper is my original sketch and measurements. I did this first. The top of the paper is a summary of all the pieces I need.

Add 2 inches to each side for seam allowance and a little extra for “just in case”.

Step 2: Measure the Welting

The welting is attached along seams and provides a more finished look.

The fabric selected to cover the cord can contrast or coordinate with the main fabric.

It seems the terms cording, piping, and welting are often used interchangeably.

Through research for this project, I’ve drawn the following conclusions:

  • Welting is cording that is used in upholstery and similar type projects.
  • Piping is cording that is used in clothing and other garments.
  • Cording is made out of different types of materials. (There’s a video later on in this post explaining the different types.)
  • Fabric can be used to cover the cording.

Regardless of whether you call it cording, piping, or welting, do you want it on your new cushion covers?

If so, measure the length of the existing welting.

If there isn’t any, measure the length/perimeter of all the places you want to put it.

These measurements will be used so you know how much cording you will need to have as well as plan for the fabric you’ll need to cover it.

Third: Determine How Much Fabric to Buy

With the measurements you took on the old cushion covers, you’ll be able to determine how much fabric you need to buy.

Do this by creating a sketch on how to layout the pieces.

Unless you already know the width of the fabric, draw two plans:

  • One sketch where the fabric width is 52″-54″ wide.
  • Another sketch where the fabric width is 60″ wide.

(Most outdoor fabrics come in widths around these two measurements. )

Two Ideas for Sketching a Fabric Layout

ONE WAY to sketch how you’ll layout the pattern pieces is to draw a long rectangle(s) on paper OR use a sheet(s) from a notepad that will be the length of fabric.

Label one as 52″-54″ wide and the other 60″ wide.

Work with one long rectangle at a time.

Using the measurements you recorded earlier for each fabric piece, draw smaller rectangles inside the larger rectangle, arranging them to fit with as little fabric waste as possible.

Sketch out how you'll lay out the cushion pieces.
I used the back of two pieces of paper from a skinny notepad.

As you draw out a plan for laying out the pieces on the fabric, keep in mind whether or not you’ll be looking for a fabric with a print that would have a specific direction to it.

Note: The drawing doesn’t need to be to scale or exact. But you do need to mark the measurements of each piece. This will allow you to double-check your math.

You’ll also be able to use these sketches when it’s time to lay out the pattern pieces and cut the fabric.

A SECOND METHOD to figure out a layout is to use graph paper. Draw each part of the cushion cover on the graph paper and label it with the measurements.

Then, cut out the pieces and lay them out on another piece of graph paper that represents the fabric.

This method will more to scale. In the image below, each square unit is equal to 2″.

Graph paper is used to plan for fabric amounts.
The photo is a layout I did for another project, but it will give you an idea of what I mean.

Fabric for Welting

Consider if you want the welting to be the same fabric as the cushions or a different one that provides a contrast.

If it will be the same as the cushion fabric, you’ll need to include it in your larger rectangle sketches.

If it’s going to be on a different fabric, draw another rectangle to figure out how much you will need.

To determine how much fabric you will need to cover the cord for the welting:

  1. Look at your measurements for how much welting you need and add up all the lengths.
  2. To determine the width of the fabric needed to cover the welting, take the circumference of the welting and add 1 inch. If you’re not sure what the circumference is/will be, use 2-inches for the width as you plan out how much fabric you’ll need.

The fabric for the welting works best if it is cut on the bias. Keep this in mind when drawing your diagram.

Sketch out how much fabric for bias strips to make cover for welting.
For my cushions, I needed a total length of 18 yards of bias strips. The plan shows each strip is 2″ wide.

Fourth: Shop for Fabric

Think about where you’re going to put the outdoor furniture.

  • Will the area be covered or uncovered?
  • Will you store the cushions inside our outside when you aren’t using them?
  • Will they stay in the elements? 

Answering these questions beforehand will help you shop for fabric that will meet your needs.

Consider such things like:

  • weather-resistant
  • fade-resistant
  • how you clean it

Check out this video by Fabric.com to get some information on the different types of outdoor fabric to determine what will best fit your needs.

Places to Buy Outdoor Fabric

Sailrite and Fabric.com are good places to begin your search for the outdoor fabric for your cushion covers.

Both places have thousands of fabric choices and multiple ways to filter your search.

In addition, both sites have resources for building your knowledge base on working with outdoor fabric. (I’ve listed only a few in this post.)

Note: The two fabrics I finally selected came from Fabric.com.

Fifth: Zippers, Cording, and Other Supplies

Zippers

Will you put a zipper in your new cushion cover?

Adding a zipper is a little more involved but will allow you to take off the cushion cover to clean it.

Sailrite has multiple videos on how to add zippers.

Start with the one about Zipper Plaques for Cushions. This is the most popular method in sewing a zipper in a cushion.

If you don’t see yourself doing that, and are going to either cover the cushions when you aren’t using them or store them in a protected area, sewing them closed may be the way you want to go.

That way you can just spot clean them when necessary.

This may be decided for you depending on the cleaning recommendation of the fabric you purchase.

Cording

Do the current cushion covers have welting?

If so, consider reusing the cord by cutting it out of the old cover after taking pictures and getting the measurements.

If you need to buy new cording, check out this quick lesson by Sailrite on the different types.

Poly-fil, Foam, and Batting

Some cushions are filled with poly-fil. This loose stuffing might be stuffed directly in the cover or enclosed in a pillow form inside cushion cover.

If the cushion has a definite shape to it, there may be a foam block on the inside of the cushion cover possibly covered in batting to soften the shape.

Until you open up the cushions, it won’t be clear if you’ll be able to reuse the existing foam and/or stuffing inside them.

Look for signs of the foam, batting, and poly-fil disintegrating or breaking down and evidence of mildew or mold.

If batting was wrapped around a piece of foam, an adhesive spray or glue may have been applied to hold it in place. That could disintegrate over time, too.

The final decision is up to you on whether or not to reuse the foam, batting, and/or poly-fil.

If any of these fillers need to be replaced, Sailrite has a helpful flowchart to guide you in the right direction.

In addition, Sailrite has multiple articles to help you to select the right kind of fabric and supplies for your DIY cushion covers.

Thread and Needles

Make sure you have the thread and sewing machine needles for the fabric.

Sixth: Make Pattern Pieces

If at all possible, you want to use a seam ripper to take apart the existing cushion cover.

These individual pieces can be used as pattern pieces for your new covers.

Document the deconstruction by taking pictures as you pull each piece part or by sketching a diagram.

This will be REALLY helpful when you start constructing your new cushion covers.

There are two ways you can use the old cushion cover pieces:

  1. Trace the pieces on large pieces of paper to make actual pattern pieces.
  2. Use the fabric as the pattern pieces themselves.

Regardless of which method you use, when you pull apart the cushion covers make sure to keep the seam allowances. That way, you’ll know exactly what to trace.

If you make your own pattern pieces, label each piece with the cushion part, how many you need of it, the seam allowance that was used, the grain of the fabric, and transfer any darts, pleats or other folds to the pattern.

Write important information on the pattern pieces.

If you use the old fabric as the pattern pieces themselves, you’ll be able to see the seam allowance size and where any darts or pleats were used. Also, you’ll be able to determine the grain of the fabric.

However, you may want to pin a label on each piece so you know what it is.

Seventh: Preparing the Fabric

Check the fabric manufacturer’s recommendations for cleaning.

If you never plan on tossing the cushion covers in the washing machine and dryer, you can probably skip prewashing the fabric.

However, if there is a chance you will wash and dry them, make sure to prewash the fabric.

It would be horrible if the cushion covers shrank after you made them and no longer fit!

Eighth: Make the Welting

Note: You will use the zipper foot to make the welting.

If you have salvaged the cording from the old cushion covers, you have the exact lengths you need.

If you’re using brand new cording, there are 2 options:

  1. You can cut individual lengths of cording to match the measurements you took in the beginning. Include a little extra, just in case.
  2. You can add all those measurements up (and add a few inches) to make one long piece of welting.

If you do option 2, you can cut the welting to the exact measurement when you sew it on the pillow cover.

Sew the Welting

Step 1: Cut the bias strips out of the fabric that will cover the cording.

The width of the bias strips should be the circumference of the cording plus 1-inch. Cut the short ends of the strips at 45 degree angle for seaming.

Sew the strips together with a regular presser foot. Tip: Make one long strip.

If the fiber content of your outdoor fabric allows, press the seams open. If not, you can finger press.

Step 2: Enclose the cording with the fabric strip.

  • Center the cording on the wrong side of the fabric strip.
  • Fold the fabric strip around the cording, wrong sides together.
  • Match the raw edges.
  • With the zipper foot and a basting stitch, sew close to the cording.

Ninth: Cut Out the Pattern Pieces

Make sure the fabric is square before laying out the pattern pieces. By doing this you will ensure your finished cushion covers won’t have any ripples.

Follow the diagram you made in the beginning, to lay out the pattern pieces on the fabric.

If you need 2 of a pattern piece, consider folding the fabric in half and cut them both at the same time if it works with the layout diagram you made.

Lay out fabric pieces
I was able to fold the fabric in half and cut out 2 pieces at one time.

Side Note: Learn how I made my pattern weights. 😊

Cut the pieces out carefully and transfer any marks to the fabric.

Transfer marks from pattern piece to the fabric
See a how I do this in the very first video on this post at 13 minutes 7 seconds.

Tenth: Sew the Cushion Covers

The following directions and photos are specific to the back and boxed cushion covers I made.

You may not need to complete all of the steps.

Alternatively, you may need to add some steps.

It really depends on what features your finished cushion covers will have.

The idea behind providing these directions is to give you a general idea of the order in which you may need to construct your pillow covers.

Seam allowance: Use the same one that was used on the original cushion covers.

Back Cushion Cover

STEP 1: Use the marks to pin and sew any darts, pleats, or other tucks that will provide shape to the cushion cover.

See a how I do this in the very first video on this post:

  • 16:27 – Pin the pleats
  • 19:20 – Sew the pleats

STEP 2: With the welting on the right side of the fabric, line up the raw edges of the welting to the raw edges of either the front or back cushion piece.

(The cording should be inside the edge of the cushion cover.)

Pin or clip in place if it moves around.

Clip welting in place

Sew in place with the zipper foot and a medium stitch length.

Sew welting down with zipper foot

STEP 3: Lay the other cushion piece on top of the one that has the welting sewn to it. Right sides together.

Clip cushion pieces right sides together with welting between the two.

Clip or pin it in place.

Sew both pieces together with the zipper foot and a medium stitch length.

STEP 4: Add the opening to the bottom of the cushion.

I decided not to use a zipper. Instead, I hand sewed the opening closed with a blind stitch. The cushion is very full and I wanted the edges of the opening to overlap about 1/2 an inch.

To prepare the pieces that are the opening in place of the zipper.

  1. Turn and press a 1/2″ on the long edges that will be hand sewn together.
  2. Use a zig-zag stitch to hold the folded edges in place.
  3. Overlap the two pieces to make the width of the opening plus enough for the seam allowance.
  4. Baste in place on both short ends.
  5. Match up raw edges of the bottom piece with the front and back of the cushion. Pin or clip in place.
  6. Sew with a regular presser foot around all four edges.
Overlap the two pieces to make the width of the opening plus enough for the seam allowance.
This image shows a visual of step 3.
Clip the bottom opening pieces in place
This image shows a visual of step 5.

STEP 5: Turn the cover right side out.

STEP 6: Fill the cover with the poly-fil.

STEP 7: Hand stitch to close the opening.

Boxed Cushion Cover

STEP 1: Attach the welting to both the top and bottom of the cushion cover.

The welting should be on the right side of the fabric.

The raw edges of the welting should be lined up to the raw edges of the cushion piece.

(The cording should be inside the edge of the cushion cover.)

Sew the welting to the top and bottom cushion pieces.

Pinning or clipping the welting is optional because you’ll be matching up the ends.

Sew the welting in place with the zipper foot and a medium stitch length.

STEP 2: Prepare the pieces that will go around the boxed cushion by sewing them together. When you’re done it should be a closed piece.

Sew together all of the pieces that go between the top and bottom.

I decided not to use a zipper. Instead, I hand sewed the opening closed with a blind stitch. The foam is covered in batting and very thick. I wanted the edges of the opening to overlap about 1/2 an inch.

To prepare the pieces that are the opening in place of the zipper.

  1. Turn and press a 1/2″ on the long edges that will be hand sewn together.
  2. Use a zig-zag stitch to hold the folded edges in place.
  3. Overlap the two pieces to make the width of the opening with enough for the seam allowance.
  4. Baste in place on both short ends.
  5. Match up raw edges of the bottom piece with the front and back of the cushion. Pin or clip in place.
  6. Sew with a regular presser foot around all four edges.

STEP 3: With right sides together, pin/clip the raw edge of the top piece to one of the edges of the side piece that was prepared in STEP 2.

Sew the middle piece to the bottom cushion piece.

Sew together with the zipper foot and a medium stitch. Clip the corners before sewing around them.

Clip the corners as you sew around them.

STEP 4: With right sides together, pin/clip the raw edge of the bottom piece to the other raw edge of the side piece.

Attach the top cushion piece to the middle piece.

Sew together with the zipper foot and a medium stitch.

Clip the corners before sewing around them.

STEP 5: Turn the cover right side out.

STEP 6: Insert the foam cushion into the cover.

STEP 7: Hand stitch to close the opening.

A curved needle makes it easy to sew the opening closed on a boxed cushion.

That’s It…You’re Done!

Now it’s time to go put your newly covered cushions on the furniture frame and enjoy the feeling of a wildly successful sewing experience!

Close up of boxed cushion.
One chair with newly made cushion covers.
Close up of the welting on the top cushion cover.
Two chairs with newly covered cushions.

Let’s Connect

My main goals are to support, empower, and inspire you to discover the joy of sewing.

Need help or have questions on this project, pattern, or tutorial? Send me an email at nicki@theruffledpurse.com and we can work together to get it figured out!

Make sure you sign up for Snappy Scissors (my FREE newsletter sent directly to your inbox) for ongoing sewing inspiration and education. You can find the sign-up box at the bottom of the post.

Also, like or follow The Ruffled Purse® on Facebook. This is another way to stay up-to-date on the fun things going on at The Ruffled Purse.

You can even follow me on Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube! 😊

Nicki has taught classes in:

Nicki’s work has been featured on:

More Sewing Projects

Looking for more sewing projects? Here are a few other posts you may like:

Pinterest Image

Similar Posts

4 Comments

  1. This post is so awesome! There are so many details that I feel like I could do it and I’m a beginner at sewing. I really appreciate that you showed the math and your diagrams. That is always really hard to figure out, but it really helped to see it all there on paper. The video was really good too.

  2. I have found that when working with outdoor fabric it is not necessary to cut the welting on the bias.

    1. I appreciate your opinion, Ann. I have enough fabric leftover from these cushions to cut some welting for another project. I’m going to give your suggestion a try and see if I can tell the difference.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.