Got an old hall tree or a window seat in your home that’s in need of a makeover? Here’s how to sew a cushion cover for a bench.
Box cushions and window seat cushions are no harder to sew than a simple pillow cover, but they can add so much style and comfort to a bench.
You’ll love how easy it is to create custom bench cushions for yourself! If you can sew a straight line, you can make box cushion covers.
So grab some piping, and upholstery foam and let’s do this.
How to sew a cushion cover for a bench supplies:
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- High density foam
- 1 yard upholstery fabric (look for upholstery fabric sources here)
- 1 package 5/32 cotton piping
- Dacron upholstery wrap: 1 yard
- upholstery zipper or invisible zipper at least 1 yard long
- Quilting ruler with a 45 degree angle marking
- Measuring tape
- Tailor’s chalk or fabric marker
- Spray adhesive or quilt basting spray
- Fabric scissors (these are the best for upholstery!)
How to buy foam to make a bench cushion (and cut it)
I was lucky here in that the previous owners of our house had made this bench and a simple no-sew box cushion cover for it, so I already had the foam.
The foam after your fabric is what’s going to make or break your box cushion cover.
Use high density upholstery foam. I know, it’s expensive. Wait for sales and use coupons by all means. 3-4” foam makes the best bench cushion, but 2” is not too bad either.
Measure your bench top and buy a chunk of foam as wide as you need. Use a permanent marker to mark off the length of your cushion. Double check the width measurement while you’re at it.
Use an electric knife to cut off the excess foam. Save it for another home sewing project like these easy to make chair cushions.
Pro tip when making bench seat cushions: use good fabric!!!
I say this often, but it bears repeating: use good quality upholstery fabric for your made to measure bench seat cushions. Seriously.
A good upholstery supplier will let you know how many “double rubs” a fabric can withstand before it starts showing wear. The higher the number, the stronger the fabric, the more appropriate it is for a bench seat cushion.
Why do you need strong fabric to make a cushion cover for a bench?
Sitting on a bench produces a lot of friction. Friction leads to fabric wear. You’re already going through the trouble to learn how to sew a cushion cover for a bench, and you want your hard work to last. Some of my favorite places lately to find good quality upholstery fabric that won’t break the bank:
- Toto Fabrics: awesome designer upholstery remnants here! I found some fabulous hard-wearing jacquard for a friend’s dining room chairs.
- Fabric Guru: This place has everything, and their prices are excellent. How to sew a cushion cover for a bench
How to measure your cushion for a bench cushion cover
Measure the top of your foam. Add 1” to the length and width. This will be the measurements for the top and bottom of your cushion.
After that, measure around the sides of the foam along one short side and one long side. Add 1” to this length and 1” to the height.
Cut your pieces for your box cushion covers
From your upholstery fabric, cut out 2 top/bottom pieces the measurements from your last step. Use chalk and your quilting ruler to mark on the wrong side of the fabric and cut away.
Also cut two side pieces. These pieces are called boxing. They will go between the top and bottom of the cushion.
Cutting bias for piping
Before you cut bias for piping, test to make sure that your fabric actually stretches at a 45 degree angle to the selvage. Some upholstery fabrics are stiffer than others. You want a little bit of stretch on the diagonal so that the piping will curve at the corners. If your fabric is not stretching much on the bias, consider using a lighter weight woven like linen or some fun printed cotton.
Use your quilting ruler to line up the 45 degree angle marking along the selvage. Use your chalk to mark 2” wide strips along this bias angle.
If you’re short on fabric, try making continuous bias instead of cutting strips with how to make bias tape, though this method works better for lighter weight fabrics.
Wrap the foam in Dacron
First lightly spray the foam top and bottom with a little spray adhesive. Next wrap the foam inside the Dacron. Press the fabric in place, then cut off any excess.
The Dacron* will help keep your foam from wearing out on the inside of the cushion. It also fills up extra space inside the cushion, making for smooth, professional looking bench seat cushions.
Set aside the foam for now.
*Quick note on Dacron–I buy mine in bulk because I do a reasonable amount of upholstery. When you buy from upholstery suppliers, it’s way way cheaper. Here’s one to check out if this is the kind of project you’re interested in doing more often.
Sew the sides (boxing)
Take the side pieces and alternate them: long side to short side to long side to short side.
Match the short ends right sides together in this order. Next, sew a 1/2″ seam down each of these short sides. Press the seams open.
Now you have the sides of your bench seat cushion. Set this aside.
How to make piping for bench seat cushions
Match the strips of bias right sides together and stitch the ends together. Trim the seams down to 1/4″. Press the seams open, then press the tape in half widthwise.
Next, fold the bias tape around the cotton cording. Let the cord sit right against the fold. With a zipper foot stitch through both layers of the bias tape. The foot will ride along the right edge of the piping so there’s no danger of stitching through the piping itself.
From here, measure along the stitching line with a ruler and draw a chalk line 1/2″ away. Trim anything past that point. This will make for even piping all the way around your cushion.
Time to add the piping to the bench cushion.
Adding the piping to the cushions
Pinning the piping to the cushion
Pull the cording at one end of the piping out of the bias tape. Cut off about 1″ of the cording only, then tug on the piping. This will keep the bulk out of the end.
Start pinning the piping to the bench cushion cover top from the trimmed end. The raw edge of the cushion should meet the raw edges of the piping.
When you get to the corners, clip into the piping seam allowance to help the piping bend around the corner.
When you get back to where you started pinning, cut the end of the piping a couple inches past the exact end. Next, pull out the end of the cording just like you did before. Trim off 1″ of the cording and tug on the piping.
Overlap the ends of the piping and fold them up and out of the way.
Sewing the piping to the cushion
Next, stitch the piping to the cushion 3/8″ from the edge with a cording foot or a zipper foot riding along the edge.
Repeat pinning and stitching down the piping, for the cushion’s bottom, but only add piping to the short sides and 1 long side.
You can let the piping ends hang off the long edge.
If you’re using your bench seat cushion outside, make these cushion ties
Be sure to make some ties for the corners of your cushion if your bench seat cushion is going outside.
I learned this trick the hard way: living in Colorado, we often get high winds. I had made this bench seat cushion for my front porch only to find it half way down the street one day. Realizing what happened, I used up some leftover fabric to add some ties that attach at the corner of my bench.
Follow this step from the DIY chair cushions tutorial if you want to add ties to your bench seat cushion cover.
Once you’ve made them, pin the ties in place facing the inside of the cushion at the edges of the cushion bottom piece. Alternatively, you could sew them into the boxing’s sides.
Adding the zipper
Next step in How to sew a cushion cover for a bench: adding the zipper for the DIY bench cushion cover.
Take one long side of the boxing and match it right sides together with the side of the bottom without the piping.
Stitch a 1/2″ seam. Use a regular length stitch from each edge to the end of each tie and a basting stitch between the ties. Press open the seam.
Center your zipper over the basted seam between the ties. Next, stitch the zipper tape to the seam allowances with the zipper foot.
Flip over the cushion to the right side. Topstitch the zipper from the right side down the sides and across the bottom. After that, use a seam ripper to open the seam over the zipper.
A note on zippers
I actually used an invisible zipper on this step, though I wouldn’t recommend it. In the end, my zipper was too short, and the pull too weak to accommodate the heavy fabric. I salvaged my zipper in the end, but learn from my pain.
If you do use an invisible zipper, be sure that it’s at least a yard long.
Stitch the boxing/bottom to the top
Pin the boxing to the cushion top right sides together along the side of the boxing without the zipper . Be sure to match the boxing’s seams with the corners of the cushion top.
Unzip the zipper. Sew the boxing to the cushion top letting the cording foot ride along the piping all the way around the cushion.
Use your piping foot to stitch around the cushion. Take care as you turn the corner to follow the edge of the piping.
When you’ve stitched all the way around the cover, turn it right sides out through the zipper.
Pop the foam into the cover
To finish up, pop in your foam and zip it up.
And that is how to sew a cushion cover for a bench. Whether you make a DIY window seat cushion or a custom cushion cover for a bench, you’re going to love the look a box cushion cover like this will bring to your home!
Elizabeth Farr is the writer behind the Elizabeth Made This blog where she shares helpful sewing tips, step by step sewing tutorials and videos to help you explore your creativity through sewing. She has written sewing Eguides and patterns, been a featured teacher at Rebecca Page’s Sewing Summit and Jennifer Maker’s Holiday Maker Fest and her work has appeared in Seamwork and Altered Couture magazines. She also created a line of refashioned garments for SEWN Denver. When her sewing machine isn’t humming, she’s playing and teaching violin, and hanging around a good strategic board game with her husband and 4 kids.