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Picture of Create Couch Cushions for Less Coin
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We Needed a Couch - Our hacker space, The RabbitHole, needed a couch for our creative design (ie bull) sessions.
Luckily we have design tool skillz, woodworking skillz even nunchuck skillz but alas no sewing skillz...so we've had a bare naked plywood bench for quite some time, not exactly the comfy couch we envisioned.

Recently we got a great donation of a bunch of egg-crate style packing foam, nearly the perfect size for our bench....it had to be trimmed a touch and  in this video you can see us using a quite dangerous Hot Wire and a more effective band saw to make the foam the right size and shape.

During Thanksgiving I spent some family time with mom and she showed me just enough sewing tricks so I could make covers for our new couch cushion foam.

This Instructable documents the steps required to sew cushions of your own

Materials needed for Couch Cushions
  • Foam - a club member works in a manufacturing plant where large chunks of foam are normally just thrown out...perfect! (price = $0)
  • Material - a local fabric store is going out of business, we found denim fabric remnants luckily cut to nearly the size we needed, discounted since they were remnants, discounted even more since the store was going out of business and discounted even more because some had slight flaws, also perfect! ($37.80)
  • Thread ...one spool of blue thread (~$2)
  • Velcro - 19"x 5/8" or 1", we needed 8 pieces and this rounded up to 4 yards ($6)
  • Sewing machine - we obtained one from craiglist...but it was missing the presser feet...so this is where Mom came in 
  • Scissors - hey you kids, where are my good scissors ?
  • Tape Measure
  • Chalk Wheel - optional, but very handy I had never used one of these before but worked great!
  • Straight Edge
  • Seam Ripper - ok, I admit it, there was that one seam I had to do over
  • Straight Pins - not essential, but handy for keeping material aligned while sewing
 
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Step 1: Measure and Cut Material

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Measure and Cut

Our known elements were the foam pads, 19"x24" - 8 per couch
When we found remnants, the material was 59" from selvage edge to selvage edge (no not a selfie or salvage, see the pictures for details on what selvage is), sold by the yard, most were already cut to about a yard, but a few were > 43"
So we came up with a plan to group 2 foam pads together the long way to make one cushion. For most of the cushions we needed seams on all edges, but for 3 of them we doubled the material over and only needed 3 seams. If I were buying all new material I would have used the 3 seam technique for all the cushions. But I'll describe the 4 seam technique here.
After measuring, I used a straight edge and a chalk wheel to mark the material

To cut out sections a large nice flat table is handy, for us the kitchen island was the best spot
For our situation we sewed two remnants together and then measured the width and length of the folded in half cover...we needed the cover to be 51" long and 21 1/2 wide. Measuring them this way allowed me to cut the two layers at the same time.



Step 2: So Sew!

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For our situation I already had one long edge of the cover sewn.

Steps to finish the cover:
  1. Pin the other long edge with straight pins. Pro Tip: If you place the pins perpendicular to the seam it will be easier to remove them as you sew
  2. Sew with a straight stitch along the long edge and one of the short edges. We left the selvage edge as the edge to be closed by Velcro, less chance of unraveling. Pro tip: use back stitching feature of the machine near the beginning and ending sections of any seam. 
  3. Insert one of the cushions to make sure you have the correct fit
  4. Sew with a straight stitch the "soft" half of your Velcro to the edge of the cover you consider the top. Align the Velcro on top of the material and sew as close to the edge as possible.
  5. Sew with a zig zag stich the other edge of the soft velcro, the goal here is to use a zig-zag stitch to sew half on the Velcro and half off to seal the edge of the Velcro
  6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 for the rough piece of Velcro - also sewing the velcro to the outside of the material
  7. Insert the other piece of foam
  8. Seal the cushion by folding the soft edge over and onto the rough edge.
Viola! job completed!

Optional: For our couch we decided to use some of the extra foam and extra material to cover up the bare plywood. This was simply a matter of cutting material to shape and using a staple gun to hold the denim in place.

Thanks for checking out my Instructable. Good luck on all your Projects!
Tanzer261 year ago
Best tool for cutting urethane foam to size/shape is an electric carving knife. They can be acquired pretty cheaply, if you don't have one. Mine cuts easily through 6 inch foam.

I was just about to suggest this when I saw your comment! I agree - I've been using an electric carving knife to cut foam since the 70's (still have the same one, actually - lol!) I was given it as a housewarming present and thought - "nice of them, but what t a useless present" - how wrong I was! It's occasionally used for what it was designed for, but mostly for cutting foam.

Emergency substitution for Fray-Chek: clear nail polish.

Those 3D models for the couch project.

mazzmn (author) 1 year ago
Thanks, and thanks for the tips and links...I thought seriously about washing before hand, in retrospect I wish I had....another reason to do it is after working with the denim my hands had a blue tinge...so anyone wearing white and sitting on our couch might get a surprise :-)
dsantil711 year ago
That looks really nice! Awesome job.
More tips - 1. always prewash & dry! Denim is cotton so it's probably going to shrink a lil.
2. Reinforce seams that are going to be under pressure & a lot of wear & tear such those for couch cushions. The easiest you can do that is by zig zag stitching the seams together 1/4 inch past on the seam allowance or serging. Do this & your cushion covers will last longer.
3. Always iron before cutting to ensure exact measurements.
Check out - sewing.org, sewdaily.com, threadsmag.com for free sewing info.


valkgurl1 year ago
Very nice--a few more sewing hints--

If you place your pins--with possibly smaller heads than these!!!! with the head end on the side facing away from the needle--the part that will pass UNDER the sewing machine!---the chances of getting a pin under your presser foot is much less. Pins under the presser feet can break; ; break your thread; break your bobbin; break your needle; jam in the "Feed dog" ---the part that moves the fabric thru the machine---in general cause havoc. Also if you can remove the pin just BEFORE you get to it this will mean you won't even have to worry about this!

For denim or heavier upholstery fabric get the proper needles--they are not expensive and will make things MUCH easier for you! Also get thread to go with this--some will need heavier duty thread or to have a seam sewn twice for strength. Far easier to do this the first time rather than to have to try and repair shredded fabric when the item is done.

Use a FRAY CHEK type liquid to finish off the thread ends and any area where it seems that unraveling might occur---just run a bead down the edge or dot it onto the thread ends and et voila--no fraying!

To make it far easier to sew the right place fold the edge and IRON it down---creates a way for you to see and feel where you need to sew. Also you can use the chalk wheel or the little sewing chalk bricks to mark to have clear guidelines---don't use regular blackboard chalk it is too grainy and can gum up your machine.
mazzmn (author)  valkgurl1 year ago
Thanks! some good tips there. I agree, I take the pins out before the material runs under the presser foot...so the bigger head pins just make it easier for me to grab them in a hurry.

I had not heard of FRAY Chek liquid, sounds like something I should check into lol :-)

I like the IRON idea too...I didn't mention it, but for the two corners on the non Velcro end, we did add a diagonal stitch to give a better box form....possibly called a Mitered Corner...Ironing would have been helpful here