Introduction: Easy DIY Couch Cushion Covers - Tie Dyed

I made a couch! I used the fabulous design from HomeMade Modern for their Modern Zig Zag sofa, that you can find here http://www.homemade-modern.com/ep108-zig-zag-sofa/

I didn't want to buy foam, so I ended up altering the design (I had to make the seat back higher and the seat wider) to fit a foam mattress that I found 2nd hand.

As I was using a much larger foam and wanted to use fabric rather than leather to cover it, I didn't think that the approach in Step 9 in HomeMade Modern's design would work for me.

This instructable will bring you through how I made a very easy couch cushion cover and tie dyed it to make a feature piece in my living room.

The method for making this cushion cover can be adapted for ANY size rectangular cushion. Although covering a couch may seem like an intimidating project, this method is so easy anyone can do it! If your couch has multiple cushions rather than one large foam - no problem! Just use the same method to cover each one.

Step 1: Materials & Tools

Materials

Foam - whether you are covering an old couch cushion, or recycling an old mattress as I did, you'll need something to cover.

Fabric - An excellent option for upholstering 'on the cheap' is to buy canvas drop cloths from your local hardware store. If you are dying your fabric, as I did, the neutral colour takes dye pretty well. It is heavy duty enough to withhold constant use, they are large enough, and it is easy fabric to work with. Make sure to wash and dry your material before you cut - the drop cloths will shrink!

Thread - I chose a heavy duty polyester thread in a neutral colour.

Zipper - I purchased my zipper by the metre so that I could have it almost as long as the entire foam cushion. This makes it a lot easier to stuff your cushion back into your completed cover.

Dye - I recommend doing some research before purchasing your dye. I ended up having to re-dye my cushion three times to get a colour I was satisfied with because I used a generic brand that I could get locally.

Heavy duty elastics or string - I found best results using heavy elastics to tie around my fabric.

Tools

Sewing machines - I was lucky to have access to my local makerspace's sewing machines - a serger, an industrial sewing machine and a heavy duty Singer. This simply made the process faster and easier for me, but you can make this cover using a simple sewing machine at home.

Washing machine - I used a dying process that made use of a washing machine. A large tub would also do the trick.

Scissors / roller cutter, measuring tools, long straight edges

Step 2: Measure, Cut and Serge

Measuring and Cutting

Measure your cushions before you purchase your materials.

My seat foam was 72 inches long, 22 inches wide, and 6 inches deep.

The back foam was 72 inches long, 18 inches high, and 6 inches deep.

You need a piece of fabric that will go around the entire circumference of your foam in one wrap (1 seam at the back). The fabric must be the correct length of your foam with enough fabric to go over the ends to allow for the depth on each side.

For my seat cushion:

  • Cut length: 72" + 6" = 78"
    Note: you only need to add 6 " because you want a 3" overlap at each end at the top and bottom. They will meet to create the 6" depth that you need.
  • Cut width: 22" + 6" + 22" + 6" = 56"
  • Final piece of cloth needed: 78" by 56"

For my back cushion:

  • Cut length: 72" + 6" = 78"
  • Cut width: 18" + 6" + 18" + 6" = 48"
  • Final piece of cloth needed: 78" by 48"

When you use a ½ inch seam allowance that makes everything 1 inch smaller than your original measurement. This is the plan, it's good - it makes the cover fit snugly over your cushion.

Finish Edges

At this point, I chose to serge around the entire rectangle to finish the edges and make sure that it wouldn't fray. It was easier for me to do it now, then later when the cushion was formed.

I recommend it, but if you don't have a serger, it's not required. You could also do a zig zag stitch combined with a single line stitch to finish the edges.


Step 3: Sew the Covers

Sew Edges

  1. Fold the fabric in half along the length (so in my case, the folded seat cover became 78" by 28").
  2. Make a seam all the way across the short side of your folded fabric from the folded edge to the raw edge using a ½” seam allowance.
  3. Measure half the depth of your cushion down from the fold (along the short side of the fabric). In my case, as my cushion is 6" deep, I measure down 3". Make a mark. (Photo 1)
  4. Do the same on the other side.You should have a large rectangle that is open along one of the long edges.
  5. Measure your zipper and subtract that length from the length of your cushion cover. Sew in either end of the open long edge so that the opening is exactly that of the zipper. It is easier if you put the zipper in the middle of your cover. Don’t put the zipper in yet. In my case, I sewed each edge in 4". That is, 3" for the depth of the foam, plus 1" so that the zipper started a little bit in from the edge. It is much easier to fit the cushion in if your zipper goes across the entire length of the cushion.
  6. Exactly the same as you did for the folded edge corners, mark 3" up (along the short side of the fabric) from the seam you just made. As your seam was 1/2 inch, this means that the mark should be 3.5" up from the edge of the fabric.

Sew Corners

  1. Separate your material and refold it so that one of your short seams is now the centre. Make sure that it is exactly in the middle.
  2. Sew across the tip of the fabric so that you have a seam that crosses the mark you made 3” down from the folded edge. (Photo 2)
  3. Cut off the tip of the fabric now leaving a half inch seam allowance. This will allow the corner to fit snugly without extra bulk. You can serge or sew this edge to make sure it doesn't fray.
  4. Do this on all four sides. (Photo 3 shows a corner turned right side out)

Zipper

Now put in your zipper. I won't give instructions here - there are lots of resources online that will do a better job of that. I did not bother doing a hidden zipper because the zipper is going at the back of each cushion, so won't be seen.

I used this website from Honey Bear Lane as a resource.

Step 4: Tie Dye

Once my cushion covers were complete, I tie dyed the covers.

This was my first tie dye project (I know - start small) so I used a very simple approach.

  1. Most dying instructions tell you to pre-wash in order to remove any impurities that may interfere with the fabric's ability to absorb the dye. You should have already done this before cutting and sewing your covers.
  2. Wet the covers in warm water in your bathtub.
  3. Using heavy elastics for best results (I also tried using heavy duty string, but found that it sometimes unwound and fell off in the dying process) tie up your fabric. I used the "bullseye" tie dye technique, but there are lots of other designs (check out Stephanie Lynn's awesome blog about this)!
    I chose the places that I wanted to have the centre of each circle and placed the first three or so elastics first. Then I worked my way out until the elastics met. In some places, I gathered the excess fabric and put an elastic around (you can see the result of this in the bottom right corner of the photo).
  4. Following the instructions on the dye that you are using, determine the amount of dye needed. I suggest that using heavy duty drop cloths, you might need more dye than recommended.
  5. Use the hottest setting and fill the machine with enough hot water for the fabric to move freely.
  6. As I used powder dye, I pre-dissolved it in two cups of hot water before added it to the washing machine. As the drop cloths are a natural fiber (cotton) I also dissolved one cup of salt in four cups of very hot tap water and added it to the dye bath in the washing machine. This was all suggested by the instructions in my dye. Turn on the machine and let it agitate for 5 minutes to mix the dye.
  7. Depending on the dye you are using (again, make sure to follow the specific instructions that they provide), soak your covers. I recommend using the maximum time. My dye said to leave them for a maximum of one hour before the rinse cycle begins – I used a full hour. You can use an extended setting on the washing machine, or reset the setting before the rinse cycle starts to extend the wash time. Periodically check in the machine to make sure that all parts of the cover are submerged.
  8. Rinse through the washing machine in cold water to remove excess dye.
  9. Running another short cycle, wash the covers in warm water with mild detergent and rinse thoroughly with cold water once again.
  10. Hang to dry or machine dry.
  11. To clean the washing machine: Using hot water and the “high” level setting, clean the washer with 1 cup of liquid bleach. Make sure to wipe around the inside of the lid and pour a little bleach through the internal dispenser as dyes can get into these areas. Run a full wash cycle with 3 to 4 old towels.

As I mentioned before, I ended up having to re-dye a couple of times to get a satisfying colour. At first, I was really disappointed, but re-wrapping the elastics following the lines that had been made worked out well. Best to avoid this, but don't worry too much if you don't get a good colour the first time. I recommend using better quality dye and a long time period in the dye bath.

Step 5: Complete!

Stuff your foam into the cushion covers. It should fit really snugly, so be prepared to manhandle the foam to squish it in there. Spend some time to make sure the corners are fitted properly to the edges.

It's that easy!

I used this exact same method (minus the tie dye) to make a camping mattress cover.

Comments

author
Smarti1957 (author)2017-08-24

Wouldn't it be easier to tie dye the fabric before sewing so that you could better control the patterns?

author
Loblaw (author)Smarti19572017-08-25

Well... maybe. If you see in the final picture a lot of my 'bulls-eye' centres are on the edges of the cushion, so the pattern continues around the sides. You wouldn't be able to do this (except on the front fold) if you had tie dyed before sewing the cover.

I think that both are valid approaches!

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Bio: Everything I make is done with love and imperfection.
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