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How to Make Rocking Chair Cushions

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A guide to reupholstering rocking chair cushions

A guide to reupholstering rocking chair cushions

How to Make Rocking Chair Cushions

After five years and two babies, my old rocking chair cushions were tired and lumpy. If I was going to use that old chair, I was going to have to do something about those cushions. I set out to make brand new seat cushions and covers for my little chair. It was surprisingly easy, and it turned out beautiful.

Here's how you can do it too.

  • Cost: $50–$60
  • Time: 4 hours or fewer

Steps to Follow (With Instructions Below)

  1. Cut New Foam for Cushions
  2. Sew the Covers
  3. Finish the Cushion
  4. Optional: Create Tufting in the Cushions

Materials You'll Need

  • Foam
  • Fabric
  • Matching tread
  • Needle
  • Pushpins
  • Fabric-marking pin
  • Sewing machine

1. Cut New Foam for Cushions

How to Make a Template for New Cushions

If you don't have the old cushions or want to make cushions for a chair that didn't come with a cushion, you'll have a little more work to do. You'll need to make a template out of brown paper bags.

Lay the bag onto the chair, pressing into the corners.

Trace around the chair's perimeter and cut away the excess paper to make your template.

Of course, if you have them, use the old seat cushions as templates for the new ones.

Cutting New Foam Cores for the Cushions

Now that you have your templates (using the old cushions with the cover removed or the paper template), take some quick measurements so you know how much foam to buy. It is fairly expensive, so you don't want to buy more than you need. You can purchase foam at any craft store. Trying to be economical, I used 2" foam for the seat and 1" for the back, but for a cushier seat, you could use 3" or even 4" foam.

Set the old cushion or template on top of the new foam sheet and trace around it. Cut out the cushion using a sharp utility knife or scissors.

2. Sew the Cushion Covers

1.5" or Thinner Cushions

Iron the fabric and fold it in half. Lay the cushion on top and trace around the cushion, leaving a space about the cushion's width between the cushion and the cut line. Cut out the fabric and center the foam piece between the two layers, right sides together. Pin the material around three sides of the foam piece, leaving the back open.

Take the foam insert out from between the fabric. Using a fabric marking pen, trace around the needles to mark a sew line. Remove the foam insert and sew the pinned sides together, removing the pins as you sew.

2" or Wider Cushions

For wider cushions, cut the material as before and pin the right and left sides together, leaving the entire front section and about 2 inches on each side unpinned. Remove the foam insert and sew only the pinned areas as before. With the material still inside-out, insert the foam back into the material and check the fit.

Cut a new strip of material about 1.5" wider than the cushion depth and long enough to wrap around the sides, about 3" on each side. Pin the strip—right-side in—into the foam core. Then, pin the strip's top and bottom to the rest of the cushion material, working around the corners to where the top and bottom pieces of fabric are sewn together.

Remove the pins that hold the front strip to the foam insert.

As before, use a fabric marking pin to trace along the needles to create your sew line, remove the foam core, and sew the material together.


3. Finish the Cushion

Insert the foam core back into the material and check that it fits correctly. Trim away the excess material along the seam lines to 1/4 inch.

Remove the foam core and turn the material right-side out. Replace the foam insert and adjust the material around the foam core.

Working on the back end of the cushion, turn the top and bottom material in and pin closed, tucking in the corners. With the foam core still in the cover, sew the back closed.

Step 4: Create Tufting in the Cushions (Optional)

Now, you could call your cushions finished. But this last step is well worth the extra time, as it gives your cushions a more polished and professional look. It's called "tufting," and it is the process of creating little indentations in the cushions that help hold the foam in place and keep the cushion material from looking sloppy. It's really easy to do.

  1. Use push pins to plan out where you will put the tufting. I did four rows of two for the back cushion.
  2. Thread a needle that is at least as long as your cushion is deep, doubling the thread for strength. Tie a small knot at the end.
  3. Push the needle through the cushion, trying to go straight up and down, and pull the thread through the material until the knot goes just through the fabric into the foam core.
  4. Thread the needle back through the cushion, pulling tightly until the cushion just starts to indent. Holding the end of the thread tight, so that the cushion stays compressed, thread the needle back through the cushion, pulling tightly until the cushion compresses even more.
  5. Continue this process several more times, creating a little X pattern, keeping enough tension on the thread so that the cushion stays indented. After several passes, the cushion should stay indented even when you release the thread.
  6. Sew two more passes, and tie a knot at the end of the thread. Pull the needle through the material once more and pull the knot just into the core.
My completed chair

My completed chair

What type of cushions are you making? Share your project with us in the comments below!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2014 Sarah