From Plaid to Rad

The decorating diva within continues to drive me, but our budget for furnishings is minuscule — most of our money is dedicated to structural repairs,  not pretty knickknacks.

Same chair updated

Cozy chair with 70s plaid

Our furniture is a collection of hand-me-downs or yard sale deals — functional if not fashionable. Fortunately, their abused appearance is very kid friendly. The stains on the Ikea drawers might be from my two-year-old son’s grubby hands or from my own grubby two-year-old hands.

Many of these well-worn heirlooms reside in our living room. This is the same handsome blue room with the tin ceiling under which my husband slaved for months. It’s one of the loveliest rooms in the house, but you might not notice its beauty behind the mismatched and torn furniture. My goal this summer is to rearrange and decorate the room so that it displays my husband’s handiwork, not detracts from it.

The Chair

Among the hodgepodge of chairs and sofas in our living room is a wooden chair cast off by our neighbors. We love the chair’s firm padding and solid wood structure, but despise the green and pink 70s-style plaid.

The covers on the removable cushions looked easy to replace, so I decided to save money and re-upholster the chair myself. After studying several tutorials on box cushions, including one from Design*Sponge, I was ready.

My cushions were not shaped as true boxes — one was a trapezoid and the other a nameless polygon.  Given these atypical shapes, I hoped to use the old cover as a pattern for a new one.

This proved not to be possible. Fortunately, I constructed a lining for each cushion first from old bed sheets and discovered the problem before cutting into my nice fabric. As you can see, the first lining I made came 2 inches short. When I made the outer cover, I added an additional 1/2 inch to each side of the pattern, and it fit beautifully.

The padding of the second cushion had shifted and no longer fit the curves of original cover. If I had sewn it with contrasting lip cord, the edges of the cushion would not have lined up with the bright edges of the cover. It would have been very odd indeed. Instead of using the old cover, I created my own pattern, based on my measurements of the cushion’s width, length and depth. (Design Sponge has a great tutorial about making your own pattern for a box cushion.) 

Nervously, I cut and sewed the second cover. When the cover snugly and perfectly fit over the cushion, I cheered aloud.

With only $34 and a week of sewing, I had a brand new chair that perfectly suited our room.

How I Sewed My Cushion Covers


  • 1 chair ($0)
  • 2 old bed sheets, for lining ($0)
  • 3 1/2 yards of fabric ($17) – purchased as a remnant fabric from an upholstery store
  • 9 yards of lip cord or welting cord (or you can make your own) ($17)
  • Thread, heavy duty and normal weight
  • Curved upholstery needle

Cut your old cover: 

Step 1: Carefully cut the old cover along its seams. Label each section of the cover as your remove it. I had several long thin strips to go on the side of the box and two larger panels for the top and bottom.

Make your lining: Don’t skip this step! The lining allows to test your pattern, and it helps the chair maintain its shape over time. 

Step 1: Pin the cover to the bed sheet and trace. This line will be your seam line. Trace a second line 1/2 inch from your seam line using a sliding gauge or ruler. This is your salvage line.

Step 2: Cut out pieces along salvage, and label.

Step 3: Pin together the thin pieces that will be the outside edge of your cushion. Sew along the seam line.

Step 4: Pin one large panel to the pieces you just sewed. Snip the fabric the corners of the panel to help it turn smoothly. Sew together.

Step 5: Pin the other large panel to the opposite side of the edging, making sure that your corners align with the previous panel. Sew together on 3 sides, leaving one side and two corners unsewn.

Step 6: Pull the new lining onto your cushion and evaluate. Does it fit? Do the corners look neat? Should you adjust your pattern before making the new cover?

Step 7: Sew the final edge by hand.

Make your cover:

Step 1: Tweak your pattern as needed.

Step 2: Carefully arrange the pattern on the fabric. You want the pattern to run in the correct direction and to align with the the pattern on the abutting pieces. Mark your seam line and a 1/2 inch salvage.

Step 4: Cut out pieces.

Step 5: Pin lip cord or welting cord to the right side of the large panels. Snip the fabric at the corners where necessary.

Ensure that the cording joins in the back of your panel. Cut an inch extra cording when you finish pinning. Overlap the cords so that they cross. Secure with pins. This join will become almost invisible once everything is sewn.

Baste in place.

Step 6: Pin edge panels to the top large panel, right sides together, and sew.

Step 7: Pin edge panels to bottom large panel, making sure that the corners of the two large panels align. Sew around 3 sides, leaving one side and 2 corners open.

Step 8: Pull your new cover over your lining. Admire.

Fold one side of the open edge under the cushion and secure with safety pins, as if it had sewn like the other three sides. Use the upholstery needle and heavy duty thread to sew the final side, with a blind hem.

You’re done! Sit back and enjoy.


About beewhisper

Christian, Mama, Wife, Gardener, Beekeeper
This entry was posted in Bee-ing Frugal, Hive Building, Sewing Bee. Bookmark the permalink.

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