The Most Important Lessons for Making Cushions
When you look back on all the various sewing projects you have made your way through, have you ever noticed that there are some projects that you approach more confidently than others? Zippers and cushions were always the most intimidating to me. I know the zippers were intimidating because all through my childhood and young adulthood, if a zipper went on a bag or item of clothing, it was the death knoll for that item. Sorry to say but YouTube did not exist and learning through a book just did not translate for me. Cushions were an improvisational exercise I would try to accomplish with lumpy pillows to create a window seat Anne of Green Gables would be envious of but alas, when I finally did my first real cushion project, there was alot to overcome that turned out to be pretty simple and it was just the getting started that was the biggest hurtle.
All Foam is Not Made the Same
If you have ever purchased foam from a box store you have probably been disappointed pretty quickly with the feel and longevity of its form. The problem is that it is not true high-density foam. When I had to make custom cushions for a client, who grew up having experienced real down cushions and wanted some of that experience with the cushions I was making, I did a good deal of research to learn about foam because there was no way for there to be a budget for solid down cushions. My main concern was creating the right cushion sandwich as it were and I knew from past experience, that the box store was not my answer.
In all things sourcing materials, one important lesson I have learned is that the real professional materials or supplies are often not consumer accessible. We are trying to build into our store many products that are the more professional tools for making. After all my research, I ended up using a high-density foam wrapped in dacron with a custom-made down-filled cover that created the luxury look and feel requested by my client. The down pillow experience is not what most people want or need for majority of projects, it is important though to have a high-quality foam like what we have in our foam store.
Cutting Through It All
It is not worth cutting corners. One of the tools I made the mistake not purchasing for my first real cushion project was a hot wire foam cutter. I searched YouTube for hacks on how to cut through 4 and 5 inch high-density foam and thought I could get away with what was essentially an electric knife. You may assume that because you are wrapping the cushion in dacron or some sort of poly batting that irregularities along the foam edge will not be visible. Again, it is not worth cutting corners, jagged or irregular edges are not only visible but they can also be felt by the person sitting on the cushion. The uniformity of the foam at the core of the cushion is critical to the cushion looking as professional as possible. Lumpy cushions have their own place and charm but not with box cushions. It was a small investment I should have made and the time wasted correcting the issues were not worth it. There are certain tools that make all the difference in specific processes. Trust me, once you create a good cushion, you will start looking at everything in your home and realize the magic you can add with more cushions and upcycling old furniture by adding a new cushion is powerful stuff.
Wrapping It All Up
. Whether you chose dacron or a polyester fused wrap or even low-loft polyester batting, the wrap is important to slightly soften the edge of the high-density foam cushion core. Close your eyes and think of a cool glass of lemonade with ice cubes clinking, sun warming your whole body and a welcome gentle breeze, you are sitting outside on your latest outdoor cushion project. You are enjoying the comfort of your cushion. The firmness of the fit of your fabric over the cushion is perfect. You understand the golden rule, if you can create a unified cushion sandwich, you will not feel or see a separation between the cover and the core cushion. It is a good idea to use a spray adhesive to mount your wrap to the cushion. This will help prevent movement or separation between the layers over time.
Measuring Your Way Through
. All fabrics do not have the same give or stretch over time so it is important to consider a high-quality fabric for your cushion. Upholstery fabrics designated as commercial grade or residential grade are ideal. The difference between the two categories is that the commercial grade has been tested for multiple characteristics such a rub. Rub means that there can be X amount of use before real wear starts to show. Generally speaking, commercial grade means it is classified for heavy use and even resistance to certain chemicals and cleaners etc. For most people and homes, the residential grade is more than fine and there are more readily available fabric options.
Always do a test assembly with a very similar fabric. I highly recommend when you calculate the measurements of your cushion project that you aim for a tighter fit of your cover over your foam. Each fabric or material has a different give to it but with leather for instance you want to have it as tight as possible because it will give/stretch over time and use. Instead of taking the direct dimensions of your cushion, test a quarter inch or more in from that measurement. If you cut your fabric to the exact dimensions of your foam, chances are it will be slightly baggy or ill fitting on the corners whether they are rounded or curved.
The Finishing Touches
. Ever since I discovered the french seam, I have a devotion to it because it adds a nice finished look and adds strength to the seam itself. Research out various seam finishes and you will find some beautiful ideas for how to add the final touches to your cushion. Above all else, enjoy the fruits of your labor. As we all expand our living rooms more outdoors, getting started on some cushions to help bring comfort outside will be well worth every stitch and those closest to you will appreciate the efforts.