I love my antique office chair, but my wood office chair doesn’t love me. After struggling with some lower back and sore butt issues I did some research and found this orthopedic cushion. After using this cushion for two days I wish I would have bought it years ago. Downside of the orthopedic cushion: it’s super ugly. So I made a cover.
Making the pattern
The fabric came from JoAnn’s and is in the home fabric section. I bought a yard, which was just enough since I did piping. Had I bought just a tad more I could have done some nifty pattern matching, but I’m probably the only sewing nerd who cares. I started by outlining the cushion on a piece of brown craft paper; I keep a big roll of it in my art studio.
Notice that I ignored the cut out in the middle; the goal was to hide the cushion’s orthopedic nature and disguise it as a normal, decorative cushion. Below you can see the resulting, simplified shape.
Next step: add seam allowances (standard 5/8″). I have a fancy little hem gauge (ruler with a sliding marker) that I used to mark the 5/8″ distance, but a regular ruler works just fine. I had taken a picture with my hem gauge, but it was super blurry since it was taken in haste late at night.
I wrapped the fabric around the cushion to play with the placement, then pinned the pattern piece in place. Notice that the grain lines (fabric weave) runs horizontal and vertical to the cushion.
Below you can see the pattern piece in place, ready to be cut. I actually pinned the fabric to the pattern with the cushion still underneath. I took the cushion out and then laid it flat and adjusted the pins a little to make it smooth.
Adding a zipper
For the bottom/back of the cushion I wanted to add a zipper to make it easy to put on and take off for cleaning. I loosely laid the zipper in place, then made a crease to mark the zipper placement.
With the pattern piece folded at the zipper line, I cut out the first section of the bottom. For the other half of the bottom I moved the crease line about an inch, allowing for the two cut pieces to overlap an inch at the zipper line. I apologize, I definitely forgot to take a picture of this step.
I sewed the zipper to the bottom half of the fabric, with the right side of the zipper facing the right side of the fabric.
Sewing it in place:
Once the zipper was sewed in place I folded the raw edge of the zipper and fabric under so both the right side of the fabric and right side of the zipper were facing up.
The reason I had an extra 1″ overlap was to account for this zipper seam, but also the little fabric flap to hide the zipper (referred to as a lapped zipper by seamstresses).
For the fabric flap I folded the fabric over about 3/4″ and sewed it down at using a 5/8″ seam allowance.
Once the fabric was pressed I sewed the zipper underneath this flap, right side of the zipper facing the underside of the flap.
Here’s an “inside” look of the zipper placement:
Once the zipper was sewed in I tested the shape on my original pattern to make sure it matched. If yours doesn’t match, just trim it to fit as needed. Tip: it’s better to have too much overlap since you can always trim any excess.
I opted to sew down each edge of the zipper placement to add some extra strength. I sewed 1/2″ from the edge so the stitching would be hidden inside the final seams.
Once I sewed down the opposite end with the excess zipper length I trimmed off the extra length (yep: you can shorten zippers).
Making the piping
If you’ve never made a cushion cover I would recommend skipping the piping, it’s more of an intermediate skill. If you’ve done a number of projects and are up for a new challenge, start by making yourself some fabric strips along the bias (on the diagonal). I made my strips 2 1/4″ wide.
How did I come up with 2 1/4″? I wrapped the fabric around my piping, creating a 5/8″ seam allowance. I put a pin on the opposite side, then measured how wide the fabric strip I made was.
Below you can see me cutting the strips along the bias, using my quilting ruler and rotary cutter. If you notice that the fabric is being cut to 2.5″ thick in this picture, that’s because it is. I realized that I made it a little too wide then had to trim all of my strips an extra 1/4″; super annoying. Lesson learned: don’t add a little extra when measuring for piping.
In case you’re wondering, why cut along the bias? Cutting on the bias gives the fabric a lot more flexability, which is important when you’re curving piping around a cushion.
Here’s a visual of how my overall pattern placement looked.
Once the strips were cut I needed to sew them together. Normally the ends of the fabric strips would be square. The square ends would get lined up at a 90 degree angle, and then you would draw a diagonal line across the overlapping squares of fabric and sew. In this case, my edges were on an angle because of the bias cutting, so I just made sure to overlap them enough that the strip edges touched at each end of the diagonal seam.
Here’s a YouTube tutorial that make WAY more sense:
I always stitch my piping 1/2″ from the edge, allowing that seam to be covered by the final 5/8″ seam. Below you can see how combining the fabric strips on an angle creates less bulk at the connections.
Once my piping was all done I got ready to sew the cushion, then remembered I needed a piece for the sides of the cushion. Whoops.
I measured my cushion and it was 2 1/2″ thick, so that plus two 5/8″ seam allowances left me with a 3 3/4″ thick strip of fabric. Yep, sewing = math. I had to combine two pieces of fabric, and I opted to stitch down the seam to ensure that it stayed nice and flat. I used a really scientific method to determine the length for this fabric piece: I wrapped it around the cushion and pinned it in place. Once I pinned where the pieces needed to connect, I sewed it in place to make one continuous piece.
Sewing the cushion
I decided to sew the bottom of the cushion first, since the bottom is less obvious if I didn’t sew it as well. I started by pinning the piping in place.
Here you can see the piping pinned around both fabric pieces.
Once I pinned the piping all the way around, I trimmed the piping cord at the point where the pieces met.
I had to rip some of the seam from the piping to trim the piping. After opening up the piping I also folded over the cut edge and tucked one piece into the other. Once these pieces were tucked in place I pinned them really well.
Once the piping was pinned to the bottom I pinned the bottom to the cushion side. I started by putting pins at four places, equally spaced apart, then slowly eased the rest of the pins in place.
Once the bottom was sewn I made sure to unzip the zipper (so I could easily turn it right side out once the top was sewn in place). I pinned the top, being careful to match the contour of the cushion (back with back, corners with corners), and then continued to sew.
I use a zipper foot to sew along piping, no need for a specialty “piping foot”.
Once the pieces were all sewn together it was time to turn it inside out and test the fit.
Finished cushion cover
I was pretty excited about how it turned out, and happy with how the piping allows for some extra camouflaging of the cushion cut out.
Here’s the back side. I definitely would have matched the pattern on the back if I had bought a little more fabric, but that’s just me being silly.
Enjoy, and good luck sewing your own! I have another post about resizing an existing cushion cover that might offer some additional tips.