How to Re-Cover a Cushion

In this week’s post I’m going to take you through how I acquired a quaint and delightful rocking chair and freshened up its ever so comfy cushion. Although this post is presented as a how-to guide, I would not recommend repeating the process I went through for reasons that will become obvious. There was one, not necessarily well received, surprise along the way, which I am still living with the consequences of.


Without further ado, please enjoy my handy tips on . . .

How to Recover a Cushion


Stumble across a chair you love on Freecycle


This step is certainly one of the more time-consuming parts of the process. This is especially the case if you um and ah about whether you’re going to get the chair for several weeks then finally contact the person giving it away as you’re driving several hundred miles away from the chair’s location for Christmas.


Make space for your new chair


It’s important to make sure you’re not whimsically scrolling through Freecycle and deciding you desperately need something that you actually have no space for. Maybe you need to move some existing furniture around to make space for your new acquisition. Perhaps you need to clear out some of your old stuff before bringing something new into your home. Or maybe you need to dismantle the stand for your Beastmaker and hope and pray that the beams of your sewing/exercise shed will take your bodyweight while you dangle from your fingertips.


Acquire the chair


Take a drive to collect the chair. Awkwardly meet some children who seem rather sad about the fact that you’re taking their chair away. Wrestle the chair into the back of the car before their Mummy changes their mind about getting rid of it.


Leave quickly.


Choose some new fabric


Sufficient fabric is required to make an inner cover, which will permanently encase the wadding that forms the cushion so can be as boring or ugly as you like, and an outer cover, preferably featuring a Grandma chic floral print.


Remove the original cover and rapidly regret your decisions

It’s not always obvious that you’re about to make a catastrophic sparkly mistake so beware when opening up your new cushion. It could hold unexpected secrets within its wadded core. One moment you’re merrily ripping stitches to remove the tired old fabric, daydreaming of how gosh-darn cute it will look in its new snazzy coating. The next moment, you’ve freed a cloud of glitter from the cushion’s innards and it’s clinging to every available surface. The table. The floor. The windows. Your clothes. Your hands. Your feet (leaving a neat silhouette on the aforementioned floor). Your face. Your carefree spirit.


Under such circumstances you may make yet more bad decisions due to the shock of suddenly being covered in a metric shit-tonne of glitter. It may seem reasonable to fling open the door of your sewing/exercise shed and shake the glitter bomb out into the garden to disperse the shimmering nightmare. However, the weather can also be a bitch and a strong breeze will more than likely sweep up the glitter and send it hither and thither across your garden and onto the outside of your sewing/exercise shed. Your world will then be shiny on the inside and shiny on the outside and you’ll be finding glitter on every surface of every item for weeks to come.


Plough on and abandon your best intentions


When reviving an existing piece of clothing or soft furnishing it’s often cheaper, more environmentally friendly, and creatively challenging to re-use as many parts of the original piece as possible. However, you might find yourself abandoning this principle as you unpick the piping trim from your shiny grenade of a cushion and discover even this is filled with gosh darn glitter. At this point, it’s understandable to sulkily throw the glitter-soaked piping chord in the bin and hop on eBay to order yourself some unsullied piping chord. Every eco-seamstress has a breaking point.


Use the old cushion cover as a pattern


After removing as much glitter as possible from the old cushion cover fabric, use it as a template to cut out the pieces from your new mostly glitter-free fabric. For this cushion, I needed two identical pieces for the top and bottom of the cushion and a long strip for the thin edge of the cushion for both the inner and out covers. I chose to add iron-on interfacing to the edge piece of the outer cover so it would hold its shape a little better.

Sew the inner cushion and secure in place.

With right sides together, sew the edge piece of the inner cover to the top and bottom pieces leaving a big enough opening in one edge so you can slip the cushion wadding into it without too much of a fight. Turn the cover right sides out and press. Wrestle the wadding inside the inner cover and hand stitch the opening closed. Be sure to seal that glittery bastard in good and tight.


To stop the wadding shifting around stitch all the way through from the top to the bottom using buttons to take the strain off the thread. This also stops the tight stitching tearing through the fabric. As with the fabric, feel free to use your ugliest or most boring buttons as they will be hidden within the outer cover and will only have the opportunity to offend your eyeballs when the outer cover needs washing.


Make the piping trim

Once your glitter-free piping chord has arrived, cut it to the appropriate length and cut and sew an equal amount of bias binding. To do this, cut thin strips of fabric (the width will depend on the thickness of the chord. In my case, I cut 4.5cm wide strips) on the diagonal across your fabric then sew the ends together to create one continuous strip.


To complete the piping, wrap the bias binding around the chord and stitch it together using a zipper foot so you can get a nice snug fit. The chord should be tucked in tight enough so it doesn’t slide around but gently enough so it has room to bend with the curved corners of the cushion’s shape.


Assemble the outer cover


As you did with the inner cover, sew the edge piece to the top and bottom pieces with right sides together, remembering to add the piping chord filling into this fabric sandwich and leave a gap for the zip. Press the seams open then insert the zip you salvaged from glittery corpse of the original cushion cover.


Turn the cover right sides out. Give it a final thorough press then slip it over the cushion and inner cover. Zip it up and congratulate yourself on a job well done by planting your arse on your newly covered cushion in your extremely comfortable new chair.


At this point you may remember that it’s winter in the UK and it’s far too cold to spend much time simply sitting in your chair in your sewing/exercise shed. In this case, leave a trusty penguin to guard the chair and look forward to sitting in it with a glass of gin and tonic on a warm spring evening.

If you’ve had any similar disasters or humorous incidents with items from Freecycle feel free to drop them in the comments below. Or if, like me, you also fucking hate glitter, you’re welcome to rant about this below as well!

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