40 Yards of Piping (how to make outdoor furniture cushions)

It takes 40 yards of piping to make 8 cushions. Crazy. I checked my math at least 5 times.

We're in the long process of uplifting our back yard and I finished the cushions! I really wanted some cool colors in durable outdoor fabric rather than the usual muted colors you buy off the shelf. Box cushions are a really great beginner's project. I hate sewing anything that needs to "fit", but cushions are forgiving. A few notes before a fast tour of the process:

  • I highly recommend taking a short course on cushions from a local sewing store, like Hart's Fabric in Santa Cruz.
  • It's going to cost about twice as much as store-bought cushions, but you'll have better quality fabric and foam. I was hesitant to spend that much but am totally happy now that they're finished and I compare the quality to store-bought.
  • Pay the extra for quality fabric and foam. Saving $5/yard of fabric isn't going to make a huge dent in the total cost.
  • Using 3 different fabrics like I did actually didn't increase the cost of the total project that much compared to using one print. I calculated cost for using 1, 2, and 3 prints and it was within $100.

How to make seat cushions tutorial Materials and The Plan.

  • Use outdoor fabric. I used Sunbrella fabric, which is one of the leading sun-resistant, quick-drying materials. Hart's Fabric does online sales and has great prices and excellent customer service. It'll run you roughly $24/yard.
  • Use marine-grade foam, which is more "airy" and dries quickly. I ordered a sheet of foam from The Foam Factory. When you compare to store-bought cushions, the quality of foam is drastically different. Even outdoor cushions are often made with the softer foam that yellows and disintegrates over time. This stuff is sturdy. A 4" thick sheet runs you ~$300.
  • Order Dacron, a polyester layer, with the foam, to give the cushions pop. See below.
  • Order zippers and cording for the piping by the yard. Hart's sells zippers by the yard, and I saved a bunch by ordering a roll of cording on Amazon.
  • Use heavy-duty polyester or nylon thread. Don't use cotton--it'll wear out in the sun and water.
  • Use 90/18 needles and a zipper foot.
  • Lay out the plan geometry-homework style and triple-check. Piping needs to be cut on the bias, so check your math to make sure you have enough diagonals to get 40 yards.

How to make seat cushions tutorial Measure the fabric and mark with a water-soluble pen or chalk pen.

How to make seat cushions tutorial Cut.

How to make seat cushions tutorial Cut the piping. You'll have big triangles of unused fabric that are too short for piping.

How to make seat cushions tutorial I did all the piping at once. Just suck it up.

How to make seat cushions tutorial Sew the piping to cushion top and bottom. I learned the hard way that you need to pin everything. The fabric is heavy and slippery enough that the layers will slide. I hate pinning and am more of a go-with-it person, but pin, pin, pin, every few inches. You can see gathering in the finished one on the left side and the lack of pins in the one in the machine.

How to make seat cushions tutorial Sew in the zipper with a small flap to hide it.

How to make seat cushions tutorial Sew the sides to the bottom, then to the top. Remember to open the zipper a bit before you sew the top or you'll be SOL trying to turn it right side out. See those pins? Pin, pin, pin. There's no forgiveness in the step--the sides must fit perfectly. You can't hide anything in the seams.

How to make seat cushions tutorial Measure and cut the foam. A bread knife was perfect. I cut the foam between 1/4 and 1/2 inch smaller than the finished size of the cushion. So for 25" cushions, the foam was about 24.5".

How to make seat cushions tutorial A huge key is to order Dacron, a polyester soft layer. It gives the cushion pop rather than being a flat, hard box. Most all foam stores have it for ~$1/yard. I played around with stuffing the cushions with 1 layer, 2 layers, around the front, all around, and ended up with this configuration that looked and felt the nicest. Order enough Dacron with this layout in mind.

How to make seat cushions tutorial Rinse and repeat....many times.

Next on the list for the back yard is filling the planters for a garden this year and for Jeremy to make a propane fire pit!