How to Make Upholstered, Padded Cushions for a Wood Chair

  So Tuesday I showed you this chair that I scored on Craigslist and mentioned that I was going to be creating cushions for it.

  Someone had attempted a bit of padding..that tan square is microfiber stapled over a foam pad…but it’s not great.  After my meddling, the chair looks like this:
  Muuuuuch more comfortable.  And honestly, really not that hard to do.
  This is the second glider I’ve recovered, though with the first one I didn’t need to create the cushions from scratch.  If you have a glider with old, out-of-date fabric on the cushions you’ll want to skip down past the foam steps, but if you have an uncomfortable wood chair with no cushions at all that you’re looking to soften up a bit, lets talk about where to start.
  The very first thing you’re going to need to do is to take some measurements.  You’re going to need to buy some foam and obviously, before you can do that, you need to know how much you need.  If your chair has arms like mine does, keep in mind that the widest part of your seat will be the portion out in front of those arms.  Measure across this and from the front to the back and write those numbers down.  If you’re creating a back piece do the same.  Don’t worry about fine tuning measurements at this point.  Obviously your pieces are unlikely to be perfectly square (or rectangular for that matter), but that’s how most stores sell the foam, so you just want to get close so you’re not wasting a ton.  The best deal for me was to buy two 22″x22″ squares.  I’m a big fan of the super dense foam for seats, but for backs, the cheaper stuff is just fine in my opinion.
  Once you have your foam, I’ve found that the easiest way to create a pattern for yourself is to use a large piece of paper, cut to the starting size of your foam, and then cutting and folding it until it fits the seat properly.  Once you’ve created your paper pattern, lay it on top of your foam and trace it with a Sharpie.  Cut your foam on the lines.  An electric knife works really well for getting nice, clean cuts…but we don’t actually own one, so I just saw at mine with a bread knife.  The edges aren’t pretty when I’m done, but they’re just getting stuffed inside of fabric anyhow, so who really cares what they look like?
  Rounded corners are essentially impossible to do in the actual foam, but if you cut off sharp corners, it’s pretty easy to squish them round when you make your fabric covering.  That’s our next step.
  People who already have cushions, start reading HERE!
  Cut two pieces of fabric in approximately the same shape as your foam cushion, adding 3″ or 4″ to each edge.  Sandwich your foam between these two pieces, with the right side of your fabric facing in towards the foam.  Break out your safety pins and pin your fabric together around the foam as tightly as possible, rounding any corners desired while pinning.  You will have to leave a portion of your pillow casing unpinned so you’ll be able to remove the foam to sew it.  I suggest a straight edge along the back or bottom edge if at all possible.
  Once your fabric is pinned around your foam, remove the foam, leaving the pins in place.  If you didn’t use safety pins, this is the part where your pins are probably going to pop out and you’re going to swear a lot.  If you pinned your fabric tightly enough to get a nice, smooth cushion, you’re going to have to wrestle that foam.
  When the fabric is off of the foam, sew your pinned edges, using the pins as a guide but smoothing out the lines as you go.  It may be helpful to sketch where you want to stitch onto the fabric before starting if you’re new to making things up as you go.  Make certain to back stitch at the start and end of your seam as we’re going to be really yanking on those parts when we wrestle the foam back in.
  Turn your pillow casing right side out, do any ironing you feel is necessary and jam that foam back inside.  Now you have to decide just what kind of person you are.
  Wait, what?
  Yeah, we’re going to get a little soul-searchy here for a minute.
  I, personally, am a terrible, slovenly person.  Also, lazy.  Despite the fact that I’m clearly a crazy woman in that I’m putting essentially white cushions in a small boy’s room, I’m also a crazy woman in the other direction in admitting, up front, I’m never gonna wash em.  Spot treating if necessary?  Sure.  Actually removing the cushion covers and throwing them in the wash?  Nah.  So my covers are permanently attached to my cushions, that remaining opening hand stitched shut.  No turning back on these babies… expect to hear me refer to any stains as part of their “patina”.
  If the idea of not being able to wash your covers horrifies you, you’re going to have to put in a zipper.  Actually, if you want a zipper, you’ll need to put one in and THEN do the other edges, if you want to do it “right”.  Either way, more work than I was willing to do.
  Unnecessary work I was willing to do though…the canvas I was working with had that big, lovely rustic looking seam you can see on the back cushion running through a portion of it.  I loved the rougher feel it gave the cushion and wanted to have the seat cushion have a little texture too.
  I ran a faux flat-felled seam across my fabric before I started pinning it a
round my foam to toughen it up a little and give it more of a “sail cloth” feel, instead of “pristine white field of snow, begging for a little boy to mess it up” feel.  I also found that with fabric this light I needed two layers to keep the green of the super-dense foam from showing through.
  This chair is crazy comfortable now, and rather more attractive if you ask me.  G keeps kicking me out of “his” chair.  It’s a great addition to his room and a wonderful place to read stories together.
  As always, if you’re doing this project and find that I’ve forgotten something or am not being particularly clear, please, please email or leave a comment and I’ll be happy to help you through it!


  1. Thank you for this tutorial! All the others that I could find just recovered existing cushions. I scored a free glider but it did not have cushions, so I will be trying this! Wish me luck 🙂

    1. I didn’t bother making it a boxed edge, because it was going in a child’s room, and I knew it’d be destroyed pretty quickly, but I would think that a separate strip, the height of the foam, with seams at corners would give you the look you want!

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