In case you checked the blog at 6am today expecting our regular Friday post and then panicked and thought maybe something terrible had happened to us…calm down, Mom. We’re still alive! We’re just taking today off, this last Friday of August! Hope you all have a lovely weekend, and we’ll be back Monday! I’m headed out the door as we speak to Western MA for another Ragnar, so if the photos from last year are any indication, I’ll be having an amazingly good (and lung exploding) time!
I was worried that when we came back from “vacation” you would be expecting that we’d, like, done some cool projects with our time away and we’d have nothing to show for it. But fortunately Saturday I got my act together and spent the whole day working on a kitchen renovation project that I am excited to share with you today: a new super long cushion for our dining room bench!
As you may recall, a few weeks ago I built a 12′ bench in the dining room:
Our goal is to have this room be a nice place to sit and spend time, since it gets such amazing light. The wood frame was fine for a quick photoshoot:
But obviously the next step was a comfortable cushion. At 139.75″ long and 22.75″ wide, there was no chance I would find something pre-made that fit the bill, so I knew I would be making it myself or ordering it custom. Since I’ve been so strapped for time lately and falling behind on everything, I definitely considered the idea of ordering something custom made briefly, but I couldn’t find anything very affordable and also I felt like that was totally copping out since this is a DIY blog after all. So DIY I did.
The first order of business was finding something to serve as the cushions. I had been thinking of using an old futon we had that was not comfortable enough to sleep on, and actually went to the trouble of hauling it out, cutting it in half, and putting it in place to test fit it. But even if I’d removed some of the filling to make it fit better, it still felt too lumpy and thick.
Plus it was kinda gross. So we threw in the yard to await trash day like one does, and started from scratch. When I shared my bench earlier this month, the incredibly talented Ashley from Bigger Than the Three of Us suggested foam from Home Depot that’s incredibly affordable. I actually already knew about that foam because I read Ashley’s blog faithfully and watched her use it in her amazing built-in banquette project:
*Picks jaw up off floor*
I thought maybe if I used the same foam, my dining room might somehow magically transform from construction zone to the inspirational space that Ashley has created. It seemed like a stretch, but worth a try.
The foam in question comes in rolls 24″ wide by 72″ long by 3″ thick. I ordered two rolls to stretch the length of my bench, which at $25 per roll wasn’t pocket change but is super cheap by foam standards.
Next I needed to pick out fabric. Fabric.com is my go-to for buying fabric online, since they have a huge selection of very affordable options. I knew I wanted something fairly neutral, durable, and also light-colored to stand up to cat hair (I have learned the hard way to match upholstery to our cats), and ultimately settled on a white and navy weave:
I also considered some grayer options, but I feel like blue will work better in here to complement the floors. I can’t go dark blue with the cushion itself because of the aforementioned cat hair, but I like the navy accents in this fabric. I bought 4 yards, which ended up being exactly what I needed and not an inch more. Phew.
I knew that I needed to sew a removable cover since the likelihood of a cat vomiting or a human spilling on this cushion is about 100%. That meant I needed some sort of closure in the back, and I decided to go with velcro rather than a zipper because I worried about find a zipper long enough. I picked up some batting and velcro at Jo-Ann’s, using a 60% off coupon to get it all for just $22 (4 yards of batting and 4 yards of velcro add up!).
With supplies in hand, I started by prepping my cushion. The foam came in plastic-wrapped rolls:
Once unwrapped, it took a few minutes to expand. Here you can see it fully expanded on the left end, still expanding on the right:
First I needed to trim the foam, both making it a little less wide and cutting one piece down length-wise since together they added up to 144″ and my bench is only 139.75″ long. I read that if you’re just using foam you should cut it a little larger than the final dimensions of the cushions since it will contract, but if you’re adding batting that isn’t necessary since the batting fills up the extra space. Since I did plan to add batting, I cut the foam to the exact width and length I wanted the final cushion to be — 22.75″ wide and 139.75″ long. I just marked the cuts with a sharpie:
And then I used scissors to cut it. Since it’s just 3″ foam, it was really not hard to do with scissors rather than an electric carving knife (which everyone recommends, but I don’t own).
I cut both pieces, and that left me with a perfect fit:
I knew that the batting would help cover the crack where the two piece of foam meet, but I was still worried about them shifting apart.
My solution was to do some quick hand-stitching along both sides to join the pieces together:
That way they can’t really separate, and the cushion was much easier to work with as a single piece (it would have been hard to try manipulating them as separate pieces the whole time, since I was working alone).
Next I added the batting. It was just wide enough to place across the top, down the front, and then across the bottom.
Finally it was time to start sewing. I planned to make just a simple box cover, but I am not an expert sewer and have never done a cover like this so I was a little nervous. I followed some ideas in a tutorial by Kate at Centsational Girl, who is a much talented sewer than I am but she was purposefully making this one really simple.
First I cut my fabric to the length of the top, front, and bottom pieces. Since I wanted the finished pieces to be 139.75″ long, I cut my entire piece of fabric to 140.75″, enough to have 1/2″ seams on either end. This was cutting it close, but I was tight on fabric and it worked out just fine.
The small strip trimmed off the end would become the side pieces.
One great idea Kate had was to not cut the top, bottom, and front pieces into strips, but instead to just sew seams to create the front panel. Here you can see what she did:
To do similarly, I started by folding my fabric in half length-wise, wrong-sides facing out. Since I wanted the front panel of my cushion to be 3″ wide to match the 3″ deep foam, folded in half that meant I wanted the seam to run 1.5″ from the center crease. I marked that line along the length of the fabric, and then marked a line 1/2″ up from that which indicated where I would fold my fabric back over to create the seam.
I did that on both sides and then unfolded the fabric completely and was left with this:
In case this makes no sense to you, here’s my attempt to make it a little clearer:
Not sure if that helps, but I tried.
I started hauling everything upstairs to my craft room to sew, but then I realized I could just set up my sewing machine downstairs. I’m so smart.
That left me with the full length of fabric with two parallel seams to create the top, front, and bottom of the cover:
That left me with the sides to sew. The strip of fabric I had left to work with was 8″ wide, which I cut in half. That gave me two 4″ wide strips, enough to create 3″ side panels with a 1/2″ seam on either side.
This is the part of making a box cushion that I find most confusing — I don’t really know how to do it correctly, but basically I just manipulated the fabric to sew the side panels to the top, front, and side.
That left me with nice looking corners — hooray!
The last step was adding velcro to the back. Rather than sewing a separate back panel, I just left the top and bottom panels a little long so that they touched one another wrapped around the back. I sewed the velcro along the edges on both top and bottom:
Then I inserted my cushion (sounds easier than it was, since I was manipulating a 12′ long cushion on my own and the velcro kept catching on the batting…), and velcro-ed up the back! And here it is, completed!
Frankly I’m surprised it turned out so well given that I had no idea what I was doing. The only thing left to do now is add that single wood front piece once we have the station wagon back in the fall, and also add some colorful throw pillows. But in the meantime, this bench is usable! In fact, I wrote this whole post while sitting on it. Success!
Yay for successful sewing projects! And with the foam costing $50, the fabric $36, and the batting and velcro $22, it came in right around $100. That takes the grand total for this project to $160 (including all the wood and screws to build the frame), which isn’t bad for a custom 12′ bench!