Handmade cushions are an inexpensive and easy way to freshen up older furniture. Using new colours and textures in the fabric can help to breathe new life into outdated decor as well. Cushions can be made formal or casual by selecting the right fabrics and using different techniques, such as flanges and piping around the edges or decorative buttons pulled through the cushions.
Before selecting the fabric for the cushion, think of the end use. If the cushion is intended to be functional rather than simply decorative, be sure that the material can either be washed or dry-cleaned. Select waterproof fabrics for cushions intended for outdoor use. Fabric that is more delicate is fine for cushions that are purely decorative.
Select fabrics that either complement or contrast with the existing colours in the room. Dorothy Wood, author of "The Practical Encyclopedia of Soft Furnishings," says that staying with the same colour scheme is the easiest to work with, but that different textures and scales of pattern should be used to break it all up and add interest.
Purchase foam panels at any sewing or craft store. They come in many different sizes and thicknesses and can be cut to the exact dimensions and shape that is needed for the project. Consider wrapping the foam in a layer of quilt batting before covering. This will soften the square edges of the foam and make the cushion more comfortable.
Square, rectangular and round cushion shapes that are ready to be covered are also available in standard dimensions. Speciality cushion pads, such as gel-filled or fleece-covered, can also be purchased but are much more expensive than the other alternatives. Down feathers or standard bed pillow are also good options.
Simple seat cushions can be made by measuring the height, length and width of the foam pad. Cut out the necessary pieces of the fabric, adding 1/2 inch to each side for a seam allowance. Follow the same technique for pillow cushions, only cutting out two identical pieces using the cushion shapes length and width. Sew three sides of the fabric together, insert the cushion pad or filling, and then whipstitch the opening closed. If using a patterned fabric, try to match up the patterns where the fabric pieces are joined. This technique is the easiest, but is not practical for some purposes since the pad or filling cannot be removed making them impossible to be cleaned.
When making pillow cushions, consider using the envelope technique where the pad can be removed for easy cleaning. This involves cutting one piece of fabric that is the width of the cushion plus seam allowance, and approximately 2-1/2 times the length. It is then folded and sewn on either side so that there is a covered opening on the back for easy removal of the cushion pad. The use of buttons to close up the fabric for a pillow cushion works well and also adds a bit of interest. The most commonly used technique for seat cushions is a hidden zipper on one side.