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How To Make Your Own Couch Cushions | What We Did In Our Skoolie Conversion

Updated: Oct 28, 2021

I know I’ve mentioned it before, but I am super excited about the finishing touches that go into our skoolie build. Matthew and I are at that amazing point in our skoolie where it’s starting to look like a real house inside! Those finishing touches are going in! In the front room at least…but that’s another story.

Today, I’m going to walk you through how I made my own couch cushions from picking the fabric and sewing the covers, to cutting the foam.

If you don’t yet own a sewing machine. I highly recommend this one! This machine is wonderful for beginners, easy to use, and is great quality. I am a fan of the Brother brand and personally have a Brother XR1355 sewing machine as well as a Brother serger 1034D.


Disclaimer: This blog post contains affiliate links from which we may earn a small commission.


Picking the Fabric

If you’ve ever sewn before, you know how expensive fabric is. If you aren’t used to how expensive fabric is, get ready to be amazed! The other day, Matthew and I went searching for the perfect fabric to make our curtains from. Naturally, the one we fell in love with was $60 per yard! Needles to say, we didn’t buy the fabric and are still on the hunt for a cheaper alternative.

Thankfully, we were able to find a lower price tag on the fabric we got for the cushions.

We did have a couple requirements for our fabric.

1) We wanted to get a fabric that is water resistant because we know we’re messy. And since we’re spending 95% of the next 5-ish years in the National parks, we’re bound to get the couch dirty.

Matthew loves showing everyone how water just beads up and slips right off the fabric.

2) We also wanted something durable. I hope we never need to replace the cushion covers! So we made sure to pick out a fabric specifically for upholstery. You can tell which fabrics are more durable by looking at the "double rub" number. The higher this number is, the more heavy duty it is. While durability is a nice thing, I didn't want my couch to feel like patio furniture. Check for fabrics that are specific for indoor use and aren't too heavily rated for durability. Shopping in person is preferable so you can feel the fabric, but shopping online will usually give you better prices and more options.

We ended up buying our fabric off Amazon for $18.99 per yard and bought a total of 11 yards. We are super happy with the product and are glad we bought so much! I did the upholstery for our 8 foot couch, both the dinette both seats, and reupholstered some folding chairs we bought all with this 11 yard roll. I wanted to make sure everything matched and luckily 11 yards was enough to do that with.

Gray textured Upholstery fabric for couch cushion in skoolie conversion

We did use Matthew's SketchUp software to find the most efficient cuts for the pieces I needed which is how we calculated how much fabric we would need to buy.

Making the Pattern

I have been sewing since I was probably three or four years old. I've sewn costumes, dog clothes, doll clothes to match my own, and hemmed a ton of pants that I'm otherwise too short to wear.

Never before have I had to make my own cushion covers with no pattern to follow...

So it was a bit challenging to say the least. Which is why I'd like to share with you how I did it and hopefully help you out a bit.


I started out by getting the dimensions of the soon-to-be couch cushions. Our couch is 8'2" long and we are doing a total of four cushions (two for the bottom and two for the back). We plan on making each cushion 4 inches thick.

I drew up a diagram (see below) of the pieces I cut to make the cushion covers. The pieces aren’t to scale but can give you the basic idea of what I did. Throughout the blog, I’ll be referring to the pieces by the letter assigned to them in this diagram.

Pattern Piece A and B

For our couch, the bottom cushions were 4'1" by 22" and the back cushions are a little shorter. For today, I’ll just be referring to the bottom cushions.

I knew I needed a seam allowance so I added an inch in each direction to make room for a 1/2” seam allowance on each side. So instead of cutting the fabric at 4'1" long for the bottom cushion, I cut it at 4'2" long. I repeated this for pieces A and B for all four cushions.

Next, I needed to cut the pieces for the sides of the cushions.

Pattern Piece C

I needed a long piece to wrap around the front and sides of the cushion. This piece won't wrap around the back because I am adding an opening with Hook&Loop to the back. (I'll explain this in a minute.)

I measured how long the piece would need to be to wrap around the front and sides on the cushion and added an inch for seam allowance. Then I took off six inches. I did this so that the pieces with Hook&Loop can wrap around the corner a little bit to expand the opening which makes putting the cover on much easier.

I would recommend doing closer to 5” for this since my covers were still a bit difficult to get on the cushion.

Pattern Pieces D and E

I wanted to add Hook&Loop to the back of each cushion cover to make sure it is easily removable in case we need to wash them. We designed our cushions to be 4” tall, so I needed two pieces of fabric in order to make the opening that would also add up to be 4” tall.

I made the two strips of fabric for the Hook&Loop opening (D and E) different sizes so they could overlap. Since the cushion is 4” tall, I made one strip 4 inches tall (to include a 1/2" seam allowance on each side) and the other strip 3 inches tall (allowing a 1/2" seam allowance on each side). This lets them overlap 1” which is just enough for 1" Hook&Loop and have an ending height of 4 inches.

Since I had piece C cut three inches short on each side, I needed to make both these pieces (D and E) three inches longer on each side. And of course adding an inch for seam allowance.

So at this point I had the top, bottom, and side pieces to complete the couch cushions. I also decided to add decorative piping (pattern piece F) around the top and bottom edge of each of the cushions.

Making the Piping

This was completely new to me but was surprisingly simple!

Pattern Piece F - Piping

I started off by cutting 2" strips long enough to wrap around the entire cushion and overlap about 4 inches. It's better to make them too long than too short! The extra length makes attaching the ends together much easier and gives room for any mismeasurements or pulling of the fabric that may have happened. For my cushions, this meant making roughly 12' long strips.

Next, I attached a piping presser foot to my sewing machine. It has rounded arches in it to allow for easy passage of the piping through the foot without it slipping around. It was expensive but definitely worth it!

Sewing machine presser foot for attaching piping while sewing. Arched base sewing foot
This is a front view of the piping foot.

I bought the piping itself online as well.

Sewing piping Great Lakes cordage cord for making piping for couch cushions or pillows.
This is the leftovers after completing all my cushions…75 yards was a bit overkill haha.

I got 3/32" sized piping which seems really specific but it was the perfect size for what I wanted. There are bigger and smaller sizes so you can customize your cushions to have the right look for you. Keep in mind how thick your fabric is. If your fabric is really thick, you’ll probably want smaller piping so it doesn’t end up being too large (Unless that’s the look you’re going for).

To begin sewing the piping, I folded the 2" strip in half (width wise) and slipped the piping inside. Make sure to adjust the needle width to scoot it over enough to avoid stitching through the piping.

You want the stitch to be right on the edge of the piping so it creates a tight tube, but not so close that you are stitching through the plastic.

illustration guide for how to make the piping for couch cushion using fabric and piping cord
Here's a quick diagram of how to make the piping

After completing that step, I ran it through a serger. This cleaned up the edges and cut it to a consistent 1/2" width. The clean edges made is much easier to see what I was lining up and kept it looking tidy. Additionally, having the serger cut the piping to all be exactly 1/2" thick, made lining it up with my seam allowance perfect. This step in not necessary and you can definitely make cushions without running your piping through a serger, but it certainly makes the process smoother.

Sewing It All Together

Now that I had all the needed pieces, I could start assembling my cushion covers!

Attaching the Piping

I began by sewing the piping to the top and bottom pieces (A and B) of each cushion cover. I wanted to make sure that the corners of the cushions were slightly rounded for a better look. To do that, I rounded the corner about an inch and a half away from the corner. Making the piping curve while stitching it down is difficult, so I cut triangular notches on the piping where it needed to curve to give it more flexibility.

To make sure my corner didn't pull or bunch funny, I also cut triangles into the fabric (A and B) around the corner.

If you have pinking shears, then this is their time to shine! Otherwise just a few snips will do.

To get the piping to meet up and be as indiscreet as possible took me a few times to perfect. Here is what I came up with.

  1. Start stitching the piping on, but don't stitch down the first four inches or so. This will give you room to work with later when you attach the two ends of piping together. Stitch the piping all the way around making sure to round the corners evenly.

  2. After making it all the way around, stop stitching about 4 inches before the other end of piping. Line up the ends and cut them so they overlap just 1” (enough for a 1/2" seam allowance). This is why you need to make the piping longer than you need!

  3. The fabric I bought had a layer of felt-like stuff on the backside. I peeled this back about an inch on both ends and cut it off. I also needed to use a seam ripper to open up both ends to do this step.

  4. Then I sewed the two ends of piping fabric together with right sides (of the fabric) together. Now it should be the perfect length to fit the cushion.

  5. Cut the plastic piping so the two ends meet up but do not overlap.

  6. Fold the fabric neatly over the plastic piping and stitch close.

  7. Finish stitching the now completed piping to the fabric (A and B).

If you can get your measurements right and stitches tight, then you should barely be able to notice the seam where the piping ends meet up. However, it is still smart to put this seam on the back of the cushion somewhere so it won't be seen.

Sewing a couch cushion and adding piping on the edges. Sewing piping and stitching the ends together neatly.
Here is a seam where the piping meet up. This one looks pretty nice.

Wrong way to finish meeting piping end together while sewing couch cushions.
This was my first attempt at finishing the piping…not so neat looking.

After this was completed for the top and bottom pieces for the cushion (A and B), I moved on to the side pieces (C,D,E).

Sewing the Side Pieces

For the two strips that make the opening for the cushion. I folded over one edge (lengthwise) at 1/2" and stitched it down. On the edge I just stitched, I attached the Hook&Loop. I would put the rough hook side of the Hook&Loop on piece E. This helps prevent the hooks from getting stuck on your fabric or scratching your hand while stuffing the foam inside the cover.

I kept the Hook&Loop about an inch away from the ends of the strip so that I would not have to stitch through it in the seam allowance later on.

The shorter piece (D) should overlap on top of the wider piece (E). To do that, I stitched the Hook&Loop to the right side of the fabric on piece E. On piece D, I attached the Hook&Loop to the wrong side of the fabric.

I then overlapped the two strips accordingly and lined it up with piece C to stitch together. It should now look something like this.

illustration depicting how pattern pieces for a couch cushion should line up to make the side of the cushion cover. sewing pattern image
Your side pieces should line up like this.

Attaching the Side Pieces (C,D,E) to the Main Body (A and B)

I started attaching the side pieces (C,D,E) to piece A. I lined the end of piece C up to my 3 inch mark and sewed all the way around eventually attaching one of the strips with Hook&Loop (either D or E) to A.

Pay special attention to the rounded corners to make sure you are taking the curve right and not tugging or bunching too much. It helps to use pins and snip the corners.

Snipped rounded corners on couch cushion using pinking shears to make the corner look better without pulling or bunching
Snipping the rounded corners

After attaching the siding all the way around on piece A, I repeated this process to attach the siding to piece B. At this stage, the cushion looks inside out. You should see the piping sandwiched between pieces A and B.

Sewing fabric and piping together. Some edges are run through a serger to get  clean finish for the couch cushions
The piping is between piece A and B

Once I had sewn all the way around again, it was time to stitch the ends of pieces D and E to the other end of C.

Sewing pattern pieces being sewn together to form handmade couch cushion
This is where pieces D and E met up with C.

Since there is so much going on in this area and lots of fabric, this was difficult to maneuver through the sewing machine. But it is just a straight line so I managed. I'm sure there is a better way to do this part, but this is what I came up with on my own...

I was really excited to see it all come together in the end and look like a professional upholstery job! The piping really added character to the cushion cover and was well worth the effort in my opinion.

On To The Foam!

I actually bought the foam before I started making the cushions and just hoped it would work. Once again, I was faced with the unbelievable reality of how expensive things are. I was not about to pay $80 per piece of foam to cut up.

Instead, I bought a used memory foam mattress online for $10! You should be able to find foam for cheap (or free even) if you look around.

Trying to build a skoolie on a budget means getting creative with where you spend your money.

The mattress had four different layers to it that I was able to just pull apart and use what I needed. To cut the foam to the shape of the cushions, I used a bread knife and a sawing motion. It worked well but it is easy to make a crooked line if you're not careful! I drew the lines out with a sharpie before cutting.

Since we were planning on having our cushions be 4" tall and that's how tall I made the covers, I used the foam layer that just so happened to be 4" thick.

However, after stuffing it into the cover, I realized that the cushion just looked too flat and rectangular.

And we bought a memory foam mattress, we might as well take advantage of that extra plush layer!

So I restuffed the cushion cover with the four inch foam plus the top layer of memory foam. This worked well to plump up the cushion a bit and made it waaay more comfortable. This is also extra nice since this couch slides out into a bed for guests and I'm sure they will appreciate the memory foam.

Memory foam mattress layers cut to size and shape for making homemade couch cushions
This is the two layers of foam I used from the mattress.

Close up of plump couch cushion with piping on edge
You can see the cushion is more rounded now.

Stuffing the Cover

This was no easy task!

To stuff the cover, I started with the foam standing on its side and putting the cover on from the top.

It is really a game of wiggling and shimmying it until it fits just right.

I pulled the corner of the cover inside out and held on to the corner while I grabbed the corner of the foam. Then I pulled the cover back to right side out and repeated on the opposite corner. This forced the foam into the corner of the cover right away.

Since I was adding two separate pieces of foam, I had to make sure to pull both pieces evenly so I didn't get any lumps.

In the future (whenever I get around to removing the covers again), I will glue the two layers of foam together to make this process easier. Since I already did all that hard work, I didn't really feel like undoing it right away.

Attaching the Hook&Loop together was also tricky since I stuffed an extra layer of foam in there. Doing this made the cushion thicker so I had to pull a lot harder to get the Hook&Loop to meet up.

This is part of the reason you want to make sure you use tough thread and always backstitch! You'll be tugging on the seams all the time and don't want them to bust.

The Fun Part

After getting the cushions made and stuffed, all I wanted to do was put them in the skoolie and see how it all looked!

Unfortunately, at that point we didn't even have the couch built. So we wrapped them up in garbage bags and stored them in the garage.

Since then, we've done a TON of work to the front room! It is so close to being done! Once everything was painted, we could not resist the temptation to add some of those final touches (even though we weren't really to the finish work yet). We added the light fixtures, some bar stools, and finally the couch cushions!

My biggest fear was that I made them wrong and they wouldn't fit. I was thankfully worried about nothing. They fit wonderfully and are super comfortable.

Couch and cushions in skoolie conversion with throw pillow to match
Just needs some steaming to get the wrinkles out!

We did buy a throw pillow already haha. We were at Goodwill and found it for $2 and couldn't help ourselves. I plan on making the other throw pillows myself so they can be custom, though I may just sew new covers for premade pillows.

Another thing I plan to do in the future is adding Hook&Loop to the couch itself and the cushions so they stay put while we drive.

In Short

I made this whole process up, so by no means is it perfect. It did turn out wonderful in the end and worked for me. This may or may not be how you would like to do yours and that's totally okay!

There are definitely some things I hope you learned from this even if you don't make your cushions this way.

  1. Pick the right fabric. Shopping in person is nice so you can feel the material and get an idea for what will work for you. You'll want something fairly durable so you don't ware it down and have to reupholster your cushions.

  2. Backstitch! Your seams are going to get pulled on all the time. Not doing a backstitch means you're leaving your seams vulnerable to coming undone.

  3. Include seam allowances. Make sure when you are measuring how long your piece needs to be, you give yourself extra fabric for seam allowance. I typically do a 1/2" seam allowance then I know to add an inch to whatever piece I am cutting.

  4. Cut your pieces out efficiently. Fabric is really expensive so take special care to use it as efficiently as possible so you can buy as little as possible. Matthew already had SketchUp software, so once I had my pattern pieces figured out he arranged them digitally to get the most efficient arrangement. Even if you don't have this option available to you, you can be smart about how you lay out your pieces. And save your scraps! They may be handy later on.

  5. Buy a piping presser foot. If you are adding piping to your couch cushions, then having the proper foot is really nice. Without this foot, it will be difficult to get a straight line since you're laying a flat foot on top of something round. Naturally, it just wants to slide around. The foot keeps it in line and make the stitch tighter.

There you have it. Happy sewing!

P.S. - I'd like to thank my amazingly talented husband, Matthew, for making the sewing illustrations for me. I didn't take pictures during the process, so he created them for me!

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