Now, doesn’t this project sound very fancy? In my experience fancy=complicated, but I am happy to report that no matter how fancy it sounds, this project was not all that complicated. That’s not to suggest that it was a breeze start to finish, but it was relatively straightforward!
In the winter it seems that the best afternoon light can be found in just the same spot that my cedar chest sits. I kept finding myself sitting there, perhaps in an unconscious effort to keep any vestiges of Seasonal Affective Disorder at bay. After enough time sitting on a wooden chest, one’s mind logically turns to cushion options. I relayed these thoughts to my mother, who then kept her eyes peeled for and eventually snagged a good coupon/sale star alignment to get the needed foam and batting at a steal. Then, Julia’s visit necessitated a trip to Mary Jo’s. More stars aligned, I found my fabric, and was ready to go.
The fabric I chose is part of their Civil War collection and I’m pretty certain it is a reproduction from the Winterthur Museum made by Andover Fabrics, but I can’t seem to confirm that anywhere on the internet. I love the color and the simplicity of the pattern. Plus, it makes me think of Batman. In a hoop skirt. POW!
So, a few notes with regard to making your own tufted, mattress-seamed cushion:
- Foam can be really expensive, so be patient (if possible) and wait for a sale or really good coupon or both! For this cushion, we went with a 2″ piece that was long enough to cover the chest. We had to cut it down to width ourselves. For cutting the foam, we found that a sharp bread knife worked better than an electric carving knife.
- Tufting can be really hard on the fabric you use. This fabric is not upholstery fabric, which is fine, it just meant that we had to use a button with four holes to distribute the pulling force. We tried to use a covered button, but the fabric couldn’t handle the pressure and broke when we tried to pull it taut. Also, it really helps to have two people to do the tufting.
- Mattress seams tend to be shown with some of the foam actually sewn into the seam, like in this project. We decided that wasn’t worth the trouble and I like the way it turned out better for this particular cushion. As seen above, the result is a finished seam that is on the outside, rather than the inside.
DIY Tufted Cushion with French Mattress Seam
- Enough material to cover your foam. My cushion is 43″ x 17″ and I bought 2 1/2 yards. Very little was leftover.
- Foam. We used 2″.
- Batting to cover the entire cushion top and bottom. More batting isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We wrapped the foam at least twice all the way around…maybe 3 times. Just adds more cushion.
- Thread to match the fabric
- Buttons enough for the tufting you desire
- A really long embroidery needle. I think the one we used was 6″.
- Strong thread in your desired color
- Needles, scissors, sewing machine, ruler, iron, pins, math skills, and other assorted sewing project stuff.
I always like drawing out what needs measuring before I do any cutting. The cushion basically consists of a top and a bottom piece with narrower pieces that wrap around the sides and connect the top and bottom. Because of the width and length of the fabric I chose, we were able to cut the top and bottom pieces, but there was not enough length to provide two long and two short pieces for the sides. In the end, we decided that one very long, narrow side piece could wrap around the front and meet two shorter pieces on the sides of the cushion. As a result, there are three seams on the side (one on each side and one in the back) instead of four (one at each corner).
- In your measurements allow for a 1/2″ seam allowance on all sides. The seam allowance will, in effect, form the mattress seam once everything is sewn up. The picture below was a quick test version my mom whipped up. The fabric is hemmed and then sewn (wrong sides) together along the hem stitch to create the mattress seam.
- Once everything is cut, pressed, and the 1/2″ seam allowance pinned on all sides of all pieces, sew all the hems. The only seams that will not be exposed in the final product are those that connect the narrow side panels.
- Press everything once you are finished sewing the initial hems.
- Sew the narrow side panels together.
- Press the inside seams open/flat so that they don’t bunch up when you sew the top and bottom panels on.
- Pin the top or bottom panel to the side panels, wrong sides together. For all you sewing masters out there: DON’T SEW RIGHT SIDES TOGETHER! You will not be turning this inside out at the end! 😀
- Sew along the same thread that makes up the hem. This will give you a 1/2″ mattress seam.
- Do the same with the other large panel, but make sure to leave an opening for the foam. We left one short side open.
- Once the fabric is all sewn together (except the opening for stuffing), prepare your foam by cutting it to size and wrapping it with batting. I just learned that we use batting to prevent slippage and give the cushion a clean look. Who knew?
- To secure the batting to the foam, wrap the foam like a present.
- Trim any excess batting so that it is even all around and the edges meet nicely.
- Sew the edges together with a loose running stitch. It doesn’t have to be pretty or terribly strong.
- On the ends, trim any excess and sew the edges together in much the same way.
- Now comes the moment of truth: stuff the foam/batting combination into your prepared fabric covering. Do your best to line up the seams of the fabric with the edges of the cushion. There was a lot of futzing to make sure the cushion edges and corners all lined up with the fabric edges and corners. This is the only time to do it, so don’t rush!
- As long as everything looks good, pin and sew the opening by hand. Since this is a mattress edge, you don’t have to bother with trying to sew the seam from the inside. Hooray! Just take care to use small stitches and follow the hem line and you should be all set.
And now we tuft:
- The first step in tufting is to decide how many spots you want to do. Initially, I wanted to do ten spots, but then the button issues came up and I realigned my goals with the reality that four-hole buttons was what had to be used. Three tufts it would be. Because the cushion is long and narrow, it works really well. One good bit of design knowledge to keep in mind is that odds look better than evens. So, three or five is better than four. Just trust me.
- Once you decide on your number of tufts and make sure you have enough buttons, use straight pins to mark where the buttons will go on each side of the cushion. (Brief aside: tufting can be done with thread alone, no buttons needed.) The other great thing about using odd-numbered amounts is that it makes measuring very simple. One button will go in the dead center of the cushion (if you’re only doing one row, that is) and the other two will go in the middle of the space between the center button and the edge of the cushion.
- If you like the way the straight pins look, prepare your giant needle with embroidery or other very strong thread. Due to the four-hole button necessity, we first sewed up, then down through the button and then through the cushion so that the knot in the thread is hidden under the button.
- Stand the cushion up on your work surface and do your best to poke the needle through the fabric at the same spot as your straight pin marker.
- Once you’ve got your button affixed on the other side of the cushion, go back through, taking care to line everything up nicely. Do this a bunch more times until you are satisfied with your tuft’s security.
- On the last pass through, decide how taut you want the thread to be (and how extreme the tuft) and secure the thread with lots of fun knots. The knots need to be very secure because they will be under constant stress. Deciding just how extreme a tuft we wanted was less an exact science than it was, “Eh, that looks pretty good.”
Follow the same steps for the other buttons, making sure to try and match the amount of tuft so that one isn’t crazy tight or loose and will grate at your perfectionist nerves for the lifetime of the cushion.
Now, doesn’t that look nice and comfy?
Champagne Punch, No. 3
For this project, I wanted to find a Civil War cocktail to go with my Civil War fabric. Although cocktails from that time certainly differ from what the word cocktail brings to mind today, many of the old school punches and alcoholic concoctions are perfectly adaptable to a one or two glass serving. I found this punch recipe published in The Bon-Vivant’s Companion from 1862 amidst a list of several options and thought it perfect for this Civil War fabric/French cushion situation. I did my best to scale it down to a single serving size. So, while this makes for two sparkly cocktails in a row on H&H, I think it’s worth it! Although we used prosecco in place of champagne, I imagined it was the real deal and didn’t really care in the end.
- 2 tsp. strawberry syrup
- A hearty squeeze of fresh lemon juice
- Champagne or prosecco to fill the glass
- Garnish of a pineapple slice, strawberry, and orange slice (optional, but recommended)
To make the strawberry syrup you have a couple of options. We had just gotten a beautiful gallon of strawberries from the farmer’s market, so we just trimmed the tops and quartered them and then added some sugar. Not too much, maybe 1/2 a cup for the whole gallon. We let that sit for about an hour at room temperature and some delicious strawberry juice was the result. If you want something a bit more syrupy, you’ll want to basically make a simple syrup and add strawberries, cooking until they are mushy like in this recipe. I prefer the uncooked, less syrupy, less sweet version, but you do you!
Add the syrup, lemon juice, and wine to the glass. Garnish liberally. Drink while perched comfortably on your new cushion.