How to Re-Cover Patio Furniture

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How to Re-Cover Patio Furniture

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Heat, rain, and freezing temperatures all take their toll on our patio furniture over time. Before you know it, it’s time to replace those cushions. But the price..Yipes!  In these tight times, some of us would prefer a more frugal option to just throwing out outdoor furniture cushions and buying new ones.

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I bought our current patio furniture on Craig’s list about two years ago and they were already pretty iffy. I re-painted the legs and frames with outdoor Rustoleum spray paint which helped with the flaking parts, but the cushions needed to be re-covered too.

DSC07276-3000 The grandkids love this swing..with or without the cushion. :o)

At a huge neighborhood wide garage sale, I also found a porch swing. My granddaughter and grandsons LOVE this swing. We spend a lot of ‘Grandma’ time on it. :o)  But the cushions on it were even worse.

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About two years ago, I finally got around to buying a big roll of upholstery fabric. Calculating how much I needed wasn’t easy. Really, the best thing to do is draw out the measurements of every flat surface on graph paper.
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To calculate the yardage you really have to decide which dimension makes the best use of the fabric. Draw  a square that is 58” wide on your graph should be the length of the paper. That’s the normal length of upholstery fabric.  I count every square as 2 inches.

Then draw squares for the front and back of your cushion on the paper side-by-side. Add other things like a big swing..or side pieces if your cushions have that..or a canopy. You want enough fabric so everything matches.

Add the length of each cushion plus a little extra for seam allowances and a four inch gap in the middle between the top and bottom cushion to give you the total length. Divide this total by 36” and it will give you the yardage you need for one cushion.  Multiply this times the number of cushions you need to cover. 

For me this was 1.5 x 4 = 6 yards of upholstery fabric..for just the four cushions. I also bought more for the swing.

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Sewing the cover is much easier than figuring out the yardage! LoL!  I looked carefully at my chairs design and this is how they did it. Your patio furniture may be very different. Take photos so you can remember how it all went ‘together’! You will have to tweak my instructions to work for you, I’m sure. :o)

Note: You don’t have to copy things exactly! I didn’t sew the ‘headrest’ seam at the top. I just left that fabric intact.

There are two ways to  recover your furniture.  If you can cut the fabric off of the old cushions in one piece. You can use this piece or pieces as a pattern to cut out the new. This is the easiest way. But for me, this wouldn’t work because there was a seam in the middle between the top and bottom of the cushions. 
The second way is to just lay out your cushion and cut out the fabric to fit.

First, I laid out my cushion on the new fabric and cut out a big square which would cover the front and back of my cushion. (Watch to make sure you nap is right! I wanted my stripes to go vertically. ) 

I pinned this on wrong sides out to get the perfect fit, then pulled off the case and sewed it.

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I also cut it out long enough to allow for seams and to leave a 4” gap between the top and bottom. * I didn’t know I needed a gap until I looked at how the orignal was pinched and sewn together. See photo just below.
(*The original cushion manufacturers folded the cushion at this gap and pinched up the excess fabric and sewed it to cause the cushion to retain it’s fold.)

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Next, remove the old fabric from the cushion. I combined the front and back measurements and just cut out a big rectangle that would allow me to fold the fabric at one side seam. (Less sewing!). 

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Giant ‘pillowcase’ of made of indoor/outdoor fabric.

I folded the fabric right sides together and sewed the side seam and top seam.  What you end up with is something that looks like a very large pillowcase.

Next, slide the top cushion in all the way to the end. Then slide the bottom cushion tight up against the top one. If you added 4-6” for a gap in the middle, you should have quite a bit of excess at the bottom. This is necessary!

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Now fold the fabric in about 1/2 and inch and top stitch the opening closed. You will have to lay your cushion out on the table next to the machine to manage this. It’s tough but can be done!
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Or you can just hand sew the opening closed with upholstery thread and a blanket stitch. I did this the first time, before I figured out the alternative way.  Actually..all four of my cushions got sewn differently before I came across the best method!

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Now, maneuver the bottom cushion down to the end of the cover so the 6” gap is in the middle. 

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Pinch up this excess cloth (top and bottom fabrics) and sew a long basting or running stitch with upholstery thread all the way across (through all the layers of fabric) to keep the excess fabric pinched.

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You can see here that I also had to piece some of my fabric as I underestimated how much fabric I needed.

It won’t show much because it’s buried in the fold of the chair. This doesn’t have to be a perfect job! The upholstery thread is very strong and will hold. :o) 

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to do the really long chair cushion was a puzzler to me. In the end, I did the exact same thing with the big wide set of pillows that I did with the little ones. I laid the huge cushion out on my upholstery fabric with the big gap in the middle between the top one and bottom.

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Then I put made my pillow case and maneuvered the two long skinny cushions into it. 

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Yes, it took a little while to hand sew that big pinch in the middle, but it was worth it. A little hand sewing never killed anyone. Ha! I did sew two rows…to keep the two long cushions in their place.

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I left the gap ‘wide’ rather than pinching it because they did the same thing on the original pattern.

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I did make a panel to hook over the top of the swing frame and attached it to the back side of my pillow case before sewing the front to the back.  But that’s not strictly necessary. You can always sew ties to attach the cover sturdily to the frames.

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Obviously, you have to be a little sewing savvy to do this. But really, I never sewed ties to anything. It all sits in the chairs just fine. We love them and they look GREAT! So much better than the ratty old ones we had.

our back deck 

What a fun summer project! Can you believe it only took 30 minutes per cushion to do the patio chairs? This really is quite an easy project to do! Don’t be scared..just do it! :o)  Email me if you have questions.

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Linda said...

Great info! Thanks!

GlorV1 said...

Wow Donna. That really looks great and you've done a lot of work to get to that point. Me, I'll go buy some new cushions. I don't believe I could do all that work. But Donna, you are the best and can do anything you attempt!! Have a wonderful Sunday. Take care and beautiful work.

Needled Mom said...

They look beautiful in their new clothing!!! I always find the hardest part is handling the large item in the sewing machine. I love the colors you selected for the frame and the cushions - very calm and peaceful.

Jill said...

These turned out great Donna! Thanks for sharing this information with us. :-) Hope you are having a wonderful day!!


Caroline said...

These redos look fantastic!! Maybe you'll get to have tea sitting out there in the cool of the early morning ....

Donna said...

Caroline, I would have tea out there but it's just too hot!..even in the morning. Sigh..

But the late evening isn't bad. Praying for rain over here!


Heather said...

Beautifully done Donna! We're planning on buying a set at the end of the season, but if I can find a good second hand one I think I could do this!
Thanks! Heather

Thaddeus said...

There are many ways to re-cover furniture and some of these are stated in this post. However recovering may not be an easy task. I still believe that preventing is better than recovering. So setting up patio covers will definitely solve the problem.

Queen said...

Thanks for the informative post. I don't consider myself good at DIY tasks but am certainly going to try this one out.

Outdoor Cushions For Swing said...

I re-painted the legs and frames with outdoor Rustoleum spray paint which helped ...

“There's nothing half so pleasant as coming home again.” ~ Margaret Sangster

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