101DIYdiy projectsUpholstery Basics

upholstery basics: boxed cushion sewing

by Amanda Brown

Happy New Year! I hope your resolutions include rejuvenating your worn-out furniture because I have lots of fun projects planned for us this year! First up is a new bed for Pixie. She’s been lying on an old cushion I pulled out of a client’s chair. Yuck! So I thought it was about time for an upgrade. A few yards and hours later, and she is relaxing in style. The best part is you can use these steps to make any boxed cushion, even if it’s not for your furry friend. Think window seat, desk chair or even revamping a sofa by adding new cushions in a contrasting fabric! — Amanda

Read the full how-to after the jump!


  • fabric
  • white or yellow chalk
  • yard stick
  • square
  • scissors
  • t-pins or straight pins
  • iron
  • zipper and zipper pull
  • 5/32″ welt cord
  • sewing machine
  • single welt cord foot
  • thread
  • masking tape


Don’t forget to check out Upholstery Basics: Tool Time to learn more about the tools we’re using today.


1. If you plan on washing your cover in the future, pre-shrink the fabric by washing and drying before beginning construction.

Laying out the fabric:

I’m making a 25″ square cushion with a 4″ boxing around the edge. When marking my pieces on the fabric, I’ll need to add an extra 1/2″ to all sewn edges; this is called a seam allowance. If my final cushion needs to be 25″ square, I’ll add an extra 1/2″ to all sides, making my cut piece a 26″ square. The 4″ finished boxing will go around the front and sides of the cushion (75″), so it will be 5″ x 76″ with seam allowance. We’ll also need a zipper boxing in the back so we can easily insert and remove the padding from the case. I like my boxing to go around the sides about 5″, so the finished dimensions of the zipper boxing need to be 4″ x 35″. The zipper attaches in the center of the zipper boxing between two strips of fabric, so each strip is a finished dimension of 2″ x 35″. With seam allowances, we’ll need two strips that are 3″ x 36″ to make up the zipper boxing.

2. First we’ll cut our top and bottom faces. Determine what part of the pattern you’d like to be centered and measure out from the middle to mark the edges of the cushion. Square up the edges with the pattern and double-check your measurements before moving on. Remember, measure twice, cut once!

3. It looks best when the top of the cushion matches the front boxing, so find the center front of your cushion top.

4. Find that same point in the next available repeat of the pattern and make a mark 1″ above that point. This will be the top of our front boxing.

5. Make a mark 5″ down from that point. This will be the bottom of our boxing.

6. Using the pattern as a guide to keep the lines consistent and straight, draw two horizontal lines across the fabric. This will be your front boxing. Since my fabric is not 76″ wide, I’ll seam together three pieces of fabric, end to end, to make my boxing. I prefer to place the seams at the front two corners. Mark the middle top of the front boxing so you can easily line it up with the cushion when sewing.

7. Once the top and bottom faces and boxing for the front and sides are drawn, draw the zipper boxing. Remember, we need two pieces that are 3″ x 36″.

8. Follow step 8 from Coil Seat Finale to draw your single welt cord. We’ll need a little over 200″ to go around the top and bottom faces of the cushions.

9. On the back side of the fabric, mark the top edge of all of your pieces.

10. Iron down the 1/2″ seam allowance that attaches to either side of the zipper.

11. We’ll use the single welt cord foot to sew the cushion. Cut a piece of zipper chain the length of the zipper boxing (36″). Place one of the edges we just ironed in the middle of the zipper. Place the zipper teeth under the single welt cord foot where the cording would normally go. The needle should be positioned to the right of the zipper teeth over the fabric. Start at one end and sew down the right side of the zipper to the other end.

12. Now attach the other side of the zipper boxing by turning the zipper around and repeating step 11.

13. Here’s what the zipper boxing should look like when it’s finished.

14. Follow steps 9–14 of Coil Seat Finale to sew the welt cord.

15. Now we’ll attach the cording to each face of the cushion cover. Start by marking or cutting a small notch in the middle of the back side of the face. This is where we start and stop the cording.

16. The cording tail should be 1/2″, so place the cording under the foot with the tail to the right and the edge of the tail lined up with the edge of the cushion.

17. Continue sewing the cording along the edge of the face. When approaching corners, prebend the cording to go around the corner. Cut a few notches in the tail at the corner so it will lay flat. Lift the sewing foot and pivot to sew tightly around the corner.

18. When you’ve sewn all the way around, stop about 4″ before getting to the middle back of the cushion face and cut off the extra cording 3″ beyond the middle mark.

19. Open up both ends of the cording, approximately 2″, by cutting the threads inside.

20. Lay the two ends of the cording (where we started and where we stopped) side by side and cut them to meet in the middle.

21. Connect the two ends by wrapping masking tape around the connection.

22. Fold the excess fabric under and wrap around the welt cord. Be sure the cording is completely covered by fabric before sewing down the middle connection.

23. Ta-da! Welt cord is attached to one face of the cushion. Now repeat steps 15–22 for the other face.

24. After both faces have welt cord, we’ll attach the boxing around the front and sides. If you haven’t already, seam all boxing pieces together. Line up the middle top of the boxing with the middle front of the top face of the cushion cover.

Since we don’t want the threads to show, we’ll sew on the back sides of the fabric for the remaining steps. When we turn the cushion right side out, no threads will show. As long as we keep the edges lined up and the welt cord under the foot, we should be able to maintain our 1/2″ seam allowance.

25. Starting from the middle, sew the boxing around the front and one side. Stop 6″ before the back corner.

26. Go back to the middle of the front and flip over the pieces. This will keep the cording on the left and seam allowance on the right. Repeat step 25.

27. After you have the boxing attached to the front and sides of the top face, repeat steps 24–26 for the bottom face. This is what it should look like (right side out) when you’re finished sewing on the boxing.

28. Now we’ll sew on the zipper boxing. Line up the middle back of the top face and the top middle of the zipper boxing. From the middle, sew along the back and around the corner. Stop 2″ past the corner, leaving the end of the zipper boxing loose. Go back to the middle, flip and sew the other direction.

29. Once we’ve attached the zipper boxing to the top face, we’ll repeat step 27 to attach the zipper boxing to the bottom face.

30. Attach the zipper pull to the zipper. Leave a few inches open at the end of the zipper.

31. The ends of both boxings should be loose toward the back corners of the cushion. We’re going to make a pocket to hide the zipper pull. Fold the front boxing back and place the zipper boxing over it, as shown in the photo. You can adjust how much zipper shows on the sides of the cushion by extending the front boxing closer to the back corner.

32. Hold the end of the zipper boxing firmly to the end of the front boxing while placing both under the sewing foot. Be sure to get the rest of the cushion out of the way before sewing the ends together.

33. As you sew across the ends, place a small piece of fabric over the zipper teeth and sew over it. This little tab keeps the zipper pull on track so it doesn’t slide off the ends.

34. Once the ends are sewn together, smooth the fabric that folds under the zipper boxing, lay all of the layers flat with the edges lined up and close up the rest of the cushion that was left open.

Now that it’s finished, turn it right side out, stuff it with your padding of choice, and have a seat! I used a loose polyester fiber to give Pixie a nice, squishy bed.

Tips for cushion sewing:

1. Wash fabric before constructing your cushion, so it’s pre-shrunk. If you’re not sure if the fabric is washable, order a sample and throw it in the wash. You can also dry-clean fabrics that are not washable.

2. If you have a serger, serge the edges of the fabric before sewing together to prevent fraying.

3. On cushions, the top of the pattern should start at the back of the cushion and go down to the bottom of the boxing. The boxing on the sides and back should be oriented the same direction as the boxing on the front.

4. Buy long lengths of zipper on a roll so you can cut it to the size you need. It’s also cheaper this way.

5. Use a thread and zipper that are similar to the color of your fabric if you’d like it to be unnoticeable.

6. Double-check the marks on your pieces to make sure you have the pattern orientation correct. There’s nothing more frustrating than sewing something on upside down!

7. If your seams are not super tight, sew around the cording one last time to tighten up loose sections.

Be sure to check out the other Upholstery Basics posts!

Fabric: Duralee 21015 in Red, available at Spruce.

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  • I am so excited about this tutorial! My family bought a beautiful mid century modern chair from an estate sale that needs to be recovered. Since the chair is essentially two pillows (like the ones in this tutorial), I thought it would be relatively inexpensive to reupholster. I was wrong. With this tutorial I think I can reupholster the two cushions myself!.

  • Very cute! Makes me I wish I could sew more than basic Halloween costumes for my kids (maybe I should try sewing more than once a year!) Also appreciate that you matched the pattern from panel to panel. This might get me to sew more!

  • Just what I needed woohoo…now I need a sewing machine as by hand it will be tricky but still exactly what I needed :-)

  • oohh….my dog Kiva is getting an upgrade to her dog bed!!! She and my living room will be happy.

  • What a cute pooch! I made one of these last week but had to make it up as I had no instructions. It turned out pretty well but might have been a little better with this tute :)

  • I’m so happy to have a play-by-play with pictures! I’ve covered boxed cushions before, but trial and error take so much longer than a good tutorial. Thanks, Amanda!

  • I am literally doing this right now. Great tutorial and explanation. I’m totally amazed at how neat everything looks in the photos. The inside of my cushion is a great big mess. What sort of sewing machine foot is used to sew the cording? I’ve had trouble keeping mine over the cording.

  • No dog, but I think any sewing project on D*S is great. This one is no exception, great fabric choice. Yes, I sound like a 50s housewife and I don’t care. Thanks Amanda!

  • Very cute if I knew how to sew! :D I do have to say though, that I thought that the boot on the person in the picture was actually a man leg! hahahaha I was like how on earth can that be a woman reading a magazine with a mans leg?? hahaha WOW…is it Friday yet?

  • ohhh, your dog looks just like my precious little “Abelard” aka “Abbyabby” who died about three years ago. He was SO sweet. He was grey, but, otherwise, a twin to yours!

  • I’ve been saving all of these upholstery tutorials until I have better resources to complete them (I’m abroad for the foreseeable future), but I would LOVE to see results from any readers that have completed successful projects based on these.

  • I was scrolling trough and noticed the dog sitting on the cushion. I had to do a double take. It looks exactly like my dog. We rescued him about 3 months ago. I was wondering what kind of dog is in your picture. We were told he is a miniature poodle mix. I am interested to find out if that dog is the same.
    That is a great cushion to. We have several pets and they all love pet beds and pillows.

  • The timing of this post is perfect! I am restoring a vintage trailer and need to reupholster the cushions. I just finished completing the seats today and I was thinking that soon I will have to make these cushions. Thanks for posting!

  • Grace…regarding Kristin’s comment above, what about a page for showcasing projects people made following the tutorials on this site?

    The blog How About Orange does that with a Flickr page.

    • susan

      i’m happy to link to projects like that if people submit them, but i think people have always done a nice job of sharing their work in the comment sections. that for me is most beneficial because it means anyone viewing the project will see those versions as well :)


  • Thanks for this. I recieved a sewing machine for Christmas, think I will have to add this to my long list of projects. Cute dog too! x

  • Thanks for all of the comments! Pixie is a teacup poodle, and she’s getting a pretty big head with all the comments! :)

    The foot on the sewing machine is a single welt cord foot. You can order it in multiple sizes, depending on your sewing machine.

  • I’m a sewing novice, so I was wondering why you have blue painter’s tape on your machine. I’m perplexed!

    • She has blue painter’s tape on her machine because it helps keep a straight stitch when she uses the machine because she can move her fabric along with the tape.

  • This is so cool, I was about to buy a new bed for my Choccie Lab Olive & now I have a little project to do which is going to be so much sweeter than store bought!! I went vintage & bought some lovely fabric to do my cushion – my pooch will be sleeping pretty very soon xxx thanks xxx

  • OMG! Jack must be Pixie’s long lost brother! Adorbs!

    Jaime, we keep painter’s tape on the machine as a guide to keep our 1/2″ seam allowance.

  • I know there has been a couple other people to say this but our dogs are identical twins, down to the white spots and hair! hahaha. so insane. My mom even thought it was my dog wow.

  • I need to save this tutorial, I have a project to finish and this is the last step.

    Amanda, Pixie is in Texas? My (teacup) poodle Chloe looks like him too. She hails from Texas originally… so maybe?

  • I have been searching for the perfect dog bed but I never seem to find just what I want. I love this one so much I went out and bought a cheap sewing machine, even though I haven’t sewed since 7th grade. The only thing is I had to do it without the welted cord because I didn’t have that presser foot and it seems like they dont make them for my Singer 1409 (on sale at Target!). I’d like to try it again, though. Anyone have any ideas for a work around?

  • Thank you for the great visual tutorial for making a concealed zipper. I’ve managed to get them done and they look fine, but it’s nice to know how to do them correctly. Now I just have to master cording.

  • Thank you so much for the tutorial. The visuals and instructions are excellently done. Now, I need to boost my confidence by doing instead of reading and hoping *one day* to do a re- upholstery. I bought a cool foot stool (a slider) for $8 with the hope to recover it. A binding or welt cord or zipper :-) whew…intimate me.

  • How did you know that I had yards of a faux “wood” print fabric and a note on my new years to-do list to recover our dog’s sad dog bed? This tutorial is perfect! Thank you, thank you! :)

  • I love the fabric choice! That’s one lucky pup! When I get good enough at sewing to make this, I don’t think I can share it with my puppy. Great tutorial, thanks for sharing!

  • Marie, it’s best to find a local supplier, but if that’s not an option, try diyupholsterysupply.com.
    Lauren, the fabric is listed at the bottom of the post.

  • Love the pillow!!…too advanced for me…??!!…but the dog is a twin to my Charlley!!…I bet he would love to have that bed too!!!

  • What measurement welting foot should I buy for my machine? I seem to have the option of 1/4″, 3/8″ and 1/2″.

  • Love this! I am a beginner sewer but am hoping once I master pillow covers for my sofa I can do a matching dog bed from your tutorial! Thanks so much for sharing.

  • Love upholstery! Done a few myself, including headboard, doggie bed, and soon a bunch of chaise longues!


  • Yardage Calculator for Custom Size Cushions


    on this page you can choose to use your own fabric and then choose a shape at the bottom of the page, following the promts, fill in the dimesions and other questions. Once you get to the shopping cart a total yardage required will be displayed.

  • Thank you for a very clear and well-written set of instructions. Do you have a photograph of the zipper panel after you finished? Maybe a detail that shows where the zipper panel meets the other box panels? I’d like to see what it looks like when complete.

  • Perfect job on this tutorial! I have an upholstery business, so hats off to all who can DIY! The only thing I do differently is to sew the zipper pieces together with a basting stitch – larger, then lay the zipper on it and sew on the wrong side. Then I carefully undo the baste stitch. It makes a very tight flat lap on the zipper that way.

  • Fabulous site, i come to your site so much now for these great tutorials! Thank you so much to taking so much time to put these detailed instructions together WITH PICTURES!!! Great great great!

  • Great tutorial! Exactly what I needed to boost my confidence as I recover cushions for our vintage camper!

  • I love this tutorial! I was wanting to use an invisible zipper along the back seam. Is that possible with this pattern?

  • Great tutorial! I actually love the pillow on the couch, too. Can you tell me where that came from?

  • Awesome tutorial; I am a professional and am going to try your zipper application tomorrow. Can’t believe I could learn something new!

  • Thank you so much! I just finished a 2 cushion project and your tutorial was so helpful!

  • Thank you for the tutorial. Obviously being a novice at this type of project. I am struggling with three cushions, middle one just 11/2 ” smaller than the sides to fill a window seat. The fabric is HORRIBLY THICK by the time I am sewing the four layers together and is making me nuts. I attached all the pieces together and found I was off 1/4 inch which really messed with my finished cover fitting nicely. Took it apart and starting over. This is just the first one and have two more to go. Any other tips you can share are very welcome. Thank you

  • Thanks for the great tutorial! I’ve been following step by step. I’ve got my cording on and I’m ready to sew my zipper boxing. I’m a bit confused by the pictures and instructions though. It sounds like there will be a pocket created on the outside that hides the end of the zipper?? I’m also working with a purchased upholstery zipper with the pull already attached because my fabric store didn’t have a roll of zipper available in the color I needed. Any advice for attaching this type of zipper? Thanks!

    • Hi, Misha!
      You are correct. By folding over the excess fabric where the front boxing attaches to the zipper boxing, you create a small pocket that hides the zipper pull. The zipper you purchased should work just like the one I use in the tutorial. You just have one less step since your pull is already attached. Hope that helps!

  • I sewed cushions in a furniture factory for 21 years and I have one suggestion that would make sewing cushions easier. You should construct your border and then welt it. It is easier to sew welt onto a long straight piece of border than trying to sew it around the curved cushion panels. That is difficult even for the most experienced of sewers. After adding the welt to the border then lay the panels on top the welt and sew the panel to the one side of the border welted piece. Then square up your corners on the sewn panel. Attach the other panel making sure the panel corners line up 1/2″ from the notch or mark you made to square up the corner. If you do not do this the cushion will not be square and will not fit the border correctly. Then measure the border to close leaving a 1/2″ seam and sew the fabric down to the border. Take the cording and overlap and cut in half so it lies flat and tape the ends very well. We used a very sticky type tape or duct tape may hold better. Fold the welt over the cording and position the panelto the border and close up welted border. I probably made thousands of cushions using this procedure and could easily do three cushions in about 15 minutes total on an industrial sewing machine where the speed is much faster than a home machine. Making cushions are very difficult to do and takes lots of practice for an amature to do. I would recommend taking them to a professional or your will be overly frustrated.

    • Thank you so much for this tip!!!! I have been making new box cushions and have been so frustrated with some of my corners. Your tips make so much sense. I think this will make things so much easier!

    • Yes I am also a professional and I use your method as well. welting the border is easier than welting around the corners.


  • To make sewing the cushions easier I would just eliminate the cording and welt. It will be much easier for the novice to tackle. The welt can be sewed on using a zipper foot but is difficult to cover the basting stitches. The tutorial is using an industrial sewing machine with a walking foot and the foot has a cut out groove that fits over the cording to get the stitching very close. Sew the zipper onto the border pieces and then to the ends of each zipper sew on the remaining border pieces leaving the side open for closing. It is important after sewing on one panel to the border that you fold the border in half where the panel corners are located and mark the corners on the opposite side of the border. When you sew on the second panel you want to make sure you ease the panel on between the marked corners allowing for a 1/2″ seam allowance for turning the corner. Always lie the border flat to the sewing machine table and work the panels around the border. It is easier to sew around the curves or corners.

    • Linda, thanks for the tip above about attaching the welt to the long straight piece of boxing instead of to the square top and bottom pieces. That will make it much easier! You mentioned that the tutorial shows an industrial sewing machine with a foot having a groove for a the cording. You can do that on a home machine as well. I have a Janome sewing machine and use the 1/4″ inch large piping/welting foot that Distinctive sells. It works perfectly! You are right that a home sewer wants to avoid not covering the basting stitches (from when the welt is created by inserting the cording into the folded over welt fabric. The solution is to not create the welt separately. Instead, you line up the welting fabric onto the edge of the boxing fabric. Then you place the cord down, fold over the welting piece and then sew. This one step of sewing both creates the welt and attaches it to the box. A lot of videos on YouTube showed me this trick and while it looks intimidating, it is quite easy.

  • I like my boxing to go around the sides about 5″, so the finished dimensions of the zipper boxing need to be 4″ x 35″.

    sorry I don’t understand this bit-you said the sides were going to be 4 inches, then five? then four again? Eh?

  • Do you have any recommendation of what size, brand sewing machine to buy in order to do this project?

  • Thank you for your tutorials! I love them and my Design Sponge book as well! Ok, so I made a boxed cushion with welting. It is a floral print, so it took me ages to make sure it was lined up correctly. I wanted to wash it then, to check for shrinkage. My cushion was a little loose, decided to add more batting to my cushion- that worked well. The problem– ewww now my piping is all puckered:(. Maybe I should have bought a different material for my cording? I thought it was standard- I bought it a an upholstery store. Can I fix it?
    Thank you,

  • I am having major issues with sewing around the corners. I don’t understand “cutting the notches.” I am putting random slits into the fabric and it’s not working, just messing up the fabric. Any suggestions?-

  • I used your directions and my project came out great. Thanks! It was my first time sewing on my own and your photos and instruction were really helpful.

  • I have made several cushions now and keep coming back to this tutorial because it is so well done. Thank you for the great pictures and instructions. A warning to people just getting started- matching the patterns can be very frustrating so follow her instructions on matching the front boxing…

  • Thank you so very much! My daughter just bought her first home. She is very excited and should be as she is only 24 years old.

    She has a window seat in the master bedroom and is dying for me to make her a cushion for it.

    I have only just started quilting in the last year. I’m so close to 60 that I’m shaking hands with it. Not sure if I can do this, but I am going to try.

    Again, thank you so very much and I pray God’s Blessings rain down on you!

  • Anyway to do this without a zipper or buttons? We discovered our dog ate the zipper on her dog bed.

  • Just finished my first two cushions for the first of two Danish modern chairs I am updating. The pictures you provided were very helpful. I have to admit I was a little intimidated at the thought of tackling this project myself. The previous covers were professionally done. I have to say that my cushions turned out really well. Now I only have the cushions for the matching chair and 12 cushions for the two sofas left to finish. Glad I chose a solid material for the sofas as pattern matching for the chairs was a little tricky. Thanks for the great tutorial!

  • I am doing my 4th upholstery task but my first boxed cushions. I need more detail on the best an easiest way to make a straight edged fabric, the boxing, go around the square corners of the top and bottom fabric. I did a practice cushion cover, easing/slitting the edges/and much pinning of the border and it came out sort of OK but I cannot imagine doing in adding the piping.

    Also, some comments refer to the “border”. Do they mean the “boxing”?
    Thanks for any help.

  • great tutorial ! How do you determine tread and needle sizes?
    what is the best (waterproof or resistant) type of cushion?
    the pictures are very helpful

  • Any advice on how to do boxed cushions without the cording? I actually like that look better but not sure how to achieve. Thank you!

  • Just finished 1 of 4 cushions. The tutorial and images really made sense, and helped me get a professional looking job.

    I didn’t have a welting foot for the sewing machine, and tried it using the zipper foot. After a first attempt just making the welting, I realized it would never be right, and went on Amazon. For $20 I got three sizes of welting feet, and let me say TOTAL DIFFERENCE. Not just the piping itself, but doing the entire construction. The welt acts like a track once it’s sewn down, and all the seams end up absolutely perfect. No thread showing on the final product.

    Thank you again for the excellent detail in your tutorial.

  • this is s great and detailed. Thank you for the great photos and instructions. Can’t wait to get started on reupholstering my patio cushions for the summer.

  • Wonderful tutorial I just had one thing to add that I have learned through years of doing cushions start off in one corner cut your welt half inch shy of edge or what ever seam allowance you use. Not fabric just welt. sew all the way around cushion to end up at starting point again cut welt half inch in. you never see where it starts and ends and is it much easier then starting in the middle and cutting your welt there. you also have an option if your shy on fabric to do this on both back corners and then your final welt piece across the back can be tied in As A Separate Piece. I happened on your site searching for information on top stitching. I was wondering if anyone had ever done their top stitching on the boxing rather then the cap of a cushion. If it is acceptable or if it’s never ok to do so. I was taught to always do on cap but a customer really wants me to do on boxing. Any advise would be greatly appreciated.

  • I’ve been making a series of box cushions using this method and all the while I’ve been wondering why the piping has to be attached to the faces of the cushions. Why can’t it be sewn first all along the two edges of the gusset and then have the faces sewn on to them? I just get the feeling it would be easier.

  • I have a hard time with box cushions. I can do a great job attaching the top of the cushion to the sides but when I start on the bottom of the cushion it never lines up right even when I pin and get the corners exactly where they are supposed to be. I always have extra fabric and have to do a small tuck in each corner.

  • OMG!!! You dog is adorable? Is he/she a poodle? Adorable!!! Love your sewing steps as well.