Today, I’m going to show you how to use one of the lowliest and most unrecyclable home items to make something beautiful and unique for your home: the mattress pad, which can be used as batting to make beautiful, customized seat cushions. Because lets be honest, what the heck do you use a mattress pad when it dies or just isn’t needed anymore? And who wants to sit on a chair without a cushion? Not me.
Somehow, between merging two lives, moving, unpacking, and coexisting with each other, Amanda and I ended up with two queen-sized mattress pads. At first, we thought we’d keep both, and change them out, but that never happened. Her mattress pad was strangely more plush than mine and for some reason I hated it. It was stuffed into a closet until I finally liberated it and put it in a pile of stuff to donate.
I knew, however, that donating a mattress pad would be nearly impossible. Just look at this thing! Most thrift stores don’t take used bedding like this for good reasons like bed bugs, lice etc.. I wasn’t about to just chuck the mattress pad in the trash either, to live out the rest of its synthetic life in a landfill, so it lived in our hall way as an ugly obstruction until I realized that it was essentially just a few layers of batting with a quilt-top, and by George, batting I can use.
The other piece of this puzzle was the beautiful fabrics that Amanda brought back from a trip she took to Sierra Leone. Amanda lived in Sierra Leone for two years with Peace Corps, where she was expected to wear locally made clothing at various events and occasions where it was appropriate to dress up. When we first started dating she showed me all of her clothing, which she wears infrequently in the states but still keeps carefully tucked away in our closet. When she decided to go back to visit her friends and the community where she lived, she also decided that she would bring back some wax print fabrics for our home. I had some ground rules: nothing too culturally appropriative, nothing too bright as our home tends to be minimalist and decorated in blues, blacks, whites and grays, and if she could magically text me pictures when she was at the fabric stall in the market so I could see the options…this latter idea didn’t happen, but she did great! We ended up with a group of fabrics that are very pretty, don’t scream, “I went to a foreign country and brought home someone else’s culture!” and compliment our home nicely.
One thing we always wanted to make with the Sierra Leone material was seat cushions after we visited other Peace Corps friends and saw their seat cushions (also culturally understated, also blue). After putting this project off way too long, I finally decided to tackle it using the mattress pad as the batting and a beautiful blue wax print as the shell.
It was a simple project, easily doable for a beginning sewist, but also very satisfying. I quilted the tops of the seat covers while watching a movie, which I do think makes them look more polished. And how does the used mattress cover hold up? So far so good. I used two layers per cushion which makes them enjoyable to sit on but not overly cushiony. You could use almost any repurposed material for the shells, think old curtains, old dresses, table cloths, pillow cases, etc… If you don’t have an old mattress pad handy, you could use a ton of other repurposed materials as batting: old towels, old fleece blankets, or even a comforter that has seen better days.
- 1 plush mattress pad, ( OR old towels, old blanket, etc…)
- 1 1/2 yards to 3 yards of cotton, depending on how big your chairs are, and how many cushions you’re making
- A sewing machine (preferable, but you could do these by hand if you really really wanted to
- Thread matching your fabric
- Embroidery thread
- Embroidery needle
- Measure the seat of your chair. Mine measured 15 inches by 15 inches, so I knew I wanted to make a cushion 15 by 15.
- Cut out your mattress pad stuffing: I made my squares 3/4″ smaller on all sides than my intended cushion size as it was easier to stuff and looked better all around. I used two layers of mattress pad for each cushion, but depending on the thickness of your mattress pad you may only need one or may need up to three layers. All in all, my mattress pad squares were cut to 14.75″ each.
- Cut out your outer fabric for the cushion: Mine measured 15.5″, leaving half an inch of seam allowance.
- Decide how you’ll add ties. The ties are necessary for the cushion to stay on the chair. I chose to add ties to the two back corners of my cushions and make them out of the contracting print at the bottom of my fabric. I made two long ties per cushion, about 15-16″ each, and folded them in half to be sewn into the back. You could also use ribbon or a variety of other trims.
- Sew your cushion: Pin the two right sides of your cushion’s outer material together, pinning each tie to the back corners with the tie inside with the right sides. With a half inch seam allowance, sew around the edge of the cushion, leaving a 5-inch opening. Reinforce the ties by backstitching a couple times.
- Turn the cushions right side out. Carefully stuff your mattress pad layers into each cushion, making sure the layers lay flat. Use an invisible stitch to close each opening. If hand sewing scares the bejesus out of you you can carefully close each opening with your sewing machine right along the edge.
- Quilt your cushion: If you choose to sew a quick square on your cushion, it will keep the inside layers flat and make your cushion nicer. You can do this on your sewing machine, but I chose to do it by hand with embroidery thread for a cute and chunky look. To do so, Thread your embroidery needle and knot the end. Embroider a square about 6″ by 6″ in the center of your cushion. I eyeballed my square, but if you wanted it to be totally perfect you could mark it with chalk first. Make sure when you make your stitches the needle is puncturing the same part of the cushion on the other side so that each side of the cushion looks neat and tidy.
- Put your cushions on your chair and sit on them! Or if you’re like Stella, gaze lovingly out the window at prey.