Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Cushion Nightmare: Worst DIY Project Ever

As a DIY-lover, I know that most projects will have some unexpected twist; the project will take twice as long, will cost twice as much, or will be twice as difficult as I planned. And it is generally fine because the joy that I get out doing the project makes it worthwhile. Every now and then there is a project that you wish you never started. Have a seat and let me tell you about the tale of my outdoor furniture.

Last year I saw a classified ad for really cheap outdoor furniture. Someone was leaving town and couldn't take them with her. She was selling two oversized chairs and one large metal bench for only $20! Can you believe it? So cheap! The only catch was that they didn't come with any cushions. The ones she had previously were so moldy that she didn't want to include them in the sale. No problem though. How hard can making cushions be, right? WRONG!

To be fair, these chairs were an excellent deal. They're in great condition; after a light sanding and a couple of coats of rust-blockimg primer and shiny black spray paint they looked good as new. And there they sat, naked, for the next year.

At some point I realized that I actually need to get on the cushion-making process if I ever planned to use these chairs. I thought about buying cushions, but honestly I couldn't find anything reasonably priced that I liked. I had no idea cushions were so expensive! Especially since these chairs are huge. So, I started looking for tutorials and materials to make my own.

Harrogate is not the best place for crafting. It's really hard to get materials, so I do most of my shopping online. I searched high and low for the best prices, but even so I was shocked by how expensive the raw materials were. No wonder finished cushions are pricey. The foam alone cost me almost $100!!

It took me forever to amass all of my supplies. Then it took me even longer to work up the courage to actually start making the cushions. Everything was just so expensive and the tutorial was so complicated. I had my S.O.S. friend Nick try out a different tutorial for me when making a cushion for another friend. Though his final product was great, the effort nearly killed him. After watching him struggle for months over this stupid cushion, I decided to try a different tutorial. I landed on this one from Pretty Handy Girl. Though it got me there in the end, I would not recommend using it yourself. The directions were hard to follow and missed key steps. Perhaps if you are a more advanced seamstress you can fill in the blanks yourself, but for a novice this was way too hard.

I enlisted Dan's help on this when I realized that I was in over my head. Between the two of us we managed to cobble the cushions together, and they actually look pretty good. Not professional, but not too "home-made" either.

Even Zuzu helped

Making the sides

Adding piping

In retrospect, I really needed to make double as many cushions so that I'd have both a seat and a back for each chair and bench. I realized my mistake too late though and there was no way I was starting again with ordering more supplies and making more cushions. Luckily IKEA had some navy cushions that worked well for the chairs (where were they when I did my initial cushion search?!), so we snagged two of those, I still don't have anything for the back of the bench though.

Needless to say, I am thrilled that the project is (mostly) complete. I have a feeling these will become family heirlooms--if only to justify the effort!


  1. And the motto of the family that raised you always was "Why do something yourself when you can pay good money to have someone do it for you"
    Actually I am so very proud of you that mom and I are thinking about hiring you to redo all the floors in the house when you come home. Take up the carpet and put in distressed wood, sand and paint. Looks like it should be just a long weekend. Don't worry we of course will take Zoey around to show her off to all of our friends.
    Pop Pop

  2. Calli - I'm impressed with the cushions! Great work on them, it doesn't sound like they were easy at all. And also - I think they look better than what I've seen in stores!