Bench Cushions Redux

Some things are so nice, you make them twice. Sort of.

I made these lovely bench cushions early this year. I was super pleased with how they turned out, and they greatly increased the comfort level for the bench-sitting crowd. However, they had a couple of engineering flaws.

First, they were not washable. A major issue in our house, where they get dirty. I mean, I was a messy eater before I had three kids, so now there are four of us dropping crumbs and sauce and who knows what else. Grossness was collecting under the buttons, and I did not like to think about what was getting through to the cushion itself.

Second, the fastenings were just not adequate. The cushions attached in two points beneath the centre of the cushions, but there was too much pressure on these ties, anchored by a couple of buttons and some waxed nylon thread. These popped off pretty quickly, then the cushion was sliding all over the place. Not to be left out, lots of other buttons and ties popped off too.

Finally, the backing on the cushions was completely inadequate. Turns out plastic tablecloth tears as soon as you look at it funny. The edges above were trashed within a month. I’d never had a plastic tablecloth before, so I didn’t know. It wasn’t even that grippy, which is why I’d used it. That definitely had to go.

I disassembled the cushion covers a few months ago, washed the pillow forms thoroughly, and washed the handwoven wool top gently. I knew what I had to do, but put it off. With my sewing machine in fine form, though, I decided I had to face this project before allowing myself to start another quilting project. So I did.

I made a new back for the pillow cover out of commander leftover from the cabin pillow covers. I pieced these backs using my newfound quilting knowledge, reinforcing them like I did the cabin pillow seams. I made sure these reinforced seams would be right where I wanted the center ties to be as well.

I bought thicker bias tape for the ties this time, and came up with a different arrangement. I put one long tie in the center, and instead of just tying that around the little crossbar under the bench, the ties reach to new side ties. These are way sturdier and have successfully eliminated most of the wiggling – of the cushion, not its occupants.

I also added a zipper. The pillows were horrid to stuff from the ends the first time, so I put the zipper in the middle of the side. Now when they get nasty gross, I can take them apart and give the cushions and covers the separate cleaning treatment they need. Still a pain, but not an impossible pain.

The buttons were cute, and they performed the essential function of giving the cushions their flat shape initially. However, the cushions are keeping that shape on their own now, and the buttons were causing most of the washing issues, so I said goodbye to them. I am not sad – they were a huge pain to put on.

After all the forethought and effort that went into these bench cushions, there was no question of going back and fixing their problems. I’m just so thankful that it worked out! It is good to see them in use again.


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