The Subtle Art of Cushion Filling: Part 1


Every time I make a cushion insert, I think to myself, “I should write a blog post about this!”

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Because cushion inserts can be tricky – you need to understand all the products you’re working with (in my case, usually/mostly foam of varying grades), you need to make decisions about sizing and relative quantities of said products. Sizing will, of course, vary according to the size of finished cover, the desired aesthetic outcome, the final destination for your cushion (wood window seat? Sprung deck? Eating area with a table?) and OH! Don’t forget about personal preference – cushions are incredibly subjective. So, you know . . . good luck.

But I never get the post written, because I start thinking about all the different variables and considerations and combinations. I mean, really, we don’t give cushions enough credit – they can make or break your upholstery project. Use the wrong foam, and it will disappoint in a hurry – by being uncomfortable, or by breaking down too soon. Miss the sizing by much and you can have a seat that’s too high or a cover that’s too loose.  If you want happy, comfortable, clients, you gotta understand CUSHIONS.

And they are a subtle art.

So instead of waiting until I have 180 hours to write the 30 page mega ebook post about cushions A-Z, we’re going to try something new: I’ll occasionally post about a specific cushion or two I’m tackling.

This could be the least read blog post series in the history of the world. 

But if cushions are something you struggle with, I hope you’ll find this informative. . . .

Introducing: Stale Dale

Our first cushion is from a current sofa project. The client named this musty mid-century fellow, “Stale Dale.”


Given the age, and the fact that this was a Craig’s List garage find, we knew right away that new cushions were a given.

With the low arm and lean style, I selected a 4″ core foam. The seat foam I use, almost without exception is an HR 3.1# with an IFD of  33 from Fabric Supply in Minneapolis.

Here’s a super super quick explanation of those numbers: 

3.1# is the DENSITY/WEIGHT. In short, it is the best quality foam they carry, because it is the heaviest. The denser the cushion, the longer it takes to lose it’s support. 

33 is the IFD (or sometimes, ILD). This tells me how firm the foam is. Mid 30s is standard for sofa cushions, inasmuch as we can call anything standard. While FSI doesn’t carry DENSER cushioning foams, they DO carry firmer cushioning foams. That’s the tricky bit- don’t confuse firmness and density!!!!! They are two very independent attributes (more on that in a future post?????) 

SO we have our core, is that all??? 

If these were smaller cushions, perhaps. Mid century cushions are traditionally very lean and very square.

(But you can’t actually make square cushions. Sorry architects.)

In order to keep the cushion cover full, we have to oversize the insert – a little, or a lot.

It depends.

Of course, it depends.

Stale Dale came in with 3 seat cushions, or rather NONE seat cushions. But we want him to leave with 2 seat cushions. I LOOOOOOVE two seat cushions. I’m on my two cushion sofa right now, with room for my legs to extend out on The Island of Cushion without falling into the Canyon of Crack.

But the longer we make a cushion, the more likely it is to be a bit naughty. If you’ve ever seen a REALLY long cushion (window seat, single seat sofa) you know what I mean – long stretches of fabric tend to misbehave. Maybe good in this longer cushion scenario to add a little extra height to our insert.

In addition to our core, I added 1/2″ top and bottom of an HR2.2# with an IFD of 19.

Remember those numbers folks? Still relatively heavy (2.2#) but SOFT (19)

Here’s a photo of foam, isn’t it exciting????

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This is my favorite way to make cushions, actually – it’s like a freaking amazing mattress topper situation for your tush. Your lucky, lucky tush.

In addition to all THAT, we’ll add a standard layer of polyester batting. This gives us another layer of loft, and if protects the foam and fabric from premature wear as they move. Cushions without batting tend to break down faster – the foam, or the fabric, or both.

Finished cushion insert

So after all that foam and wrap, who wants to guess how wide my finished cushion boxing is?

(drum roll, please)


Now that may seem ridiculous, but check it out:

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(Oh, that’s Lindsay from A Chick and a Chair. She’s a nerd. But she’s our nerd  <3)

Not so crazy plump as one might expect, right???? You’d be amazed how much can fit in a cushion cover, especially when you start creating really crowned cushions. Maybe we’ll  do a blog about THAT sometime soon . . . . .

In the meantime, go to Instagram and search #staledale to see how he turns out!

Hey everyone, I’ll be blogging weekly this year, starting with the launch of our #reupholsterauntbea project next week – want to stay in the loop on lots of upholstery education tidbits? Follow my blog so you’ll be sure to see new posts! 

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