How to make an outdoor cushion cover out of a drop cloth

How to make an outdoor cushion cover out of a drop cloth

We bought our outdoor conversation set from World Market about 5 years ago. Since then its been repainted twice and the cushions recovered twice. I love the look of cream colored outdoor cushions. They’re so light and refreshing, well until they get wet and start to mildew. I tried washing them but all that did was fray the seams, so I decided it was time to make new cushion covers. I made them out of a $7 canvas drop cloth from Harbor Freight.

Dirty and mildewy outdoor cushions


Here is my drop cloth laid out. Before you begin working with it make sure you wash and iron it. One of the benefits of working with a canvas drop cloth is that it doesn’t have a right or wrong side when you start with it.

how to make cushion covers out of a canvas drop cloth

Once you have your canvas prepped, measure your cushion and add 2 in to each side for seam allowances. Cut a top a bottom piece for your cushion including in the extra 2 inches. Next, measure the sides of your cushion (the depth) and again add 2 in to each side. You should have 4 side pieces total. If you want to add piping to your cushion (as I did) then measure the perimeter of the cushion and cut that length of cording. Finally, cut a narrow strip of fabric the same length as the cording (typically about 2-3 in wide). If your fabric isn’t long enough to make the piping in one cut that is fine. Just cut two or three pieces and sew them to make cushion covers out of a canvas drop cloth

I started by making the piping. If you aren’t doing this skip down a couple of steps.  Attach the zipper foot to your sewing machine which allows you to get the stitch as close as possible to the cord. Place your cord in the middle of the fabric and sew the fabric shut keeping as close to the cord as possible.How to make piping

Here is what it should look like when you are all done.

how to make piping

Now, line up the rough edge of your piping with the cut edge of your cushion top and sew the two pieces together all the way around the whole rectangle again keeping the stitch as close as possible to the piping

hot to make a cushion cover out of a canvas drop cloth.If you haven’t done so already, sew all of your side pieces together to make one long strip. Make sure to alternate the sides (mine was long side, short, long, short). Now you’re going to attach the side  pieces to the top of the cushion cover. With the right side of the cushion cover facing up, attach the sides pieces long ways to the extra fabric from the piping, then sew them together just as you did when you attached the piping the first time. Make sure to keep as close to the piping as possible. Here’s what it should look like when you are done:

how to make cushion covers out of a canvas drop cloth

Next, take the bottom cushion cover piece (the only piece that should be left) and pin it to the opposite sides of the side pieces with wrong sides facing each other. You are now going to sew all the sides together with the exception of the one where the zipper will be going in.  Hopefully, you are still with me at this point as I find zippers to be utterly confusing. Sometimes I just have to stare at them for 15 minutes before they make sense.   At this point your cushion cover should still be inside out. Flip back one side of the fabric so that the right side is facing up. Pin the top of the zipper to the right side of the fabric. Before sewing the zipper down make sure that the zipper is open. If you had switched the foot on your sewing machine, switch it back to the zipper foot now. Sew the seam as close to the zipper as you can get. Then do the same for the other to install a zipper

Flip your cover right side out and stuff your cushion in. It should fit snuggly. Here’s what mine looked like all done!

how to make cushion covers out of a canvas drop cloth

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  1. Pingback: Painted pots for herbs | Simply Swider

    • That probably depends where you live. Mine mildewed after the first year just like the original covers did, but it’s also very humid where I live. The only fabric that doesn’t mildew quickly here is Sunbrella.

      • I wonder if the fabric would hold up better against mildew if it were painted. You could first paint a coat of KILZ primer. Then you could chose any color of acrylic paint mixed with a ratio? of fabric medium. then you could finish with 1 or 2 coats of polyurithane clear. I’ve read of people doing this method with upholstered chairs and even couches. They said it did not turn out with a stiff feel. You could try a practice piece on a scrap of the fabric first.

        • hey Lee! I once had a painted drop cloth as a rug and it stilled mildewed 🙁 It might just be the climate here. What I haven’t tried is the scotchguard fabric water proofer which I’ve heard good things about!

  2. I am wondering if you A- scotch guarded the drop cloth and
    B- brought it all in at the end of the season would prevent the mildew effect?
    I live in the Pacific NW and mildew if a definite possibility – but I would probably store all in my shed during during the 8-9 months that it rains. 🙂
    Thanks for the awesome tutorial!

    • Kat, At the time I didn’t do either of those things but I think it would definitely help. My current furniture is Sunbrella and I have noticed that it mildews less with the protective finish than our old stuff without it did. Let me know how it works out for you!

  3. Questions: Do you have wood or metal under the cushion? Do you have a dust cloth over the frame?

    Thanks so much for posting, this looks great!