Camping can be a great family bonding experience, but it can also be stressful. How do you figure out where to go? What do you bring? Will the kids enjoy themselves? And what if they decide they hate camping and want to just go home to their beds…or even worse, their video games? Relax. If you’re on a budget but still want your kids to have some fun in the great outdoors, making your own camping gear might seem like an obvious solution. But after my first attempt at doing so (a DIY tent made of duct tape that looked more like a mess of fabric than anything else), I was ready for something easier.
Fast forward one year and five failed attempts later: I’ve finally figured out how to make useful camping gear using items from around the house! My new favorite hack: making a camping chair cushion. In this post, I’ll teach you how to take old seat cushions and turn them into comfortable chair bolsters that will help you while away hours by the campfire with family or friends!
What you’ll need
- cushions, preferably with a removable cover (if they don’t have a removable cover, you can always cut one out of your fabric)
- sewing machine (or at least a needle and thread)
- fabric for the wrap, plus extra if you plan to make more wraps than just one for yourself. This article uses cotton duck canvas from Fabricland. Feel free to use whatever fabrics you like! You could even try using another type of foam as the bolster—it just needs to be dense enough so it won’t crush under pressure. We’d suggest filling up an old pillow before cutting it open and seeing how much weight it can handle before deciding which type of foam will work best.
Here’s how I made my own:
1. Find your cushions.
It’s a good idea to have a few cushions in your house, as it will make your life easier when you need to reupholster a chair or make some other DIY project. Any type of cushion will work for this tutorial (padded seat on the front, no back), but it needs to be firm and not too soft or thick. If you don’t have any cushions lying around the house, try looking at thrift stores or Craigslist for cheap ones that are in decent shape.
2. Measure and cut.
- Measure and cut.
Measure the length of the cushion, then measure and cut two pieces to that measurement. Measure, cut and stack foam squares to reach a height of 3 inches (8 cm).
3. Lay out your fabric.
- Using the grid markings on your foam, cut out sections of fabric with a sharp pair of scissors. If you have any left over, you can use it to make a smaller bolster or pillows.
- Flip over the fabric and sew around the edge of each section using a straight stitch and upholstery thread that matches your fabric color (the darker stitching will help hide any mistakes). Use a zipper foot if possible because it allows you to sew close to the edge without having to stop and adjust at each end of your seam every time you turn around (as I did).
- Trim away excess threads from both sides of each seam before stuffing with polyester fill material; this will keep them from coming apart in future use!
4. Sewing basics for the DIY novice.
If you’re a novice, there are some things you should know.
- Use your sewing machine feet to help guide the fabric through the machine. The first step to sewing is threading your needle, but before you do that, make sure your sewing machine is set up properly using its feet and attachments. Most machines come with special foot attachments for different purposes or fabrics—zippers and buttonholes require different feet than typical fabric does! To learn more about these features, check out our guide on how to use a sewing machine like a pro (or at least better than me).
- Stand up straight while working on projects in order to maintain proper posture and avoid any pain in your back or neck area caused by hunching over your workstation for too long at one sitting (which I did when making these chairs). It may sound silly but keeping good posture through this project will help prevent soreness later on down the road!
5. Pin the pieces together and sew, then turn them inside out.
- Pin the pieces together and sew, then turn them inside out.
After sewing your pieces together, you should have a rectangle with a seam along each side of it. Turn it inside out so that the seams are on the inside of this new pillow cover. Now that you’ve got your cover done, make sure to sew it onto both sides of the foam!
Turn your old cushions into camping gear!
If you’re looking for a way to bring the camping vibe into your home, try turning your old cushions into camping gear!
- Make a bolster. Using foam from an old cushion and some fabric, construct a simple bolster for kids’ beds or chairs. This is especially useful if the cushion foam is already cut in the shape of a pillow.
- Make a pillow. If you don’t want to go through all that trouble with making something new out of old stuff (but remember: we love recycling), simply use the old foam as an insert inside one of those decorative throw pillows that sit on sofas or beds all day long anyway. You can also add some fresh fabric around the edges if it looks worn out—it may be more comfortable than wearing pajamas at night!
You can do it!