How to Permanently Restore a Mattress Pad

Mattress pads wear out fast, don’t they?

The top is usually in good shape because they are quilted and made fairly well.

But, usually, the sides of the mattress pad are either made of a paper-like material or a thin nylon type that gets holes in it easily. I’ve fought both types for years. And it doesn’t matter how much you pay, they are never made to last.

You can see by the zig zag stitches I stitched on this paper-like material, that I had tried to mend it before.

But, it didn’t last long in the washing machine.


In some areas, the elastic had torn away from the rest of the material:


Recently, I decided it was time for a new solution, a more permanent solution….I needed to put new sides on.

This is easier than it sounds.

You will need some cotton fabric and some elastic. The amount you need of both will depend on the size of your mattress pad top. I’ll show you how to calculate what you need. The mattress pad I am revamping is a queen size.

First, measure the width, the length, and the depth (or height) of the mattress pad and write down the measurements on a piece of paper.



Once you have done that, you will add seam allowances to each of the measurements.

As you can see below, I drew what each of the pieces would look like if they were separate and lying flat on the table. This is to help you see what shapes you’ll need to cut from the cotton fabric.

I added two inches overall to the width, two inches overall to the length because I want 1/2″ seam allowances.

I added three inches to the height because some of the pad extends underneath the mattress and the extra inch will make it hug the mattress nice and snug.


I found some scrap muslin fabric that I had in my cupboard and cut the pieces out according to my measurements.

You don’t need muslin fabric. Any cotton or cotton/polyester blend should do.

After you’ve cut those pieces, set those pieces aside for now.

Next, trim away all the side material from the top of the mattress pad, cutting as close as possible without harming the top. If you don’t cut real close, it’s not a problem.


Once you have the top piece cut away from the bottom piece, you are going to save the top piece.


Next, you will stitch together the rectangles of fabric to form the sides of the mattress pad.

Stitch the vertical seams making sure you have the two short ends opposing each other and the two long pieces opposing each other. Also, make sure you are stitching all the pieces right sides together. You don’t want to twist them and have to rip some of the seams out later.

Here is what one seam looks like from the right side. I haven’t pressed the fabric yet, but it would be a good idea.


Once I stitched the seams, I serged the edges to finish them off nicely. If you don’t have a serger, you could zig zag the edges together. This will keep your seams from raveling over time.


Once the seams are serged, you should have a giant tube of fabric. Go ahead and serge to top edge of the tube all the way around.

Now, let’s talk about the elastic. The company used elastic “thread”. To duplicate this on your mattress pad would require alot of time and work. We are going to make a simple casing and add one piece of elastic.

I like a method that is fast. Most people would tell you to make the casing and then feed the elastic through the casing with a bodkin or a safety pin attached to the end of the elastic. That takes a very long time. I’m going to show you how to streamline and do two steps at one time.

To make the casing, fold up and press the bottom edge twice. I like to use 1/2″ wide elastic. So, to make my casing, I folded up the bottom edge 1/4″ and then 3/4″ . The 1/4″ hides the raw edge and the 3/4″ gives you enough room to stitch the elastic in without actually stitching on the elastic itself. We want that elastic to be able to stretch inside the casing as we sew the casing down.


The cotton tube I sewed for the sides of the mattress pad has a perimeter of about 280″ (80″ + 80″ + 61″ + 61″=282″)

Let’s use the number 280″ for easy math.

Divide 280″ in half and you have 140″ or about 4 yards.

You’ll need to cut a piece of elastic about 4 yards long.

If you don’t have that much on hand, you can certainly use less. It’s not rocket science and you don’t have to be precise on this. You just don’t want your mattress pad to creep up or come off while you’re sleeping.

Turn the elastic into a tube and stitch the ends together as shown below. I overlap the ends and sew two rows of stitching to make it stronger.


Next, I divide the elastic tube equally into fourths and put a pin in each of the four spots:

Then, I divide the cotton tube into fourths and put a pin in each of those four spots.



Next, I just match up these pins.


Then, I tuck the elastic into the folded edge and put one pin in that spot to anchor the elastic until I can sew it in.

Remember, I am not going to stitch on the elastic itself, just the casing, but the elastic will be tucked down in there.


Next, I stitch the casing down, making sure the elastic is inside the folded area:


You will have to move the elastic inside the casing when it gets too bunched up as you sew. Just keep pushing the elastic back as you sew.


Don’t sew over any pins.

When you get to a spot where there is a pin, take the pin out and stitch across the casing to hold the elastic in place. There will be four spots where you stitch across the casing on the tube, by the time you are finished.


Here is another angle of what that will look like:


This is what the elastic edge will look like when you are finished sewing in the elastic:


Now, it’s time to attach the tube to the mattress pad:

Start by dividing the mattress pad into fourths, just like you did with the tube.

Then, divide the tube (the non elastic side of the tube) into fourths.

Once you match up the pins from the mattress pad and the pins from the tube, pin those in place in the four spots.

***The seams on the tube should line up with the corners or curved edges of the mattress pad. This will keep your mattress pad and the sides fitting together nicely.

Now, pin all the way around the mattress pad. It should be a good fit.


If it’s not exactly right, you can ease in the extra as you sew the two pieces together, but if you did your math correctly, it should be just right.

If there is a large difference, you may have to take in the seams on the corners of the tube before you sew the two pieces together.


Stitch all the way around the mattress pad.


Can you see how the two are attached? The seam runs basically vertically through the photo below:


Here is the mattress before I put the updated mattress pad on:


Here is the new mattress pad:


Because the new mattress pad has durable cotton sides now, it should last for many years to come!


Here’s a post on How to Mend a Bed Sheet, if you’d like to learn!





How to Sew a Zipper into a Pillow, the Easiest Way Ever!

Yes, there are many tutorials online that teach how to put a zipper in a pillow.

But this method is Different. Easier. 

As I stitched up some pillows recently, I wondered if there was already a post out there with these instructions. To my amazement, there weren’t any. So I thought I’d share that with you today, along with some helpful tips that will save you time and trouble.

First, choose your fabric. Buy enough fabric to cover the front and back of each pillow you are making.

Buy a zipper (regular or invisible). I buy a zipper at least two inches shorter than one side of the square of fabric.

For example, if I’m making a 16″ pillow, I use a 14″ zipper. You’ll see why later.

If you have to cut your zipper down, do. Just make sure you stitch across the zipper teeth several times at the correct length so that your zipper tab doesn’t fall off while you’re constructing the pillow!

I am using a regular zipper in this tutorial.This is so that if you don’t have an invisible zipper foot, you can see how to insert the zipper.

Buy a pillow form for each pillow, make your own, or use one from a previously used pillow that’s still in good shape.

Measure the pillow form.

Most tutorials will tell you to cut the fabric one inch larger (all the way around) than your pillow form.

I’m here to tell you that you’ll be sorry if you do.

The finished pillow will look too baggy.

Cut the fabric one inch smaller than the form. You read that right… smaller!

For example, if your pillow form is 20″square, cut the fabric 19″ square.

I usually like to finish the edges with a serger, but you can use a zig zag stitch if you don’t have a serger.


Next, place your zipper (invisible zipper or regular zipper) face down (right side of zipper to right side of pillow fabric), centering it on one side of the fabric square.

Using a zipper foot, stitch 1/4″ away from the zipper teeth all along the  zipper.

Make sure your needle is on the correct side of the zipper foot so that you don’t run over the zipper tab when you get to it.


Pull the zipper out so it is facing up and away from the pillow fabric as shown:


Now, lay the other pillow fabric square on top of this one, right sides together, matching the edges of the new square with the edge of the zipper that hasn’t been sewn yet. Pin. See photo below:


Stitch 1/4″ away from the teeth, on the unsewn side.

Be sure to take out pins before you sew over them.


Now, unzip the zipper part way. If you don’t, you’ll stitch the zipper inside and it will be tough to get it unzipped to turn the pillow right side out.


Next, match the three remaining sides of the pillow squares, so that the edges line up.

Now, line up the zipper edges.

Start sewing on the zipper edge of the pillow about 1/2″ away from the zipper stitching toward the inside of the pillow.

Stitch around the 3 non-zipper sides and stop as indicated in the photo below:


I know it seems strange that your stitching doesn’t match up with where you stitched the zipper on, but this is why this method is so awesome…you don’t have to line up your stitching and you don’t have to worry about the zipper teeth or the tail of the zipper showing!!!

Now, reach in and turn the pillow right side out and look at the zipper!


Here is the view with the zipper closed:


I made three of these pillows recently, and it took no time at all.


See how nice and full they look?

And you don’t see the zippers on the bottom.

Bam! Done!



How To Make Pillows Fast!

Because we have a wedding in 2 months,

because my outdoor pillows and cushions are completely sunfaded,

and because I had about twenty minutes on my hands,

I decided it was time to recover them.

Heads up: There won’t be any zippers, velcro, snaps, buttons, or anything!

Are you game?

(If you’d like a pillow with a zipper, check out this post on How to Sew a Zipper Into a Pillow, the Easiest Way Ever!)

Ok, let’s talk fabric.

I know there are fabrics on the market that claim to be sun resistant, but they are $20 per yard.

So, each year, I choose fabrics that I like that are dirt cheap and on sale.

And each year I have to recover them because the indirect sun bleaches the tar out of them.

So, my advice is: pick what you like, taking into consideration your budget, the location of the pillows, the durability factor and the colors you like.

Here’s a photo of one of the old faded pillow covers..

I’ve folded the front back a little so you can see the difference between the front and back:

Basically, I make what they call envelope pillows.

There are probably a bunch of other names for these as well.

I buy pillow forms (or you can make them) in the sizes I want from Joann Fabrics.

Then, I just create a pattern that will fit the pillow.

The idea is to make the finished cover a little smaller in dimensions, than the pillow form, all the way around, so they fit nicely and not too loosely.

You’ll see later, that because I have been tracing my pillows for about four years, mine have gotten a little too big, but you won’t make the same mistake I did.

You can make a pillow with a single fabric. That would be the easiest way. I’ll cover that later in this post.

For now, I want to start with making the first pillow using a very basic patchwork look.

All you serious quilters out there better not look at this.

It will make you cringe.

But, hey, this will work and time is of the essence, right?

Here’s the beginning of the first cover:

As you can see, I cut out a square of the flowery fabric. Then I sewed borders to the sides and then borders to the top and bottom edges.

(The finished cut dimensions are supposed to be about a half inch less all around than the pillow form.

Then, we will use a half inch seam allowance making the cover about an inch smaller than the form.)

Here’s how the back looks:

I know. I used the selvedge.

Sorry, that is lame, but it was  because I was too lazy (and rushed) to cut it off.

But, if you think anyone you know is going to look inside your pillow to see how you made it, you better cut off the selvedges.

Next, I lay out the fabric I will use for a backing:

See how I cut it even with the front on 3 sides?

That fourth side needs to extend about half of what the length of the pillow is.

SO, if this pillow is 12″, add about 6 more inches.

I just eyeball it. Don’t worry about it. You’ll be close enough.

Pull the front of the pillow away.

Now, cut the backing into two separate pieces, only they should not be equal in size. One should be longer than the other.

Offset it a bit.

The picture below shows how I cut mine:

Serge or zig zag the edges of each fabric piece, if you like, to keep them from unravelling.

Now, fold back one cut edge of the backing fabric and lay it down over the front of the pillow, right sides facing each other. Be sure to line up the 3 edges:

Next, lay the other backing piece over the top of all of this right sides facing each other. The pieces should overlap:

Pin the edges together and sew all the way around the pillow with a one half inch seam allowance:

Turn the pillow right side out and stick in your pillow form.

That one is finished.

Solid One-Piece Pillow:

Let’s make a simpler pillow next.

This one is made with one long continuous piece of fabric going across the width of the fabric.

I lay the original old pillow cover on my new fabric. You can also just use the pillow form if you like.

I fold the new fabric in thirds. Do you see how the white selvedges don’t line up and they overlap? That’s what you want.

Again, you can cut off the selvedges if you want.

You may need to cut them off if you are making a smaller pillow than I am here.

Because it’s one long piece of fabric, all you have to do is fold that fabric in thirds, just like in the photo above and pin it on the sides:

On this pillow cover, you only have to stitch down the two sides (because the other two sides are folded edges).

Use a half inch seam allowance again.

Turn the cover right side out.

Do you see how the one edge covers the other?

Insert the pillow form.

How long did this last one take you?

Six minutes?

Isn’t that awesome?

Make a few more and you’ll be set for the summer!


Sew Many Projects, Sew Little Time

I am working on a few detailed alteration posts which I hope to print soon, but in the meantime, I thought I’d get this off my mind….

I counted up my UFO’s (unfinished objects) today and there are over 30!

Isn’t that pathetic?

I can’t believe how far behind I get.

It was only four years ago that I had most of my projects sewn up.

Now look at me..I’m right back where I started!

How did that happen?

Here are a few things I have just sitting around patiently waiting for me to finish.

There’s the 1930’s reproduction fabric quilt:

I think I pieced this hummer together about ten years ago.

I finally began to machine quilt it a few months ago, but it’s not ready to put on the guest bed yet.

There are these half finished pin cushions:

They still need to be stuffed, have an oversized button sewn on, and some cute pins stuck into them.

Then, there’s this bag full of fabric that won’t fit in my cupboards where the rest of my stash lives:

Someday, I’m hoping to make them into aprons.

What about you?

Do you have UFO’s like this?

What projects do you have going right now?

Are you making Christmas presents?

I’d love to hear all about them and if you have photos, even better!

Just send me an e-mail at and I’ll post them if you want.

Happy Sewing!


Mending What the Dog Chewed Up (Part Two)

In the last post, we looked at a technique on How to Mend What the Dog Chewed Up, Part One.

But in that scenario, we used the first of two Vera Bradley bags that a customer brought to me to fix.

Her dog had chewed them both to pieces.

Today, let’s look at the other bag.

It has bigger issues.

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This big bite came out of the pocket on the front of the bag.

Good job, Fido!

This one needs some serious surgery.

So, we go to Plan B (Technique #2).

First, I hand sewed the area just to draw the raw edges closer together.

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Because there were holes all over this chew area, I had to cover the bite marks up!

I had some leftover seam binding in my notions box. You may find something similar in yours or you may have a scrap piece of fabric that you can use to cover this hole.

I like the seam binding because it comes with a prefolded edge to it.

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I cut it a little longer than the area I needed to cover.

Then, I trimmed the width, because it was wider than I needed too.

That’s the thing about alterations. You can use all sorts of odds and ends and make them work.

Then I stitched the long, unfolded edge of the seam binding to the edge of the bag.

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I sewed it right sides together and then flipped the scrap fabric over to make sure I had covered the torn edge with my stitches.

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Then I flipped the fabric patch to the other side of the bag and pinned it in place:

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Then I stitched close to the edge. Then, using the stitching technique from the first bag, I tightly stitched the ends as shown.

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If you don’t like how the tight stitches look at the ends, you can always turn under those short ends before you sew on the patch and then the last step would be to stitch straight across those ends.

But, I felt this bag needed the extra reinforcement.

And do you know what?

The customer called and profusely thanked me for making the bag look so good.

Wasn’t that sweet of her?

That kind of consideration just makes your day, doesn’t it?

Now, go and fix that ripped and torn item you’ve had sitting around for weeks or months.

It will make your day!


Cover a Foam Pad…Bench Seat Cover…Part One

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Today, I am going to show you how to cover a foam pad to make a bench seat cover. This process can be applied to covering any sized foam pad (cushions for a couch, chair, boat seat, outdoor furniture, etc.) All you need to know is how to sew a straight line and even if it isn’t perfectly straight, it’s a very forgiving process.

Be sure to read through the instructions completely before beginning your project. Again, this is Part 1.

Part 2: How To Make Piping

Part 3: How To Finish Covering Your Pad


First, you need to buy a piece of foam the length, width and thickness you want. Chances are, you won’t find foam in the perfect size, so, of course, you’ll need to get it larger than what your measurements are for the length and width  (but always try to buy the thickness you need. The thickness of the foam is quite difficult to cut down, but it is possible if you don’t have an alternative.) You can buy foam at a Joann Fabric store, Hancock’s, upholstery store, etc. Perhaps you can find it on the internet as well. Use an electric knife to cut it if you have one. Makes the job like slicing soft butter!

My customer asked me to make her a pad this week (above photo) and she had already bought the foam and cut it to size for me. If you are sewing for a customer, it is advisable that you have them do that step for you. That way, if there are any mistakes, you haven’t made them, which would cost you more.

Have the customer buy enough fabric for the project. To figure out how much fabric is needed, I like to draw the dimensions of each piece on a diagram that I have made.

If you don’t have time to figure the yardage, the clerks at the fabric store are usually very helpful. Keep in mind the width of the fabric in measuring. Upholstery fabric is usually 54″ wide. Don’t forget that you’ll need a thin strip of fabric to go all around the middle of the cushion as well.  If you or your customer want piping, add about 1 yard of fabric to the total. If you need 2 cushions, add about another 1/2 yard of fabric to the total for the piping. I will show you how to make piping in the next post (Part 2)

If you want to put piping in, buy the inside cording based on measuring around the entire rectangle on top and multiply that by two because you probably want cording around the bottom edge as well. Putting cording in is not difficult, but it does add a few steps, which we will go over in the next post.

Once you have the foam cut to the desired measurements, set it aside. Now prepare the fabric to be cut. If you are using a washable fabric, and it is made of cotton, you may want to prewash your fabric before cutting it out in case it shrinks next time you wash it. You are now going to cut the top of the cushion and the bottom of the cushion out of fabric. Note what the foam measurements were and add one inch to each of those measurements. This will give you 1/2″ seam allowances all the way around.

For instance, the foam for the pad I made measured 87 1/2″ long by 14 1/2″ wide. The foam was 2″ thick. So, I needed two pieces (one for the top of the cushion and one for the bottom) that each measure 88 1/2″ by 15 1/2″ wide. Do you see that I added the one inch of fabric all the way around giving me 1/2″ seam allowance?

***Before you cut the fabric, notice if there are any patterns on the fabric that you don’t want cut off and you want to follow. In the photo above, notice that I tried to center the pattern so that I didn’t cut off the important parts of the design. It actually looks like I had 2 main designs running down the middle of the cushion. Another way I could have cut it was to put one main pattern down the center of the pad. To do this, trace the pad shape out of something clear like one or two sheets of waxed paper taped together, so you can see through it. Lay that over the top perfectly positioning the fabric underneath it. Double check your measurements before you cut.

Once you have the two main pieces cut out, you’ll want to cut the long narrow strip that goes around the cushion and covers the thickness of the foam and separates the 2 pieces you just cut, when the pad is sewn together. To get that measurement, add the 2 side measurements to the 2 end measurements. In this case add: 87 1/2 + 87 1/2 +14 1/2 + 14 1/2 = 204″. Most likely, you don’t have a length of fabric tha i s 204″, so you’ll need to cut however many pieces you’ll need so that when the segments are sewn together, they’ll make a piece long enough to fit around the middle of the pad.

I had a piece of fabric 3 yards long (108″). I figured I needed to piece together 2 strips of fabric to equal 204″. (204 divided by 2 = 102″) So, the length of those strips when they were sewn together was 204″ But, I needed to add seam allowances, to both the length and the height of these strips before I cut the fabric. Because the foam is 2″ high, add an inch total to it (3″) and cut each strip of fabric to be 3″ x 103″.

Now you should have cut out from the fabric:

2 strips that are 3″ x 103″ and 2 rectangles that are 88 1/2″x 15 1/2″.

Now you are ready for Part 2: How To Make Piping.

If you do not want piping, skip ahead to Part 3: How To Finish Covering Your Foam Pad. 


Mending a bed sheet

Can you save the planet by mending one bed sheet? Probably not, but it will save you alot of money to do it yourself and repurpose it.

I have a large hole in one of my bedsheets. Typically, my washing machine eats these on a regular basis if I don’t have a full load. I could just zig zag over the hole, but that would not leave it flat and chances are, it would tear again very soon because it would be weak where I stitched it. This is what happened the last time I tried to fix it. (See photo below) I did put a plush piece of thermolam under the previous hole and tightly zig zagged over the rip, but it wasn’t stable enough with all the washings. SO, now we’re going to get serious.

sewing-blog-010Who wants a weak and wimpy bed sheet?

Wimpy, wimpy, wimpy.

Ok, here’s how to fix it. Get out a scrap piece of cloth that closely matches said bed sheet. Wait a minute, who is going to see this thing anyway? No one. So, get out any scrap piece of fabric, the crazier the better. The only recommendation I have is that you find a soft piece in case your little toes, fingers or nose rub up against it in the night.

Mine has to match because my mom was a neat freak and I inherited the gene, and even though she’ll never see it because she’s been gone 15 years, this is how it has to be.

Hey, you never forget what your mom taught you.

First, cut the fabric to be a little larger than the area you are mending. Now, if you have a serger, serge around the edges of the scrap. If you have a regular sewing machine, zig zag around all the edges. Now, pin the patch over the hole. Your pins should be perpendicular to the line that you will sew. This is so when you get close to the pin, a) you can pull it out easily and b) if you do happen to run over the pin, chances are better that you won’t break your needle.

Actually, don’t run over your pins! It’s a bad habit.


Plus, if you sew over pins, I recommend wearing eye protection: glasses or goggles of some sort.

I’ve had a few pins and needles break and one got awfully close to my left eyeball. That was enough to convince me that eye protection is so important.

The next step is to sew around the perimeter of the patch close to the edge. If you feel the need, sew around the patch a second time.

sewing-blog-012Then, stitch across the patch (just eyeball it…remember no one is gong to see this because you’re not going to use these for guest sheets, right? Right.)

sewing-blog-015Then, turn the patch the other direction and stitch across in vertical rows going this way. Now it looks like a sewn grid. Perfect. That’s how you want it to look.


Now, if you want it to be super durable (and I should think you do. After all, it’s alot easier now than down the road. For heaven’s sake, you already have it under the machine!) Repeat the process entirely by putting another patch on the other side of the sheet, covering all the work you just did and do it again. If you’re particular, do the backside first and then the front. If you do it that way, you’ll see this (photo above) on the top side.

Now, get out there and do some arm bending sheet mending!

And here’s a post if you want to learn How to permanently fix a mattress pad.