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How to DIY Camper Van Cushions & Covers

This post will teach you how to make your camper van cushions from scratch. These are the cushions you sit on when you’re eating or working and the cushions you sleep on at night.

We often don’t realize how often we use our van cushions daily.

Day in and day out, they receive a lot of wear and tear. So, we think ensuring the cushions are appropriately made with the best materials is essential.

Woman working on a laptop inside a camper van
Yuko working and sitting on our van cushions

Keep reading to learn how to:

  • Select the best cushion material
  • Cut the cushion material to size
  • Choose the best fabric covers
  • Sew (Kidding! We got a sewist.)
Woman laying on a foam mattress inside an unfinished DIY camper van conversions
Seven separate foam cushions make up our camper van mattress

Step 1: Select Van Cushion Material

Making your own camper van cushions starts with selecting a suitable inner material.

We’re looking for a material that is:

  • Comfortable to sit & sleep on
  • Lightweight
  • Easy to cut
  • Affordable

That’s why getting a foam mattress provides the best material for your DIY camper cushions. It is a high-density foam that will last you years.

We suggest getting a 5″ thick foam mattress so tour bum won’t reach the hard plywood bench below the cushions.

Best Mattress Pick
Linenspa 5" Gel Memory Foam Mattress
$185.77

This high-quality, gel-infused mattress has been supporting our bodies for 4+ years. It's lightweight and easy to cut so that you can shape it to fit your van's unique dimensions.

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02/18/2024 06:05 pm GMT

Step 2: Cut Cushion Material to Size

Because the foam mattress cushion we recommended above arrives as a single unit, you’ll need to cut the foam to the exmensions you need to fit in your van.

The common budget solution is to take an ordinary serrated knife or box cutter and start sawing away at the foam. We can tell you from experience that this is a huge mistake. Using a knife will give you messy, jagged edges, and getting clean 90-degree angle cuts is tough.

Using an electrical carving knife is a 500% better option here. Your cuts will be faster and cleaner. See if a neighbor has one. Someone always does.

Otherwise, it’s only about $20 online.

Best For Cutting Foam
Electric Carving Knife
$48.50 ($48.50 / Count)

This electric carving knife easily cuts through foam mattresses. With this knife, it's super simple to cut smooth, straight lines. We tried using a standard serated bread knife, but it was surprisingly hard to make high-quality cuts.

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02/18/2024 03:47 am GMT

Foam Cutting Tips

Cutting a foam mattress isn’t rocket science. But here are some valuable tips to know beforehand:

  1. Trace the dimensions of each cushion piece with a marker and ruler. These will be your cut lines.
  2. Before cutting, make sure your blade is pointed straight down to ensure you’ll be making a 90-degree angle.
  3. Go slow! Being meticulous goes a long way to getting great, accurate results.

Step 3: Select Cushion Cover Fabric

You’ll be sitting and laying on your camper van cushions EVERY DAY. Therefore, you need to get a durable fabric cover that can withstand normal life’s regular wear and tear.

So, when you’re wandering the aisles of the local fabric store, make sure to look for an ‘upholstery-grade’ fabric with a high double-rub count.

What Is A ‘Double Rub’? Double rubs are used to measure the durability of a fabric. The higher the double rub count, the more resistant the fabric is to the ‘wear and tear’ of everyday use. Specifically, one double rub is counted as one back-and-forth motion.

In our van, our cushion fabric is rated for 50,000 double rubs.

If you’re in the USA, Joann’s has a large selection of upholstery fabrics. This is where we picked up our cushion fabric.

Fabric Color

While selecting a bright and light cushion fabric color may be tempting, it’s important to know that it’s easy to carry dust and dirt into a camper van. This is especially true if, like us, you have a pet.

Cat sitting on camper van cushions
Cat paws on our cushions?!

So, selecting a relatively darker fabric color is a good idea to hide dirt stains that will inevitably form during van life.

Not sure what color fabric to use? Create your own van interior color scheme with this post.

Step 4: Sewing Your Cushion Covers

Err…we didn’t actually do this part and instead hired a seamstress to sew our cushion covers together. Your local sewing enthusiast store should have a listing of all available seamstresses for hire in the area.

In fact, this was the only part of our DIY van build where we contracted out the work to someone else.

But if you’re on a budget and need to sew the cushion covers yourself, the video below offers some good insight.

How to Make Cockpit Cushions - Box Cushions

How To Care for Cushion Covers

If you selected an upholstery-grade fabric with a high double-rub count, chances are the fabric is made of 100% polyester. This is what we use.

Once every few months, we remove our cushion covers and machine wash cold. If possible, we prefer to air dry our covers under the sun. But if that’s not possible, we’ll tumble dry these covers under a low heat setting.

To spot clean, we’ll either use baby wipes or sprinkle some baking soda on the stain and dab it up a few minutes later.

Related Read: How to Make A Convertible Bed In A Camper Van

Conclusion

We hope you found this DIY van cushion post educational and inspiring.

We’re confident you can get through this process without much difficulty. The most important things to remember is to:

  1. Select a foam material that is thick and dense enough to support your weight adequately
  2. Select an appropriate cushion cover fabric that can withstand heavy use daily.

Please let us know in the comments section below if you have any other questions.

Happy sewing!

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