Get You Van Ready For Summer: Camper Cushions

By Claire Smail

 Here by the coast everyone loves their vans and in fact campervans are so ideal for the perfect surfing get away that Saltrock recently teamed up with O’Connors Campers to offer an amazing opportunity to win a dream holiday in one of O’Connors fifteen Splitscreen classic or modern campervans.  

The idea of being able to go away camping in a fully kitted out campervan with not only a bed and a bit of storage  but seating, table, cooker, fridge and other leisure time luxuries got me thinking about my van…

This summer I want to be able to go further and camp for longer. Thanks to a bit of pine and plywood I have a bed with storage boxes underneath. Courtesy of a roof strap I have a way of fixing my longboards along the ceiling of my van and with the odd bit of Velcro, plywood sections, an old pair of curtains and curtain wire I have a rudimentary shutter system.  What I don’t really have are the luxuries of comfortable seating, dining or cooking areas, especially if it is raining.  I am beginning to think these relatively essential additions could make camping in the UK far more appealing. 

After some thought and a chat with my more practically minded Dad, I have come up with a plan, the plan being to leave my Dad to start thinking about how to construct a table, cooking area and for me to do what I know best, some sewing to create a seating area.  

I have decided what I need is some good looking camper cushions!

Firstly, I need some fabric which will not cost me much but have the beach look I am going for.  You can find some great fabrics online but I wanted to get making straight away as it is a rather rainy looking day today.  This got me thinking, with the t-shirt weather becoming more regular the other week I decided to revamp my summer wardrobe with an afternoon of shopping and to find space for all these new clothes I now have a pile of t-shirts that I will no longer wear but I still really like the prints on them.  Now t-shirt fabric is a stretched cotton, so it is not the usual fabric I would use to make cushion covers out of because it is not as hard wearing as other types of fabric and the stretch in the jersey cotton can make it slightly harder to sew. However after rummaging through the pile I found a few medium and large sized, really good quality thick 100% cotton t-shirts that had the perfect printed designs on them.

To make the perfect up-cycled t-shirt campervan cushion...

You will need:

Medium or Large 100% Cotton T-shirt (I’m using a men’s t-shirt as it will contain enough fabric to make the front and back of the cushion)

A standard size square, Polyester filled Cushion inner (mine is 44cmX44cm)

Fabric Scissors

Cotton thread (in the same colour as your t-shirt)

Measuring tape


Sewing machine


How to make your Camper Cushion:

Firstly, lay out the t-shirt (make sure it is as flat as possible and the front and back match up evenly) and check that it is big enough to cover the cushion inner.

To create the front of the cushion you need to lay the cushion inner over the printed part of the cushion that you like (try to not put the cushion right up again any of the seams as they are likely to show on your finished cushion).

By pressing the cushion inner down to flatten it out you will get its full, flat size (which will be bigger than its more 3D, stuffed size). Flatten one side and mark where that edge comes to on the t-shirt with a pin through the shirt. I have used three pins on each edge to mark the size of the cushion.

Then put the cushion inner to one side. Looking at the location of your pins, do they create an accurate 44cmx44cm square? I measure first each side of the square to check this and then measure down from each shoulder seams to check it is also central on the cushion (if the cushion front is not central you might find you cut out your cushion front diagonally across the natural vertical and horizontally grain of the fabric which can make the cushion stretch very unevenly).

Once you are happy with the 44cmx44cm square of fabric you need to mark on your seam allowance (or your cushion will actually end up smaller than 44cm by the time you have sewn it). Place one long edge of the fabric tape measure along an edge and draw down the parallel side using a pencil or tailors chalk. Do this around each side to form a slightly larger square. 

Making sure both layers of the t-shirt are still flat and in line with each other you can cut down the sides of the cushion front, cut from the shoulder seam all the way down to the bottom hem (as this will start to create the back of the cushion as well). At this point DO NOT cut across the top or bottom on the t-shirt.

First, unfold the back section of the t-shirt/cushion. Then when you know you only have the single layer of the front fabric you can cut across the top and bottom of the square. This will give you the cushion front.

The cushion back needs to be a longer piece of fabric as it is going to be made out of two over lapping pieces. This will enable the cushion inner to be taken in and out for washing. I am going to create quite a large overlap of fabric for this back because the t-shirt fabric is a little thinner and stretcher than usual cushion fabric and so can tend to curl up on its self. 

Lay out the back piece of fabric. We want to keep the lower hem but need to cut off the excess fabric at the shoulders and neck. To do this, draw a straight line just under the lowest part of the neck and cut along it. This will give you a large rectangle of fabric. Fold this is half and cut it into two pieces.

The t-shirt’s bottom hem is going to make one of the back of the cushions opening seams. To sew the other one you need to fold one of the longest edges over by two 2cm and pin. Then stitch along it first with a straight stitch and afterwards with a zig zag stitch to help accommodate the stretch, stop any fraying and make it stronger.

Now that you have hemmed both sides of the cushion opening you can start to put the whole cushion together.

Place the cushion front down with the printing side facing you (so you can see the nice design), then lay the first top, back piece on top and over the front piece. The sewn edge of the back piece should end up in the middle of the cushion. This folded over and sewn edge should be visible to you at this stage.

Then repeat the process and lay the second back piece from the bottom edge, then over the other two pieces of fabric.

You now need to pin along each edge to hold the layers of fabric together. I have used about three pins on each edge. I have also just put a pin through the centre of the cushion to hold the opening in line.

At this point you could redraw the 1.5cm seam line using your tap measure or you could just use the guides on the sewing machine.

Using straight stitch you need to sew around the four edges of the cushion (I take the pins out before I get to them). Once completed, I then go around a second time with the zig zag stitch to tidy it all up. Take it out the machine, remove any remaining pins and turn the cushion the right way round.

Now the cushion is ready to be stuffed with the cushion inner. Once this is done your cushion is complete and ready for the van.