I knew before starting this project that it might be beyond my sewing skills but given the price point when I searched French Mattresses on Etsy, I figured it was worth a shot. After much googling and a trip down the rabbit hole that is YouTube’s how to videos, I had a general sense of the steps needed to make my French Mattress.
While there are many great tutorials on how to construct a French mattress, the two primary ones that I used as my guide in making my cushion were:
She Holds Dearly | French Mattress Cushion Tutorial : This video was a great overall tutorial on all of the steps used to create a French Mattress.
Online Fabric Store | How to Make a French Mattress Cushion : I liked the way they did the stitching in this video tutorial and used it as my stitching guide.
Eventually, I had to stop researching how to do it and just jump into the project. My first stop was Marden’s Surplus and Salvage which is a chain of discount retail stores in Maine with the tag line, “I should have bought it, when I saw it, at Marden’s…” It is an accurate slogan. Their merchandise is always turning over and the deals are amazing. Their Portland, Maine store has an extensive fabric and notions section.
On my visit, I found everything I needed for my French mattress at an amazing price. Being unsure as to how this project would turn out, I was relieved not to spend a lot on the supplies. I found an upholstery material in a striped pattern to give the mattress a slightly sophisticated ticking feel along with a 2″ foam cushion and batting for the base. I was ready to go.
When I got home, I needed to cut the cushion to the size of the bench which was 12″x 36″. I used a square ruler to mark off the size with with a sharpie and then I was ready to cut. Most tutorials recommend using an electric bread knife for this step. Since I don’t own one, I initially tried using a regular bread knife with a serrated edge. This went extremely poorly. After less than an inch of cutting, I gave up and switched over to my sewing shears. While I had to do a little maneuvering to get the scissors at the angle I needed to make my cuts, it was manageable. If I were working with a thicker cushion, I don’t think I would have been able to use the scissors but fortunately they worked for the 2″ foam.
The next step was attaching the batting around the cushion. Most tutorials recommend using spray glue to attach the batting. All the cans of spray glue that I own, and there are many, were clogged and not actually spraying so I ended up just using white glue to attach the batting. I held it in place with straight pins while the glue dried.
The materials sat on my kitchen table for about a week. I was intimidated by the stripes in the fabric that I had select. I couldn’t quite figure out the best way to cut the material for my box cushion and have everything match correctly. I never did find a solution even after many evenings spent googling the issue. It was time to jump in without a plan.
If you want to make a box cushion, I highly recommend you find another tutorial This is not going to be helpful in the least on how to make one correctly. I didn’t make a pattern. I barely measured my fabric. I pinned it around the cushion and drew a rough line to follow on the sewing machine. I hand sewed three sides using a blind stitch after wrapping the fabric around the cushion because it was more accurate than trying to do my “rough seams”.
Miraculously, I ended up with a serviceable box cushion. It did have one wonky corner that I undid the sewing on and tried to make a little more square. Unfortunately, I’d trimmed the material too much and only had a little bit of leeway in my adjustment. Knowing I would be doing the French mattress stitching around the edges, I hoped I’d be able to hide the mistake.
While the tutorials recommend marking the mattress stitching along the edges, I ended up using my tape measure as I went along the edge to keep things spaced mostly even. I used about 1 1/4″ between the stitches with a 1″ space on the top and bottom to make my tuft. While the striped fabric was challenging when sewing the actual cushion, it ended up being extremely helpful when hand sewing around the edges. I had stripes to guide me with making even stitches.
I spent the next four nights working my way around the outer edges. I’ll never again say that the cost of buying a French Mattress on Etsy is too high. If anything, I think they’re undercharging.
Because I was working on a smaller cushion, I was able to do this stitching by hand without much difficulty. I know a lot of sites recommend gloves, or other hand protection as it can really be painful on the hands but I didn’t have any issues. Well, there was one small incident where I drew blood. I didn’t feel it and fortunately, realized just as I was starting to bleed all over the fabric. I caught my nick in the nick of time.
The basic stitch that I used is shown below:
Step 1) Pinch the material together with your fingers and push the needle through leaving about an inch on both the top and bottom. The thread should be doubled up.
Step 2) Bring the needle back through the top about 1/4″ from where it came out on the top.
Step 3) Come out in the same place you came into the fabric on the bottom.
Step 4) Use a slip knot to tie the thread together. Pull the stitching tight to create the bunched mattress edge. Add additional knots to reinforce.
Step 5) Use the need to pull the extra thread back into the cushion. Push the needle in behind the knot and come out anywhere on the top. I usually did two threads at a time using this method.
Step 6) Pull the thread tight and then cut close to the fabric. The thread will disappear back into the mattress.
After stitching the outer edges of the top and bottom of the cushion, I was excited to see that I had the makings of a decent French Mattress. Even my wonky corner was barely visible under all the edge stitching.
I still need to add the tufting to the center to give it the full French mattress look but I need to think on that piece a bit. I’m not sure my fabric weave will stand up to the upholstery thread being used to tighten the tuft so I’m leaning towards adding buttons.
The thing is I’ve never used upholstery buttons so it’s back to that YouTube rabbit hole for me.
Do you like the look of a French mattress?
I’m participating in a Blogging A-Z Challenge for April 2021. I will be posting new content every day this month except most Sundays. Each post is associated with a letter of the alphabet, starting with A and ending with Z. My theme for the challenge is Craft Projects for my Home. To read more of my A to Z posts from this year, click HERE.