I got a new couch a while back, and it’s a long story, but I ended up with two sets of cushions with it. The fabric from the extra set has long since been used, but what about the extra foam pieces themselves? They had been hanging around for way too long, getting passed around among various family members, each thinking they might have a use for them. Well, they recently rotated back to me (they were mine originally anyway), and a good idea finally came to me for what to do with them. I ended up refashioning them into a tri-folding futon mattress that folds up into a chair. While the mattress is a little on the narrow side, it works well enough for a guest to crash on for a night. Family often come to stay with us, which means we really can’t have too many places for people to sleep. We already have a queen-size futon in one room, the couch I got was a sofa sleeper, but when people come to visit, we often still end up with someone begrudgingly having to set up camp on the hardwood floor. That can’t be comfy.
So I sat down and came up with a design for remaking my old couch cushions into a tri-fold futon.
Here’s what I came up with.
And here it is folded out into a bed.
The tricky part was in figuring out that it mattered whether the folding joints were at the top of the cushion or the bottom. One joint has to be at the top and one needs to be at the bottom for it to fold properly. Also, other chairs I’ve seen like this didn’t have all 3 cushions the same size, which makes it easier for it to fold up into a chair. I had to leave a gap about the size of the height of the cushion to accommodate the back folding vertically and resting against the other two cushions.
I didn’t really think ahead about offering a tutorial, I was just in the zone and powering through without stopping to take pictures (I always DO that, sorry!), but I’ll do my best to describe what I did.
There are 3 cushions: the foot, the middle, and the head.
For the foot, I cut two rectangle pieces that fit the sides of the cushion (don’t forget to allow for seams!), and one long one cut the width of the cushion that started at the top and wrapped all the way around the cushion to meet itself again at the top corner. I sewed the small rectangles to the large piece, leaving the last short side open so I could get the cushion in. It should look like this but with the edge left open, so you can turn the edges inside. Note that the un-sewn part is at the top. This is important.
Now, onto the middle cushion. Cut two more rectangle pieces to fit the sides of the cushion, and two pieces for the middle. Each piece should cover the length and fold over to cover the height too.
Sew the pieces to the sides, making sure to leave the “tabs” on the outside. There should be one set of raw edges on the floor side, and one set of raw edges on the upper side. I hand basted them closed with the raw edges on the outside like this so they were easier to work with later.
And for the head, also cut one more set of rectangles to fit the sides, and a long piece that wraps all the way around the cushion, like the foot cushion, but with about 18” inches extra in length. You’ll need it to look like this when it’s done.
And now for the hand sewing part: the assembly.
The middle cushion has two sets of raw edges on the outside, one at the top, and one along the floor. Tuck that raw edge on the top side (not the floor side) of the seam into the slot on the foot cushion (where you tucked the edges in earlier) and sew it together. Your finished joint should look like this.
Then, turn the raw edges in on the head cushion, tuck the other raw edge from the middle cushion into the open slot from the head cushion, and sew that one as well.
Here’s what it should look like.
That gap is important because it allows you to fold the back up vertically, but if you don’t care if it folds up to be a chair, you don’t need that space.
And finally, you might want to add some Velcro tabs to hold the back up in a sitting position and some Velcro between the head and middle cushion to keep them from migrating apart when someone’s sleeping on it. Or you could be lazy like me and just push it up against the wall and hope the fitted sheet keeps the mattress from migrating apart where the gap is. That works too.