Are you in the midst of building out your perfect van, but not quite sure what fabric is best for your cushions?
Building out a camper van often means becoming a jack of all trades. You’ll learn to be an electrician, plumber, upholsterer, carpenter, and designer. And yes, professional cushion cover maker!
Let us demystify the world of camper van cushion covers for you. We have laid out everything you need to know to ensure your cushions look great and last forever. And you RV cushions folks can use these tips as well!
In this post we will review several factors that you will want to consider when choosing the materials for your van cushions.
Here are the top qualities to look out for when you’re choosing the right cushion fabric for your camper van cushions.
When choosing your cushion covers it is important to decide how durable your cushions will need to be. If you have children or a dog that will be in your camper van, or if you plan on renting it out at any point, durability will be the number one thing to look out for in your van build.
Look for upholstery fabrics which will make cushion covers that are not only stain and tear resistant, but also UV resistant and moisture resistant as well.
So many van lifers are living full time in their rigs these days. When you turn your small space into a full-time rolling home, even the tiniest details like having nice couch cushions in your van can make a huge difference. Just a small amount of research and you'll have a fabric you will be glad to use on a daily basis in your camper van.
If your van cushions are uncomfortable or itchy because you picked the wrong fabric, it can very quickly degrade your quality of living. Especially when it is time to sleep or lay in bed!
Think about how the cushion material will feel. When using your van cushions, consider what it will be like if you’re in shorts or pants. How will the fabric feel when it is blisteringly hot or bitter cold outside?
Whether buying or making your own camper van cushions, it's important to take into everything and anything that can enhance or ruin your comfort level.
Keeping a van clean is a never ending project. Mud, dust, bugs and people will be frequently entering your van, surface areas, and even your bed. So choosing cushions with the right upholstery fabric that is forgiving will be a game changer.
Consider darker colors or patterns. We recommend you stick to stark white instead of an off white or gray color for your cushions if you prefer that crisp airy look. This will allow you to use bleach without leaving your cushion fabric looking patchy.
With all of these things considered, here are our top pics of cushion fabrics to choose from! Couple these with some good high density foam (or medium density if you prefer to sink into your cushions) and you have a great set of DIY cushions!
Marine grade fabrics will ensure you are getting top quality fabrics that will last a lifetime. They are UV resistant, water resistant and stain resistant. These fabrics when used to make cushion covers are the toughest materials you can make your cushions out of.
The top brands of marine grade fabrics that we recommend are:
Sunbrella fabrics are 100% solution-dyed acrylic, this means that they will never fade in your camper van. Every one of their fabrics, regardless of color, can be bleached without ruining the color as well. They are perfect if you plan to keep your windows open on sunny days and are anticipating lots of traffic in and out of your camper.
The Sunbrella fabrics are also very easy to sew when making DIY camper cushions. You won’t need any special industrial sewing equipment to work with them. All of the Sunbrella fabrics come with a 5 year warranty, so you’ll have the peace of mind knowing your investments are protected.
One downside to this fabric is that it can be more pricey than some of the traditional fabrics available. Even on a modest budget, spending a lot of money on just cushion material can put a dent in your budget. However, if you are just looking for a top quality material— you will not be disappointed with Sunbrella for your DIY cushions.
Causeway fabrics are marine grade, but also budget friendly for your camper van. They are acrylic topped, meaning they will keep their color for a long time if you are using them to make cushion covers.
They come with a three year warranty, but are also built to withstand the toughest outdoor conditions. This means this cushion fabric should have no issues lasting a lifetime in a camper van. You can use it for all kinds of upholstery as well.
Causeway fabrics do only come in 16 different colors, but they are all easy to wash and clean while boasting comfortability.
If you love the look and feel of leather but don't want to pay the price or add to the economic impact of producing leather for your camper van— Silleather may be the best choice for your DIY camper cushions!
They are also marine grade upholstery, so they are built to last a lifetime. They are also ethically produced while boasting the highest standards for durability, stain resistance and cleanability.
To read more about how Silleather is doing its part to reduce their economic impact, read here!
Vinyl is commonly used for patio furniture and is known to be relatively durable in a camper van upholstery. Although it isn’t as durable as leather or some marine grade fabrics, it is incredibly affordable and easy to work with.
If you’re looking to reduce your carbon footprint, vinyl may not be the best upholstery choice for you. Also, vinyl can get pretty hot!
Overall however, it is a solid choice for your camper van conversion and a great way to save money on your van build. Cutting into shape using your exact dimensions is really easy since it can be laid flat.
Leather is a luxurious, durable, and fashionable choice for your camper van cushions. It is stain resistant and can withstand some of the toughest situations van life will throw at it.
One gripe many van lifers have about leather camper cushions is that they are very cold in the winter, and sweaty in the summers.
Denim is a very easy material to work with for van cushions , making it a great choice for a beginner camper van build. Denim is also low cost! It is also fairly simple to get exact measurements cut and sewn. It is durable and easy to clean.
Cushion covers made with denim however won't last quite as long as some of the other options on this list, but it is incredibly affordable.
Remember that your camper van cushions will need to endure quite a lot of traffic and dirt. Regardless of what fabric you decide is right for you— you’ll want to ensure you’re assembling your cushions properly.
Some van lifers will opt to make their cushions in a no-sew manner. This is not recommended because of just how much your cushions will have to endure. If this is your first van, you'll realize why very soon. Plus, these methods require stapling your fabric to rigid boards— this makes them even tougher to clean.
Use a sewing machine if possible when making your own camper van cushions. Have tools like an un-picker for times that you may have made a few mistakes. Sometimes you'll need it more than you think! A good knife makes cutting better too! Sewing isn't easy, especially if you have never done it!
Pick the right stuffing for your covers. Remember, if using foam, remember to use two pieces. You can use a high density foam on the bottom, and medium density foam for the top. It will help with the durability of the cushion material. If laying the cushion on slats, it will prevent the cushion from caving on one side. Once you live in your camper van for a while, you will be glad you did ahead of time.
Before permanently sewing it all together, get some samples and test out the stuffing, foam and fabric. Get a feel for how they will make your van life better or worse.
Don't make it too bulky! It's easy to get caught up in wanting all the creature comforts of home. However, as you build your van you will notice that sometimes it will be a tight fit if you sew something too bulky. Measure and remeasure so you get the exact dimensions you need. Just like any tiny home, it's very important that you plan for comfort and usability of the space.
If you choose to use any kind of softer fabric material, be sure you have sewed in long zippers so the cushion covers can easily be removed and washed. Remember, if you are trying to match your pillows and mattress covers, a softer material will be easier to use all around.
If you’re sewing vinyl or a leather kind of material, just be sure you’re choosing something that can withstand water and stains. You don't want to spend money on covers that can't handle van life!