New Westfalia bench covers will transform the vibe inside your van. And you can do it without altering the original material, too. Bench covers were the first interior DIY project we took on (with the help from my dear mama!), and once they were done, it instantly felt like home.
These covers are a lot like fitted bed sheets. I didn’t want to constantly be tucking loose fabric under the bench or down the sides, so two covers (one for the top bench panel and one for the bottom) with elastic backs was the solution.
I used a thick, sturdy cotton-blend (with a pattern that reminds Coleman of the ranch he grew up on) because we use this bench a lot. Yes, it’s for transporting passengers, but this part of the van is also our couch, our bed, and our kitchen seats.
The original material from 1983 was still installed in our Westy when we bought it, which is awesome, but you could tell it had gone on its fair share of adventures with owners’ past. Plus, we wanted something that felt like us.
Step one: Measure (and measure again, just to be safe)
The first, and most important step, is to measure both the top and bottom bench–the top piece is actually two inches smaller than the bottom.
My measurements for our 1983 Westy bench cover were:
Top panel: 17″ x 45″ x 4″; bottom panel: 19″ x 45″ x 4″.
Step two: Add extra length to your measurements
Once you have the measurements of your bench pieces, you’ll need to add three additional measurements to your total. This is because you’ll be cutting out square from each of the four corners, so there isn’t bulky, leftover fabric. Don’t worry, I’ll explain that step soon.
- Backside wrap-around: You’ll want to add two inches to each side’s final measurement. This accounts for the fabric that will wrap around the underside of both the top and bottom bench.
- Corner cut aways: Next, you’re going to add 7.5″ inches for for each corner that you’ll cut access fabric from.
- Elastic seam: In addition to that, add another two inches for the seam you’ll sew, which is where the elastic will be wove through.
Step three: Take a deep breath, and cut yo’ fabric
The print on the fabric I had picked ended up being incredibly helpful because of the straight horizontal lines. I used them as a guide to make my snips.
Around all edges, I used pinking shears (ya know, those scissors that have sawtooth-like blades) to stop the material from fraying. You could fold your fabric a quarter of an inch and sew along the edge, but I prefer pinking shears; it’s quick, and I like the zig-zag look… though you won’t actually see any of this part when it’s complete.
Step five: Measure and cut out corners of excess fabric
This part is magical. In order to make each corner fit snugly on your Westfalia bench, you’ll need to cut a square out of all four corners of your rectangular piece of fabric. This way, you won’t end up with any extra bulk.
I pinned along my measurement, so I had a guide to follow. (And yet, I still managed to cut a wiggly line. Oops.) At this point, the extra squares can be discarded (I tried to convince Coleman to use one as a pocket square).
Step six: Fold the outside corner of each square together, pin, and sew
Fold the bottom outside corner of each square together–one by one–so the good sides of your fabric are touching. (In other words, the underside of the material is facing you.) Sew along from top to bottom. Or bottom to top. Do this for each corner. When you turn the fabric right side out, you will have made four cozy pockets. Hooray!
Step seven: Sew a pocket and maneuver the elastic eastbound and down
Next, sew a one-and-a-half-inch pocket around the bottom perimetre of your fabric. This is what your elastic will live inside of. This is also what will keep the cover all nice and tight around your bench seat. But wait! Leave a three-inch opening, so you have an entry point for the elastic.
I used a safety pin to guide the elastic through the fabric tunnel. I recommending taping the pin closed before it through. (Mine popped open and I spent a frustrated 20 minutes blindly feeling around inside of the pocket and pinning the elastic again.)
Step eight: Stitch the elastic into its home forever, and ever
Once you’ve wiggled the elastic through the entire pocket, sew the two lose ends together. You want to make sure the elastic is tight enough that it stays put, but lose enough that you can get it over each seat. Hand stitch or sew closed the three-inch opening.
Step nine: Bask in you new bench cover and all its glory
This part is pretty easy. Slip on each cover, making sure to really tuck in the fabric between the metal on the back bottom right and left sides of the bench, next to the walls. It’s tricky, but just be patient working the fabric cover those two corners. The seat belts still easily fit between the seats, too.