Cushions are not only a fun way to add color, but they are highly useful as additional seating, a way to add height to a seat, as a back prop or to provide a different elevation for someone lying down. Bigger than a pillow, they are known as "soft furnishings."
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The History of Cushions
The Romans designed a cushion cradle to elevate their heads to maintain perfectly coiffed hairstyles. In the Colosseum, seats were marble bleachers, and Roman citizens sat on cushions of wood. The patrician senators had real cushions, which later became folding chairs. And when a defendant was summoned to the Roman court, the plaintiff had a choice as to whether to put cushions in his arrival carriage, according to the Twelve Tablets of law.
In Asia, meditation was done on a "zafy," a low, round cushion that was filled with kapok, tree seedpods. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City has a velvet cushion cover that is brocaded with metal thread, a beautiful piece from the Ottoman period (17th century) that was used to decorate divans---a type of lounging area---popular in aristocratic households.
Cushions played a part in the coronation ceremony of the kings and queens of England in the 14th century, as dictated in the "laying of the King Before the Altar" tradition in which cushions of silk and gold were laid on the pavement awaiting his royal personage.
Christians who attend church and pray on their knees are happy that companies like Cokesbury, which calls its site "Resources for the Christian Journey," make pew cushions.
Even today floor cushions are a terrific way to eat at a low table, Japanese style, or to accommodate guests and children who prefer a down-low viewpoint. Constructed in sturdy fabrics and with covers of chenille or woven tapestry, they will hold their shape and provided some much-needed comfort from a wood, tile, laminate or even carpeted floor.
Bolster pillows are just what their name dictates: They are functional, round pillows in a log shape that provide support to the back of the neck or can even act as baby crib bumpers.
Bench and Chair Cushions
Like church pew cushions, bench cushions are meant to cover plain wooden surfaces with a cushion to give your backside some relief against the hard, flat seat.
Chair cushions are even made for the ubiquitous, rented Chiavari chairs that are used for large events and weddings. The cushion has ties that attach it to the back leg chair supports.
Other Cushion Types
Window seat cushions make a cozy nest for reading books, rocking chair cushions add that much more comfort to restless legs, and chaise cushions can take a lounge chair from average to sumptuous when upholstered with down.
Special wheelchair cushions give much relief to people who cannot move around and who develop pressure sores. Farmers also have special cushions for their tractors when they intend on spending a lot of hours "in the saddle."
A cushion has basically a couple styles: a box type, which generally has a foam core and is shaped like a low box, or the plain edge style, also called a "knife edge," consisting of front and back only.
Cushions have quite a few fabrications. There is a special edge finish with self-piping---cording in the same fabric put between seams; a knife edge, which has nothing; a flange edge, which has the fabric folded over and stitched; shirred edge, in which the fabric is puckered, pleated or ruffled; and an envelope-type closure.