Introduction: Sew Furniture Slipcovers
This is where learning to sew can save you big bucks. My local upholstery shop wanted to charge me $1,200 just for removable slip covers LABOR - not including the cost of fabric! They said same price if they just totally reupholstered it. Apparently it is the same amount of labor for them. Their version would have the piping along the seams as in the original chair - which I could have done but...
I started with the ottoman and decided that I could see how it turned out without any piping. I was pleased and so was my daughter! If I change my mind later, I can seam rip and re-sew, adding in piping. While I'm an experienced sewist, this was my first foray into anything of this kind so I didn't want to get too bogged down with piping if it wasn't necessary. I think if my fabric was anything else other than plushy, it might have needed piping to give it structure.
If you want to know how to make and add piping to a seam, please see my "Ombre Denim Throw Pillow" tutorial (link below). Piping on furniture covers works exactly the same way as on a pillow - see Step 5:
(And the piping part of the pillow in the video of the Denim Ombre Throw Pillow starts at 3:02 if you want to watch how the piping was made. Scroll to the introduction step in the pillow Instructable to find the video link.)
This chair's home is in the corner of my daughter's bedroom and she is THRILLED. Her number one past time is reading good books and this chair is so inviting, soft and comfy... and now beautiful too!
I ordered 12 yards of fabric simply because that's how much the upholstery shop told me I would need if I went with their services. You can measure every surface and add up the yardage. Then give yourself 2 extra yards just in case. My fabric nap runs two ways so I didn't have to worry about which way it ended up - there was no "upside down" to the fabric - only a sideways because of how the plushy "cords" run. If you have a pattern that runs one way in its pattern or has a nap, you will need extra.
Also, the great thing about having some extra even without a nap is that I can replace a stained or worn panel down the road if needed. Or just make a matching doggy bed. (Yes, a puppy might be in our future!)
- Upholstery weight fabric (12 yards)
- Matching Thread (could use a heavier weight thread but I used regular!)
- Tape Measure
- Sewing machine
- Walking foot (yes, make the $50 investment - you won't regret it! For layers and bulky fabric.)
- Heavier weight machine needle (like for denim)
- Butcher paper (to trace/make pattern piece for seat cushion
- Twill tape, 3/4" wide is fine but 1/2 or 1" can work as well (optional)
- Cording (optional - only if you want piping)
- 2 yards additional fabric (optional if you opt for piping - to cover the piping)
Step 1: Measure Ottoman, Cut Fabric
When I'm facing a huge project, I find it's always good to start with a small win for encouragement, if possible. So I started with the ottoman since it's pretty straightforward - basically a rectangle that's "cubed."
So first, measure every surface of your ottoman, writing down dimensions as you go then adding 5/8" seam allowance x2 since you need that much extra on both sides.
It looked like this:
TOP: 27 1/2" (+5/8 x2) by 21" (+5/8 x2) = 28 3/4" by 22 1/4" or another way to say is
28.75" x 22.25" actual fabric cut
FRONT & BACK (cut 2) Same width as longer top side (28 3/4") by 13 3/4" (is 12 1/2 + 1 1/4)
SIDES (cut 2) Same width as shorter top side (22 1/4") by 13 3/4"
Make sure your lines (or pattern) are running the way you want. Then measure and cut these measurements out of the fabric. You can use a pen or sharpie and yardstick if you want to mark your cutting lines before cutting. Those lines won't show in the end product.
Step 2: Sew Ottoman Cover
(PLEASE NOTE: my fabric cuts here are a mini, scaled-down version of the ottoman to show you how the pieces should go together since I already sewed the actual ottoman cover a few months ago.)
Lay out the top piece of the ottoman, right side of fabric facing up. Then lay the longer side of the front ottoman matching sides, with right sides facing each other (top piece facing down). Pin.
Mark a dot on the wrong side of the fabric 5/8" from each end so you know where to start and stop. You will NOT be sewing all the way to the end nor starting at the very end. You need this 5/8" open at each end so you can pin and sew the side pieces on. Do the same with the opposite side of the top ottoman rectangle.
Change out your sewing machine needle to a "denim" one or some kind of heavier needle to handle your fabric.
Repeat these steps with the side ottoman pieces.
To hem ottoman "skirt:"
Turn under bottom raw edge 1" all the way around and pin. I used a zig-zag stitch on the hem to help keep it from fraying or shedding its fur fuzz. However, the zig-zag stitch is camouflaged in the plushness of the fabric. If the stitching was more visible (as it would be on a woven fabric), I would have used a twill tape and zig-zag stitched that to the raw edge bottom all the way around and then turned it under and top stitched with a straight stitch. This would encase the raw edge completely under the twill tape which would give it a professional look. But as you can see, this was just fine for my purpose.
And now you're encouraged because you can see how great the whole thing will turn out! And once you've got the hang of those corners on the ottoman, all other corners on every cushion and every part of the chair work the same way.
If you are having a hard time understanding the written directions, you can watch here:
Step 3: Chair Back Cushion Cover
The back chair cushion is the next easiest piece to cover because of its uniformity. You'll follow the same exact steps here that you did for the ottoman (measure and add seam allowances, cut fabric, sew with dots marked to tell you where to stop from raw edge) except that you'll need to leave a very large opening on the bottom of the new cushion cover in order to be able to insert the cushion. And then you'll need to close that opening.
AND, instead of using separate pieces for each of the small sides, I wanted one long piece to wrap around. Don't be intimidated by the fact that this is one continuous piece. It works the same way as the ottoman but sew with the top layer being the wrap around side piece. Leave the needle down in the fabric when you are 5/8" away from the edge, then lift the presser foot and pivot the fabric 90 degrees around corners. As long as your "side wrap" side is on the top of the sandwich of fabric, you'l be able to fold the top continuous piece around the corners as you go.
I didn't want to mess with a zipper so I made something like envelope flaps. They were overlapping pieces that would be only on the bottom edge of the cushion. You can see in picture #3 that I finished this edge the same way I hemmed the bottom "skirt" on the ottoman. However, I did this before sewing on to the front and back panels of back cushion. Then, instead of attaching/sewing, I left one side of the back cushion panel open/unsewn where it meets the long wrap around side.
Then last step is the closing of the back cushion bottom/opening by hand sewing it closed with a blind stitch. If you look very closely at photo #3, you'll be able to see those hand stitches and even the knot - but you have to look super closely to see it and this side will be facing down into the chair anyway. I used large sweeping stitches. So you can take the cushion out (if you wanted to wash or dry clean the cover) but will have to seam rip the hand stitching. This, however, can be easily done if need be and re-sewn by hand again.
Step 4: Chair Seat Cushion Cover
If your seat cushion is irregularly shaped as mine is, place the cushion on top of a piece of large butcher paper (or what ever large paper you have on hand - wrapping paper if need be. I often save the paper from shipments to use as pattern paper.) Trace cushion. Then trace another line all around that is 5/8" larger to allow for seam allowances. After cutting out this pattern piece from the paper, fold it in half so that each side is a mirror "reflection." You will use this new half-cushion shape as your pattern piece for perfect symmetry. (If you used the whole of the pattern traced, one side would be slightly different from the other.)
Place the pattern you just made on your fabric, pin it down, fold line of pattern piece on the fold of fabric OR flip pattern over and pin again in new spot to continue cutting the mirror-image side. Cut two out of your fabric for top and bottom sides, making sure the lines are running the direction you want (across the seat in my case) or pattern is facing the way you want (upright) or making sure any pattern on the fabric is centered the way you'd like . Cut the 2 pieces one-by-one to ensure lines (or pattern) are placed just right.
Then to sew, follow the same exact steps as you did for the back cushion sewing. For the front & side edge I used as long of a piece of fabric as possible (the total width of my fabric on the bolt) and then sewed additional extensions on each side to lengthen this piece to be able to wrap all the way around. Make sure you start your pinning with the center of your side piece matched up to the center of your front seat piece. Fold and mark exact center with a pen on all 3 pieces (top, bottom, side). Match up center marks, (right sides of fabric facing) and pin from there. That way there will be no seams showing from the front of chair when seat cushion is in place - seams will be facing inside the side or back of chair.
Leave an opening on the back edge (facing into chair) large enough to fit the seat cushion through. Close the opening by hand the same way you did the back cushion cover.
Step 5: Cover Chair Under Cushions
The hardest part is now behind and we are in the home stretch. You will take measurements for the rest of the chair in the same manner as all other parts you've done so far, adding in 5/8" seam allowances and 1" seam allowance for panels that will need a hem (such as all the way around the bottom edge near the floor).
As you can see from photos, I did not have any seams around the top of my arms. I wanted this as one continuous piece so I measured from the bottom of the seat area, over the arm and to the bottom of the other side of the chair near the floor. Same with the back side of the chair.
You'll sew in the front-facing arm panel in the same manner you did with the front edge of the seat cushion or back edge of cushion, stopping 5/8" away from any corner, leaving your needle down in the fabric, lifting the presser foot, turning/pivoting 90 degrees, folding the continuous piece out of the way from the needle's path, lining up new side edges together, then putting presser foot back to down position and continuing to sew the next side.
As for attaching the side panel pieces to the back panel, I machine sewed them together on the back side (the side facing the wall/window/back of chair). Then I left the rest open (unsewn). Hem the bottom all the way around in the same way you hemmed the ottoman skirt.
Then place this piece on your chair and hand-sew the rest together: the inside corners shown in pic #2 & 3 are all hand-stitched together so that I could custom fit it just right to the inside of the chair. Remember, the inside of the chair measurements would be smaller than the outside of the chair so a lot of this inside fabric will be folded under and sewn by hand in place. It doesn't have to look perfect here because it will be covered up by the back cushion.
As you can see for the front lower panel of the chair under the seat cushion, I didn't even bother finishing (hemming) the raw edge under the cushion that wouldn't show. I hemmed the side that wraps around (see pic #4 & 5 to see where two hemmed edges meet) and hemmed the bottom edge with the same zig-zag stitch as I used with all other hems. Then I hand-stitched this front facing lower piece in place to the old fabric underneath so it wouldn't scoot around and folded the front corners in the same way you might wrap a present and tacked those down as well with hand-stitching.
The very last step was hand stitching the front panel piece to the side/back/side panel piece in the area under the arm shown in pics #4 & 5 where the two hems meet. (You can see this 2-hem-meeting-place in my pics where the panel plush lines/cords run in two different directions - yes, that's the spot we are focused on here.) If there are any lumps or bumps at the place of meeting, you can smooth them out then tack them down with stitches, making sure the bottom hems line up with each other as your starting point. (Smooth upward.)
Step 6: Additional Helpful Tip
And finally, a step that I will add here that we learned later would help, is to stitch the arms in place here and there (places it won't show) to the old arm fabric underneath. What happens with use is that the arms get a bit out of whack and by tacking the arms down, no straightening up needed every time we get up off the chair.
I think you can agree that this turned out so beautifully! I hope this encourages you to tackle your own slipcover project!
For more great projects please follow me here on Instructables.
Subscribe to Threadhead TV on YouTube.
And make my day by voting for me in the Instructables Furniture Contest.
Thanks so much and happy chair-recovering! I hope this saves you a boat-load of $ as well. Sometimes we just need to see and hear, "You can do it!"
All content in this tutorial belongs to ThreadheadTV. If you would like to use any part of this tutorial content, please reach out for permission.
Participated in the