everything looks better in a pretty ballgown!
Okay everybody- here-you-go! Here's absolutely everything I know about making slipcovers!
Before I get on with it, you may want to check out my last two posts (if you haven't yet) before reading this. Three posts in roughly as many days?! Are you shocked that I didn't make you wait 6 weeks for a new post!?
The first step is measuring your sofa or chair and figuring out how much fabric you need. Look at your chair/sofa. How many separate pieces of fabric make up its current upholstery? Do you want to mimic the current design exactly or change it a bit? Do you want to change, add or remove the skirt? Does it currently have separate seat and/or back cushions? Do you want to cover them individually or make a one-piece slipcover (as I did on my sofa) that covers all of the cushions?
This planning is the hardest part! If you can envision it- you can do it!
In order to better envision your plan, sketch your chair/sofa or take a photo (as I did since I have zero sketching talent!) and loosely sketch your plan for the fabric pieces on top like this:
By the way- please forgive my lame-o diagrams! I figured wonky visuals were better than none!
Now you have a decision to make- do you want to make a paper pattern for your chair/sofa or not?
I did make a paper pattern for my wingback chair, but I didn't make one for my sofa, cuz I'm a rebel like that. Now that I think about it, I really flew by the seat of my pants with the sofa cover. I just sorta started laying fabric out on the sofa and started cutting! I know- I'm a wild woman.
This won't be much of a tutorial if I just leave it at that, so I'll do my best to describe how I slipcovered my wingback chair with a pattern first and then I'll describe how to go about this pattern-free.
- Fabric (I used about 8 yards of linen for my sofa, but you'll need more if you decide to cover your cushions separately, also, if you're covering a print you're better off choosing an upholstery weight fabric so that you won't have to worry about lining. I used about 4 yards for my chair)
- Coordinating thread
- Velcro Closure (if necessary)
- Muslin or any cheaper fabric for under/behind the seat/back cushion if you're sewing a separate cushion cover
- measuring tape
- Diappearing ink pen
- Seam ripper (I hope you don't need it, but I sure did!)
- sewing machine
- Large paper (if you decide to make a pattern!) -I used a roll of brown craft paper that I had on hand.
- Cushion top
- Cushion bottom
- cushion sides (I count this as one long piece even though it's pieced together from shorter lengths)
- Front of seat back
- Back of Chair
- Inside and top of left arm
- Inside and top of right arm
- Face of left arm
- Face of Right arm
- Outside of left arm
- Outside of right arm
- Inside of left wing
- Inside of right wing
- Outside of left wing
- Outside of right wing
- Between front legs, below cushion
- Muslin (or any plain inexpensive fabric) square beneath cushion
- Skirt or trim for bottom (I still haven't added this to my chair!)
Then working one section at a time, I pinned a rectangle to its section on the chair and literally just traced the shape onto the paper with a pencil following the seams of the chair exactly.
Once I had traced each section onto paper, I cut each section out adding an extra 1/2 inch all the way around for the seam allowance.
Then I pinned the paper sections back onto the chair again to make sure there were no gaps. If your paper pattern fits together precisely, your fabric pieces will to!
Now I had a complete paper pattern for my slipcover!
If you're unsure of how much fabric to buy, you could do this step first and bring the paper pattern pieces to the fabric store with you and literally lay them out on the fabric on the cutting table in the store to see exactly how much you'll need. If you're using a patterned fabric, don't forget to allow enough fabric to match up the pattern.
Once the pattern is made, the hard part is done!
Next I layed the pattern pieces out on my fabric and cut out all of the pieces.
Then I layed the fabric pieces out on the chair and pinned them all together. Actually, I didn't pin the whole thing together at once, I pinned the pieces that comprise each arm first, and then sewed the arms together, then I pinned the body together (pieces 4 and 5) and pinned the arms to the body, then I sewed the body and arm pieces together, then the wings, then the bottom facing piece (#16) and I did the cushion last. You can sew the cushion shut, or use a zipper or velcro.
The wings were the only place that required a bit of pleating. If you look closely at my finished photo, there are two small pleats at the corner of each wing.
Don't forget that you don't need to be too precise in any area where you can tuck the slipcover into the chair. My chair slipcover is tucked between the body and the arms.
I was actually surprised at how easily all the pieces fit together. They just sort of fit together like a jigsaw puzzle once I had all of them cut out. The one part that seemed a little tricky (and I still don't quite understand why?!) was piecing together the facing of the arms with the tops and sides of the arms. I almost recut the facing piece, but eventually I did get it to work. In retrospect, I would recommend cuting the arm facing pieces (pieces 8 and 9 in my sketch above) with a larger seam allowance- maybe an inch or so- just to give a little more ease in piecing it together.
Finally I was done!
How I Made My Sofa Slipcover Pattern-Free!
Here is a list of the pieces for my sofa slipcover:
- Left back and seat
- Center back and seat
- Right back and seat. Each of these three pieces is a continuous piece from the top of the sofa, then it runs down to where the back and the seat meet, then goes over the seat cushion and ends where it meets the skirt.
- Top and inside of left arm
- Top and inside of right arm
- pleated skirt
- Upper outer left side
- Upper outer Right side
- Lower outer left side
- Lower outer right side
- (not visible in photo) Back of sofa
Here are the details:
First I pulled the tape measure from the top center of the sofa, down the backrest, into the crevice where the back meets the seat, back up and over the seat cushion to the point where I wanted the skirt to begin. Like this:
this measurement plus 1 equals the length of each of the first three pieces in my list.
Then I pulled the tape measure across the widest part of my left seat cushion from the outside of the cushion to the point where it meets the center cushion like this:
this measurement plus 1 equals the width of piece 1 and 3.
Next I measured the widest point of the top of the center seat cushion like this:
this measurement plus 1 equals the width of piece 2.
At this point I had the length and width of the first 3 pieces- just three big rectangles- so I cut them out and layed them in place on the sofa.
I worked on the arms next- this was the tricky part. First I measured for piece 4. I measured from the back of the inside of the arm (at the farthest point, all the way back where your pocket change gets stuck!) all the way around to where the front rolled part ends like this:
Then I measured from the center bottom of the inside of the arm up and over the arm like this:
Now I had athe length and width of pieces 4 and 5, so I cut them out.
Pieces 7/8 and 9/10 were a little easier since they were close to rectangular already- I measured the length and width of this section and cut out 6 and 7.
Since the upholstery of my sofa had piping along the solid back and because I opted not to cover each seat cushion individually, I wanted to add piping to the back and seat of my slipcover to make it look more finished. I measured all the areas where I wanted piping and added them up to figure out how much piping to make.
If you want to incorporate piping (you certainly don't need to) you can purchase it pre-made or make your own.
At this point I went ahead and pinned it all together inside-out along the lines of the sofa, starting with the arms. I used A-LOT of pins- basically used them as basting stitches since I wasn't using a pattern. I pleated the fabric anyplace where the upholstery was pleated. For this sofa that was the corners of the arms (any piece with any kind of rolled-arm where there is not a flat facing piece will need some pleats at the arm) and the top corners of the seat-back.
When I finished pinning together the pieces that made up the arm I pulled it off the sofa and brought it to the sewing machine. I unpinned only the first one or two pins and carefully held on to that end while pushing the end of my piping into the opening. I un-pinned, worked the piping in and stitched a little at a time along the line where wanted the piping. In a few places where I was worried I would lose track of where I wanted the seam to go, I used the disappearing ink pen to give me a guide line. I was using it on the back side of the fabric, but it really does disappear completely (though if you choose this method you may want to test it on a scrap first), so no worries!
After I finished stitching the arm sections together I stitched sections 1-3 together adding the piping inbetween. This part was pretty simple because the fit didn't have to be too precise since the edges of this part- what is now one large section making up the body of the sofa- will tuck down around the edges of the seat cushion.
Next I layed the large center section back on the sofa and put the arm sections back on the sofa and pinned them together. Pinning these parts together in the crevice between the arm and the cushions was darn near impossible, so I just smoothed the fabric in there as best I could, grabbed my disappearing-ink pen, and ran it down the line where I wanted the two pieces to meet. Then I stitched the arm sections to the large center section along those lines. Again, this seam doesn't have to be too precise since it will get tucked down into the sofa.
Next I put what was starting to look a lot like a slipcover (yay!) back on the sofa and pinned sections 7, 8 and 11 in place. Then I pulled it off, stitched it all together, and put it back on the sofa again. It looked pretty darn good, but I made a few adjustments here and there.
That was when I realized that since I opted not to cover each seat cushion separately, the fabric at the outer front corners of the sofa needed to be tailored. I sorta pulled and tucked the fabric at each corner kinda like an inverted hospital corner and stitched it in place by hand. This was the only place I stitched by hand.
Finallly it was ready for the piece de resistance- the box-pleated skirt! To make the skirt, I first decided how long I wanted it to be (6") and then I had to do a little math (ouch!). The perimeter of the base of my sofa was 245" and I wanted 4" pleats. I figured out that for a 4" pleat I need 12" of fabric so to cover 245" with pleats I would need 735" (61.25 feet) of fabric. I cut my remaining fabric into 7" strips, joined them all end-to-end on the sewing machine and was pleased to find that I had more than enough. I hemmed the whole length at once using the same method I described in yesterday's post. Then I pinned and pressed all of my pleats in place (using my measuring tape to make sure they were uniform) and ran a straight stitch 1/4" from the raw edge to hold all the pleats in place and removed all of the pins. Then I pinned the skirt to the bottom edge of the slipcover.
Next I pulled the cover off one more time, stitched the skirt in place, reinforced all the seams (as I described in yesterday's post), trimmed away all of the excess fabric (as I described in yesterday's post- sensing a theme here?!) put it back on the sofa and fell over in exhaustion- oh, I mean, I did a little happy dance...then I fell over in exhaustion!
Just go slowly and carefully. As long as you measure at the widest points of each section, you really can't go wrong. Some sections are trickier than others depending on the shape of the furniture piece you're working on, so you may wind up pinning, unpinning and repinning a bit, but eventually you'll get the perfect fit. Just don't cut away the excess until you're sure it's all sewn together the way you want it!
PS- A little note about seam rippers. Here's a closeup of one. I find them very handy, which must mean that I sew things together the wrong way frequently and have to rip out the seam! If you don't have one, I think they cost about 89 cents at any fabric store. I think most people use them backwards inserting the longer end into the stitching and picking out one or two stitches at a time. If you instead insert the ball end into the stitching to be removed you can zip right down a seam in a flash. Anyway, I hope you don't need it in this project, but I know I did!
Please, please contact me if you need further help/instructions! I'd be happy to help if you need more guidance!
And with that I shall leave you for now for my laptop is smokin' and the Dame is coming on PBS and there's a glass of prosecco and a hunk of brie waiting for me- heaven! I must really be turning into a fogey because I just love me some masterpiece theater! Ta-ta!
Update! I slipped the cushions of the sofa individually- check it out here!