I have sewn many, many slipcovers in my day, sofas, club chairs, little dining chairs, a loveseat, and even several wing chairs, but never did I have a challenge like this one. Let’s call her Colette.
She’s gorgeous, curvy, and not easy to sew for. People ask me all the time how I make slipcovers, so I’m going to show you today.
Nobody showed me how to make slipcovers, but I found a book one time that talked about how to make them. I read one sentence, and a lightbulb went on in my head. It basically said to think of your chair as your dress form. So if you have the chair or whatever in front of you, you simply use the furniture to pin your fabric to, while you are determining where seams should be. If you don’t know what I mean, just follow along. I can show you better than I can explain it.
The first step is to look at the piece and figure out how I will piece the slipcover together. I try to use the design of the piece as much as possible, making the slipcover as much like the upholstery as I can.
Here’s what my settee and ottoman looked like before.
Then, I sketch the piece of furniture and label every surface. I’m using a photo rather than my sketches since it is easier to see what I do with the photos.
I walk around the piece of furniture and draw a representation of every piece of fabric that will go on the settee and label each piece as I have shown. For this piece of furniture, there were several more pieces of fabric needed that you can’t see in this photo, like the fabric on the back of the settee, the bottom of the cushion and the fabric that goes on the settee under the cushion.
Next, I measure each piece at its largest point and add to that for seam allowance and error. I now have height and width dimensions for each piece of fabric that I will need. Then I draw a rectangle representing my fabric that I will be purchasing, and start drawing the pieces of fabric to see how much fabric I will need. I always add in a few yards for piping, ruffles, etc. BTW, I found this beautiful linen fabric on sale for half off!! Splendid!! Here are some of my notes.
Okay, they aren’t pretty, but hopefully you can get a feel for what I do to calculate the yardage needed.
I had already purchased some linen fabric I used for my roller shades, click here. I loved the fabric so much, I went back and decided to buy enough fabric to slipcover my settee, ottoman, and make a bed covering. When I went back, the fabric was 50% off. All I can say, is “Come to Mama!” The 50% came in handy since I purchased 20 yards for the bed, settee, ottoman, and pillows. I think I used 6 yards for the valences and shades.
After I purchased my fabric, I cut out a square for my “A” piece first, which is where I always start, with the front center piece. Then I pinned it onto Colette, sorry Baby.
Next, I carefully folded the fabric back as I followed the curve of the settee back. I made sure the fabric would cover the red fabric and I also covered up about 1/2 inch of the wood, to give myself some elbow room, meaning if someone sits in it, the fabric can shift a little without showing the red fabric. For most pieces of furniture, this isn’t a problem since you won’t have straps at the top, but Colette, she is a French woman, and therefore more complicated.
Now that I know where the seam will be, I trimmed the fabric. I use 1/2 inch seams, although the standard sewing seam is 5/8 inch. So it wouldn’t fray along the top, I fold the seam over twice, so that meant I needed 1 inch along my top seam.
I made straps next so Colette could have a strappy dress. We want to show as much of her adorable wood body as possible while being modest enough to cover her red “underwear”.
I didn’t know how many straps I would need, so I started with a few and added as I saw gaps. We don’t want anyone looking down Colette’s dress, do we?
I like to do the main back piece next so the slipcover can begin to hold itself on my settee. Here you can see I have the fabric pinned on her back.
As with the front, I carefully folded the fabric over along the curve of her back.
Then I attached the straps back here. You can see the seams have been sewn so that they won’t fray. Don’t worry, I have the slipcover on inside out. You won’t see all of that when I’m finished.
Using the settee as my pattern or form, the next thing I did was mold the fabric to follow the curve of Colette’s arm and made a straight seam attaching A to B.
I had to add a very wide strap to cover the fabric bracelet Colette wears on her arms.
I used drapery lining for the fabric that goes under the seat cushion that will be hidden.
I actually was so excited that I went on to work on the seat cushion before I finished the hem of Colette’s slipcover. I don’t think she minded, n’est-ce pas? Again, I draped the fabric over the cushion.
Now I had to make some piping, to go on the cushion. I used rope that you can find at the fabric store, and then needed 2 inch wide strips of fabric to cover it. I used the curve of the cushion to determine where to put the piping.
And now for a little secret. I use safety pins to secure the backs of my cushions. I like my fabric to be nice and tight, so Velcro will not hold, and I don’t have time to do zippers, which would be ideal. See how nice and tight the cushion fits?
Next onto the pillows. I did something here that I consider very naughty in the sewing world, I have never done this before, but I saw sometime similar on another blog. (And no Mom, if I saw someone jump over a bridge, I wouldn’t follow suit!) I saw some pillows on another blog, where the blogger pulled the thread to have a frayed edge on her pillows instead of a ruffle or piping. I did add a ruffle to these pillows, but left the edges to fray. I don’t even think most people will notice. I thought the ruffles would be shedding like crazy, but again, they look pretty darn great, and I didn’t spend hours hemming the ruffles.
I finally hemmed the slipcover. Yes it is a little loose, but remember you won’t see this part once the ottoman is in place.
Next I worked on the ottoman using basically the same techniques as I used on the main slipcover. I did hem the edges of the ruffle on the ottoman though. For all of the ruffles, I used my ruffle attachment on my sewing m/c. Man that makes it go fast!!
The ruffler also makes the ruffle look so nice and neat.
For the closure on the pillows, I simply added ribbon to the bottom of the pillows. Some pillow closures in the back mean that the pillow always has a front and a back side, where the back never looks good. If you use a closure on the bottom, either side of the pillow can be used as the front.
I will also recommend here that you wash your fabric before you begin sewing. Sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t, depending on the project. I am the only one who sits on this chair, so I didn’t wash it first, also I didn’t want the fabric to be too wrinkly. But the linen I used to make the daybed cover on the back porch, I prewashed, and that turned out to be a very good decision, since I recently washed chocolate out of it.
Here is Colette again.
I really am loving my bedroom’s new look so much I am considering taking up the habit of the old French court, receiving visitors in my boudoir.
Au revoir mes amis!