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Tips On Making Slipcovers With Drop Cloths

I had no idea there would be such an interest in learning how to work with drop cloths in a home decor application, but several readers seemed very excited about it.  I aim to please, so here it is!

First of all, let me say that I was skeptical and hesitant to jump on the drop cloth bandwagon.  I have always made my slipcovers out of white cotton twill and you can purchase that for about $3.00/yard at Wal-Mart.  What finally pushed me to try the drop cloths was a pair of wing chairs I wanted to cover that had a high contrast blue and white plaid fabric and it showed through my usual twill.  I needed something that was a heavier weight.  The drop cloth was my cheapest option.

So, I went to Lowe’s and bought a couple of Finish Factor Canvas 8oz weight drop cloths.  They run anywhere from $5.00/piece for a small one up to about $30 for really, really big ones.  I’ve been purchasing the ones that run about $13.00.  It takes about 1 1/2 4’x 15′ to cover a wing chair with piping, pleats, and a “T” cushion.

So, here are the things I have learned along the way…
1.) Drop cloths are very stiff and dingy-looking right out of the package.  They at least need to be washed.
2.) How to bleach a drop cloth: I know it may sound silly to write out directions for how to bleach something, but I’ve tried several different ways and this is what is the easiest and most effective.  Put your drop cloth in your washing machine.  Start the regular wash cycle and allow the tub to fill with warm water.  Add a couple of cups of bleach and make sure the fabric is fully submerged.  Stop the cycle when the tub is full.  Close the lid and leave it for several hours.  Once it has soaked for a while, continue the cycle and allow it to run.  Repeat this entire process a second time, but add laundry soap in addition to the bleach.  Repeat this one last time, but only add laundry soap, no bleach.  Dry in the machine on high.  If you’re making a slipcover with this, you want it to be preshrunk, so that’s why you want to use warm water and a high drying heat.

3.) Drop cloths are thick.  Make sure you get heavy duty needles and use a new one when you’re starting a drop cloth sewing project.  I think I broke four needles on my wing chairs and one on my dining room chair slipcovers.  If you’re fighting with your machine (and it’s not the bobbin thread), try using a new needle.  When the needle is dull or slightly bent, you are going to have all kinds of problems.

4.) Because of the thickness of the fabric, drop cloths do not ruffle well.  If you want a girly touch, pleats will be less frustrating.  Trust me.

5.) Despite all of the bleaching, they will never be perfectly white.  They end up being a grayish off-white.  They also have a little bit of a nubby, rough texture and look slightly rumpled.  If you want something that looks perfectly white and crisp, you will not be happy with drop cloths.

6.) Drop cloth canvas will tear in a straight line, which is so handy for people like me, who don’t like measuring.  This means, if you want your pleated skirt to be four inches wide, you can make a small cut at the four inch mark and tear it the rest of the way.  The line will be perfectly straight.  A lot of home decor fabrics will do this as well, but not all, so be careful!
7.) And my last tip is to use the hemmed edges to your advantage.  You have four hemmed edges on each drop cloth, so use those for an edge you would need to hem anyway.  This saves tons of time and sewing.  I used the hemmed edge for all of my dining room chair skirts.  One less thing for me to sew!
So, are you ready to give drop cloths a try?
As a P.S., I wanted to answer a question I had about washing the painted slipcovers.  Acrylic paint will survive just fine in the wash.  It will get a little softer and slightly faded, but that only adds to the antique grain sack look.  I have not tried bleaching the fabric after it’s been painted, but I don’t think that will be an issue, either.

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  1. You can actually find really nice drop cloths in Harbor Frieght. I found mine there and they ate a nice tight weave and color. :-) $8 for a 8 x 10.

  2. Sophia says:

    Love the look, it is so cute.

  3. Do you have any tips for bleaching with Front Load Washer? I’d love to use your techniques to sew slip covers for my sofa & love seat. Thanks much!

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