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Better than Drop Cloths…


My family room has been undergoing some changes over the past few months…years, really.  It’s been one of those slow makeovers that has happened (and is still happening) as the money and time are available.  It started a couple of years ago when I painted the walls and cabinetry and made new curtains.  In January of this year, we installed new hardwood floors.  Since then, I’ve been waiting.  Busy with freelance stuff, busy with the Lucketts fair, busy with life…  and too tired to think of making new slipcovers, curtains, pillows, etc.

Last week, I was walking through the family room and got a little distracted…and that led to rearranging the furniture and rearranging the stuff on the walls and making new pillows and slipcovering a small ottoman.  I can see the room taking shape.  It’s not drastically different.  The bones are the same and the main furniture arrangement is the same, but the subtle changes are making it closer to how I always envisioned it.  On the way are new curtains, painted bar stools, some new slipcovers and upholstery and a new cow painting by Cindy Austin (who painted Eulalie for me.)

So, moving the furniture around in one room always leads to moving furniture in other rooms.  I took the channel back chair out of the living room to use in the family room, so I was left with a stray chair.  I just plugged it in where the channel back chair was, thinking it would be a clashing mess…

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…but it looked surprisingly okay.  I’m not sure I love, love it there, but I don’t feel like I have to reupholster it tonight.  :)

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…and one of those chairs is still pink and hanging out in my office now.  With the steam mop.  Nice.  (I just realized how silly it was to watermark that photo! )

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Anyway, so all of this talk of upholstery leads me to the main topic of this post (finally)…drop cloths.

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They have been the primary fabric I’ve used for slipcovers and upholstery until about a year ago.  I used them because they are durable, inexpensive and neutral.

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 A couple of things happened, though.  First of all, Lowes stopped carrying the Finish Factor drop cloths that were my favorite.  Don’t they know we were using those for slipcovers and changing the fabric and brand messed us up?!  The FF drop cloths were a great cotton canvas and they would get pretty light when bleached.  The drop cloths I find now are a pretty dark oatmeal color and just look more like utilitarian drop cloths.  The other thing that made me look for a new fabric is that I started doing more upholstery.  Drop cloth fabric will tear if it’s pulled too tight, which isn’t good when you’re upholstering.  So, I started looking for other fabrics and, after ordering and trying a few different ones, I found a fabric I love.

It’s the 16 oz. Romanian Hemp Canvas from Hemp Traders.  At $16/yard, it’s still affordable and it’s a dream to work with for upholstery.  It’s heavier than drop cloths, so you definitely need a beefy machine if you’re getting into pleats and that sort of thing.   The thing I love is that the weave looks exactly like grain sack.  The fabric is out of stock currently (I may be partially to blame since I just ordered a bunch), but they said they have ordered more.  I’ve kept this fabric hush-hush for a while, but I figure I might as well share it.  It’s a big world and it’s okay if other people want to use the same upholstery fabric I do.

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I’m going to use this fabric to slipcover my family room sofa.  It’s darker than my current white twill Ikea slipcover, so it will stand up much better to two small boys.  I would really love to buy a new sofa, but I’m not ready to take that plunge.  Making a new, more durable and dirt-friendly slipcover will prolong the life of the one we have.  For the other pieces, I’m going to use antique grain sacks and the Hungarian hemp linen I’ve started ordering from a wholesale source.  This isn’t a source I can share, but I’m ordering a bunch, so I can sell some online.  This fabric is gorgeous, but unfortunately, it’s pricey.  It’s the kind of thing that is a splurge, so I’m just giving you warning before you get too excited about it.

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 So, there’s an update on the fabrics I’ve been using lately.  Hopefully it will be of use if you’re looking for an alternative to drop cloths.

Tomorrow, I’m taking the French cane chairs to have them professionally stripped…

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…and my t-shirts are finally in!!  I’ll make them available in the online shop soon (as well as some leftovers from Lucketts.)

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  1. I have a cane folding screen and never thought of having it stripped… wonder how I would find someone to do that? I was going to repaint it… it’s all splotchy, like the cane soaked up more paint in places.. looks like a tricky project either way.

  2. Leasa says:

    I am so excited about your new cow painting!! I was planning on getting Eulalie soon, but will now hold out to see this painting. Any clues on what she will look like?

  3. I love that hemp fabric! I ordered 20 yards before the Lucketts fair for projects! I didn’t know that is the one you used to. Love it! Hope it comes in soon because I want some more :)

  4. Thank you for this post! I do not have kids but I have dogs and cats. Dogs are not allowed on furniture but cats are (I can’t figure out how to get them to stay off when I am gone from the house). The hemp fabric you mention here would work much better with hiding their hair and the sand (we live in SC) they bring indoors.

    • Set some mousetraps and put them on the furniture. Then cover with a layer of newspaper. When the cat jumps on the paper, the traps go off, not hurting the cats but maybe teaching them to stay away.

      Worked for one of mine, but not the other. Maybe you will have better luck. LOL

  5. Hi Marian – I’ve been making slipcovers since 96 and a ‘slipcover professional’ since 2005. By far, the 12 oz. beefy brushed denim in Natural is my best seller. White is a close 2nd. It gets softer and lighter with each washing. My kids are grown but I have four cats and couldn’t imagine life without slipcovers! Love your site.

  6. Hey Marian,

    Thanks so much for sharing this source. I have a large L shaped slipcovered couch and a regular couch this is slip covered both in white. I have loved being able to strip them down and wash then when needed. I have 3 teenage boys (and 30 of their BESTEST friends hanging out all the time) 4 cats and 2 English Bulldogs. The white was great until I got my second dog. He digs in the yard and tracks the dirt in. Plus he’s a slobber-er! He likes to rest his head on the arm of the couch and it’s pretty gross. So…I really need to get away from the white-white. These other options you shared are perfect. How does this fabric do getting washed over and over and over again? That is the true test!
    Thanks for all you share. Love your blog and ideas.

  7. Barbara says:

    Thank you, thank you! I have been looking for something like this! I had been a big fan of drop cloths as well and they just aren’t the same any longer. Silly people! Linen’s great, but not quite as beefy as I’d like it to be.
    Many thanks!,

  8. thanks for sharing Marian. I always wondered where you get your gorgeous fabric and how much it runs per yard.

  9. The fabric has arrived! Did you prewash the hemp?

  10. They wash it in the factory, so I do not wash it if I’m using it for upholstery. I was anything I make a slipcover out of to make sure it does well through my washer with my soap, etc.

  11. joanie says:

    I found some washed grain sack fabric at Pottery Barn. It’s pricey at $25 per yard and is out-of-stock until October. It’s lovely though; having never been near a grain sack, antique or relatively new, I don’t know if it is a good replication.

  12. Hi Marian, I absolutely love your style!! I have bought you book, several of your milk paints and am slowly redesigning my house (on a budget) to “mimic” your style.

    I have a question about the fabric: Have you tried other colors in hemp? They are still out of stock on the one mentioned above and I am just curious how you choose this one? It seems a bit darker, but with 3 kids, 2 cats and a black lab……I think that may be a better option. How did you know which weight/ounce to go with? I have ordered a few swatches from them…..but am still confused

    • The weight and weave of that fabric are almost exactly like a grain sack, so that is why I like that one the best. I have ordered a similar hemp canvas, but I didn’t like it as much. I bought their sample book when I first found them, so I could look through them and make sure I got what I wanted. It’s sometimes hard to tell online. I have not ordered any of the colors, but they would be great options for upholstery. It just depends on the look you’re going for.

  13. Thank you for the link to the Hemp Traders. There is a black hemp in the sale category that may be just what I’m looking for to use on our bedroom curtains.

  14. Elizabeth says:

    I’m considering using hemp from the website linked to reupholster a rocking chair for my nursery. My question is about the feel of the fabric. How does it feel? I have had trouble finding hemp in any local fabric stores so I haven’t been able to determine whether or not it would be comfortable enough that I would love sitting on it 6-8 times a day.

  15. cindy says:

    I’m making a sofa slipcover and saw Miss Mustard Seed’s she was making – it is almost identical in shape to mine. Mine is going wonderfully, except for the outsides of the roll arm. They don’t fit up under the roll arm, rather they hang down straight, even when sewn well into the curve of the front of the arm. When I sew the skirt on, I will have to gather this fabric hanging down which will kind of wreck the thing. I’ve looked at many slipcovers now – how do they get the fabric to fit around the roll arm properly???

    • Arleen Brown says:

      I have two ideas: 1. use upholstery pins. They have a screw in pin. 2. One could use industrial strength velcro tape (either glue or sew on type) right under the roll of the arm, one side attached to the sofa and the soft side on the slipcover.

  16. janet says:

    Is the hemp fabric washable and is it comfortable want to use on a sofa and 2 chairs?

  17. Toni ehle says:

    I just bought 21 yards of the hemp for a sofa recover. They just emailed me that its on its way so they must have gotten their shipment in. I never order fabric like this because I m not good at choosing fabrics for upholstery so I’m trusting you. Love your taste in decorating so I’m sure it will look just great

  18. Hi Marion. I was looking through your how-tos and tutorials and read through this one since I’ve got several upholstery projects I need to tackle. Just wanted to let you know that the Hemp Traders link in your post is no longer working. The do have the fabric in stock, though.

  19. Janice says:

    Hello-you’re link is not working, but I found the website…which color did you use on the furniture in this post? Thanks!

  20. Denise says:

    Looking at buying Tristan chair from soft surroundings. Have I seen one in your home pics? If so, got dimensions, just wanting to be sure a man would fit in this chair? Slipcover is washable too? Would appreciate your feedback. I did chat but need a limitless more info? Many thanks

  21. Hi Marion, I used your slipcover tutorials to make a slipcover for my love seat. Thank you so much :) I never would have had the courage to tackle it on my own! I wanted to share with you the fabric/source I decided to use (I debated forever on the fabric). Fabric-store dot com has heavy weight linen-cheap! It is less than $9 a yard and they are always running 10% off specials. You really can’t beat the price. I think they still send free samples as well. The slipcover is over a year old and the fabric has held up beautifully! I used to have white denim slips on my couches and they were so heavy that when I washed them they were difficult to handle by myself. The white linen seems to have the same durability without the super heavy weight of the white denim (especially when wet). Thanks again!

  22. Link for fabric isn’t working but think I found it. I’m unclear about color you choose. Can you post or let us know color choice or other alternative. I’m in the mood to start this project but am hanging up on the fabric. SOS· · · – – – · · · – – –· · · – – – · · ·

  23. poussière d'Argence says:

    Il est regrétable qu’on ne puisse avoir la traduction en français, je ne parle pas anglais.
    Tes photos sont superbes et j’aime beaucoup tout ce que tu présentes.
    mais je comprends rien au texte.
    Douce soirée.

  24. Lisa Carol says:

    Is the item number H-C16? The link is no longer working and I want to be sure I’m ordering the same fabric. Thanks!

  25. I will immediately grab your rss feed as I can not find your email subscription link or e-newsletter service.
    Do you’ve any? Kindly permit me know in order that I could subscribe.

  26. Linda Foster says:

    Since I saw your website a couple years ago I did try making some things for my granddaughters with the drop clothes. So, my question is I have a couple pair of black jeans that some % of the fiber is hemp and they have a very yucky odor, have you notices any odor with this fabric, I have two wing chairs I bought from the good will years ago and now am finally going to slip cover them for my sewing room… Would love to hear your thoughts.. I could afford drop clothes…LOL


  27. Diana C says:

    Hi, I’m also interested in the Romanian Hemp canvas fabric to slipcover a summer cottage sofa.
    Does anyone know if it’s scratchy-feeling to sit on in bare legs, etc.?

  28. susie says:

    can anyone tell me what the actual material it is on that lovely chair. I looked up the Romanian hemp and it doesn’t appear to be the same thing. I would love to use that same material if you can supply me with the name, type, code etc. Thanks…….Susie

  29. Gabrielle says:

    Hi Miss Mustard Seed,

    I am a HUGE fan and you are such an inspiration. I’m sure you hear that all the time. I am 22 and will be moving into a place of my own very soon. I bought vintage furniture and new fabric for reupholstery in a very light cream–near white color. My question is, because I imagine lots of my furniture will look like yours–HOW do you clean it or get it to stay so clean since they are so light colored?

  30. marian says:


    A lost of my furniture is white, but the hardest working piece (the family room sofa) is leather and the other ones that are used a lot are slipcovers, so I can wash them when they get gross. I’ve also learned that the antique hemp sheets and grain sacks are very forgiving with stains, etc., even though they are light. They are much more forgiving than a cotton twill, for example. I hope that helps!

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