I finally did it. I’ve been promising to do it for years and I have, at long last, made good.
Years ago, I made a six part video slipcover series on how to make a slipcover. I tried to write posts about it and I always fumbled over the wording and the posts were confusing and long. Imagine paragraph after paragraph of “with right-sides together, insert piping between pieces of fabric and pin into place along edge of the chair blah-blah-blah-blah…” It was just way too much to try to explain in words and pictures alone, so I decided to make videos.
They were filmed in my crowded craft room, poorly lit and I know it was sometimes hard to see what I was doing. You can also hear my kiddos in the background. While those videos have their charm and I will keep the live on my YouTube channel, I wanted to make a series that was a little easier to watch and, hopefully, more concise.
In this first video, I introduce slipcovers, talk a bit about fabric, and include a tutorial on making custom piping, which is useful for many home decor sewing projects, like pillows, valances, table skirts, etc.
If you want to watch, here you go…
And, if you like to read (or want more detail than I share on the video), here you go…
For pillows, I like using piping as a way to outline the shape of the pillow and to coordinate two fabrics I’m using. Notice how I’m tying together the checked fabric and the floral in the pillow above?
For slipcovers, you can use a matching fabric for the piping or a contrasting one. I prefer using a matching one, so my mistakes aren’t as obvious. If you’re a super-precise sewer (unlike me), maybe a quilter or seamstress, you can get away with a high-contrast piping, which can look really sharp. (Think about white piping on a navy slipcover.)
The point of the piping is to highlight the lines of the furniture and to give the slipcover a bit more structure. It also just looks good.
AND, the best part, it’s super easy to make. I mean, really easy. If you can sew a semi-straight line, you can make custom piping. The key thing is that you need a zipper foot for your sewing machine, so you can sew a nice, tight stitch against the piping.
In the video, I also share my thoughts on good fabrics to use for slipcovers. As you know, I love using antique hemp sheets (there are a few more for sale right now in my online shop), but they can be cost prohibitive. I totally understand that. I’ve loved the look for a long time, but had to use a cheaper alternative that gave me a similar look until I could afford the real deal. (It was a sweet day when I splurged on my first hemp grain sack!)
You can use any decorator weight fabric that is graded for curtains, pillows and some that is for upholstery. Some fabric graded for upholstery is going to be too thick and stiff. You want something similar to the weight of a pair of jeans. Real denim. Not the stretchy kind we ladies like to wear.
So, denim is a good option, sanded twill, cotton duck, lightweight canvas, heavy-weight linen…something in that family. I would look for a weight around 10 ounces. That’s thick enough to hold some shape and will cover most patterns, but it’s not too thick for an average sewing machine.
If it’s your first time making a slipcover, I would stick with solids or an all-over pattern like a large scale floral or paisley. I would suggest staying away from geometrics, stripes, plaids and checks, since those will obviously show if things are a little wonky.
So, let’s talk drop cloths.
(A hemp sheet slipcover is on the left and drop cloth slipcover is on the right.)
I used to use drop cloths a lot, because they are economical and, honestly, it was sort of the thing to do in the DIY blog world a few years ago. They were the “pallet wood” of sewing. The upside is that they are economical (or they can be.) The downside is that they do fray easily and it’s not a fabric that is made for sewing projects, so it’s pretty common to find irregularities, awkward seams, marks, etc.
If you need/want an economical option, I suggest cotton twill or canvas, which runs about $6 – 7.50/yard. That would be about $48 – 60 for a wing chair, which is a pretty good deal.
Think outside of the box, too. There might be some shower curtains, old bedspreads, tablecloths, curtains, etc. that can be turned into slipcovers. We made both of the slipcovers in Megan’s office out of repurposed curtain panels…
I’ve even bought great linen fabric at the Raleigh Flea Market for $5.00/yard. There are lots of budget-friendly fabric options if you’re flexible and a smart shopper.
If you would like to watch the original six part series, you can find it HERE.