linen slipcovers one year later

by | Apr 23, 2021 | Sewing, Tutorials, upholstery | 35 comments

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Do you remember the linen slipcovers I made last year about this time?  I made a pair of linen slipcovers to cover the stained end chairs at our kitchen table…

linen slipcovers | dining chair slipcover | miss mustard seed

You can find the tutorials and sources for these linen slipcovers HERE.

linen slipcovers | dining chair slipcover | miss mustard seed

They look beatiful and have washed well except for one thing…

linen slipcovers | dining chair slipcover | miss mustard seed

When I wash them, the ends fray, and the seams come undone in a few places.  I have never had that happen with slipcovers before, but I also haven’t used this specific linen and I have never washed slipcovers this often!  Because these are used all the time, the boys typically eat sitting at these chairs, and the cats love napping on these chairs, I wash them about once every month or two.

linen slipcovers | dining chair slipcover | miss mustard seed

I just take the slipcovers up to the sewing room and fix the area, so it hasn’t been a huge deal, but I wouldn’t use this fabric again for slipcovers that need to be washed frequently.  It was inexpensive, though ($6.00/yard on sale), so it was certainly worth a try!  And I will take small holes over stained seats!  But, if you’ve ever made a slipcover, especially one with tons of ties on the back, piping, and a ruffled skirt, then you know you really don’t want to do it more than once if you can help it!  I will have to remake these eventually.

linen slipcovers | dining chair slipcover | miss mustard seed

I used the same fabric (in a different color) on the chase in our bedroom and that has been fantastic.  Because this chair is just used occasionally, I haven’t had to wash it.  Sebastian likes to nap on this chair, but I put a blanket over it for him to lay on.

linen slipcovers | chaise chair slipcover | miss mustard seed

The verdict is, a lightweight linen (this is 7.1 oz. 4C22 from Fabrics Store) is a good choice if the piece of furniture isn’t heavily used and the slipcover doesn’t need to be washed frequently.  I also wouldn’t suggest using this weight of linen for upholstery.  It’s just not sturdy enough to hold up long-term use.

The nice thing about using the 7.1 oz fabric for linen slipcovers is you can sew it in a standard heavy-duty sewing machine like THIS ONE.  If you use a fabric that is a heavier-weight, you will need to use an uphosltery machine or you’ll have needles breaking constantly and it will be frustrating.  With pleats and piping, you might be working through 5-6 layers of fabric, which will choke a run-of-the-mill sewing machine.

If you do have the capability to sew with a heavier fabric, I would suggest using linen or hemp fabric that is a canvas-weight (11 – 16.5 oz.HERE is a source I’ve ordered from before when buying new hemp canvas.  My preference, though, is to use antique hemp sheets.  I used to sell them, so I have a wholesale source.  You can find them on Etsy HERE, though, and around $60-70 is a good price for one.  If you need to purchase several, I would suggest sending an e-mail to the seller to inquire about buying in bulk.  You might get a discount if you’re buying several.

I’ve been using hemp sheets for slipcover and upholstery for years and, while it’s more expensive, the result is beautiful and durable.  I’ve had these chairs (free from a yard sale) for 16 years and made the hemp/linen slipcovers about 10 years ago.  I’ve have washed them many times and they still look great.  They are classic and I expect they’ll last for decades.

antique hemp sheet upholstery | wing chair slipcover | miss mustard seed

I cut them strategically, so I can use the leftover scraps and strips for piping, skirts, and ties.

antique hemp sheet upholstery | office chair slipcover | miss mustard seed

(I made this slipcover out of heavy linen antique curtains!  You can find that makeover HERE.)

antique hemp sheet upholstery | office chair slipcover | miss mustard seed

And this linen desk chair slipcover for my office was made out of a few different linen sheet leftovers from other projects.

I also like using grain sacks for slipcovers and upholstery.  The weight is the same and sometimes heavier than the hemp sheets, but they have striping and sometimes monograms to add more character.  The stripes mean that your options are a little less limited when it comes to design, so I tend to use them on smaller chairs, ottomans, etc.  THIS is my favorite source for buying antique European grain sacks.  Her prices are good and her linens are always clean and as described.  I wait to order a few at a time to save on shipping.

If you are purchasing grain sacks for an upholstery project, pay attention to the length and width.  I look for grain sacks that are as wide as possible (typically 21-24″ wide), so I have more fabric width to work with.  I’ll often cut them down the middle of the back, so I have one wide piece of fabric (with two seams in it) to work with.

antique hemp sheet & european grain sack upholstery | miss mustard seed

Not only are these old fabrics heavy and durable, but I love the nuddy texture and have found them to be very forgiving.  If I make a mistake, I can just sew it up by hand and it looks like a part of the story of the antique fabric instead of a mistake.  You can also get away with having seams in odd places, which doesn’t work with new fabrics.

antique hemp sheet upholstery | miss mustard seed

Right now, I have a big stack of hemp sheets waiting for me to start working on a slipcover for the sofa.  I have been a little too busy to give it my attention, but I’ve also been admittedly procrastinating on it!  I make slipcovers and upholster pieces for the results, not because I enjoy the process.  But, as the weather warms up and the school year winds down, I’m ready to get into project mode around the house.

If you need more guidance on your own projects, you can find upholstery tutorials HERE and slipcover tutorials HERE.



  1. Nancy

    Thanks for this blog post! I have a few pieces that I need to slipcover and had thought about using a lighter weight linen…but now I am rethinking it. I wanted to avoid dry cleaning, but I may end up buying a dry clean only decor fabric and just committing to the dry cleaning expense on a few “not so often used” pieces.

    Thanks for the info and clickable resources. I may try a grainsack on an ottoman.


  2. Laurie Poole

    Hi Marion
    I just love your tutorials. Will your new book have tutorials in it?
    Can I order your book direct from you?

  3. Tanya

    Linen is a wonderfully sturdy fabric, but the edges must be finished or they’ll fray. Serging, overcasting, or a simple zig zag stitch will do the trick, but for a beautiful and professional finish you can’t beat a flat felled seam or a French seam.
    Antique linens were woven much tighter than modern day line was, so they didn’t fray as badly (or at all).

    • Karen

      Yes I would have definitely used my server for those fraying seams.

  4. Babs

    What about using a grosgrain ribbon to cover the seams to extend the life of the slipcovers? You did put a lot of work into them and this may be a way to get a little more wear out of them. I love the look of linen…so homey.

  5. Mary from Life at Bella Terra

    Marian, this is such great information. I still have some hemp sheets I bought from you years ago…..would love to create some slipcovers with it. I’m not sure I’m confident enough to try it, though! Love the cover on your office chair. Would love to find some curtains like that!

  6. Jeanne Marie Mikkelsen

    I bought the 7.1 linen fabric you are referencing here, and I made two matching armchair slipcovers with it. I am very happy with the outcome, but now a little bit nervous for when the time comes to wash them! ?.
    I am also planning to make a matching slipcover for the couch! We use our living space everyday- but I do keep them covered with throws except for company!

    • Marian Parsons

      Jeanne, there is some great information in the comments about treating the seams so they don’t fray. It sounds like that will solve the problem and make them more durable to last for a long time!

  7. Irene Kelly

    I really do admire your ability to make slipcovers. My friend wants to give me two wing back chairs in really good condition and I do not care for the fabric. I am having a very difficult time finding anyone who makes slipcovers here in Southern New Jersey So I must pass on the generous gift. Very frustrating !

    • MaryS

      My slipcovers are made of drop cloth fabric. I had them made
      (a sofa and club chair) and the first time I washed them the fray
      was awful. So I did a zig zag stitch on all the seams which didn’t
      made much difference. Now, I have a serger. But there isn’t enough
      seam allowance remaining for me to serge the edges. I sure wish
      I’d had the serger in the beginning. Eventually I expect they will
      just fray until I have hole in the seams. Uuugghhhhh…..

      • Carol L.

        I would try a stop-fray product or Ok To Wash It glue before washing again.

  8. Kathy M

    Great information and links! Thanks Marion.

  9. Sharon

    Did you by any chance cut the fabric with ric-rac scissors? Use the French seams technique or surge edge the fabric? These are great tricks to avoid fraying and subsequent repairs.
    French seams are my favorite, especially for something you want to last a long time or tolerate washing.
    I learned about them when making heirloom clothes that I was going to do smocking on. It’s extremely stable.
    I love your slipcovers!

  10. Valerie

    Reinforcing the seam, zigzagging, French seams and or a combination in addition to using a liquid fray product like Fray-Check may help until you make new slip covers.

  11. Kathy

    Serging the fabric ends or seams, may be the solution to your fraying issue on future projects.

  12. Janine

    You need to wash and dry linen fabric at least 2-3 times with whatever method you will be using on the finished project, before you cut out your pieces. This prevents shrinkage and strain on the seams. The second thing you need to do after you cut out your pieces is to overcast all the edges to prevent fraying because of the loose weave. Then sew your pieces together. I have a few stitches on my Bernina that are made specifically for overcasting loosely woven fabrics, but a 3 step zz would work great too. Do both these things and your slipcovers will last so much longer.

    • Marian Parsons

      Great information, Janine! I have never used fabric that needed that kind of attention. I did wash the fabric prior, so shrinkage hasn’t been an issue, but the edges fraying and making their way to the seams has. This is great information for the future. Would a zigzag stitch work? Neither of my machines have a lot of fancy stitches.

      • Mrs. Kelley Dibble

        I own a $100 Singer sewing machine I get at WalMart. When it breaks down, I just get another one. I have sewn for 50 years now and have reupholstered sofas, chairs, sewn slip covers, wedding gowns, christening gowns and garments that I want to last for generations. Here’s my prep routine for sewing woven fabric:

        Start at the finish.

        – Zig zag stitch the cut edges of just-purchased fabric. I use “scrap” spools and bobbins of least-used thread colors for this as these ends of the fabric will eventually be cut off.
        -Now you can wash and dry the fabric in machines at least once without fear of your piece becoming an unraveled mess. This wash/dry is going to give you a good idea what kind of maintenance you’re dealing with.
        -Use a hot iron to press the fabric free of wrinkles. This helps to size it even further.
        -Immediately after cutting each piece, take it to the sewing machine and zig zag stitch all cut edges. This works for cutting up linen tablecloths with which I’ve made garments and slip covers, vintage linen runners with which I have made Sleepyhead Dolls, etc. As you’re handling and working with each cut piece, this step decreases the chances of unraveling all those raw edges, especially if you have to unpick a mistake you made. Also, zig zagging in a slightly different shade of thread will help determine which threads to unpick or not.
        -For every woven fabric, sew French seams. Just get into this habit and it will become automatic. Wrong sides together; stitch 1/4” seam; trim a bit; press; fold together right sides together; press; stitch 1/4” seam; press. Done.
        -For every stress area; shorten your stitch setting and stitch that seam again. I do this step on all armscyes and the back seams of skirts/dresses.
        -For curved, high-stress areas, especially in a slipcover, instead of a French seam: (1) Stitch the curved seam. (2) Press. (3) Trim seam. (4) Zigzag the seam’s raw edge. (5) Wrap/stitch narrow cotton bias tape (or some you’ve made with your linen) around the raw edge. (6) Press. You can hammer that seam flatter, too. Yes, with a hammer.

        Hope this helps, Marian!


      • Janine

        ZZ would be better than nothing, but a stitch like a 3 step zz or ones for fabrics that tend to fray would be better. I used to sew some slipcovers for a furniture company and usually serged the fabric edges before sewing. This stuff frays a lot if you don’t do something.

  13. Addie R.

    For your currant slipcovers to last longer…wouldn’t it be “charming” to just add patches. That is surely what our great grandmothers would do! They could be plain or with added initials of the person who usually sits in that chair. I think it would go with your kitchen table and the whole “look”….antiques, quilts, ironstone, copper, old books….etc.

    • Debbie

      I LOVE that idea!

  14. PJ

    There is so much good information here, both in your post and in the comments. Now if I could just get over my fear and start cutting the fabric. Thank you!

  15. Kathleen

    I have three pieces of furniture slipcovered in linen from Fabrics-store. One is an armchair in IL 019. I love the drapability of the fabric but have some concern about the longevity of the fabric because it is thinner. Then we have 2 sofas slipcovered in IL090 (softened), which is the heavier weight, 8oz canvas. When I received the yardage, I laundered each bolt 3 times, drying it on high heat to encourage any shrinking to take place at the start. Then I laundered a 4th time and hung it to dry so it would be less wrinkled, before ironing it to re-roll on the bolt (Ever ironed 20 yards of fabric??). As each piece for the slipcover was cut out, I ran it through my sewing machine’s overlock stitch as I don’t have a serger. I used a contrasting thread to be able to see easily if a spot was missed. Then I sewed it up as normal, pipping and everything. My only regret is I didn’t do the main cover with zippers, which I think would have resulted in a more tailored fit. The slip covers are laundered every month or two and are about a year old. Holding up well so far.

    • Mrs. Kelley Dibble

      I shy away from the zip on upholstered pieces. WHY?! I adore invisible zips! A great finish, indeed.

  16. celestial

    A good way to approach linen slipcovers is to wash the fabric in hot water at least twice. When seaming, especially at a stress point, 1. make your seam 2. serge or zigzag over the edges 3. press seam to one side 4. topstitch from the outside 1/4″ from seam. This will look like a flat felled seam and will hold up well to a lot of abuse.

    • Mrs. Kelley Dibble

      The topstitch… excellent idea.

  17. Lori Thorpe

    I used the 7.1 linen fabric you mentioned. I used a smaller stitch when sewing and I also serged the edges. I have washed mine several times and have not had one frayed seam. I pleated mine at the bottom instead of gathering, and they are lovely. I adore the linen fabric you recommended and have ordered it in another color so I can switch them out occasionally.

    • Mrs. Kelley Dibble

      Smaller stitch… excellent tip!

  18. Jo Ann Bastanjoo

    I used drop cloth fabric for an ottoman cover and it frayed so much that I had to cover the seams with bias tape.

  19. Louise Smith

    I remember the days of your drop cloth slip covers. I thought that was so clever. What’s your opinion of those now? Would you use drop cloths in any situation nowadays?

    • Marian Parsons

      Oh yes, the drop cloth slipcovers! I think they are still a good option, but there are nice fabrics, like cotton duck and linen that can be just as thrifty and the quality of the fabric is much nicer. When I first started using dropcloths, I was able to find some really thick, nice woven ones. Eventually, though, some of them (of the same brand) were stretchy, the color was off, and the fabric was thinner. I just found the consistency to be unreliable. The other issue is they aren’t strong enough to be pulled taught for upholstery. I would end up tearing pieces and having to start over. So, I’ve moved on to different fabrics.

  20. Shannon

    I’ve used the 4C22 Linen to make bath towels, hand towels and wash cloths that get laundered weekly, and since the seams were doubled over there is no problem with fraying or wear on them at all. Some of the other suggestions for French or flat fell seams would take care of the stress at those areas.

  21. Bernie

    Bernina domestic sewing machines will pretty much sew through anything, and multiple layers, you don’t need an industrial machine….they are pricey, however. I’d also serge the seam allowances to keep fraying at a minimum, and use a stabilizer on high stress seams. Also you can spray heavily used fabrics with Scotchguard to help against staining.

  22. Mindy Bailey

    For linen, it is best to use french seams to avoid the pulling apart, it does take more time.

  23. Lillian

    I use a blanket stitch ALL THE TIME to “serge” fraying fabrics. Occasionally I run a straight stitch on the inside edge of the blanket stitch fo a straight seem on taut fabrics.


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Marian Parsons - Miss Mustard Seed

I’m Marian, aka Miss Mustard Seed, a wife, mother, paint enthusiast, lover of all things home and an entrepreneur, author, artist, designer, freelance writer & photographer.  READ MORE to learn more about me, my blog and my business…

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