ottoman slipcover tutorial

by | Dec 15, 2014 | Living Room, Sewing, Tutorials | 23 comments

My blog was eerily quiet for a couple of days until I realized there was an error with the comments plugin!  Well, it’s back up a running, so you can talk to me again.

Before the Chapel Market, I made a slipcover for an ottoman I found at a second-hand shop and promised a tutorial.  The pictures were soon buried and I forgot all about it!  I was digging through the depths of my Lightroom library and was reminded of my promise.  So, here we go!

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For this project, I used a couple of vintage textiles I’d been saving in my stash for just the right project.  One was a piece of an old blue & white quilt with amazing stitching and the other was about a yard of antique cream homespun linen.  The quilt piece wasn’t large enough to cover the top of the ottoman, so I needed to use pieces of the homespun on either side to make the top of the slipcover.

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To do this, I centered the quilt piece on the ottoman and cut a piece of fabric large enough to complete each side, allowing for seams.  I sewed the homespun on each side of the quilt square.

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…and pressed the seams open, so they lay flat.  I’m not someone who enjoys ironing, but it really is an important step when sewing.

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See how nice the seam lays down when it’s pressed?

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Now I have a solid piece of fabric to work with on the top.  If you have a piece of fabric that’s large enough to cover the top, this first step is unnecessary.

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Next, I made the piping.  I think that custom piping is one of the details that makes a slipcover look “professional.”  It gives it a bit of structure.  To figure out how much I need, I use the cording and run it along everywhere I want piping, allowing for some extra just in case.  In the case of the ottoman, I measured it around the ottoman twice – once for where the top meets the side and once for where the side meets the skirt.  Once I know how much I need, I cut the same length of fabric in 2-3″ wide strips.  I used the homespun for that.

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Since the cording was longer than the strips of fabric, I sewed the strips together and, again, pressed open the seams, so they lay flat.

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I wrapped the fabric around the cording and sewed it on with a zipper foot.  If you get any special feet for your sewing machine, get a zipper foot!  That is the key to sewing piping, so you can get the stitches right up against the cording.  If you use a regular foot, the cording will flap around inside and, well, that would just look terrible.

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I cut a length of fabric to fit around the side of the ottoman.  Since I was working with a small piece of fabric, I had to piece three smaller pieces together.  I prefer to make a “band” that fits around the sides of a piece like an ottoman or cushion before pinning it to the top.  So, it’s in a complete circle, if that makes sense.

Put that “band” onto the ottoman inside-out (so the seams are pointing out) and put the top on upside-down.  Pin the top to the sides, sandwiching the piping in between.  I’ve said it a lot, but always double-check that your seams are all facing the same direction when working on a slipcover.  The raw edges of the piping, top and sides should all be facing out.

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It should look like this…

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Sew along the pins, removing them as you go.  Now the top is connected to the sides.  (Note: where the ends of the piping meet, I just cross the ends and let them “disappear” into the seam.  I’m sure there’s a more professional way to do this, but this method is simple.)  Try the slipcover on right-side-out to make sure it’s fitting the way you want and the piping is stitched in properly.  Sometimes I’ll try it on and realize something went awry.  Don’t worry, though.  There are few things a seam ripper can’t fix!

The pin on the piping that runs along the bottoms of the sides, where the skirt will be attached, and sew it on…

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Next, cut the fabric for the skirt.  I just wanted a little flirty ruffle, so I cut a piece of fabric about 3 1/2″ wide.  I really do just eye-ball this kind of cut, but you can measure it out if that makes you more comfortable.  I also didn’t measure out the length I would need, but made sure I had about 2 – 3 times the length of the circumference of the ottoman.  Again, I was working with a small piece of fabric, so I had to piece several lengths together.

I folded the strip of fabric for the skirt in half width-wise…

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(It didn’t matter with this fabric, but you want the right-side-out when folding it over.)  Press that fold to hold it in place.

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Pinch the skirt in a ruffle and pin it to the bottom (again, making sure raw edges are facing the same direction.)  I didn’t pin this one in place, but just pinched and fed the skirt into the machine.  I’ve made enough of these ruffle skirts that I can gauge how much fabric to feed.

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Lastly, I clipped all of the threads and there you have it!

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If you’re new to making slips an ottoman, stool or simple dining chair is a great place to start, so you don’t have to worry about arms and backs and zippers, buttons and ties.  It’s pretty straight forward and you’ll learn basic construction skills that will translate to more complicated pieces when you’re ready.

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I wasn’t planning to paint the legs on this ottoman, but they look a little out of place now that the dark floors have been sanded down.

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I think they are in need of a little Mustardizing…


  1. Kristine

    Lovely! I know photos can be misleading, though I like the mis-matched legs – actually, they kinda look like they tie-in with the cabriole chair on the opposite side of the room. Guess it depends on the level of monotone harmony you’re going for in the space though. Whatever you decide will be beautiful.

  2. cathgrace

    I agree about the legs needing to be painted, that’s one of the first things I thought when I saw this picture!!! (It’s not even so much the color, as the sheen that is a little cheap looking compared to the chairs it’s in front of.) The slipcover is amazing though!!!

  3. Karen Brandson

    That slip cover is so cute! I made one for my ottoman, but it was just a tad small so it keeps riding up like a tight skirt! I’ll have to make another one.
    A couple of tips for you. When you are sewing pieces of the piping casing together, you should cut the ends on an angle. That way the bulk of the seam (more important if the fabric is on the heavier side) will not be in the same spot on both sides when you fold the fabric around the piping cord. Also, sometimes you can pull the piping cord out of the casing a little bit at one end. If your piping has a bit of a wobble along the edge of the cushion in one spot, if you pull the cord a bit tighter than the casing, it can help to straighten that out. I probably haven’t described either of those tips very well, but hope you can figure out what I mean.

    • marian

      Yes, great tips! I sometimes cut the fabric to cover the piping on the bias, but it depends on how much fabric I have. I didn’t have enough of the homespun, so for the sake of economy, I just cut it straight. 🙂

      • Karen Brandson

        Actually, I usually just cut the piping casing with the grain, not on the bias because it does use up a heck of a lot of fabric to cut it on the bias. I just meant where the strips are joined, to cut the ends at an angle. Pictures are worth a thousand words…. 🙂

  4. Alison- The Pink Tumbleweed

    Absolutely beautiful! I’d love to try sewing a professional looking ottoman cover. The fabric you used is amazing.

  5. tina

    I was going to ask about that. The only way I’ve ever done piping cover is to cut it on the bias. Also, do you not finish raw edges in any way? Serge?

    I would like to do an ottoman cover for our bedroom with a pleated skirt. Maybe after the holidays!

    • marian

      I do not have a serger, so I keep the edges raw. I wish I did, though! I just clip them with pinking shears if I’m going to wash them a lot, but this one will probably not need to be washed very much, if at all, since it’s in the living room.

      Yes, cutting piping on the bias is the “right” way to do it and it does reduce the bulk at the seams. I do that when I can, but sometimes it is such a waste of fabric, so I just cut it straight. 🙂

      • Kimberly

        Hi Marian!

        My sewing teacher taught me that cutting fabric for piping on the bias makes it curve or stretch easier around the more squared edges of a pillow, ottoman, chair, etc. I know that most fabric cut on the bias will stretch if pulled, however, I’m not sure if my sewing teacher was just being “proper” in technique and if, in fact, piping casing cut on the bias is stretchy (I’ve never tested it!) or makes the piped seams lay flatter or what. However, I’ve found that cutting on the bias tends to waste a lot of fabric; also, if you are short on fabric, you are (as here in your example) forced to piece together whatever you have available to you anyhow. Your piping looks great, and it appears to lay nice and flat in your seams, so maybe bias cutting the casing is just a “technical” thing?

  6. Robin

    Looks great Marian. Great way to recycle a quilt that has seen better days. As for the ottoman legs, they look anything but cheap to me. Keep doing what you’re doing & thanks for the inspiration.

  7. karen piehl

    mustardizing????!!!!! nononononono my dear! mustard seeding!

  8. Kristi

    Yes! Thank you! I have an ottoman I’m eyeballing in my living room at the moment. I think I have the courage to face it now with this tutorial. I am soooo a beginner seamstress. Thanks again.

  9. April

    Thanks for the inspiration. I am putting off covering some chairs and a sofa. This is the vision I needed to get started. After Christmas. 🙂 Love how you re-purposed your material and looking forward to see your mustardizing!

  10. Terri

    Oh, my! You’ve done it again! Created a wonderful how-to that even I can follow! I have been able to do so many new things from viewing your tutorials! Thank you so much.

  11. Jennifer McCracken

    Great tutorial! You describe well how simple making something custom can be! I like the dark legs on the ottoman. It grounds it to your space. I’m sure whatever you decide to do will be beautiful!

  12. MaryLisa Noyes

    thanks for the instruction. made it very clear to follow. looking forward to trying this project

  13. maria

    Wonderful! Your tutorial is helping me to be brave and finally take on that sewing machine! The cover looks so wonderful!! Once again, I am inspired here!

  14. Relle

    I think the whole room looks amazing!!! Since you don’t have a serger(we call it an overlocker down under. just a fun piece of trivia for you)you can put your sewing machine on a zigzag stitch which will stop your fabric fraying. Getting up the courage to either make my wingback chair a frenchy slip cover or be really daring and just recover her. After reading your site for years and seeing you just jump in and try stuff, I’ve decided to do the same. Thanks for the inspiration.

  15. Jenny

    What an excellent tutorial, as always! I’m pretty new to sewing, but you’ve made all these steps seem very possible. Thanks for the inspiration!

  16. Taylor @ TayRose

    Nicely done Marian! Love the repurposing of a quilt, and in the color theme you have done so beautifully. Such a professional finish, in awe, as usual. Thank you for the tutorial, I have done some chair seat recovering, so this project might be the next step and thanks to your inspiration, I will keep your tutorial as my guide!

  17. the uncommon pearl

    Tucking this one in my project’s pocket. Thanks for the tutorial!

  18. Eileen

    Love your ottoman slipcover! I’ve just sold my old Bernina and need a new sewing machine for occasionally making pillows and curtains. Do you have a recommendation for a machine that won’t cost too much?


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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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