Tips On Making Slipcovers With Drop Cloths

by | Jun 2, 2010 | Sewing, Tutorials | 121 comments

I had no idea there would be such an interest in making things with drop cloths in a home decor application, like slipcovers and curtains, 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 making drop cloth slipcovers 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.

tips on sewing with drop cloths | drop cloth curtains | drop cloth slipcovers | miss mustard seed
So, here are the things I have learned along the way…

drop cloths are very stiff and dingy-looking right out of the package

Remember that the people making drop cloths do not intend them to be used for home sewing projects like slipcovers and curtains!  They at least need to be washed once and might benefit from a second washing if they are still stiff.
tips on sewing with drop cloths | drop cloth curtains | drop cloth slipcovers | miss mustard seed

how to bleach a drop cloth for a slipcover

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.

tips on sewing with drop cloths | drop cloth curtains | drop cloth slipcovers | miss mustard seed

drop cloths are thick

 Make sure you get heavy-duty needles and use a new one when you’re starting a drop cloth slipcover or 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 sorts of problems.

tips on sewing with drop cloths | drop cloth curtains | drop cloth slipcovers | miss mustard seed

drop cloths do not ruffle well

Because drop cloths are on the thicker side, they are not easy to ruffle or add other dainty details.  Their thickness is a benefit for hiding busy fabrics under a slipcover or for holding up well to daily use, but if you want a girly touch, pleats will be less frustrating.  Trust me.

tips on sewing with drop cloths | drop cloth curtains | drop cloth slipcovers | miss mustard seed

despite all of the bleaching, drop cloths will never be perfectly white

 If you want a bright white slipcover, drop cloths will not be the best option for you.  They end up being 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 cloth slipcovers.

tips on sewing with drop cloths | drop cloth curtains | drop cloth slipcovers | miss mustard seed

drop cloth canvas will tear in a straight line

This 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. This is a nice shortcut when you’re making drop cloth slipcovers.  A lot of home decor fabrics will do this as well, but not all, so be careful!

use the hemmed edges to your advantage

There are 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 when making drop cloth slipcovers.  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 cloth slipcovers or curtains 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.


  1. Dawn

    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

    Love the look, it is so cute.

  3. Elizabeth Brigante

    I would love to know how you decorated the chair seats. did you do a tutorial? Would love to hear about it. thank you for your help. Elizabeth

  4. June channing

    Finally. clear, concise instruction and a beautiful end product! Thanks for sharing.

  5. Patricia Boyd

    Do you use 8oz or 10 oz grade painters cloth

  6. Delta

    1st paragraph states that info

  7. Peg

    Could drop clothes be dyed?

  8. Camille Castillo

    Help! PLEASE HELP!
    I purchased two drop cloths at Home Depot and I will follow your tips on bleaching and washing them,however I have some concerns.

    What type if straight pins and machine needles shall I purchase?
    I’m confident in fitting the fabric to my chairs and also in pinning, cutting and sewing the slip covers but might you have tips for fitting the slip covers onto T cushions?

    Thank you, C. Castillo

    • Noël

      My experience with drop clothes from Home Depot is that they are part polyester and therefore won’t bleach. I’ve read on several blogs that the drop cloths must be 100% cotton in order to lighten and soften.

  9. Esther Schlittenhart

    thanks for the tips – I did a drop cloth sofa slip cover and am really pleased with it. It washes and wear well. I don’t have a top loading washing machine so I soaked my drop cloths in totes outside (summer) since I didn’t want to mess with bleach in the house. You can soak them in your bath tub but be careful with that as if your tub has any patches (from chips that might have been fixed in the building process) the bleach can change the color of the finish. I did straight bleach and the fabric disintegrated. A safe bet is to soak the cloths just deep enough that they are wet through and then add a whole bottle of bleach (I did 9 by 12 wash cloths) the bleach. That is what worked for me without over bleaching. I did have to repeat this process a couple of times.

  10. Jennifer Hickman

    I’m looking to the tge drop cloth a sage green or a dusty blue. Any suggestions on doing this right the first time? Should i bleace first to get a true color?

  11. Sharon

    I bought my drop cloth on Amazon. I actually found if you wash the drop cloth first with detergent and then add the bleach it seems to take the bleach better. It still takes hours for it to bleach but it came out soft and pretty white for a dropcloth.

  12. Debbie

    I will add a note about the sewing machine. I made a slip out of heavy fabric once on a new and cheap machine. I had to have it adjusted several times as it simply wouldn’t sew long over that heavy stuff. Finally Got and used an old 1950 machine and it was a workhorse. Took several layers easily in stride and would fly five times as fast over long seams. I see them for sale at estate sales for $25 or less.



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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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