Tips On Making Slipcovers With Drop Cloths

Marian ParsonsSewing, Tutorials131 Comments

I had no idea there would be such an interest in learning how to work with drop cloths in a home decor application, 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 the drop cloths 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.

So, here are the things I have learned along the way…
1.) Drop cloths are very stiff and dingy-looking right out of the package.  They at least need to be washed.
2.) How to bleach a drop cloth: 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.

3.) Drop cloths are thick.  Make sure you get heavy duty needles and use a new one when you’re starting a drop cloth 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 kinds of problems.

4.) Because of the thickness of the fabric, drop cloths do not ruffle well.  If you want a girly touch, pleats will be less frustrating.  Trust me.

5.) Despite all of the bleaching, they will never be perfectly white.  They end up being a 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 cloths.

6.) Drop cloth canvas will tear in a straight line, which 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.  A lot of home decor fabrics will do this as well, but not all, so be careful!
7.) And my last tip is to use the hemmed edges to your advantage.  You have 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.  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 cloths 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.
Tips On Making Slipcovers With Drop Cloths

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131 Comments on “Tips On Making Slipcovers With Drop Cloths”

  1. 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. 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

    1. 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.

  3. 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.

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  5. Hi,
    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?

  6. 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.

  7. 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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