wing chair drop cloth slipcovers

by | Jan 5, 2015 | All Things Home, Decorating, My House, Secret Weapons, Sewing, Tutorials | 22 comments

I try not to get too engrossed in my blog analytics and all of the numbers, but it’s interesting sometimes to check them out…see what’s popular and what is most often pinned.  One trend I’ve noticed is that my readers loved my drop cloth projects.  I still get questions about which ones I use and how I bleached them.  Well, I thought I would give an update on drop cloth slipcovers I made for a pair of wing chairs about five years ago…

drop cloth slipcovers | miss mustard seed

 These chairs have a great story.  This is what they (and my family room) looked like when we first moved in…

drop cloth slipcovers | before | miss mustard seed

Yes, they are the blue checked wing chairs.  (Ha!  I just noticed a bagel sandwich on the back of the sofa!)  Anyway, the chairs were put up for sale by some friends at a yard sale and, believe it or not, they didn’t sell!  So, I got them for free.  I slipcovered them initially in some cotton twill, but the checks were visible underneath.  I lived with those for a while, because we just didn’t have the money to replace them.  I then saw drop cloths used as curtains or something and decided to try them as slipcovers.

Well, that started a whole thing between me and drop cloths.  They became my go-to fabric for all slipcover and upholstery projects.  (You can read my tips on using drop cloths for slipcovers HERE.)

drop cloth slipcovers | miss mustard seed

I was even turning them into “grain sacks” in order to get the look I wanted at a price I could fit into my budget.

drop cloth slipcovers | miss mustard seed

These drop cloth wing chairs have moved from the family room to the master bedroom…

drop cloth slipcovers | miss mustard seed

…to the living room…

drop cloth slipcovers | miss mustard seed

 …and even almost made the cover of my first book, Inspired You.

drop cloth slipcovers | miss mustard seed

 With all of the furniture that’s come and gone in this house, these free chairs have managed to stick around.  The slipcovers have survived two boys, who were 3 and 4 years old when they were first tied on, and multiple washings.  The seats have a few stains on them, which is expected, and I have had to restitch a couple of the seams where I was a little skimpy with the allowance.  All-in-all, they’ve held up remarkably well and have shown drop cloths to be a good option for slipcovering.

So, why am I always using antique hemp sheets and grain sacks now?  I thought I would compare my former favorite fabric with my current favorite to answer that question.

Cost – When you compare drop cloths to antique hemp sheets, this isn’t even a real comparison.  Drop cloths are the obvious choice when budget is a factor, and honestly, you can achieve almost the exact look with the cost-saving option that you get with something that’s harder to find and much more expensive.  A check for drop cloths.

Durability – While both are durable fabrics, the hemp is thicker and has a tighter weave.  If you’re planning to use the chair for 20 years, I’m not sure drop cloth is going to last that long.  I can’t imagine the antique hemp fabric wearing out when used on upholstered pieces.  Hemp also holds a better shape whereas drop cloth drapes and wrinkles more.  Hemp gets a leg up.

Ease to work with – Dropcloth wins in this category when it comes to making slipcovers.  If you have a run-of-the-mill sewing machine, it’s going to handle the lighter-weight drop cloth much better than the hemp.  You really have to have a heavy-duty or upholstery machine to handle that.  For upholstery, though, the lightweight and loose weave works against you.  When you pull the fabric to get a smooth, tight fit, it rips right out of the staples.  So, this one is a bit of a tie for me.  It really depends on the project, your experience level, and your tools.

The final thing that puts hemp sheets over drop cloths for me is the intangible quality of using an old textile in your home.  The texture is so beautiful and it’s hard for me to go back to the flatter, looser weave of the drop cloth.  I also haven’t been able to find ones that are as nice as the ones I used to find.  As you can see in the pictures, the fabric is soft, the color is a creamy white and no one would ever guess they are dropcloths.  The ones I have found recently to use as actual drop cloths are much darker and they don’t feel as nice.

So, hemp is my preference now, but I’ll always have a soft spot for drop cloths and I certainly wouldn’t discount them for an upcoming project.  I think my wing chairs support that nicely!


  1. Dolores

    I’m just incredibly impressed that you managed to sew your own slipcovers !

  2. Mz V

    Have you tried the drop cloths from Harbor Freight ? I think they’re much better than the ones from my local “big box”store. Just a suggestion…..happy 2015….

    • Karen

      Thanks for the tip!

    • Charlotte Ruland

      I know this is old, but…I LOVE the ones from HF! The quality of their drop cloths is amazing…provided the country of origin says India. If it says Pakistan, it’s garbage. I buy the ones from India 6 or 7 at a time to make sure I have enough until the ones from India come in again.

      I know this sounds weird, but if you are curious as to why I say this, head over to HF and check out their drop cloths. The ones that are floppy and loosely folded are from Pakistan, and the ones that are more tightly folded are from India. You can also look below the bar code and see if it says Pakistan or India. Anyway, just buy one of each and wash (or bleach) them. You’ll see what I mean. Huge difference in quality (the ones from India are definitely 10 oz.) Just my two cents 😉

  3. Peggy

    I’m a professional slipcover fabricator, and I’ve done more dropcloth slipcovers in the past year than ever before! I use the 10 oz from Lowes, and everyone loves them. Ironically, I don’t have any in my own home, but I’m thinking of using it on one of my chairs.
    I saw the Harbor Freight drop cloths that Mz V mentions; maybe this is a good time to check that out.

  4. Denise

    I was wondering the same thing as Peggy and Mz. V mentioned. Are there better quality drop cloths available? Going to do an online search and visit our local Harbor a Freight and Lowes stores. Thank you ladies, and thank you for the update Marian. It’s always such a pleasure to read your posts.

  5. beverlee

    I used them on my dining room chairs, complete with faux grain sack stripe and initials…painted in cobalt. Love them…need to do the rest. I just used what Lowe’s had. Thank you!

  6. Cindy

    That was interesting Marian. Actually really cool to hear the comparisons… and the chairs still look great after all these years!


  7. Karen

    I love the look of drop cloth slipcovers, but I agree with you Marian, the quality of drop cloth canvas is not what is use to be. Too grainy and dirty looking for me. I’d rather use a 10 to 12 ounce or #12 weight natural canvas by the yard. It’s inexpensive and I don’t have to deal with flaws, seams, etc. like you have to with a drop cloth. Having said that hemp is my absolute favorite fabric….the old stuff as well as the new! The character and durability of hemp can’t be beat. Will we be seeing hemp slipcovers on your wingbacks anytime soon? 🙂

    • marian

      Yep! I have been saving some thinner hemp sheets for just that job. I do like new hemp fabric as well, but you can’t beat the character of the old stuff.

  8. Deb Landy

    Really great info. Thanks!

  9. mary young

    Marian, I will always be grateful for your 6 part series on slipcovers. I did a chair and a half plus
    ottoman in a dog print for my Golden Retriever Lucy. lol. I couldn’t have done it without your videos. I was
    constantly running back and forth from my sewing machine to the computer to see what I was supposed to be doing. Thanks. Mary

  10. dorrie

    I should have sent you a thank you two years ago. Your tutorial gave me the incentive, “courage” to finally recover a small wing back garage find. The low cost of the drop cloths sealed the deal. As you often say, just go with it. What have you got to lose? Its not perfect but what is? Every time I look at it I feel such a sense of accomplishment and I owe it all to you.So point to drop cloths for removing last obstacle to trying something different.

  11. Ingrid

    I agree with Dorrie and Mary – using the low-cost dropcloths as you suggested Marian, made me much more fearless in attempting to slipcover! I never would have attempted it if I feared wasting a ton of money on fabric that I messed up. Many thanks to you Marian!

  12. Terri

    In 2009, I wanted the beautiful look of slipcovered couches. I had a 12′ conversation couch (half circle) in dark brown. It was fine for cold winters, but for summer, I wanted a light color. After spending a lot of time reading Miss Mustardseed’s blog and use of drop cloths, I decided to give it a try. I had only handsewn buttons on missing shirts 🙁 I had a Singer Featherweight (made in the 1940’s) that my grandmother had given me. It was in perfect condition and good working order. I decided to give it a try. I made my way through the project for five long days while learning to sew a straight line, cover cording, pinning, etc. At the end, I had a pretty good looking slipcover for my couch. I would never have thought I could do it, but through the excellent teaching tutorials of Miss Mustardseed, I was able to accomplish my goal. I now sew many items for my home. No, they aren’t perfect, but they are made with lots of love. Thank you again, Miss Mustardseed! I never would have tried it without you!

  13. sandy

    Thank you so much for all these wonderful tips and ideas… I used drop cloth for curtains and as recovering in my booth (an EZ up) at the marketplace… though very inexpensive for that it can get pricey if you have to buy new ones every 3 months just for customers to walk on… so I would wash them after every show and reuse them. The washing just made them prettier! Also softer! Then suddenly they were not stiff enough to use as floor covering so I cut them into large pieces and added a white cotton ruffle all around. They became throws! My kids (I have 6) love them and all my store bought throws slowly get little holes while the drop cloths (dc) from Lowe’s or the home depot just keep going. I have noticed a difference in quality throughout the years as well… the dc is just not the same as it used to be. Sigh…
    I slip covered a love seat with wing back 8 years ago I used white duck canvas and I too was skimpy on the allowance for the seams here and there… (it was my first time at making a slip) however… when it rips a little I would just zig zag over the rip and it stayed! Just because of those experiences (and I have learned a lot about fabrics throughout the years and quality since I design and make garments for weddings as well) I have learned to use the better fabric when budget allows it… All the time and effort and work you put into making the slips or garments… you would want for it to last 🙂
    Thanks so much for sharing where else to find good drop cloths as well!
    I love your site and your openness on tips ideas and facts! That is a rare quality that is hard to find find nowadays.

    Thank you 🙂

  14. Diana

    Hi, I loved your ideas using drop cloths for slip covers! I went to lowes and bought two of the 10 oz 9×15 tarps (this was only size available). I’m hoping to cover large couch and love seat. I have an old style top load washer but didn’t think the tarp would fit in washer, so I’m using a very large feed trough both tarps would easily fit, but decided to do one at a time. I started soaking it in bleach last night. When I checked on it this morning, it has almost a tie dye look to it! Help!! What went wrong? What should I do? I stirred it up and left it soaking, but am not to sure what to do. My plan was to take it into a laundry mat to use an industrial size washer to launder it after soaking it at home but the bleach process isn’t going so well.

    • Sharon

      Hi Diana:
      I know this is a year late, but wondering if you ever resolved your tie-dye problem? I just bought a drop cloth from Home Depot and find that it is 53% polyester. I think the older DC’s had far more cotton. The high polyester count would probably explain the problem with the uneven bleaching. Plastic doesn’t take to bleach. I just washed my new DC 3x’s and it’s not at all soft. Again I think too much plastic in the fabric. So I will just go buy some 10oz 100% cotton canvas at an art store and go from there. Too bad the big box store DCs are cheaply made now, but I guess they still serve their original purpose.

  15. Melissa #DoItHerselfDiva

    About 2 years ago,I was living in a 100 year old,drafty Duplex in Our Historic city of Wyandotte,Mi which is 1/2 in between Detroit,Michigan & Toledo,Ohio..The windows were new but the walls themselves were sooooo cold!! I could not afford custom,”120 lined/interlined curtians (Nor would I for a rental!) But I happened to catch a blog for Dropcloth Drapes through Stylesavvy. I happened to be in Big Lots & they had drop cloths made by Frost King clearance for $10 each. I moved & never got around to making those curtains but am now trying My hand at slipcovers & upholstery.They bleach from an Oatmeal to a pretty ivory creme but definitely not the creamy white that I want & that will blend well with My stark white cotton twill slipcovered sofa from World Market’s “Spring Collection 2014” where they sold a white slipcover with turquoise piping for that season only..But now I have 12 packages of dropcloths that I better learn to love! Marian,I’ve been searching everywhere around Me in the Detroit Metro area or even in the Toledo area for somewhere I can take an in-person slipcovering or upholstery class.I love Your instructional videos but I really would like to learn from a live person standing in front of Me.I looked everywhere a few years ago for someone in My area to make a slipcover & was told there was one elderly woman who did it for all the upholstery shops but she passed away a few years ago & her services were never replaced. found 2 Ladies on Etsy who make them through measurements sent through email.But I think might actually have found a niche where I could support My Children…Do You have Any contacts in My area who are willing to teach a willing Student?

    • Tara Zornow

      Melissa– I am right at the border of Toledo, in Michigan. I am looking for someone to make custom slipcovers for me, and I’m finding it impossible!!! Have you found anyone from here to where you are?

  16. Jen

    Do you have a tutorial on how you bleach your drop cloths? I have been searching and I can’t find one.



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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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