Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Slipcover Tutorial (finally!)

All right, finally I got all my junk together and got this thing done!  Here is my attempt at a slipcover tutorial.  I googled that phrase a bunch of times on the internet, and found a few of them, but a lot of them were more advanced then what I wanted to do, and then there were some that charged you for an ebook.  This definitely won't be for a perfectionist who wants all of her angles to match up, so I'll get that disclaimer out of the way right now!

I ordered my fabric from  I consistently found this to be cheapest when looking at material for slipcovering, even more then JoAnn's with a coupon.  They have free shipping on orders over $35, free returns, and if it is the first time you use the site, scroll down to the bottom and look for "coupon corner" and there will be a one time use coupon for 10% your order over $40, and if you are slipcovering, it will be.

The fabric that I ordered for both of my slipcovers is Canvas White UR-129, and here is the link to exactly that:  Canvas White  It is approximately 10 oz.  At first I ordered a 7 oz. material but it was much too thin and never would have held up to high traffic couches and I had to return it.  10 oz. is just about perfect because it is heavy duty, but not so heavy that you have to majorly slow down your sewing.  And speaking of sewing, your pretty much can have almost no experience and do this as long as you can sew straight lines.

I ordered this fabric because I saw on a blog that the woman used this.  You want 100% cotton and something that says washable.  There are a ton of fabrics that say dry clean only, which definitely defeats the purpose of bleaching your covers.  I will say that this fabric is not an ice white, it is more leaning towards a warm white, like the color of IKEA's white curtains but a little bit whiter.  But some bleach should take care of that for you, and unless you are super specific about your whites, it should be just fine.

I ordered 15 yards for my couch and had a yard or two left over and I ordered 12 for my loveseat. You may want to take some quick measurements for your couch as mine is a little smaller then a standard size couch.  For both fabrics, which I ordered at separate times, the total was $170 dollars.

Here is what you will need to sew a cover:

1. fabric
2. thread
3. sewing needles
4. pinning needles
5. hand needle for basting
6. colorful thread for basting
7. velcro for cushion covers, or zipper
8. sharp scissor
9. sewing machine

Your fabric will come in the mail on a bolt like this:

Please Note:  Cute kid not included with bolt of fabric.

 The first thing you will want to do is wash and DRY it.  It is super important to do this because your fabric will shrink and if you don't do this, then you will do all of the work, wash it the first time and it will be too small for your couches and you will be extremely upset.  This didn't happen to me but it takes some work and I would be highly irritated if I wasted all that time and money because I didn't wash and dry.

I cut off sections that were twice the length of the couch to wash.  I picked that size because I knew even with shrinkage it would cover the back completely, and any larger and it becomes an unmanageable amount of fabric for the machine.

You will then lay your fabric across the back of the couch like this.

You must remember to put your fabric inside out on the couch, or in other words, pattern side in.  Basically you are sewing the cover inside out and backwards and when you flip it after it is all together what was on the left side will now be on the right.  Got it?  Good.

If you use the same fabric I did because you are going for the "bleach the crap away ease" then don't worry about this at all.  From what I could tell, there was no right side to this fabric.  It was exactly the same to me either way.

The nice thing about this fabric is that it comes hemmed on two sides, so I cheated and put those sides along the bottom as much as I could so I didn't have to hem.

This picture is trying to show you that this edge is hemmed already so that makes less work for me if I place it at the bottom of my slipcover.

Then you will want to tuck the corners in around the front of the edges.  Make sure you tuck under the corners as much as possible,  you want to be able to shove the fabric in there and allow for about 2" of seam.

Another view of the whole thing so far:

Next you are going to do the piece that goes across the bottom under the seat cushions and down to the floor.  Again with this one I put the hemmed part on the bottom in the front so I don't have to deal with a hem later.

 It's hard to tell in this picture, but then you are going to pin the two pieces of fabric together along the whole length that they meet up.  Make sure to allow lots of extra fabric going up the sides where arm fabric will drape down and meet.

Then it is time to do the arms.  Take your fabric and drape from the floor over and down into the cushion.  Again, already finished hem along the bottom of the couch.  I didn't have to hem at all with my covers because of this move.

You will have to do some trimming around the arms to make the fabric fit and join up with the other parts.  It is important to shove the fabric into the arms like you did with the back piece so you can get enough fabric to work with.  You do not want to come up short with this!

 This is a picture of the arm of the couch.  If you look closely you can see 3 tiny little pins on the top of the arm.  I did this so the fabric wouldn't move on me and thus make me sew wonky.  I suggest pinning parts of the fabric to the couch the entire time you make this, it will allow you to keep things in position as you tug other parts to make it fit best.

Once you get the fabric shoved into the cracks and cut down to about a 2" seam, this is what it will look like on the inside of your couch in the corners:

You know on Despicable Me where the Minion goes "wwwhat?" after the girls trashed the place with toilet paper and Grule tells him he has to clean it up?  (One of my favorite parts by the way), that is how I felt when I looked at this corner.  But you will get over it, I promise.

This is hands-down the crappiest part of this project.  It doesn't look too bad here, but it is challenging to get 3 different areas of fabric all lined up and pinned.  And the worst part is coming- sewing that crazy corner all together.  I will warn you right now that it sucks.  It's basically just winging it and hoping your stitches close up.  But if they don't, when you turn it the right way, you can look at what is going on and always hand stitch the open areas close.  Don't let this part intimidate you or make you change your mind about sewing a cover.  If you shove enough fabric into the cracks, even if it is terribly wonky, and mine was, you can shove it down far into the corner when it is on the couch and it doesn't matter at all because even the pressure from people sitting on it doesn't pull because you gave yourself enough fabric.

The next part is to do the front of the arms.  Find a smaller piece of fabric to use as the front.  In the picture below you can see a several inch overhang that you want to make sure you leave from the piece that you draped over the arms to sew the front.

Another view of the other arm front:

At this point you should have everything that makes up your slipcover pinned and in place.  My suggestion here is to baste everything together.  I didn't know what that word meant, but basically I took a bright colored thread, blue in my case, and sewed just above the pins to make the seam tighter and for the slipcover to fit better.  You use huge stitches.  It serves two purposes.  1. It holds the fabric together and 2. If your needles fall out when you are sewing you still know where to sew because you basically just go over the basting.  I looked up what that word meant when I was done.  I am so thorough!  And remember, you are using LARGE stitches when basting, you are not hand-sewing the thing shut.  The whole couch should probably only take about 15 minutes to do this.  Otherwise you are either being a perfectionist or are sewing your stitches too close together.

I did not baste the first slipcover and I really regret it.  I had pins falling out all over the place and sometimes wan't sure where I should be sewing.  Yes, it will add time, but I promise in the long run it will be worth it.

Here is a picture where you can see my blue basting it is going around the front of the arm.  Notice the LARGE stitches?

Your next step after this is take the slipcover off, don't forget to take out any pins you put in the actual couch to help hold the fabric in place and sew that thing together!  Take your time, mine took about two bobbins worth of thread to sew the couch slipcover.  Once you are done, put it right side out on the couch and check it over thoroughly wherever the fabric connects, especially in the corners where the seats will rest on and hand sew anything that didn't get completed with the machine.  

After that it is time to do the cushions.  I put two layers of fabric together and just cut out everything it one fell swoop.

You will be cutting and pinning fabric for three sides of the cushions (I'll explain what I did with the fourth in a sec) so it makes the nice seam line and help it look finished.  Here is part of a cushion pinned:

Before you start the cushions you will need to have decided how you want to make them go together, whether you are going to use a zipper or velcro or ties so that you can take the slipcover off the cushions and wash them.  I couldn't find a zipper big enough to go around my cushion, plus I don't even know how to sew a zipper, so I opted for the sew on velcro.  They have sticky stuff but I don't think there is any possible way that it would last.  

This next picture shows the one side of the cushion that is NOT pinned because this is the side where I am going to have my over-lapping fabric with velcro sewn in.  Notice on this side I put the already hemmed sides of the fabric together to save myself time.  I don't have a good picture of it, but on the bottom piece of the fabric in the below picture I sewed one piece of velcro on it on the outside, the side that you see.  And I sewed the other piece of velcro on the top part of the fabric on the inside, the part of the fabric that would touch the cushion so they could meet up and hold the cushion shut.  The top fabric overlaps the bottom fabric to allow closure.  Remember before you start pinning your other sides to line this up correctly if you are going to use velcro.

You will want to wait and sew the velcro to the cushion cover after you have sewn the rest of the cover first and put it on the cushion correctly to make sure everything matches up well and there are no holes.

And finally, here is a picture of the slipcover all done.  This is the loveseat.  It's not as tight as I was hoping, especially around the arms, but I am not sure how to have made the arms tighter as the fabric has to get all away around the arms where they bulge out.  Overall, I am happy with the way it turned out.  And hopefully, I will not be doing this again any time soon!

And just to remind you, here is a picture of the loveseat before.

And then here is an after shot of the big couch.  And I know I have been promising pictures of what this area looks like now after some changes, soon, I tell you.  I am still tweaking some things, especially after all that time spent on that stupid lamp and then it didn't even work.

So there you have it.  Hopefully, a relatively clear idea on how to sew a slipcover.  If something doesn't make sense, leave me a comment and I will try and address it better.


  1. First of all this amazing that you even have the time to make this - and secondly it's amazing that you have the confidence to do it in white with 3 toddlers!! Good job! ;)

  2. Ah, thanks! It was a tad of a challenge with the three littles, I tried to do everything when they were asleep. Hubby thinks white is a little crazy too, but he admits the whole bleach it thing is a great idea. We'll see! Probably with this many I will have to bleach it weekly and then all that bleaching will make it weak and thin, and I'll have to do it again in a year, that would royally stink!