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Tips On Making Your Own Slipcovers
by Simon Phillips
Part 1 - Planning, measuring and materials
Dressing your furniture with slipcovers is a really effective way to improve your home's appearance without great expense.
Slipcovers are basically removable fabric covers which are shaped to fit over your original upholstery and can easily be removed for cleaning or if you simply fancy giving your room a different look.
Loose slipcovers, which are simply draped over a sofa or chair and held loosely in place with ties, are the easiest to make. However, for a tailored look, a fitted slipcover can look very sleek and elegant, and this is the type we'll talk about here.
Slipcover Fabrics & Tools
Fabrics made from natural fibers / fibres tend to be easier to work with when doing a lot of cutting and sewing. They are more "breathable" and comfortable to sit on.
Synthetic fibers / fibres can be slippery and harder to work with.
For making a fitted slipcover, a medium-weight cotton, or cotton blended with a small amount of synthetic fiber is a good choice.
Cotton is easy to sew and is generally hardwearing and washable, however, it can be prone to wrinkling, so cotton blended with polyester increases wrinkle-resistance.
Polyester is commonly used in soft furnishings, as it is durable, fade-resistant and easy to dye.
To avoid having to match up large prints and plaids, it's advisable to choose a solid color or something with a small pattern, such as checks or stripes, with which it won't show if the pattern's not matched.
Because you'll want to be able to wash your slipcovers, unlike with upholstery fabric, you'll need to preshrink your slipcover fabric. Do this simply by washing and drying your chosen material, using whatever method you intend to use to wash the finished item. It's good practice to also preshrink all the materials you'll be using to make your slipcover, such as the zip, any trim or welt cord. Once dry, press the fabric with the lengthwise grain.
One of the main things to consider is where you will sew your slipcover. You'll be dealing with large pieces of fabric, so a large table is essential for laying out, cutting, pinning and sewing. A dining table or wallpapering table is ideal.
Planning Your Slipcover
If you're covering an upholstered seat, it makes sense to plan to have the seams of your slipcover in the same place as the original seam lines. You can also use the upholstery as a guide to skirt length, welting etc, or you can choose to leave out certain features from your slipcover to give the seat a new style.
Remember you'll need to incorporate some type of closure, such as a zip. Generally, sofa covers have a zip at each corner, whereas a chair cover will have one at a back corner.
Before you buy your fabric, it's crucial to take accurate measurements of your furniture. Measure the length and width of each section, and allow a little extra for seams, hems and for tucking in.
Fabrics tend to be cut with the lengthwise grain running vertically. However, if you're making a sofa slipcover, you can save on fabric if it can be cut with the lengthwise grain running the width of the seat instead. Some fabrics are made with this technique in mind, but it's not suitable for napped fabrics such as velvet or corduroy, or for directional patterns.
Always buy a yard or two more fabric than you need to give yourself spare, just in case, and remember you will be preshrinking it before you start work anyway.
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