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Tips for Making Slipcovers

A well-made slipcover can be an easy way to change the look of a room without incurring the expense of buying new furniture. The biggest sewing challenge you face when making slipcovers is how to manage the large amount of fabric you have to maneuver through the sewing machine. These few tips can help:

  • Place your sewing machine on a large worktable so you can spread out the fabric, or have a card table adjacent to your sewing machine so your sewn fabric has a safe landing spot.

  • Work slowly and surely. Guide your fabric through the sewing machine at an even pace and stop periodically to make sure your sewn lines are straight. Taking these simple steps can help you to manage large pieces of fabric.

  • Sew your longest seams first because they have the most pins in the fabric. That way your pins don’t stick into adjacent pieces of fabric and slow you down as you work.

If you’re using a print fabric, whenever you have to join fabric panels to create enough width to cover a larger piece of furniture, make sure you cut your fabric on grain. Laying out your fabric and cutting it on grain means making sure that the lengthwise grain (imagine a line through your fabric that you want to be perpendicular to the floor), or grainline, of your pattern is parallel to the selvage edges (the edges where the fabric comes off the loom, where writing sometimes appears).

Here are some other tips:

  • Plan margins before you cut: When you’re making a pattern or measuring your fabric panel, remember to add in the correct amount for your project. For example, if you want a large hem on the bottom of your curtain, say 4 inches, add a 4-inch hem allowance to your curtain length measurement, and then add a small turn-under allowance, too.

  • The standard seam allowance for slipcovers is a 1/2-inch, but feel free to increase it to 1 inch. If you want to give your slipcover a bit more wiggle room (in case you want to change your seam allowance to fix a too-tight fit), you can work with a 1-inch seam allowance. You can always trim off the fabric later if you find that it adds too much bulk, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.

  • Pay attention to pattern: Be aware that your fabric choice is one of the biggest determining factors in how easy or difficult the construction of your slipcover will be. Your fabric’s pattern has to go in the same direction all over your sofa, loveseat, dining room table, or chair. If you choose a large print or stripe, the motif has to be consistent over the back, arms, cushions, and sides; you'll also need a lot more fabric, too.

    If you don’t feel confident that you can match stripes or large prints across panels, stick with solids or petite prints for your first slipcover.

  • Choose drapable fabric: If you’re treating a sofa with a lot of curves — say, a camel-back sofa — opting for a fabric that drapes well and seemingly molds to the rounded back or curved arms of your furniture helps ensure you’ll create a slipcover that conforms and flatters.

  • Consider railroading: Railroading is a way of using fabric so that the lengthwise grain runs horizontally — with selvage edges parallel to the floor — as opposed to vertically, where the selvages run perpendicular. The advantage of railroading is that you can cover a wide expanse and avoid having to worry about seam placements, which is very useful when creating a sofa slipcover, and you save a bit of money because you don’t need as much fabric. Solid fabrics, petite prints, or prints that can be turned sideways, such as a stripe or an even check, are all good candidates for railroading.

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