No need to call an upholsterer when you want to change the color or pattern on your occasional chairs. Here’s how to figure out how to make your own pattern to create simple chair covers.
Do you have any furniture in your house that you mostly love, but it just needs a little updating? I do because I’m a sucker for garage sales, estate sales, and generally anything with a little history (and a low price tag) to it.
I got these sweet little chairs from a Craigslist ad a couple of years ago, and immediately fell in love as soon as I sat in one. These might be the most comfortable chairs I own. I even loved their quaint rose pattern, although it doesn’t fit any of my decor.
I knew I could fashion chair covers for them someday, if I ever felt the need.
Fast forward a couple of years, and although I still love the chairs’ original upholstery, I can’t deny anymore that they need a little update to fit in with the rest of my living room. (This is mostly because my best friend and design eagle-eye, Jana, tells me so whenever she comes over.)
When I decided to do a Spring Refresh on these dated accent chairs, my first thought was, “but I hate sewing, and I don’t have a pattern.” Jana assured me that she would help, if it would get me to finally do something about them.
I grudgingly agreed and we put our unskilled heads together and came up with a plan. I didn’t want to just start stapling new fabric to the chairs (my usual M.O. includes either staples or hot glue) because someday I might want to use them in their original state again. So I decided to make simple slipcovers for them, which turned out to be easier than I expected.
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How to Make Your Own Simple Chair Covers
This project turned out to be relatively easy because the chairs are a classic L-shape. The L-shape also works great for parson style dining chairs. If you have a different style you’re trying to update, you can still use these steps, but the measurements might not be as simple.
Also, if you’re looking for custom slipcovers that you don’t have to make yourself, give this shop a try: August Blues (That’s not an affiliate link, I just really love her stuff.)
Measure the Chairs
First you’ll need to measure your chairs to get an idea of how much fabric you’ll need. Keep in mind that if your fabric has a big pattern to it (called a “repeat” in design lingo), you’ll want to try to match up the lines as much as possible, so you may need to buy extra fabric to move your pattern around.
I measured from the bottom of the back of the chair, all the way up and around and down to the front. Then I measured each side “L” pieces. Then I had to figure out how to fit all those pieces onto one cut of fabric.
Then you need to pick out the fabric. You can use almost anything, but I chose heavy duty upholstery fabric because I wanted them to retain their shape and stand up to wear and tear from the kids and dog. Not to mention my rowdy guests.
When you’ve picked your fabric, pick up a spool of thread to match. (Use heavy duty if you’re using upholstery fabric.)
Make a Pattern
Next, create your pattern. This doesn’t need to be technical or intimidating. It’s just a way to get your measurements onto your fabric. Mark your measurements on the back side of the fabric.
Be sure to line up any lines and designs in your fabric that you want to meet up at the seams. My fabric has only a subtle pattern, which isn’t why I picked it, but it ended up being a lot easier to work with. Score!
Remember to leave a couple of inches along the bottom of the chair so you can hem the whole piece.
Cut the Fabric
Now cut out your pieces. When cutting out your pattern, make sure to leave about an inch around every edge for seam allowance. (That’s the edge that ends up on the inside and keeps the seams from unraveling.)
Ok, sadly that was the easy part. This is where it gets interesting…
Fit and Pin the Pattern
Now lay your fabric upside down on your chair. Use straight pins to pin the fabric pieces together around the edges of the chair. Keep your pins as close to the chair as possible so you can get a nice tight fit, and use lots of pins (about every couple of inches).
You may need to tuck the fabric a bit as you follow the contours of your chair.
Sew it Together
Use your sewing machine to stitch the whole line that your pins have made, pulling each one out as you go. Don’t worry about the bottom edge just yet.
Even better, talk a good friend into coming over to help you do the sewing!
Fit and Adjust
Now try fitting the cover right-side up onto your chair. If there are any areas that seem too tight or loose, you will need to restitch those. That sounds annoying, but it’s really not so bad. Hopefully you’ll just be making minor adjustments at this point.
Hem and Trim
Once your cover fits well, you’ll want to hem the bottom of the whole “skirt.” Simply fold the fabric over twice and stitch along the bottom. That will give you a nice clean edge, without a lot of fuss. (If you like more fuss, you can add a pretty piece of trim to the bottom to finish it off.)
Finally, put your cover on, tuck in the seat back, and straighten everything out. And you’re done! It looks like you have brand new chairs, for only the price of a few yards of fabric.
Simple Chair Cover Resources
Finishing Off the Spring Refresh
I love my new chairs, but I felt like they needed a little spot of color, so I threw my Placemat Pillows on them, which just happened to be the perfect size and shape.
Then I added a lovely garden stool from HomeGoods, which tied the whole vignette together and brought just the right amount of color to that side of the room.
Then, because I stole the pillows from the couch, I just had to pick up a new Ikat pillow from World Market to pull everything back together.
Now the whole room has a soothing blue vibe, without the red and yellow rose chairs to break up the theme. Plus, if I ever change color schemes, I can go back to the roses, or just make new slipcovers.
In the meantime, I’m enjoying my new Spring theme, and hoping the weather cooperates soon. How about you? Are you ready to try this kind of refresh on a piece of your furniture?
Let me know if I missed anything in my instructions, or if you have any questions along the way.