Sewing for the Home ~ Drafting a Slipcover

on September 15 | in Sewing Tutorials + Patterns | by | with 44 Comments

Chair Slipcover Part 2, Chair Slipcover Part 3

This is Part One of maevedragon’s tutorials about the entire chair slipcover process. Learn more about maevedragon in her intro. She tells us all about draping a slipcover and sewing the slipcover in our next posts.

Disclaimer: This tutorial started with the intentions of simply showing people how I create a slipcover for my wing chair. As I started to design my slipcover, however, I realized that wing chairs come in a large variety of shapes–too many, in fact. How could I possibly write a tutorial on creating a wing chair slipcover with this much variation?

So I tried to show how to create a slipcover for *any* chair.

That’s why it’s so long. Honestly.

Items used:

  • sewing machine with universal needle (90/14) and top stitch needle (90/14)
  • approximately 5 yards of upholstery or other slipcover fabric
  • approximately 5 yards of muslin or other tightly woven fabric
  • cloth scissors (regular and pinking shears)
  • paper scissors
  • kraft paper
  • fabric pencils (light and dark)
  • graph paper & pencils (regular & colored)
  • small cloth ruler
  • yardstick
  • straight pins
  • masking tape
  • scotch tape
  • thread (white, matching, basting or “waste”)
  • hand sewing needle
  • closures (buttons, elastic)

Step 1: Sketching
The first step in creating your slipcover is sketching your design. This is the time to decide where you want seams, closures, tucks, and any decorative features to be. For slipcovers, a great way to know where you should put seams is to look at the chair upholstery: more often than not, they’ve included seams in certain places for a reason. Ignore this and you’ll be rewarded with the dreaded “riiiiiiiiiiiip!” noise (been there, done that).

Marking the seams and the tucks on the sketch gives you something to refer back to if you get confused, which can easily happen when your project reaches the 3-dimensional pattern pieces.

Sketch of the slipcover.

Marking seams, tucks…

…And more.

Step 2: Drafting

Roughly measure the various parts of your chair with a yardstick or a cloth measuring tape. The idea is to get the max measurements for each pattern piece. You’ll use these measurements to cut your kraft paper into rough rectangles that will cover the piece of the chair to be transformed into a pattern piece.

Pin the rectangle to your chair with straight pins (just push the pin through the upholstery into the cushion; if you have an upholstery material that might be damaged with this method, you might want to use another method to temporarily secure the paper to the chair).

On reverse side, roughly trace the edge of the chair onto the paper. Where necessary fold the paper to create an edge of the pattern piece.

Once traced, remove pins and place paper on a flat surface (I used my wall and painters tape). Trace over your rough lines, straightening with the yardstick where necessary and connecting any gaps. Label your pattern piece and cut out.

Pin the cut out pattern piece to the chair to check the outline.

If there is a problem with the outline of the pattern piece, trim where needed or use scrap paper to fill in gaps.

This is the process used to create each pattern piece.


Repeat the process with the OUTSIDE BACK. Pin the kraft paper rectangle to the back of the chair, mark the edges, and trim.

Fold the pattern piece in half to ensure the two halves are identical. (I hereby declare this act checking the “mirrorosity” of a pattern piece. Making up words is fun!)

Check the fit before moving on to the next pattern piece.

INSIDE BACK (aka the back cushion)
So far I’ve completed the OUTSIDE WING/ARM pattern piece and the OUTSIDE BACK pattern piece. These were relatively flat pieces and thus the easiest to draft. Now we’re left with the 3-dimensional pattern pieces to draft.

For the INSIDE BACK pattern piece (aka the back cushion), start from the vertical center line of the cushion and work outwards along the curve of the cushion, smoothing the paper with your hand and pinning as you go.

*Very* roughly trace the edge of the back cushion. I held my pencil parallel to the back cushion and traced down the inside corner that way. This left an extra 1″ or so to the pattern piece–but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing as we can use that excess for tucking later on (see Step 1: Sketching). I did not trim the bottom (again, excess for tucking).

For the upper curve, I approximated the center of the curve and cut a 2″ or so line into the paper.

Overlapping and taping these two new corners creates a dart that will allow the paper to follow the curve.

Create as many as these darts as you need to satisfactorily follow the upper curve.

To create the flat pattern piece, untape the darts and fold the pattern piece along the center vertical line.

Adjust pattern piece as necessary, trim, and re-pin to check fit. Repeat as necessary.

Flat pattern piece.

Remember to check “mirrorosity”!

The final fit.

Fold over an inch or two along the paper edge that rests in the corner of the back cushion and the side of the chair. This will allow some built in ease for tucking.

Place the folded edge firmly into crease then pin paper to wing.

In my original sketch, I had indicated that I wanted the Inside Wing pattern piece to extend down into the seat cushion crease. However, upon creating my paper pattern piece I discovered a stress point that was clearly hinted at by the original upholstery job via a seam in this location. Eventually I’ll edit this pattern piece to eliminate the extension, creating a seam where the wing meats the armrest.

Use the same darting technique from the back cushion pattern piece on the inside wing pattern piece. Trace the edge of the wing onto the paper, remove pins, un-tape darts, and trim. Repeat as necessary to get a satisfactorily fit.

The armrest on my chair is rather non-standard. Because of this, I have chosen to box it in with the slipcover rather than try to create a fitted cover for it.

Fold over an inch or two along the crease where the armrest meets the back cushion (this is different than the sketch, but will compensate for the stress point discovered in the INSIDE WING pattern piece).

Pin paper to armrest, following the front curve.

Cut opening for wing…

…And fold/pin paper over the top of the armrest.

Adjust corner of armrest to your liking. (NOTE: If you have a standard armrest with a curve along the top, you’ll probably have to add some darts in this area or another piece of cloth for the front part of the armrest…)

Adjusting the fit.

Adjusting the fit.

Trim and mark the adjustments to the corner.

Fold over 2″ along the pattern piece where the inside back cushion meets the seat cushion.

Place pattern piece on seat cushion. Mark side cutouts.

Fold pattern piece in half along the center line of the width of the seat cushion and cut out the space for the armrests.

Place back on the chair and pin.

Adjust paper pattern piece as necessary (I had to add width).

Pin front panel.

Adjust one corner to your liking and mark adjustments.

Cut out corner adjustments…

…Mirror onto other corner by folding along the center line and trim.

Pattern piece.

Pin It

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44 Responses to Sewing for the Home ~ Drafting a Slipcover

  1. kacey says:

    i have done tufted upholstery, draperies, etc and have always cowered at the thought of wing chairs … I will save this and tackle in a less-busy time… would love to have these done for my chair and loveseats in blue denim… wish me luck.

  2. I always make my patterns with waste fabric- it is a bit trickier,but I find it gives you a better representation of curved areas….

  3. Spencer says:

    Thanks so much… I’ve made lots of slipcovers, but have never tackled a wing chair…. I found some great tips.

    Have a great week.

    Warm blessings,

  4. Susan says:

    I was really looking forward to seeing the whole process and finished project. It was a really great start though.

  5. Cherie says:

    Is there anywhere I can buy a wingback chair medium size pattern even if I need to adjust it? thanks

  6. Jeanne says:

    What is the reason for making a pattern on the muslin? Also, you show a somewhat square end on your armrest, whereas mine is curved. How do I make a pattern for that? I really want to try your suggestions, but I’m a bit intimidated!!!

  7. Vanessa says:

    Great tuttorial! I was searching for how to sew your own wingback chair slipcover and I came across your blog. Thanks for the tips! I’ll be adding your blog to my favorites. Have a great day! Vanessa

  8. candy says:

    awesome instructions, afraid to attempt it just yet. But now I know where to come

  9. Beth says:

    Thank you! Thank you! I have been wanting to try upholstering for years! This tutorial is awesome.

  10. Libby says:

    Great tutorial. Thanks for the instructions.

  11. sandy says:

    WOW I’ve always wanted to give this a try … thanks for the tutorial.

  12. Blayne says:

    This is an awesome tutorial – thank you so much!!

  13. Susan says:

    Wow – I definitely should have tried doing it this way – with paper first! I just recovered (not slip covered, actually took off and recovered) a wing back chair. Nightmare of my life. It worked, finally, after a year of working on it and putting it away with fear and trepidation!

    Thanks for the great tutorial…will help for next time (if there is a next time!) And thanks for the free fabric friday opportunity!

  14. Christy says:

    Thanks so much for this tutorial. I’ve attempted reupholstering several times only to quit the project half way through. This is going to be one of those tutorials that gets bookmarked and pulled up time and time again. Thanks!

  15. Donna says:

    My daughter wants me to redecorate her room for her 16th birthday. She was given a lovely old chair that once belonged to her Great Grandmother but it needs new upholstery. The chair is so intricate that I decided to do a slip cover. With your instructions I think I can handle it. Thanks!

  16. Celia says:

    I will be trying this out with my couch! The tips and photos in this series are fabulous.

  17. Rachael says:

    You make it look so easy!

  18. karen b says:

    Love those instructions. easier than amy other I’ve read…now maybe those ratty chairs I have will look great before the fam gets here for Thanksgiving!

  19. Gigi says:

    Have 2 wing chairs and a love seat that definitely NEED slipcovers. Thanks for your directions, looking forward to seeing more.

  20. dana says:

    That is super insightful and very detailed. Thank you for posting this tutorial. One day I’m going to make a slip-cover (or maybe even reupholster something…)

    And, I’d love to win to Free Fabric Friday!

  21. biffd says:

    Thank you! You’ve made me feel like I CAN do this!

  22. Shaz says:

    Yay, thank you for this tutorial! I have two orange velvet chairs in desperate need of help. 🙂

  23. Jennifer says:

    My friend has two chairs to give me but they need slipcovers – I’m excited about having instructions!

  24. marietta says:

    WOW!!!! i have covered many chairs for quick and dirty theatrical purposes – but this was most impressive! i look forward to tjhe next 2 installments

  25. Amy says:

    This is a great tutorial. Thanks!!!!!!!!!

  26. Molly Webb says:

    I have been wanting to recover a chair of mine for so long. Now I can do it myself! Thank you so much. Once again you are inspiring my morning.

  27. Eunice says:

    Could anyone explain exactly what is a stress point, and what it means to an inexperienced sewer?

  28. ali says:

    My mom has two reclining chairs she’s been willing to part with, but they need to be recovered. I’m looking to see if this will work. I may have to do more than just a slipcover. Any ideas?

  29. Sarah Lemmon says:

    This makes SO much more sense then the way I was trying to do it. 😉

  30. Katie says:

    Wow great tutorial! I love slipcovers.

  31. Linda says:

    Thanks so much for this tutorial. You have made it look a lot easier than the books I have brought! I will definitely be going out and buying a roll of brown paper and tape – loads of it!!

  32. Kristin says:

    I am soooo excited about this! I have a wing back chair that I’m planning on slipcovering. I even have the fabric! Thank you so much!

  33. Jessica says:

    Anyone know how you would make one for a reclining wingback chair. Is that possible?

  34. Jeana says:

    what a great tutorial – thank you!

  35. maevedragon says:

    I always found those decorating shows on HGTV frustrating because they’ll go buy a chair second hand and then just produce a perfect slipcover for it out of thin air without ever explaining how they did it.

    Of course, now I know why. 😉

    The different stages helped quell that panicky feeling you get when you feel like you’re over your head. They’re also very mistake friendly: you just keep adapting as you go along, and by starting with scrap materials you don’t ruin your nice cloth. 🙂

  36. Cheryl says:

    This is fabulous! Thank you so much for taking the time and energy to put all this together. I want to slipcover my wing chair…it’s pretty similar to yours. I have watched Sarah Richardson on RoomService on Fine Living Network show how to slip cover furniture. She made it look so stinking easy, I thought for a slplit second …”hmnmm, maybe I can do this.” We’ll see.

  37. Heather B says:

    Perfect – as I have the perfect chair that needs to be slipcovered! Thank you, I can’t wait for part II.

  38. Dorte says:

    Thank You!!! I have the chair, I have the fabric… and now I have no excuse! Gotta get started!

  39. anne says:

    How did you know I have two chairs in drastic need of slipcovering? Someone ripped the upholstery completely off the back cushion of one of them just yesterday.

    Thank you!

  40. Geena says:

    Thank you SO much for taking the time to create this tutorial! My sweetie has a favorite chair that is known by one and all as “the ugly chair” and I’ve wanted to cover it for years. Just didn’t really know where to start.

    Now I do.

  41. bec says:

    wow. very impressive. i think you were very brave to do that on your own!

  42. Teresa says:

    I cannot wait for the rest of this tutorial! This is right up my alley…I have many a chair that I would like to redo!

  43. min says:

    Oh MY! I am happy for the length. I am saving this for this winter – post Christmas during those long miserable days. so excited you put this in your group of tutorials for us. Thanks!

  44. Cindy says:

    Excellent outlines………appreciate the things to look for, too (stress points, etc.) I have struggled to cover a couple chairs in my long sewing life -not fun along the way but the end results cause one to burst forth in song! Thanks!

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