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.