Crafty (& Handy) Office

Trying to Sew a Slipcover

I had this idea a year and a half ago to slipcover my desk chair, and I’ve finally gotten around to trying it. Guess what… it’s way harder than I thought it would be! Of course, I am a novice seamstress at best, but I’ve had some sewing successes and I thought I could do this. Well, I made three pocket-like things that are fitting (sort of), but I have no idea how to connect them. I’ve been sitting on my chair like this for about a week now…

TRYING to make a new cover

There’s no shame in giving up on a crafty project, right? What about you guys? Have you had better success with this type of thing? Do tell.

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  • Nancy
    November 19, 2009 at 5:18 pm

    I’ve made a number of slipcovers for chairs around the house. It was definitely intimidating when I actually attempted to begin, but eventually I got it. I’m sure you will too! It looks like you’ve almost got it. I think I may have tried to sew the arms and the seat part together first and then attached the back portion.

    Good Luck!

    • Alanna
      November 30, 2009 at 9:35 pm

      JCaroline Creative has a VERY detailed tutorial on reupholstering…It’s very good :)

    • Making it Lovely
      December 1, 2009 at 9:42 pm

      Good to know, thanks.

  • Emma
    November 19, 2009 at 5:30 pm

    Oh my goodness Nicole – do not even get me started on my ‘work in progress’ craft pile. Plus, I was about to start work on sewing a slipcover for my desk chair…you have just filled me with so much confidence!!!! Eeek!

  • Dasha
    November 19, 2009 at 5:31 pm

    My advice would be to hand baste it inside out (just like you have it!), take it off, then machine stitch over the basting. This way you can work out the hard parts first. I would also add velcro to the chair and the fabric to attach it on the bottom – all my Ikea bought chair slipcovers attach like that.

    Good luck!

  • B
    November 19, 2009 at 5:32 pm

    Hi Nicole – You might want to consider heading over to the Needle Shop. They do individual sessions. It’s costly, but then you’ll learn how to do it.

    I also have a basic, intro sewing book. And it has instructions on how to do all kinds of basic upholstery. Super helpful.

  • Robin
    November 19, 2009 at 5:37 pm

    I have a friend who says I’m the queen of sewing “bring flat square things” … she meant this as a sincere compliment! Given that a slipcover was really a lot of “square (somewhat) things sewn together” I also attempted to cover my office chair and ended up with a similar “huh?” when it came time to connect all the pieces into one. Finally, counter to how we sew, I turned the pieces right side up, positioned them on the chair, folding seams under until the fit was correct, then using clear tape, taped them together. I then turned the slipcover wrong side out, did the necessary pinning, trimming, easing etc. to achieve the “taped fit” and sewed. It actually worked for me!

    • Stacee
      November 19, 2009 at 7:20 pm

      I also used a similar method, and I am definitely a sewing novice at best. I made a slipcover for a sofa. I measured meticulously and began by draping fabric over areas. Then I pinned and hand-basted the seams. This made it really easy to go back over it with the sewing machine and adjust as needed. It seems like it would take forever, but it was probably the same as pinning or taping. It’s not that scary.

    • Making it Lovely
      December 1, 2009 at 9:43 pm

      I’ll have to give that a try. Wish me luck!

  • Annie H
    November 19, 2009 at 5:53 pm

    I should have thanked you long ago when you originally posted a photo of the purse from Anthro. Shortly after I saw it, I bought it. I’m still loving it and receive compliments on it all the time. Thanks!

    Also, I love the owl cookie jar. Great score.

  • this humble abode
    November 19, 2009 at 5:57 pm

    I started making a pair of 6-12m red corduroy overalls and couldn’t figure out how to finish them. They are still in a drawer and A. is now in kindergarten. Ha! And I am a quilter.
    No shame in ditching a project if it isn’t working for you.

  • Andrea Larsen
    November 19, 2009 at 6:12 pm

    I tried recovering some awesome chairs. It was a nightmare. In the end i felt the money I paid to the upholsterer was well worth it.

  • Mandi
    November 19, 2009 at 6:46 pm

    I made a slipcover for two chairs once. I spent so many hours, frustration, and tears on those slipcovers. They were pretty once they were done, but I vowed to spend every penny I ever earned on having someone ELSE make slip covers for me before I attempting them again. heh :)

  • The Maiden Metallurgist
    November 19, 2009 at 7:10 pm

    My first attempt at slip covering was great, right up until the end where I sort of gave up on the “slip” part and just stapled the fabric to the underside of the chair. It looked awesome- right up until the 4th of July when we left the dog at home during a fireworks dispay (my first summer in Chicago) and he was terrified and peed in the chair all night. We had to let it go after that (the chair, not the dog).

  • liesl
    November 19, 2009 at 7:29 pm

    I feel your pain. I too have the same sad state at my house. Except it’s a three seater couch. And I just can’t seem to find the motivation to get back on it. I’m too scared to waste all that glorious material. But you have now inspired me to tackle it. And so as soon as we have moved, I will.

    Thank you!

  • Laura
    November 19, 2009 at 7:29 pm

    Slipcovering is so hard. It looks like you should sew the seams that connect the arms with the seat…but as far as the front connecting to the arms…I’m not sure. I would pin the pieces together and then turn it inside out carefully to see if it all comes together properly. Hard to tell from these shots but this may be the point in the process where everything looks like a disaster but actually isn’t.

  • Marissa
    November 19, 2009 at 7:37 pm

    I too would try pinning it wrong side out. That way, as long as it fits, noone has to know what it looks like underneath!

  • Janean
    November 19, 2009 at 7:44 pm

    k…so you didn’t want to tackle like…i duuno…a foot stool first? LOL. you’re nearly there. straighten bottom egde. sew raw edges together. turn inside out — pretty well. :)

  • Dallas Landrum
    November 19, 2009 at 7:55 pm

    I do not sew, except for the occasional button on a shirt. So this may be a stupid suggestion, but…what if you put strips of velcro underneath the chair (staying put with the sticky side) and attach velcro to the fabric?

    • Parrish
      December 15, 2009 at 12:44 am

      I made a slipcover for a modern rocker for my sister-in-law when she had her first baby. Talk about nightmare, curves upon curves, and it had to be removable AND avoid the rocking rails. I did finish it. Not to my perfectionist eye, but pretty well. A couple of things that I liked that I did do were that I used velcro to attach it to itself underneath (front to back) and ran velcro just under the rails on the sides to hold the side flaps in place. I also left a 5 inch “tab” when I connected the seat to the back so that you could tuck it into the seat. I really should look for photos and do a retrospective.

      I second the usefulness of velcro.

  • Jen P.
    November 19, 2009 at 8:18 pm

    There’s no shame in abandoning the project, but looks like you are almost finished! I have slipcovered several chairs and I always choke at this point too, but you just have to bite the bullet and start sewing things together. lol Once you actually have things sewn together, you can adjust and restitch. I think the idea of doing a simple hand stitch to hold everything together until you get to the sewing machine is a great one. Those ends of the arms are tricky!

    • Making it Lovely
      December 1, 2009 at 9:45 pm

      Yeah, I think a little hand-sewing reinforced by the machine is the way I’m going to finish it.

  • Live a Colorful Life
    November 19, 2009 at 8:43 pm

    I just want to know where you got that awesome purse with the ruffles on it, in such a great color.

    Oh, and good luck with the slipcover… :)

  • Lori Danelle
    November 19, 2009 at 8:50 pm

    Too funny! (Sorry!)

    I’m actually recovering everything in a VW Bus right now for a roadtrip to a trade show for the place I work at. I’ve never done anything quite like it, but though I’ve run into a few tricky spots, so far, so good! This morning someone told me how talented I was. I just laughed and said I just try stuff and sometimes it works out! ( I just don’t show them when it doesn’t!!!)

    Good luck with it if you decide to pick it back up!

  • Josh
    November 19, 2009 at 10:18 pm

    Have you tried removing the existing upholstery and using it as a pattern? I always do that for sewing projects that require more construction than a simple pillow, like bags and bench cushions. Good luck :)

  • Tess
    November 19, 2009 at 10:33 pm

    I’m impressed you’re tackling that chair! I used to have the same one (sister has it now), and I didn’t like the color- didn’t go with my decor at the time. I was just a sophomore in college though, so I ended up throwing a sheet over it and pinning it in place with carpet tacks (too busy spending all-nighters on architecture models, paintings, and animations). Worked out for the best though- color is perfect for my sister’s apartment!

    Looks like it’s almost there & will be too cute when complete! :)

  • Angela
    November 20, 2009 at 12:02 am

    I have the exact same chair, in desperate need of a slipcover as well. I love to sew but am intimidated by this project. I’d love to see how yours turns out and maybe I’ll be inspired to tackle me own.

  • Paula
    November 20, 2009 at 12:25 am

    I had a chair that I created a slipcover for – I started by creating a large “pattern” by putting large pieces of paper over the shape and then cutting those pieces out. I left a generous inseam as I sewed it. It took some fitting after it was sewn initially.

    Here’s a post with it a before and after:

    • Making it Lovely
      December 1, 2009 at 9:48 pm

      That turned out so well! I love that you exposed the legs.

  • down pillow
    November 20, 2009 at 1:38 am

    Oh, I so wish I knew how to sew. I wouldn’t even attempt this, myself :)

  • nic
    November 20, 2009 at 1:53 am

    Well, I finally finished knitting a cardigan that I started 7 years ago. The wool was very expensive, and now it’s finished, I hate it. I now know I hate knitting too…Boo hoo.

  • Dana
    November 20, 2009 at 2:34 am

    I am getting ready to recover a recliner. I think that if you sew the arms together were they meet the seat and then run elastic all around the bottom, almost like a sweat pant waist band where the elastic isn’t sewn to the chair, just run through, then it should pull it together at the bottom. Good luck.

  • jamie
    November 20, 2009 at 2:55 am

    wow, that’s amazing that did that! i wish i could sew. you’re chair looks great :) thanks for all of your blogging inspiration!

  • sketchbloom
    November 20, 2009 at 3:11 am

    I am working on my portfolio website too! I did my art portfolio and blog with wordpress {love it} and using wix to build my architecture and design portfolio (with all the cool flash apps). I noticed that you have wanted to build your portfolio for some time, same here…I FINALLY started couple of days ago -just had a cool background before but nothing else…). We should compare notes and keep each other accountable- even though I can tell you are super driven and get SO MUCH done! such an inspiration!!!! I put up a cuuute ‘hard hat zone’ note while the work is in progress…;)

    it is SO much work, but to start, ay, that is the hardest thing..good luck with everything;)

    ‘Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.
    Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

    …the entire quote says something about ‘once you move, the universe will assist you in infinite ways’:)

    Love following your adventures! hugs! sketchbloom

  • Nicole
    November 20, 2009 at 7:01 am

    I’ve never done an office chair but I’ve attempted my fair share of slipcovers, despite my rather dubious sewing skills. One thing that I have realized is that a well-fitted slipcover is not necessarily going to use the fabric in the same way as upholstry. What I mean is, sometimes an upholstered piece will be able to stretch a single piece of fabric around the curve and keep it in place with nails and maybe tufting but if you try to use one piece of fabric on the slipcover, you end up with weird bunching and pulling. I think the advice to hand-baste the fabric is good. Put the cover on the chair, sit in it, and see if the fabric stays in place. If you have an obvious ‘pull’ in teh fabric,think about cutting the fabric on that ‘pull’ and either adding or subtracting fabric, then re-sewing. I find slipcovers to be a real case of trial-and-error so definitely don’t give up if it seems like you need three or four tries ot get it fitting right.

  • Maya
    November 20, 2009 at 8:45 am

    I just slip covered my ikea office chair, and I love how it has come out! All you need to do now is turn the material right-side-out, put it on the chair, and turn the chair upsidedown. (If you didn’t sew the arms to the seat of your slip cover, do so first.) By pulling the slipcover with your hands and possibly stapling it (you can pull the staples out later easily), figure out how you want it to lie. At this point you may need to do some hand-sewing to get it to lie correctly. To finish it up, staple it neatly to the base of the chair as close as you can to the seat pedestal, folding the material so that it lies flat, and sewing the folds shut with tiny stitches if any of them look lumpy.

    You won’t be able to take the slip cover off EASILY, but it won’t be hard to remove. Enjoy!

  • jessie
    November 20, 2009 at 9:51 am

    One of my biggest fears is what you are trying to do! lol ;) Good luck! ( I may attempt it someday!! )

  • Lisa
    November 20, 2009 at 10:20 am

    I’m not noticing a problem but I can’t stop staring at that delicious purse in the background!

  • hishouse;herhelp
    November 20, 2009 at 10:22 am

    cute purse!

  • Cassie
    November 20, 2009 at 10:53 am

    Ugh, I so badly want to slipcover but I am way too intimidated to try it! I get frustrated very easily and I can imagine having a very bad time trying this.

    Good luck, I’m sure you will figure it out eventually. :)

  • Carol Kradolfer
    November 20, 2009 at 12:28 pm

    Oh I can relate 2 weeks ago I attempted a slip cover for a sofa . I am a beginner and had no idea. Its still not completed. One thing I did that helped was to make a template of each piece to be sewed. I did this using brown paper like postal packaging paper I traced the lines of the various panels cut them out and cut the fabric using the paper template. I’m currently struggling with the skirt length.Good Luck. I love your fabric!

  • Nuit
    November 20, 2009 at 12:49 pm

    Oh I did too! HARD, dark, risky business that is…. LOL I spent so many hours and got so frustrated so many times but in the end they turned out ok. I am still probably never to try that again ;) hang in there, the color you’ve chosen is simply divine!

  • Cheryl Ann
    November 20, 2009 at 1:38 pm

    Well girl, you tried….brave to post this….I’m proud of you…

    • Cheryl Ann
      November 20, 2009 at 1:41 pm

      And you can’t be good at EVERYTHING can you? You make products to sell, make websites, make an income from a blog, and now you are an Interior Designer? I guess this is something you either need to learn to do or find an excellent outsource? You are amazing to even try.

  • Alisha
    November 20, 2009 at 2:12 pm

    That is awesome. I had to laugh, because that’s what some of my sewing projects end up like, since I don’t like to plan too much and I barely know what I’m doing. :)

  • Pamela Rosenberg
    November 20, 2009 at 2:19 pm

    Oh wow I saw this and thought there is another me out there. I have also thought about trying this. My office is so fun but I have never found a chair that really fits what I is happening here. If I like the looks of it then it isn’t very comfortable. Don’t you think there is a market for something like this? I definitely do. Yay you for trying and it may still come together for you. If it does I sure hope you post some pics and tips.

  • alison
    November 20, 2009 at 2:36 pm

    I agree with others — I cannot focus on the problem at hand with that stunning purse distracting me. What brand is it?

  • Jane
    November 20, 2009 at 2:53 pm

    Honey, a week is nothing. I’ve had no switchplates on my my light switches all over the house and dangling lightblubs (no fixture) in the living and dining for 18 months. I tried to fix all this a couple weeks ago and now I have a set of four switches popping out of the wall in the dining, one in the living, and 1/2 a light fixture dangling from a wire over the dining table. I’ll post soon, just for you.

    By the way I’ve done some similar work, you’ve gotten some good advice. Just go slow, keep at it, and don’t cut to close to your seam before you know they’re keepers.

  • Christa
    November 20, 2009 at 3:07 pm

    similar failed upholstery here. the reason it’s soooo expensive is because it’s hard.

  • Zia Meadows
    November 20, 2009 at 3:44 pm

    I have tried to read all the above comments but I got a bit lost- I would recommend keeping the sides seperate and sewing ribbon ties underneath then you can simply staple the center cushion or velcro it. I have covered 4 sofas myself, my husband thinks I collect them! generally loose covers are best for larger more solid furniture, more shaped piece are better for permanent recovering. Sorry for such a boring answer, I’m a sewing nerd!

  • laura
    November 20, 2009 at 4:43 pm

    i have tried and failed in exactly the same way with a chair i inherited. when you figure it out, please share how it was done!

  • Summer
    November 20, 2009 at 5:40 pm

    Hi there, this is my first comment, but I do adore your blog. I have been where you are, and I got to about where you are now…. and I have to tell you I ended up cheating by turning the slip cover right side out and hot gluing my seams together, wrapping it like a present. I was at a point where I wanted my chair covered, and I had invested quite a bit in the fabric and hours and hours of time so I basically just did what any desperate girl had to do and glued the darn thing together. Mine is half sewn so no one has ever noticed the glue. And to my delight I have successfully hand washed my slip cover several times and the glue hasn’t failed me yet. I guess before you abandon the project, I would suggest trying to make the most out of what you have already done. Good luck!

    • Making it Lovely
      December 1, 2009 at 9:51 pm

      Hey, if glue helped finish the project I’m all for it! Very sneaky. ;)

  • Jacci
    November 20, 2009 at 5:45 pm

    Oh, you’re so close! It really seems like if you just keep messing around with it, it’ll work out.

    I’ve been sewing for about 7 years, but I’ve never made a slipcover for anything more than a bench. So, keep that in mind ;)

    One thing I thought – did you work anything into your design to help tie it in the back or zip it or anything? If you want it to fit a little more closely, you’ll want something along one of the back seams to make it fit more snugly. Ties?

    I agree with another commenter that I think I’d cut separate pieces for the seat and the back instead of one continuous piece. Hard to tell from the pic if cutting would mess everything up or not. I’d sew the bottom of the arms to the seat, then the back and seat together, finishing off with the seams around the corners at the bottom. I agree that adding velcro like IKEA is probably the easiest way to finish off.

  • Monica
    November 20, 2009 at 10:43 pm

    Looks like you’re in he right path! I have 4 kids at home and homemade slipcovers are a must around here…I would say without removing it from the chair, hand baste all the remaining seams, smoothing out aroud corners and angles. The basting would be your guideline for machine sewing.

  • Nicole
    November 21, 2009 at 12:05 am

    haha I have the exact same chair, except mine doesn’t have wheels, it’s got 4 legs, i’d also love to slipcover mine, but I know i’d just make a mess. It looks like you’re pretty close to getting it though, keep trying! Don’t give up just yet! :)

  • Heather
    November 21, 2009 at 1:54 am

    I totally appreciate this post! I’ve been wanting to sew slipcovers for our living room furniture (sofa, love seat, armchair) and decided to make a “test” slipcover for the armchair in my office. That was two weeks ago, and so far I have only managed to sew the cover for the seat cushion! I’ve cut out the rest of the fabric, but don’t know how to sew it together! If I ever figure it out, I’ll let you know!

  • Rebecca
    November 21, 2009 at 11:51 am

    I tried and failed. So now, a local upholsterer is my new best friend. =)
    Good for you for trying, i just don’t have the patience for it.

  • Amanda
    November 21, 2009 at 11:59 am

    I definitely give you props for making your own slipcover! I bet you’ll get it figured out, especially with everyone’s advice here. We have an old couch sitting in our unfinished basement and I’m sure it’ll need a slipcover once we start using it again, but I definitely don’t have the skill to make one myself!

  • Lydia, Clueless Crafter
    November 21, 2009 at 11:19 pm

    I’m totally clueless about how to make a slipcover. In fact, I’m spending this year to secure basic DIY skills.

    I would say, however, that you should Not quit. Perserve, do it wrong, but don’t quit w/out going to the bloody end.

    In my life, I have found that this is when I learn the most about the project and, more importantly, my inner drive.


  • kate
    November 22, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    ah, but you’re so close. don’t give up.

  • hishouse;herhelp.
    November 23, 2009 at 10:38 am

    i know at the JoAnn fabric store near me they have a class you can take on this stuff. And you just bring your furniture in and a professional helps you. Might be worth checking into.

  • Oonafey
    November 23, 2009 at 7:00 pm

    I couldn’t find any cafe curtains to fit our kitchen windows, so I got the brilliant idea back in July to make my own. Ha. I am four curtains in, I need ten, and somehow each one turns out slightly different. I think I am measuring them the same, I iron them, I pin them, then I measure them again(just to make sure) and it will be wrong! Argh. It’s soooo frustrating.

  • enyasi
    November 24, 2009 at 1:01 pm

    I feel your pain, I just removed the partially pinned slipcover from my couch. After working on it for 4 months.. or rather avoiding it, I decided to buy the slipcover and make the pillows.. With slipcovers it is definitely a pick your battle type thing.

  • Lisa
    November 25, 2009 at 11:47 am

    My mom made a slipcover for a chair once years ago for an awesome chair I loved. The original upholstery was stripes in pastel pink, green and blue. See the 17 year old rolling her eyes? She made a cover that was bold yellow and blue striped to match my yellow walls. She had to sew the pieces together while they were on the chair. She said she’d never make another slipcover again. And she hasn’t.

  • Brad
    November 28, 2009 at 10:51 am

    With unusual shaped things it is best to do a pattern from some muslin or left over fabric. You can work out all the mistakes on the pattern , even write on it or draw lines. Baste stiching is the best way to get the pieces together while
    working on the slip cover. Pulling the slip on and off and then turning it inside out get’s very confusing. A magic marker that bleeds through the fabric(
    also let’s you see where to sew pieces together, and what piece your looking for.
    good luck

  • Barbara , Salem, NH
    November 28, 2009 at 1:39 pm

    I think it is easier to reupolster then slip covers. Yes i have tired my hand at it too. ! And I consider myself an expeiereced seemstress. I don’t like it either. HA HA Good luck and I give you credit for trying. Looks like your on the right idea you’ll figure it out I am sure.
    Good luck !!!

  • Making it Lovely | Transforming the so-so. » Blog Archive » Honor Roll (No. 12)
    July 23, 2010 at 10:25 pm

    […] think I need to give up on the slipcover idea for my office chair (not that I’ve been working on it lately anyway), and just reupholster it instead. Look at […]

  • Jen
    January 3, 2011 at 5:47 pm

    I bought a book so simple slipcovers Gail Abbott and Cate Burren – creative homeowners. It has all the information needed to make a beautiful slipcover for any piece of furniture, pillows,throws. I made a slipcover for my wing chair and several pillows with ideas from the book. Best money spent. First slipcover was a success. The book has been borrowed time and time again. Good luck with your slipcover.

  • gojobis
    January 4, 2017 at 6:00 am

    Hi! Any success on this project? Maybe a template how to solve it?
    Just got 2 Patriks for free, but the fabric needs replacement or a cover.