sewing 101: ottoman slip cover


If you’ve got a boring old ottoman hanging around, or if, like me, if you happen to find one of those plain cubes on sale, it’s easy to recover with a custom slip cover.  This is another fantastic way to bring some fun textiles into a room with a project that you can sew in an afternoon or less. (I swear!)

This slip cover uses only basic straight seams, and I’ll show you the trick for getting nice, sharp 3-D corners. So let’s get started! –Brett Bara

*click here for more of brett’s sewing 101 columns!

CLICK HERE for the full ottoman slip cover how-to after the jump!

What You’ll Need


1-2 yards fabric, depending on the size of your ottoman

Sewing thread to match

Tape measure

Sharp scissors

Straight pins

Sewing machine

Iron and ironing board

Selecting and Preparing Fabric

A heavier-weight fabric is great for this project since you’ll want it to be sturdy enough to stand up to some wear and tear. Heavy cotton, canvas or duck cloth are all great choices, as are many upholstery fabrics. If you have kids or pets or otherwise expect your ottoman to need to be laundered regularly, you might want to choose a machine-washable option. As always, I recommend beginners start with smooth-textured fabrics, so avoid any options with a lot of texture until you’re comfortable with sewing.

I’m using Butterfly Jubilee from Mod Green Pod, which is a heavy cotton.

If your fabric is machine-washable, wash, dry and iron it before beginning.

Measuring and Cutting

Measure the ottoman from edge to edge, and note the size of the top and sides.

To the top piece: add ¾” to the height and width. So if the ottoman top measures 14” square, you need to cut 1 piece of fabric that’s 14 ¾” square.

To each side piece: add ¾” to the width and 1 ½” to the length. So if each side of the ottoman measures 14” square, you need to cut 4 pieces of fabric that are 14 ¾” by 15 ½”. (As you proceed, be sure to sew the side pieces so that the longer sides are vertical; the extra length is for the hem.)

*Note: these instructions call for a ½” seam allowance, yet I’ve instructed you to cut each piece ¾” larger than actual size (normally you’d cut each piece 1” larger than actual size, to allow for the ½” seam allowance on both edges). But because you want the slip cover to be snug, we’re decreasing the normal 1” extra to ¾”, for just a smidge of negative ease.

Time to Start Sewing

Place two side panel pieces right sides together, with longer edges aligned. (You will be sewing along the longer edges.) Remember to check to be sure your fabric pattern print is facing in the right direction so that your print won’t be upside-down!

The trick of this project is that you want nice, neat corners on your slip cover. To accomplish this, leave ½” unsewn at the top of the seam. Measure ½” from the top edge of the fabric and place a pin to mark the spot. Continue to pin the two pieces together along the entire edge you will be sewing.

Begin sewing at the first pin with a ½” seam allowance. (Again, leaving that first ½” open). Backstitch to reinforce at the beginning and end of this and all seams for this project, and continue sewing all the way to the edge of the fabric.

This is what it will look like with the open ½” at the top of the seam.

Sew all four side pieces together in this manner, forming a tube. Iron all seams open and flat.

Slip the tube over the ottoman to make sure it fits well. If it’s not snug enough, make note of how much smaller it needs to be, and redo the seams where necessary. It it’s too snug, you can let out seams.

Now it’s time to add the top piece. Align one edge of the top with the edge of one of the sides. To get nice, neat corners, here’s the trick: Fold down the ½” open flap at the top of the side seam, completely out of the way. Then place the top piece of fabric over this.

Feel with your finger where that folded-over flap ends, and place a pin at an angle right at the spot where you feel the fabric ending underneath. Your goal will be to begin the next seam right at that spot. This spot is ½” from the top edge of the fabric, with a ½” seam allowance.

Continue to pin along the seam, and repeat the same process at the other corner, folding down the fabric underneath and placing a pin at that spot.

Sew along this edge, from corner to corner, with a ½” seam allowance – beginning and ending the seam ½” from the edge of the fabric (so you’re leaving ½” open on both ends). Remember to back stitch to reinforce the beginning and end of these seams.

Repeat around all four edges of the top, pinning and sewing each side separately as you go.

You’re almost done! Turn the slip cover right-side out and try it on again for size. Take this opportunity to double-check the hem; you should have 1” of excess fabric along the bottom for the hem, but if any shifting occurred, you may have more or less. Take note of that now and adjust accordingly when turning up the hem.

Turn the piece inside-out again and clip the corners on all three sides where they intersect. Removing this excess fabric reduces bulk inside the corners, for sharper edges.

To hem the bottom, turn under the fabric ½” along all 4 sides of the bottom, pressing as you go. Turn under another ½”, press, and pin in place.

Sew the hem, close to the interior folded edge. Finally, press open all seams on the finished piece.

You’re done! Don’t you love your new ottoman??

Check back next Wednesday, when I’ll be showing you how to sew a duvet!

Liza

How is it that I just noticed that Brett Bara is contributing? I love her on Knit and Crochet Today!

DK

Great post, especially the pointer on making the corners very square. makes me wish I had an ottoman I could cover!

Brooke

Great tutorial and a fantastic idea!! I think this is just what my living room is missing…

Natalie

wow this makes it look so easy when you spell it all out like this! step by step! thanks for giving me a little confidence that i could actually do this!! gorgeous job. i love that fabric

Melissa

I love this new column! I’ve recently begun sewing, and Sew 101 is inspiring!

Brett

Thanks all!

Hannah: excellent point! You can use this same concept/pattern to make a cover for a dog crate or ANY square or rectangle item really. Even a boxy cover for an outdated coffee table, or a footstool… or an outdoor grill/table cover, if you used oilcloth or another waterproof fabric.

I wish I’d thought to write that in the intro! :)

Stephanie

It’s so funny – I was just thinking about doing the same thing with two ottomans I have in my house – with the same fabric! Great minds think alike, yes?

Your tutorial makes it look so simple; I can’t wait to try it. Maybe I will use a velvet for the ottomans and make throw pillows out of the Mod Green Pod fabric.

Carrie

Excellent! Getting a clean line on those 3-D corners have eluded me on many a project… Never again! Thanks.

Jennifer

Thank you for the awesome tutorial — I’m totally gonna do this!

kenzie

I have an ottoman that I have covered with a quilt because the pattern is ugly. I have been wanting to cover it with a slipcover and I think I have the courage to try now!

megan

amazing… I hate my ottoman’s and was thinking of throwing them out… this is such the obvious solution I am kicking myself for not thinking about it!

sweetslice

Oooh! This is exactly what my ugly old red cube needs. Can’t wait to try this with a fun, patterned fabric!

Joe @ Eden Kitchen

Ooh Ooh, this is great! My ottoman looks seriously busted since it now doubles as a step stool for my high shelves. I am soooooo trying this! Thanks!

linda p

awesome brett! i need an ottoman but cringe at the cheapo ones. I actually might use this to cover an old trunk of my grandpas– it will double as a secret hiding place for yarn.

Kylie

This is brilliant! Thank you! I’ve been wondering how on earth I would go about covering my boring brown ottoman. I’ve never sewn a thing in my life but this has inspired me to give it a go!

Megan

Thank you thank you I have some Ikea ones that need a cover and now I have the instructions.

Gosia

This is synchronicity at work! I was wondering if I could do anything to my old and worn out ottoman. How perfect it is to be presented with a tutorial, when you need one? Thank you so much, I love the corner tip!

Trish

i’m guilty – i have 2 plain white ottomans that could use some sprucing. i will have to give this a try once I save enough $$$ for a sewing machine. thanks!!!

Madeline

I just finished this project and it turned out amazing! Those corners can be hard to master, but the instructions here were very helpful and straightforward.
It only took a couple hours, and now I have a new living room accent!

Inspire Me Heather

Great post on how to slipcover! I mentioned your tutorial on my post on slipcovering too! ~ Heather
ps – I like the fabric you picked out as well!

Maggie Reno

This is fantastic. I was going to make a tutorial of the ones I did for my readers, but I found yours and I’m just going to send them here instead!

Candace Duncan

I did this project yesterday and it was so easy and
refreshing to my ottoman, who totally needed a facelift. Good work
ladies! Keep the great projects coming!

Joannie

New to sewing and I am having trouble figuring out how to make the square corners. Is there a video?

Holly

Just want to put out another thanks for the great tutorial! I just rescued my husband’s beloved (and decrepit) ottoman.

Taryn

Do you have any suggestions for online places to buy great upholstery fabric?

Grace Bonney

Taryn

I did a post on my top 25 fabric sources a while back- if you look at the “products” page on DS and scroll down and click on “resources” in the center column you’ll find it :)

Grace

Liz Aiton

I bought a cube on sale a couple of years ago or more and some expensive material to cover it, but did not feel confident about the job. Just found your site and instructions and I can’t wait to get going. Thank you.

Treona

Your directions were incredibly helpful. I love the outcome of my project. Thank you!

Donna

There is an old tool box setting in my sewing room belonging to my husbsnds grandfather, I’m going to cover it using this method with a foam cushion underneath and use it for a bench to sit on.

Nissan

This was a wonderful tutorial. I love to sew but it’s been a while and when I googled “fabric cover for cube” I was amazed at how you showed every step to remind me of the tricks of the trade. I am running up to my sewing room right now to make that new brown faux suede cover for my daughter’s hideously blue ottoman–just in time for her house warming party.

lea

Thanks very much for this great tutorial. I just finished sewing my first cube and covering up an old ottoman I found today on consignment. I expected to have to rip out seams and start over, but it worked on the first try! Thanks for posting.

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