amanda brownDIYDIY 101diy projectsUpholstery Basics

Upholstery Basics: Simple Slipcover

by Amanda Brown

As you can see, your shout-outs for a slipcover tutorial haven’t gone unnoticed. The desire for washability or the need to conceal functional yet unfashionable hand-me-downs has been weighing on your mind . . . and mine. Just recently, I pulled out my folding table (newly Spruced thanks to the July Upholstery Basics) and, to its demise, my folding chairs. I’m not a hater, and I’ve seen my share of adorable fold-up chairs, but who wants to give up comfort and looks? Six yards of fabric + 1 sewing machine + 1 short day = 4 sweet folding chairs and an excuse to entertain. — Amanda

Read the full how-to after the jump . . .


  • painter’s tape
  • washable fabric
  • scissors
  • white or yellow chalk
  • hand plier stapler
  • sewing machine
  • thread
  • staple remover
  • washable ribbon
  • dressmaker’s measuring tape
  • square
  • yardstick
  • iron


Don’t forget to check out Upholstery Basics: Tool Time to learn more about the tools we’re using today.


Photography by Mel Cole
Fabric by Stone Textile


If you plan on washing the slipcover (which is generally the point, right?), make sure you choose a fabric that is washable. I have found that most manufacturers will say “Dry Clean Only,” when in fact, many cotton fabrics, even printed ones, are washable. Throw a swatch or scrap of the fabric you plan on using into the wash and see how it comes out. When I washed and dried this fabric by Stone Textiles, it was even softer than before.

1. Wash and dry all fabric before making the slipcovers so it preshrinks.

2. If you’re working on a metal chair, place painter’s tape on several spots of the seat and inside back to hold the fabric in place as you work.

3. Cut out a piece of fabric large enough to cover the seat of the chair and stick it to the tape with the good side down. If you’re working with an upholstered chair, use straight pins to hold the fabric in place. Be sure the fabric is correctly oriented with the pattern in the desired location.

4. Make cuts in the excess fabric to release it around any arms and legs that are in the way.

5. Be careful not to cut too far. Leave enough to cover all the edges with a little extra for sewing (see steps 4 and 5 from Constructing Coil Springs). When the fabric is flat on the seat, cut off the excess, leaving a few extra inches around the perimeter.

6. Cut out a piece of fabric large enough to cover the inside back all the way down to the seat. Adjust the pattern so it’s straight up and down and match the bottom middle to the back of the seat. Stick the good side of the fabric to the tape to hold it in place.

7. Pull the fabric around the sides of the chair and use painter’s tape to hold it tightly in place.

8. Smooth the fabric down to the seat and use the hand plier stapler to attach the fabric from the inside back to the seat fabric. The fabric should be flat with the good sides facing each other.

9. Work from the middle around to each side to staple together the seat and inside back fabric. At arm and leg posts, repeat step 4 then continue stapling.

10. When the fabric is stapled all the way around the bottom of the inside back, cut out a piece large enough to cover the outside back and match it to the top middle of the inside back.

11. Remove the tape from step 7, smooth out the excess fabric so it’s tight to the chair and staple the inside back to the outside back fabric.

12. Continue stapling until you’ve made it all the way around the sides to the seat.

13. With all three pieces connected, mark the edges of the chair onto the fabric with a piece of chalk.

14. Remove the fabric from the chair and sew the pieces together on the chalked lines.

15. Remove the staples with a staple remover and cut off the excess fabric 1/2″ beyond the seam.

16. Slip the cover over the chair and mark the seam allowance where it is closest to the legs of the chair.

17. Cut out a piece of ribbon that’s approximately 12″ long and sew the center to the seam allowance near one of the marks from step 16. Repeat for the other marks.

18. Place the case, right side out, on the chair and anchor it in place by tying the ribbons around the legs.

19. Pull the fabric taut and tape it to the legs.

20. Straighten the pattern on the seat and tape the fabric around the sides and front to hold it in place while you draw the line for the skirt.

21. I’ll attach the skirt even with the top edge of the seat. Use the frame of the seat as a guide to draw a line all the way around the chair.

22. At the back, feel for the top edge of the seat to use as a guide. If you are using a patterned fabric, keep an eye on the pattern to make sure the line is straight across it. Draw a line from front to back to estimate the skirt placement on the sides.

23. Mark the fabric at the front two corners and back legs.

24. With the dressmaker’s tape, measure the distance between the marks to determine the widths of the four skirt panels. 25. Use a square and a straight edge to draw the skirt panels, including four kick pleats, one for every corner. Use the diagram below and the measurements from step 24 to determine the dimensions. Kick pleat width and skirt height are up to your discretion. I am making a 5″ tall skirt height with 3″ wide kick pleats.

26. When all of the skirt pieces are cut out and labeled, fold a piece in half (as denoted by the dotted line on the illustration above), with good sides facing, and sew the right and left sides closed. Snip the corners off of the bottom without cutting through the seam. Repeat for all other skirt panels.

27. Turn the pieces right side out and iron the panels flat.

28. Center and align the top of the front skirt panel with the front edge of the seat. Flip the skirt up and onto the seat so the good sides are facing and sew the panel to the seat. Repeat for the other three skirt panels.

29. Repeat step 28 to center and attach the kick pleats at every corner.

30. Give the slipcover a thorough ironing so the seams will lay flat and try it on for size.

Slipcover Tips

  • Be sure the ribbon you use for tying the slipcover to the chair is washable and doesn’t bleed.
  • Leave the slipcover a little loose so it has room to shrink with multiple washes.
  • To keep fabric from fraying, cut out all pieces with pinking shears or serge the seam allowances with a serger.
  • If you have multiple chairs or you’re nervous about making a mistake with your good fabric, use scrap fabric or muslin to make a pattern for all pieces. Then trace the pattern pieces on your good fabric for all chairs.


Feel free to send me more suggestions for upholstery topics you’d like covered! For more upholstery basics, click here.

A special thank you to my neighbor Jack for letting me raid his garden for the floral arrangement and to Lee for lending me his yard as a backdrop for photos.

Suggested For You


  • Excelente!! I love that fabric! I want to make a pillow for a jacobson chair (the model that is rounder) but I don’t know exactly how to tackle this project. Would you have some suggestions? Thanks!

  • I’m curious to know if you used this process times four for each chair, or, if you made a pattern by deconstructing the first one.

  • Thank you so much for this! I have the ugliest set of vinyl chairs for my dining room. I bought the set last year with the intention of making slip covers to improve the look, but without a clear sense of direction, I have lacked the motivation to tackle the project. I think I’m going to go the the fabric store this week!

  • I like to drape the chair with news paper and make a pattern as I go. That way I don’t accidentally ruin the fabric. Muslin would be a great way to go too.

  • SuzyMcQ and Sue,

    For one chair, I make the pattern and slipcover as shown in the tutorial. For multiples, I make a pattern out of scrap fabric or muslin and use it to trace the shapes for all chairs. Paper would work, too, but it’s stiff and doesn’t lay like fabric does. Thanks for the question, Suzy! It reminded me that I left that tip out.

  • i would suggest using newspaper to trace a pattern instead of cutting the fabric over the chair. That would save a lot more fabric, as you can slide the pattern close to the edge of the material and then cut it without wasting so much material.

  • Hi, would I follow the same steps if I wanted to upholster a couch and mini loveseat chairs?