March 30, 2015

Parsons Chair Slipcovers

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I love a good slipcover. It can take an outdated but structurally sound piece of furniture and give it a new and extended life. It can also just be a fun change up for your decor!

I have been doing some custom work for a fella that lives behind the shop and it has been a fun collaboration. I recently showed you the red velvet chairs that I did for him and he asked me to make slipcovers for his dining room parsons chairs as well.

Parsons chairs are awesome in that they look great no matter what the fabric. They just have classic lines that can handle subtle or bold. My client wanted to go masculine (um, he is a guy) and choose a dark grey linen for the fabric. I love it.

I am going to show you how I slipcovered these bad boys so it is going to be a lengthy post full of pictures and verbosity but I hope it might help you to tackle something you have never tried before. You will need a little bit of sewing experience and just a little bit of patience!
 The key to slipcovers is pin, mark, sew, repeat…
Here is the original chair. I love the lines…did I say that already? Well, it bears repeating.

So a few things: The curves gave me a few pups but I will show you how to use dress maker details to make it a little more snug.  If your chair does NOT have curves, you are going to fly through the construction. Also, examine you chair and see where the natural "seam" lines would fall. See where the back meets the seat on the side near the leg? You need a seam to be there for the seat and front back piece to come together and lay flat. I hope this will make more sense when you see the pictures. I would also make a pattern first so that you can make your mistakes on that and reconfigure seaming if something isn't working instead of making the mistakes on the actual fabric. 

I made 6 of these so by the end I was on a roll with my assembly.

First, I must apologize for some of the photos. These are a mix of phone and real camera as I took these over time during the assembly and I think at one point I had taken the real camera to the shop to take photos there. 
First things first, mark you center back (pin going straight in) and then where the curve starts on the top back (horizontal pin). The curve pin is where you are ring to lay your back piece and where the top seams going to be. The center back pin is so when you lay your front back piece of fabric on to pin, the middle is in the middle.
Making the general pattern pieces beforehand also helped me be able to cut out all of my backs, fronts, seats, and skirts at once. That way you can get an assembly line going and pin all backs to fronts, mark seam, sew, then pin all seats to fronts, mark seam, sew, etc. 
See what I mean about pin, mark, sew, repeat!

My front and back pieces were just big rectangles  that overlapped a lot. That way I can pin, sew and then cut off excess. Excess is good when you are sewing slipcovers. Also, don't cut off the excess until you are sure that the pieces fit and you have enough for the other pieces to connect to when you sew them. I did NOT cut off any excess until the entire slipcover was sewn. Then I felt safe! 

When sewing slipcovers, you are also essentially sewing inside out so everything is getting pinned together wrong side out. Linen does not have a right or wrong side since it is a woven fabric but if your fabric does have a right/wrong side, make sure you pin it all wrong sides facing you.

Now take you back piece and line up the top with your horizontal pin and the middle of your fabric with the center back pin. Pin it in place so it doesn't move. You will do this each time you make a slip. 
Now pull the back up to the sides snug but not tight and pin those in place. You will also do this each time you pin the front back to the back back.

Now you are going to connect the corners like above and pin along what will be your seam line. Mark with a washable marker and sew along that seam line.

This is what it will look like turned right side out.
At this point my bulb blew out on my sewing machine and I had to rig this:
pretty funny really. I actually liked this light better than my old bulb!
Okay, onward….

Take your front back piece and pin it along the the top seam, mark your seam and then sew

Once again pull your back snug up onto the sides and pin in place as you will now pin each side. Do not sew all the way to the bottom. Mark where the seat and the back intersect and stop your seam there.  

Here it is right side out all sewn up!

This is why I needed to sew the back this particular way. If you try to use one large rectangle to cover both the front and the back and sew one seam down each side (seam would be down the middle of the side back), you will have less seaming but you'll have a side seam that is too far back for the skirt, and seat to meet. 

And if I have the skirt seam that's too far back, there would have been a gap in the fabric where the seat, back, and front come together!

Now turn your slip back inside out and lay your seat piece on where you want it.
This seam should leave a little bit of fabric, not snug so you can tuck it into the seat/back juncture for a snug fit and keep it in place when it is right-side out. Pin this seam and make sure that you angle the seam down a bit on the ends if your seat has a curve like mine. If not, sew it straight across, making sure to intersect with the side seam.

Here is the pic of it angled down a bit and also shows where I pinned where to end my sewing so it will meet the sewing seam of the back. Again, use a washable marker to mark the seam and then sew.

See, all three coming together!

Now the past piece is to ad the skirt to the seat. Again mark with a pin where the sewing needs to end and then attach the skirt around the entire seat.

I added a pin tuck to the seat ends to the seat would lay a little better as this is curved a bit as well. Just make sure that you pin all of your pin tucks the same direction so when you flip them over they all look uniform. Either pin tuck them both facing out or in. But do them the same.
You will need to clip into the seam on the skirt side of the seam to make the curve lay flat. All you do for this is cut the fabric perpendicular to the sewn seam around the curve of the seat. 
clipping your seams

removing excess material from seams and corners 

 Oh, don't forget to hem your skirt! I made my hem about an inch longer than the chair, about 5 inches long. Then I cut all my excess and pressed the seams.
So here is the side seam all tucked up and done. 

And here he is all done, although not as ironed as I would have liked but linen is tricky like that.  My client has a steamer so he will take care of that aspect. 
The first slip took the longest as I was figuring out the seaming a bit still and also writing down the process so I could go quicker through the next 5 slips. I will say that the assembly went great. I would pin all the backs and sew them. Then pin all the fronts to backs and sew them, etc. 

Looking back over these pics, I probably could have made the front back and seat one piece and avoided another seam but it is too late for that! But that might be a shortcut that you could use for YOUR slips! Happy to help out!

 Here is another look at the before and after:

I hope this was helpful if not a bit verbose. 
So lay it on me…..will you give slips a try?

Always being renewed,

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  1. love the new look! my mom and i made a set of 6 of these in my first house.... it was so hard! and when i say we made them i mean she made them and i was cheering her on.

  2. My last attempt at a slipcover, I had the side seem in the center, and that corner where the front, back, and skirt meet is a little sloppy. You solved that problem by shifting that seam forward. Your step-by-step pictures and descriptions are excellent. I sincerely appreciate your help in sprucing up my dining room chairs (which is the first thing people see when they come in my house.) Thank you!


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