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Slipcover tips?

Hansi | Posted in Quilting and Home Decor on

I just started making my first set of slipcovers, following the series of articles in Threads by Laurel Sprigg.  I’m on the muslin fitting stage, still a little nervous.  Just wondering if anyone out there has any tips that they’d like to share about making slipcovers.






  1. mem1 | | #1

    Be patient and use BIG long pins . After you have pinned it all together  wrong side out,use a narrow waxy chalk to mark your stitching line and then as you sew the seam insert the piping.DO overlock the seams and DO DO make sure that you wash you fabric beforehand If you dont you will have to dry clean for ever more. also if you are using cotton cording for your piping boil it and then dry it as otherwise it might shrink!

    Also when you make yor piping make sure that the grain is constant otherwise it will really bulge and wiggle around .My upolsterer doesnt cut his piping on the cross as he says that it uses too much fabric and is stronger cut on the grain. If you do it like this you have to remember to nik the fabric upto the seam but not through it as you go around corners etc.   It is also worth using good strong thread .I have recently thrown out covers that I made fifteen years ago and they survived 3 boys and the resultant disasters!!!! I think that linen is a good fabric as it is so durable. Good luck . You will be amazed at the tranformation.

    I have seen lovely old photographs of slip covers on furniture in some of the great country houses of England . Apparently this was one of the regular jobs the seamstresses had to do .

     Good luck

    1. Hansi | | #4

      Hi Mem,

      Thank you for the post.  Is good quality polyester thread what you would recommend?

      Also, I was hoping that you could clarify what you said about piping.  I was planning on cutting bias strips to cover my piping.  Is that what you would do?


      1. mem1 | | #7

        yes go for really good quality thread. Because you are sewing such a "long way" when sewing these covers ,its tempting to use a cheaper thread DON'T. I use a heavier duty Gutermann Thread  and a Jeans needle .

        I have used bias cut pipig as well but one day when visiting the uplolsterer ,I watched him cut out and make up his piping.I expressed my surprise at him not cutting on the bias and he was rather amazed that Iwould even consider it!

        His piping certainly looked great so I suppose its worth trying . when turning corners or curves he clipped through the seam allowance and stopped just short of the stitching line . This was done on the diagonal as it was stronger and less likely to fray He also used a tubular plastic "piping Cord " He said that the softer cord would prevent it wearing as quickly.But listen try it on a cushion cover and see what youy think.

        1. Hansi | | #10

          Thank you so much for your help.  I really appreciate your time and advice.


  2. Wondering | | #2

    This is my first post to this wonderful and recently discovered site.  I've been "lurking" for weeks as I'm trying to rediscover my long neglected and out-of-date garment sewing skills.   However, in the passing years, I've made hundreds of slipcovers and upholstered items.

    Firstly, you need to heed, with full faith, each bit of Mem's superb advice.  However, because I sensed a bit of nervousness in your question, let me add my simplistic advice.

    Sew, with confidence, on the INSIDE EDGE of your marked line.  Snug slipcovers look professional, hang straight, remain unwrinkled, and wear longer than loose slipcovers.  This is particularly true on cushions.  With very few exceptions, all fabric has a bit of 'give' as you install the slipcovers.

    And lastly, should you find you sewed a bit too tightly in a given area, it's quite easy to rip and loosen a sew.  The "repair" is always invisibly hidden by the roll of the piping.

    (Naturally, though, if you're going for the Shabby Chic look, you will intentionally sew the slipcovers to be looser and more casual.  But still keep your cushion cover rather snug to avoid wrinkles and unnecessary wear as the user sits and moves back and forth on the cushion.)

    1. Hansi | | #3

      Hi Kate,

      Thank you for the post.  You're right, I am nervous. 

      I'm trying to go nice and slow on the muslin.  I'm still on it and have done everything but the seat, skirt and cushions.  I was interested in what you had to say about sewing with confidence within the stitching line.  Lately I've been so worried about making the cover too small (the 3rd article mentions the possibility of using up all your ease if you let the fabric pucker) that I'd been considering adding a 1 1/2" seam allowance rather than the 1" recommended in the articles, just to be on the safe side.  But I really don't want it to look sloppy, so maybe now I won't.  I was thinking about putting an interlining (flannel?  curtain lining material?) on at least the arm front pieces to help prevent the puckering.

      At any rate, I do appreciate the tips.  I will print your post and mem's out and keep them with the articles.  Keep your fingers crossed for me!


      1. Wondering | | #5


        Jay, what I meant by sewing with confidence WITHIN the stitching line is as follows.   Once you have carefully drawn your sewing line, sew on the inside edge of the line (resulting in a smaller finished product) rather than sewing on the outside edge of the line (resulting in a larger finished product).  This is where confidence plays a part.  You must TRUST yourself that you have executed the initial steps properly.  I put forth 3 reasons for this advice:

         (1) After all your careful pinning and marking and sewing, there is nothing more disappointing than making a slipcover that is slightly too big everwhere.  To fix this "slightly too big" problem, you must rip and re-sew each seam smaller.  Horrible!

        (2) In the many years I have assisted/advised others on their first slipcover project, NEVER  have they sewn the slipcover too small, but occasionally have they sewn it slightly too large (from fear).  The moment you decided to attempt a slipcover, you judged yourself competent to do so.  Carry on with that justified belief.

        (3) In my estimation, a "first-timer" is more likely to execute a superb job.  Errors of pinning and marking, mis-measurements, sloppy insertion of piping come later when you are hurrying and/or taking your skills for granted.

        USING A LARGER (1 1/2") SEAM:  Personally, I would not increase from 1 to 1-1/2 inches.  As you sew around curves on the body and arms of the slipcover and when you sew 90degree right angles on corners of the cushion cover, this excess fabric will become cumbersome and might even encourage puckering or pulling the two pieces of fabric unevenly.   And with such huge seams, the piping could "wander around" deep within the two pieces of main fabric. 

        INTERLINING THE FRONT ARM PIECES:  Again, unless your slipcover fabric is extremely flimsy, I would not interline.  Flannel is too thick; curtain lining fabric is too static (won't move with the main fabric); jacket lining is too slippery.  And don't forget that the more layers of fabric you utilize, you more you increase the chance that one of those layers will pucker or "wave."  If you are bound and determined to interline, use nothing more obtrusive than a thin iron-on interfacing (don't forget to preshrink).

        YOUR QUESTIONS TO MEM RE: THREAD AND PIPING:  In case Mem cannot get back to you, let me profer my interpretation of her suggestions.

        THREAD:  Yes, always good quality thread.  Note that Mem recommended STRONG thread.  Polyester and polyester/blend threads are usually stronger than cotton and cotton blend.  Poly and poly blends can stretch a teeny bit while sewing.  This stretching can be a good thing when you are easing a small radius curve, but can have drawbacks if you pull on your fabrics while sewing.  If you choose poly, keep a light, slightly slack 'hand' while feeding the layers of fabric.  If you choose cotton, you'll minimize the chance of rippling and puckering, but then you must ease the curves and corners with precision.  Personally, I use cotton and to assure the strength factor, I use Upholstery thickness and a slightly larger needle.

        PIPING, BIAS CUT OR STRAIGHT GRAIN:  I believe Mem was telling you that you have two choices when cutting your piping strips. 

           BIAS:  You can cut the strips to cover your piping on the BIAS (45 degree) of your fabric but Mem was cautioning you to keep each of your bias cuts on the PERFECT 45degree angle.  If you vary too far from 45degrees, your bias strips could 'twist' or 'rack' (construction term) as you encase the piping.  The advantage of piping covered with bias strips is that the enclosed piping will conform easily and smoothly to curves and corners.  The disadvantage of bias enclosed piping are twofold: (1) bias cuts use a great deal of fabric; and (2) the operator ..you.. must be careful to feed the piping evenly while sewing, not pulling too tightly and not pushing too much piping into a given space.  Pulling too tightly will cause puckering; pushing too much piping into a given space will cause waving or rippling of the piping.

           CROSS GRAIN:  You can cut the strips to cover your piping on the CROSS GRAIN (side to side, from one selvage to another).  The advantages of piping covered with cross grain cuts are threefold: (1) cross grain covered piping is stronger and holds up very well to jumping children; (2) you will use much less fabric to cut strips to cover piping; and (3) it is much easier to apply between your major slipcover pieces; you don't have to worry about pulling piping too tightly or pushing too much piping into a given length or space.  The disadvantages of piping covered with cross grain cuts are twofold:  (1) the piping will not "drape" quite as gracefully around tight curves; and (2) when piping the right angle (90 degree) corners of your cushions, the cross grain piping will form a tiny foldover at each apex of each corner.  On this last noted matter, the foldover at each corner is virtually invisible with printed fabric, and only minimally noticable with solid colored fabric.

        Sorry for the length of this response.  If I possessed greater economy of words, your reading task would be easier.

        1. Hansi | | #6


          Thank you so very much for your detailed response and the time you took to write it.  I truly appreciate the clarification.  And I appreciate your urging me to be confident.  It really meant a lot.


        2. mem1 | | #8

          You certainly know what you are talking about Kate ,I am most impressed. Where are you writing from. Its so interesting seeing everyone's turn of fraise and guessing . I come from Australia.

          1. Wondering | | #9

            Hi, Mem.  I live near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.  How exciting to converse with someone from beautiful and mysterious Australia!   Though I've never visited your country, I can't get enough of its images via photos, cinema and of course, sneak peeks during The Australian Open.  Your people appear to be made of 'tougher stuff' than we Americans, yet simultaneously kinder and more caring.   I look forward to running into you more frequently as I scour Gatherings Forum in search of garment sewing skills from these most generous and knowledgeable contributors.  Good on ya, mate..(is that correct?)  Regards, Kate

          2. mem1 | | #11

            Thankyou for your kind comments re my country.I suppose that one of the things that has formed our natioal psyche is that we are so tiny and insignificant, we have a population similar to  New York City I think! 

            .I think that the only way we can defend ourselves is to be nice to everyone !However you may or may not know of the debates re these values which are happening in our country at the moment.Australians do find the USA endlessly entriguing but at the same time worry about our culture being swamped by your media.They dont have that concern with English media so that is rather interesting.Australians still remember the enormous help given by the USA in the second war and this has formed the basis of a very solid allience between us but I am not so sure that many Australians are great admireres of the low growing plant life dominent in your country at the moment!

            Bye Bye Mem

          3. Wondering | | #12

            Yes, Mem, our very aggressive and profit driven media is presently delighted to glorify (and often emulate) the worst of our society.  I think it fair to say that many Americans abhor the actions of the gun-toting 'anything goes' barbarians trying to lead our country to a new low.  The Australians as well as the Americans are quite correct to fight against this worrisome trend.  Peace to you and yours, Kate   

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