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Time estimate for chair covers?

dressmaker | Posted in General Discussion on

Time estimate for chair covers?    I’ve been asked to make chair covers (the kind that go over straight chairs that cover the back, seat and fall to the floor) for a small dining room in a local hotel.   I will probably use Butterick 4480.  Does anyone know about how long per cover it will take me to make them.  I’m trying to figure an estimate for the hotel and just don’t know how many hours to count on.  Thanks for any help.   


  1. starzoe | | #1

    The best way is to borrow a chair (or use one of your own) and with waste fabric (old sheets, etc.) sew one....it really depends on how simple the pattern is, how easy the fabric chosen is to sew and how detailed the finishing.

  2. User avater
    CostumerVal | | #2

    I've only done slip covers for upholstered sofas and love seats. My thought here being that hotels are really hard on their upholstery. You may need to consider taking extra time for making piping to insert into the seams. They're probably going to throw them into a commercial washer on a regular basis and IF they're ironed it will be with a commercial steam machine. Plain seams wont hold up to that abuse and every time a customer sits in that chair he'll shift the fabric over the corners on the back. That's OK for the occasional home sit down meal but hotels turn over tables at a high rate.It takes me about 20 min/yrd to cut the bias strips, sew them together, iron and sew in the filler. Now this time is based on 3-5 yards at a time, and I could lose some time if I finger pressed and didn't move the mess to the ironing board. My sewing machine is in the bedroom, so I don't have an efficient set up either. I can squeeze in about 1 1/2hr. sewing time a day and it takes me all week to do a love seat, including cushion covers.I'm with Starzoe, whip one out for your own dining room chair and time it. Throw in a guestimate for piping and zipper, piping is faster and easier than it looks, but I always underestimate time on a zipper.Val

    Edited 9/25/2008 9:18 am ET by CostumerVal

  3. KharminJ | | #3

    I'd actually be prepared to make 2 - the very first one is for experimenting, and figuring out just how you're going to do it. The second will be much closer to an accurate time, because you won't have nearly as much "thinking time" in between seams. <p>
    And, don't sell yourself short, but cutting and sewing in batches (all the backs sewn at once, then the seats, for instance) will also reduce the total/average time, if you're going to do it that way.<p>
    When I made up purses for sale, I found it much easier to make "a bunch" of flaps, then all the handles, then the linings, etc. Cuts down on the time required by the brain to shift gears between pieces, yaknow.<p>Kharmin

    1. rodezzy | | #4

      Brilliant, I use that production system when making pieced quilt blocks.  Works!

  4. sewslow67 | | #5

    I would start with Starzoe's basic suggestion as a foundation, because it makes a lot of sense (using the actual chair from the hotel), and then add some of the other suggestions into the mix. 

    An additional suggestion is:  Be sure and get a sample of the fabric from the hotel that they want used.  If it is a light weight cotton, it will be faster to sew than a very heavy weight material.  Also, be sure and ask what kind of detail they want, i.e. piping, trims, ruffles, etc.  The design of the cover can affect greatly the time it will take to be sewn.

  5. Teaf5 | | #6

    You might want to find out the going price for similar seat covers and then compare that to the amount of time you take to make your samples; it would be surprising if you can make a profit on them unless the hotel is willing to pay extra for your expertise.  A seat cover they can buy for $20 each in volume will cost you/them probably $100 or so each to make if you're paying yourself enough for your time.

    Working assembly-line style is efficient, but it is difficult to handle a large volume of fabric in the typical home.  Let's say you're making 20 covers at approximately 3 yards per cover; that's 60 yards of fabric to pre-wash/iron/lay out/store till you've completed the project.  You'll need to pre-cut the fabric and pre-wash it in smaller segments, making sure to do each batch exactly the same way.

    On such a big project, accurate record-keeping and labelling are essential.  I mark every piece with blue painter's tape labelled with the chair number and pattern piece: "Chair 6, Left interior side" for example, so that I don't cut out too many of one piece and not enough of another.  I store all the pieces for each chair in a labelled plastic bag that I also use to store the finished pieces.

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