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Hello! I'm Suzannah, a serious DIYer. Follow along with my DIY fixer upper house renovations, sewing and crafty projects, real food recipes, and de-stressing goals.
I co-host the Your Home Story podcast and believe you can love your home just the way it is, AND have the power to design and make big changes to make it better.
I'm also the author of DIY Wardrobe Makeovers!
Mom to Otto born April 2018 and Lucy born August 2020!

How to make a slipcover using but preserving the old one as a pattern

The biggest DIY project in my recent home office renovation was a sewing project! Back to my roots, I guess! I found a really nice slipcovered armchair on Facebook Marketplace for $40 and honestly, the slipcover was fine as-is, just neutral cotton canvas, but I wanted something definitely not neutral! 

I've made slipcovers before (like this one in 2014 and these in 2016) but I was definitely more confident doing it by cutting apart the previous slipcover and modifying it (or doing a simpler chair style). I didn't want to do that this time since the original slipcover was still in great shape! I could have two outfits for this chair!

So I figured it out. I used the previous slipcover as a pattern and made this new beautiful linen ruffled slipcover!

How to make a slipcover using and preserving the old one

Here she is! That blue linen is this one from Fashion Fabrics Club. The original one is a heavy cotton twill and it looks loose and wrinkly in the photo below, but really it just wasn't tucked in all the way to the chair's deep crevices, ha. 

(You can read about the rest of the office project here HERE!)

You will need:

  • Chair
  • Previous slipcover
  • Slipcover fabric (I used a very heavy weight linen) (use a chart like one of these to determine how much you need. I used 8 yards!) 
  • Rotary cutter mat and ruler like this set
  • Zipper(s) for seat cushion and if the back if your original slipcover has one
  • Piping cord or macrame cord for piping
  • Tailor's chalk or other small chalk
  • Basic sewing tools

Instructions:

1. Pre-wash your fabric if it's cotton (shrinks) or you know will be washed and dried a lot. 

2. Lay out your fabric and lay the slipcover on top, folding in the pieces you're not cutting to keep the first piece you cut flat. I started with the most rectangular piece, the flat part of the seat that goes under the cushion. 

The most important part of this process is lining up the fabric on the grain--so it will hang right. Align the center top and bottom of the original slipcover piece with the grain of the fabric. I did this by marking the center top and bottom with pins and then marking those with chalk on the linen, removing the "pattern piece," and using a long ruler to see if they lined up. They usually didn't with my first pass, so I would put the piece back on and re-position. 

For a simple piece, you can cut around the slipcover like you would a pattern piece. 


For the seat cushion band, I just measured and cut that size.

3. For the symmetrical one-off pieces, fold in half once cut and check for symmetry. 

I found it helpful to label the pieces once cut, until I started putting and pinning them on the chair.

For the trickier smaller pieces, I pinned the cut piece onto the slipcover and trimmed a bit more to get it as close to the original shape as possible.


4. For the pieces with sides, once you've cut one side, lay it on top of the fabric like a pattern piece and cut the other side.

5. Give extra room around tricky places like these pleats. I cut extra fabric around them...

Then pinned the pleats in before marking with chalk...

And cutting. 

6. Cut bias tape for the piping.

Cutting this out was the most challenging part for sure! Took me 20 minutes per piece for a lot of the pieces. 

7. Make piping.

8. Pin pieces on chair, inside out. This helps you check the fit around curves and any tricky places. You can trim excess fabric off at this stage if needed, too (I didn't, but doing this and trimming is a classic slipcover method when you're starting from scratch so I know it can be done). I ran out of pins so I did this in phases--fit/pin top, sew. Fit/pin arms, sew.


8. Use the original slipcover as a guide for which direction seam allowances go (and therefore which seams were done first). So helpful!!! I'm glad I didn't cut it apart for this reason, too!

Match what the original slipcover did for seam allowance direction.

9. Make the skirt. I decided to do a ruffle instead of straight skirt with pleats at the sides like the one I was copying.

I made the seat cushion last. 

Done!!!!

Again the fabric is this heavy linen from Fashion Fabrics Club. As I shared in the progress post about this slipcover, my mom has been shopping with Fashion Fabrics Club since before the Internet and they have a really unique selection and great prices. Highly recommend!

This project was not easy and was time-consuming, but I fit it in in small chunks and it makes a big statement! Custom colored furniture just feels so much more intentional than beige or grey or brown. Excited for this!

You can check out the office reveal post for all the sources in here!

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