This summer I was thrilled to find a pair of matching wing back chairs at a local flea market. I liked them particularly because they were narrower than most wing backs. Since I planned to use them in my dining area, I thought their smaller scale would work well. I love the look of combining upholstered chairs with wood chairs in a dining room but up until now I hadn’t found anything that would be suitable. The price of $5 per chair was fantastic. My heart was thumping as I proceeded to inspect them. Before buying any used upholstered furniture it’s important to check that the piece is structurally sound (doesn’t wobble), that there are no pet or smoke odors (both of which are pretty impossible to remove) and thirdly that the seat cushion is still in fairly good shape (not lumpy or flat). While a cushion can always be replaced, new foam is a bit pricey. These chairs passed the test, so I happily hauled home my two 1980’s-ish green floral wing backs, envisioning them made over in white slipcovers. Here’s the before photos. (I had already removed the seat covers when I snapped this photo).
As for slipcover fabric, Elizabeth and I are hooked on canvas drop cloths thanks to a very inspiring decorating blogger, Miss Mustard Seed. This is where we first learned of using drop cloths for slipcovers. We love them because they come in very large sizes (6×9 or 9×12), they’re durable and they’re inexpensive. We pre-wash the drop cloth in hot water which makes it really soft and also shrinks the fabric so it won’t shrink later when you wash your slipcover.
The task of making slipcovers can seem very daunting and even though I am a pretty experienced sew-er, I wasn’t looking forward to the project. But, watching Miss Mustard Seed’s video slipcover tutorial series really gave me the motivation to tackle this project. Her best tip for me was to let go of the need for perfection. After all, it’s only canvas drop cloths. It’s not as if I’m using $50 a yard fabric. So, if I really screw it up, I just go back to Walmart for another drop cloth. That took the pressure off and I approached the task with renewed enthusiasm.
Incidentally, if you would like to try sewing slipcovers, I really encourage you to check out Miss Mustard Seed’s slipcover tutorials on her blog. Her methods are simple and easy. And she does everything on a $150 sewing machine that she got from Walmart! I guarantee she will inspire you!
I also want to share that I don’t have large blocks of time nor do I have a room that I can dedicate solely to sewing. I have my sewing machine set up at one end of my dining room table and I sew for about 10 minutes at a time. You see my little guy is only 2 and he can rarely occupy himself for more than 10 minutes. Having my machine in the dining room lets me do a little sewing in between playing with him. So, these slipcovers took me about 4 weeks to complete, working at most 20-30 minutes a day. I think that comes to about 6-8 hours of actual time per chair … a doable day project if you have a whole day to devote to it. And yes, my dining room was a mess for the 4 weeks. I kept a large laundry basket nearby so I could scoop up all my fabric pieces and tidy up my dining area whenever we had company.
So here’s the big reveal. I am so pleased with how they turned out. And, my total investment was just $65 ($10 for the chairs and $55 in drop cloths, thread and cording).
I love the flexibility of these chairs. Because they are smaller (and hence lighter) than most wing backs, I can easily move them into our living room when extra seating is needed.
Hope you are inspired to try a chair makeover with slipcovers!