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30-Minutes with Workroom Tech: Episode 29 / Slipcovers for Wood Frame Chairs

Updated: Dec 11, 2019

In this episode of The Sew Much More Podcast: 30-Minutes with Workroom Tech, host Ceil DiGuglielmo and Susan Woodcock talk about sewing slipcovers for wooden chairs. (Air date December 11, 2019).

You can listen to this episode of the podcast here:

The Difference in Making Slipcovers for Wooden Chairs

Sewing slipcovers for wood frame chairs is different than with upholstered furniture. When fitting a slipcover for an upholstered chair you can pin the fabric to the chair. There is also a little ease with padding and foam. When the slipcover is finished you can tuck-in seats and sides, and use screw pins or a tag gun to hold fabric in place. You can't do any of those things with a wood frame chair.

Another difference is that you are not always covering the whole chair. You may just be covering the seat, although fully covered chairs is also an option. The photo below shows a full slipcover, with only the legs showing.

Seats with Skirts

Chair seats are sewn with a banding and skirts, or just a skirt. Skirts can be short, or floor length. Often the style of the chair leg will influence the skirt length.

The Anatomy of a Chair

When talking about chairs, it's helpful to understand the individual parts such as stiles (upright pieces), rails (horizontal pieces) and the shoe (a solid piece at the back) which some chairs have, and some don't. The illustration below helps to identify chair parts.

Sewing a Seat Slipcover with a Gathered Skirt

A pattern is made with muslin, or drapery lining. This is used to cut the top, and bottom pieces of the chair seat. The bottom piece can be out of lining fabric. Add seam allowances to the pattern.

Two pieces are cut for the banding strip to go around the seat. The finished size depends on the style of the chair but it's usually about 2 to 3 inches. One piece can be cut out of lining, but the main fabric was used in the slipcover shown.

The ruffle pieces are cut twice the finished size, plus seam allowances. Allow 2 to 2.5 times fullness. The ruffle can be gathered, or pleated.

Sew one banding piece to the chair seat, matching the pattern motif in the front.

Sew the ruffle to the bottom edge of the banding piece.

Sew the second banding piece on the other side, encasing the ruffle in the band.

Fold the band and ruffle in, so that the second seat piece can be sewn. If using ties or tabs, be sure to include them in the seam at the back corners. Pin the lining in place and sew around the seat, leaving an opening for turning right sides out.

Add a little polyester stuffing is added to give a softer appearance. If using foam or a feather insert, be sure to place this on the chair when drafting the pattern.

Fitting Around Arms and Stiles

Patterning is very, very important. You will want to have the chair in the workroom, not just to make a pattern, but to pin-fit while working on the project. The biggest challenge is connecting skirts across the back, going around the arms, stiles and splat. The skirt in those areas has to be finished neatly because it's not included in the seam.

The photos below show an arm chair from a set of dining chairs (six side chairs and two arm chairs). The fabric was silk, which required interlining.

A pattern was created on the chair, marking where the slipcover will need to have openings.

The skirts are fitted to the chair to check for accuracy before sewing.

Velcro was hidden behind the pleats, to connect the skirts.

When the slipcover is put on the chair, the Velcro is hidden behind the skirt.

Photos of the finished slipcover.

Here is another example of a chair with arms. The client selected an embroidered linen fabric and requested simple bow ties and a scalloped skirt. A pattern was drafted out of lining material. This photo was sent to the client for approval.

When drafting skirts, the scalloped design, or pleats will need to be adjusted for each side of the chair. A paper pattern was created for each side of this chair.

Velcro is hidden behind the skirts at the corners, to keep the skirt snug and to prevent gaps at the corners with the ties.

If you enjoyed this episode of the podcast, and the supporting information found here, on the Workroom Tech blog, please let us know.

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