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How To Be A Decorator:
Principles Of Decoration
Painting Points
Wallpaper Points
Wall Points
Floor Points
Colonial Living Rooms
Veneered Paneling
The English Room
Spanish-Italian Living Rooms
The Living Room Without A Mantel
Living Room Points
Dining Rooms
Dining Rooms Points
Combination Living Room - Dining Room
Living Room - Dining Room Points
Halls, Sun Rooms And Porches
Points For Halls, Sun Rooms And Porches
Colonial And Modern Bedrooms
Bedroom Points
Colorful, Comfortable Nurseries
Nursery Points
New Fashions In Draperies
How To Make Curtains And Draperies
Drapery Points
Slip Covers
Slip Cover Points
How To Make Slip Covers
How To Paint Furniture
Finishes For Natural Wood Furniture

How To Make Slip Covers

( Originally Published 1930's )

Details for Cutting, Fitting and Making

The first step in making slip covers is to take accurate measurements to determine the quantity of material required. The diagram in Figure 1 shows the method of procedure for measuring all pieces where the extreme width of the chair is less than the width of the material to be used. Start with the tape on the floor line at A, stretch it upward to B, across the top of the chair to C, from C down the back to D, from D across the seat to E, and from E down the front to the floor line at F. Add an extra one and one-half inches at every point for seams. The side pieces are calculated by measuring from the top of the seat to the floor line, G to H, or from the floor to the top of the arm and down the inside of the arm to the seat line, with the necessary additions for each seam, and double this amount for the two sides. This added together gives the total yardage required. If, however, the material has a large pattern, generous allowance must be made so that the center of the design will come in the right places. To estimate for very large pieces such as a sofa, figure the extra number of widths required to cover seat and back. For any light chairs, the ordinary seam allowance will be sufficient at D (Figure 1), but far large upholstered pieces an extra three inches on seat and back must be included to allow for this tuckaway.

Putting in Place

For some simple chairs the material may be laid over the chair as shown in the diagram for taking measurements, making plaits sufficient for seams at B, C, D, and E, and allowing for hems at the floor line. Large patterns must of course be arranged so that the design will be correctly placed in the center of seat and back. This necessitates cutting separate pieces for seat, back, and sides. After laying in the plaits for seams as mentioned, pin the material to the chair sufficiently to prevent its drawing out of shape, and smooth it as it should be when finished. When it is all smooth, cut each plait, putting in pins to hold the seams, and trim away the surplus. Then pin the side pieces into position, and trim the seam allowances to the desired size at the corners where side pieces join front and back breadths. On round edges as at the top of a curved back chair, it is sometimes necessary to dispose of extra fulness by taking small plaits in the seam.

The amount trimmed off the seams depends upon whether they are to be bound with braid or French seamed. In either event all raw edges are first stitched on the right side of the goods, except where the cover tucks in under the upholstery as indicated by the dotted lines. Seams for this tuckaway may be sewed on the wrong side.

Sometimes the French seam is used as a simple finish for the outside of the cover, in which case the goods is of course pinned and cut with the face down, so that the first seam will be run up on the wrong side, thus bringing the French seam on the right and patterned side. Another plan is to finish each seam with a thin cording or "welting" as is often used on dresses, of contrasting color or different material.

The cover should be planned to fasten together with snappers at each of the back corners, unless the chair back is wider at the top than at the bottom, when only one opening need be planned. This will come in the middle of the back.

In either case an allowance must be made for an overlap of about two inches, to sew on snappers. For certain types of furniture where there is a flat surface along the top of the back and arms, it is better not to bring the front and back edges of the cover together, but to cut and fit separate pieces for what is termed "boxing," where there are right angles instead of rounding corners. Another point is the straightline method of fitting slip covers. Never attempt to follow in detail a difficult turn of the arm or leg, but reduce the number and shape of the seams to lines of the utmost simplicity.

Large Upholstered Chairs

The making of slip covers for the large upholstered chair or sofa easy. This kind of chair presents special difficulties, but as it is perhaps the most popular type of upholstered furniture, it must be given special consideration. The method of procedure is somewhat different from the general instructions just given for cutting and fitting slip covers. Because the lower frame of the chair is wider than the seat measurement, the bottom edge of the cover should be cut first. Next cut the shape of the seat allowing two or more inches at the back to tuck in. Cut off at each side making two-inch allowance for tuckaway under each arm. Pin the seat cover at the extreme front edge to the chair itself, holding the fabric firmly in place with the heads of the pins forward, so as to resist the pressure when the fabric is tucked under at the back. On this piece, as elsewhere, a three-quarter-inch allowance will be sufficient for French seams, or the outside edges may be trimmed closer if tape or welt edges are to be used.

Outside Back Piece

After the lower front and seat pieces have been pinned together, measure off the goods needed for the outside back. Measure the width of the chair at the widest point of the back 3 C, and carry the material to the floor line. If using double width or fifty-inch material do not attempt to follow the lines of the chair too closely when cutting off these various lengths. Simply cut off the required length so it can be shaped later.

Inside Back and Arm Pieces

To cut the shape of the front piece for the inside chair back, again pin the material to the widest point at the top, Figure 3 C, having first allowed enough to fall over the back to the line marked B. Center the design and allow two inches or more for the tuckaway before cutting off the material. The width of the inside back piece may now be trimmed off by cutting in a straight diagonal line from the very widest point at the top to the narrower measure of the bottom line. If the slip cover is 'to fit under the upholstery of the chair as indicated by the dotted line D an allowance of an inch and a half on each side must be made for the tuckaway. This corresponds to the straight diagonal line E where there is no tuckaway. Next pin together ready for sewing the inside back piece just fitted and the seat piece at the line marked G, Figure 3.

The pieces for the inside arms are the next to be cut after measuring so that the material will reach from the seat over the roll of the arm to a joint just under the roll-Figure 4-A to B. Cut it down in the corner to form the seam E in Figure 3, with the usual seam allowances. To cut a corresponding piece for the opposite arm, lay this piece already cut face to face on the uncut material, taking especial care to match the design exactly, and cut a duplicate shape.

Outside Arm Pieces

To cut the outside arm pieces, measure the material from the floor to the highest point up under the roll of the arm (B to C, Figure 4), and make the usual seam allowance before cutting. At this point a paper pattern should be made of the piece indicated. Cut the material for one of these pieces and duplicate it by laying it face downward on the uncut piece with the pattern matching. With some types of chairs it is better to make these pieces the length from the top of the arm to the bottom of the slip cover, with the piece fitted in between these two special pieces. This gives long lines. This is an advantage when the seams are welted with a contrasting color.

Fitting and Trimming Seams

Having made sure that the inside back and seat pieces are properly fitted into place with the front edge of the seat coming perfectly straight, pin the inside arm pieces into place fastening them to the inside back and seat. Next fasten the outside arm pieces to the inside arm pieces at the line indicated as A to B, Figure 4, allowing one inch for seams. Then tack the shaped pieces for the front outside arms to the chair itself to hold them in place. 'When fastening these pieces to the large arm pieces, be careful not to pull the cover out where it is tucked in between the arms and the seat of the chair. Leave that extra fulness lying loose.

We may now turn our attention once more to the back.

Trim off the seams, leaving a one-inch allowance in order to make the cover fit smoothly and form a mitre from a seam where the arm and bark pieces meet (B, Figure 4), to the point just over the inside where the inner arm and back pieces come together. Next cut off the surplus from the outside back, allowing it to run one inch beyond the chair frame at each side. This fitting done, the cover is ready to be removed from the chair. Take extra precautions to put in as many pins as are needed along all the seams. In addition to the many pins all corners should be basted securely. Extreme care must be taken not to stretch the material while pinning the seams, where the edges are cut on the bias.

Separate Seat Cushion

If the chair is one with a loose seat cushion the method of procedure is exactly the same, with the slip cover for the cushion made later as a separate piece. This is the simplest of all as is shown in Figure 5. Measure off the material required for top and bottom pieces, allowing one and one-half inches for seams all the way around. Join these with a straight band of the material cut in one length the width of the box piece on the cushion itself, with seams allowed. Another method is to cut one piece of goods the size of the bottom of the cushion, and then to the measurement required for the top piece add the width of this band right on to the width of the piece for the top without cutting, as is indicated in Figure S. The cover is then put together as a paper box is folded making mitered seams at the corners, where the material is fitted by folding over and joining to the bottom piece.

The same methods may be followed for making a slip cover for a large overstuffed sofa. The back and seat pieces are usually made in three sections, sometimes with space for tuckaway between each two sections, when the back of the sofa itself is divided into three cushions. If space need not be allowed for tuckaway, straight seams are used for the inside back. The three pieces needed for the outside back are usually matched and sewed blindly so that they will give the appearance of one piece. The piece indicated as A in Figure 3 may be cut in three sections, when the seat cushions are divided into three or it may be made as straight band connecting the two shaped arm pieces. For the smaller two-seated sofa, the back and seat pieces are usually divided into two, following the same methods as indicated for the large sofa with three or four sections.

Slip Cover for the Chaise Longue

The chaise longue presents a slightly different problem, as it combines the methods used for chairs and sofas. The outside back, outside arms, inside arms, and inside back are all cut and fitted as indicated for the upholstered chair. To cut the seat piece lay the goods on the seat of the chaise longue with the design carefully centered. It is joined to the inside back and arms as already explained. Along the sides pin it firmly in place to the seat itself, folding in small plaits for the rounding corners of the outer edge if necessary. A shaped band should then be fitted around the length of the open end. This is joined to the outside arm pieces in a straight seam which would correspond to the seam which joins them to the shaped arm pieces shown in F, Figure 4. Be sure that this straight band is joined to the shaped seat piece with an even straight seam which outlines the edge of the upholstery. As there is no possibility for a tuckaway to hold it fast, these two pieces must be cut and fitted exactly. This band should be measured and carefully matched as to pattern before fitting to the seat piece. As the pattern must run up and down, these seams should be blind, giving the appearance of a continuous pattern running the width of the material. If the chaise longue has a separate seat cushion, this can be made.

Small Upholstered Chair

The slip cover for the small upholstered chair is usually made as indicated in Figure r. The cover is seldom cut so that it will reach the floor, however. It is usually made the same length as the regular upholstery of the chair leaving the legs free. This type of cover is often finished with a three- or fourinch ruffle, either shirred or plaited. To make a slip cover for a stool, cut a piece to fit the shape of the top and finish it with a three- or four-inch band, with carefully mitered corners if the stool has a square or oblong top.

For straight chairs such as might be used in a dining-room the simplest slip covers are best. These may be made short or to the floor, as you desire. If made short, very often the piece for the back is separate from that for the seat. The piece for the back is shaped to fit and slipped down over like an envelope, finishing it either with snappers on the bottom or tying it with tapes to the backposts just below the bottom rail. In conjunction with such a cover the seat slip cover is differently made. Cut a piece fitted to the shape of the seat, with a narrow band fastened to it at right angles for the front and two sides, the front corners being carefully mitered. The same width band should be fastened to the back of the seat cover, but the seams for the two back posts left open. This allows the slip cover to fit down firmly and to be fastened with snappers around the back post or tied with tapes to hold it in place.

Slip Covers for Tables and Beds

Making a slip cover for a table is the simplest of all for it stays in place better than do those on any other piece of furniture. Cut a piece which has been shaped to the top of the table and fasten a three- or four-inch band to it at right angles, with all straight seams carefully mitered. This is slipped down over the table, fitting neatly and tightly. The length of the band depends on the uses of the table and may be made floor length if that is desirable. In that case, care must be taken to have the patterns match on the up and down seams on all four sides.

Making slip covers for beds is similar to making them for the backs of straight chairs. They are really like pillow slips with the top edges shaped to fit the top of the bed. The outside piece usually continues to the floor, while the inside piece may be finished in one of two ways. It may be joined to a fulllength piece which lies under the mattress as the well-fitted slip cover lies under the loose cushion of an overstuffed chair. In this case there are straight side pieces running the length of the bed which are fastened to the end pieces as indicated in Figure 1 for the simplest chair covers. With this type of slip cover, a bedspread of the same material should be used which will hang down at the sides just far enough to hide the mattress and bedding. The other way of finishing the inside pieces is to make them just long enough to tuck in under the mattress and so be held in place. The spread is then made long enough so that it will come down on the sides to the same length as the slip covers on the ends of the bed. In addition to using this type of slip cover for summer days when dark woods look so hot, it is also an admirable way to disguise an old bed which must be kept but which is not harmonious with the rest of the furniture in the room.

Making these simple slip covers is by no means child's play. Yet if you undertake it in a thoroughly systematic way, being very exact with every measurement, taking nothing for granted, and always looking twice before you cut, your work may well compare favorably with that of the professional upholsterer, who is as careful as a tailor with his work.

Draped Dressing Tables

As dressing-tables have become increasingly important as part of the decorative furnishing for a bedroom, many different types and styles have been evolved. There are many charming little powder-tables of beautifully grained woods, regulation dressing-tables either painted or stained, but there is nothing that is quite so delightfully decorative as the draped dressingtable. There are as many different materials to be used for this purpose as there are for the making of curtains and slip covers, and the ways of making and trimming them are equally diverse. The dressing-table may be made to match the draperies at the window, or it may be made to harmonize with the slip covers on the chairs, or it may be the one different object in the room which makes the whole harmonious. It is no more difficult to drape dressing-tables than it is to make slip covers or curtains, if you are careful with measurements and deft about the finishing.

The table itself may be created in various ways. It may be the regulation dressing-table built for the express purpose of draping, with arms which swing to each side from the center, making the drawers underneath more accessible. It may be an old desk that you are ready to convert into a dressing-table, that is, if the desk be of the flat-topped variety with drawers at each side, these having been popular bedroom desks for many years. A kidney-shaped desk with one drawer in the center and two at each side makes a delightful foundation for a draped table. A plain simply designed table, even of the kitchen type is suitable. Or, simpler still, is the shelf fastened to the wall with brackets, which does quite as well as any real table. It is always best to have the space at the center front clear, but low shelves for shoes may be fitted at the back near the floor. Charming little shelf-tables are semi-circular in shape, or they may be especially cut to fit into a corner. Practically any material, except the heaviest of upholstery fabrics is suitable for draping dressing-tables. Any chintz or cretonne may be used, and there is nothing daintier than silks, satins, or taffetas, either plain or striped. Organdy, dotted swiss and muslin, dainty pastel-toned voiles, or plain linen all may be fashioned into the most delightful dressing-tables. And for summer cottages the unbleached muslin with its trimmings of gay color or quaintly sprigged calicoes and boldly checked ginghams all come into their own.

Trimming the Table

These dressing-tables may be trimmed to match the curtains, or they may be much more frivolous and feminine than curtains or slip covers could be. If thin materials are used sateen should be hung underneath as a foundation. Ruffles with pinked or picoted edges, bands of contrasting color, ruchings, braid, or lace and ribbon, all are effective trimmings. The top should always be plain with the material tightly stretched, but the curtains or skirts of the table may be as elaborate as you desire. There may be ruffles at top and bottom, or a series of three or more ruffles at the bottom, or ruchings, top, bottom and in the center. There are literally as many ways of trimming these tables as there are ways of trimming dainty frocks.

The making is really simple. First the entire top must be covered with a layer of wadding, then with a tightly-stretched cover of unbleached muslin to hold it in place. To this muslin cover, which should be tacked firmly to the under side of the table top, the outside cover is sewed. This also serves as a foundation to which to fasten the curtains. But be careful that the top heading of the curtains does not come above the level of the top of the table. The curtains should be divided in the center front, or if made in three sections, divided at right and left of the center, so that there is no difficulty in reaching whatever drawers or shelves may be hidden by the curtains. The curtains should, of course, reach just to the floor.

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