How to Choose the Best DIY Slipcover Design
By hometownbetty on February 03, 2014
I recently shared a photo of a sewing project that’s been in the works for the past two weeks – dining chair slipcovers! Since we are now new owners of a soft mango wood dining table and Basque dining chairs to properly host anything from a casual to formal dinner party, I wanted to make some dining slipcovers that fit the need of our busy family. During my design process, this question kept looming in my mind, “How am I going to keep a nice piece of solid wood from receiving planes, trains, and automobile dents?” There are a TON of free tutorials and Etsy patterns available for sale to make a nice slipcover, but I was on the hunt to find one suitable to modify it into a nicely fitted slipcover for our Basque dining chairs.
No one made DIY Basque dining chair slipcovers, and the ones out there don’t always fit snugly over dining chairs. For example, 14 years ago, I purchased a set of canvas dining chair slipcovers from Pottery Barn that have held up nicely, but they were meant for Pottery Barn dining chairs, not my Parsons chair knock offs.
During the research process, I looked for three things to help me come up with the best DIY slipcover design:
1. Slipcover Style
2. Color and Fabric Choices
3. Seam Line
Most free DIY templates came from a Parsons chair design, which was perfect for the look I wanted to emulate. However, the choices were endless. I thought about what I liked about each design, and which ones were feasible enough for this novice sewer.
1. Choose Your Slipcover (and Bathing Suit) Style
I’ll begin with style because if you don’t know what you want, you could spend days, weeks, or months to figure out your dining slipcover style.
Two-Piece, Bikini Look
Originally, I wanted to go for the bikini look to my chairs, covering only the seat and top half of the back of the chair. It exposed the wood, much like a supermodel’s hourglass midsection in a two-piece bathing suit. But I would never be caught dead in a two-piece. Ever. Plus, Linus and Piano Man’s are too small to sit properly in the chair. They’d much rather prefer to have an extra cushion behind them, so they can sit comfortably.
More importantly, I also had to consider that any exposure of wood would eventually meet the hand of Linus’ pretend playing of planes, trains, and automobiles.
One-Piece Bathing Suit Look
If I had to wear a bathing suit, then I think a one piece is a respectable look for a mother of two. It properly covers up any unwanted skin, or in this case soft mango wood, and I don’t have to worry about future deep cuts or dents.
However, just because you decided to wear a one-piece doesn’t mean it has to look boring. You can add fringe and other fun embellishments, such as pleats, to add your own personal style.
Sarong, Cover-Up, or Formal Look
If you’re still not keen on showing too much skin or wood, then a modest sarong or cover-up is your best bet.
Perhaps, even a floor length gown look is probably what you’re looking for. (See Diagonal Seam at the Corners under 3. Choose Your Seam Line.)
I’m definitely not into all the formalities when hosting a dinner, so this look is out for me. Plus, I wonder if my children would trip over all that extra fabric as they run around and under the table during playtime.
2. Color and Fabric Choices
Once you’ve decided on your style, you have another big decision to make, choosing your fabric. And if you’ve shopped around for fabric, you know the options are endless here too.
Bright and Colorful
If your personality and fashion style is loud and proud, go with a fun and colorful fabric. It’ll definitely make a statement in your dining room.
Simple Patterns and Solid Colored
Simple pattern – like the ever-popular chevron, stripe, floral patterns – can add a fun, modern element to your dining room.
Don’t forget about color too! Plenty of solid color choices give any dining chair a splash of color without breaking the bank too.
Then there’s always classic white/off-white/antique white that can last for years, if you don’t have little ones or pets running around the house.
I already had a general color palate laid out before we ever purchased our dining table and chairs. It all began with a pair of green Pottery Barn curtains that were on clearance and our turquoise tea/dessert set. I knew I was going to need to tie in those colors with fabric from our dining chair slipcovers, but I was torn between a colorful fabric or classic white.
3. Choose Your Seam Line
As I looked closely at each of the DIY tutorials on how to make a Parsons chair slipcover, I took careful notice of the seam lines. This too is where you will find plenty of variation in DIY slipcover designs.
Piece by Piece
The most popular DIY slipcover design for a Parsons’ chair was Ana White’s design. It was simple, classic, and added a little fringe for a personal touch.
I think this method is best if you want to maximize use of your fabric. You can squeeze each piece without having to waste much of your precious fabric. However, it’s a lot more sewing; and with my pitiful cutting methods, I may accidentally cut too much or too little fabric in the process. Also, I was worried more about user error during the sewing process; thus, I was on the hunt for other seam line designs.
In the Middle
Wrapping fabric, pinning in place, cutting, then stitching seems to be another useful method. You’ll definitely get a snug fit with Imperfectly Polished’s design, which is nice, especially when you make a dining chair cover.
Again, this is for the seamstress/sewer who knows how to take the fabric off the chair and stitch in a straight line. And since I don’t sew well without a pattern, this is most disadvantageous to me. However, if you’re an experienced sewer, I think this might be the fastest and most appealing way to sew a custom-made dining chair cover.
Diagonal Seam at the Corners
I thought I found my DIY design in Imperfectly Polished until I ran across this Etsy seller’s work:
Now, this one stands out in a crowd, don’t you think? It’s got a formal look with fabric touching the floor. But what I adore about this Etsy seller’s work is that it is has clean seam lines. Notice where he tucks and stitches those corner seams along the seat corners and back of the chair.
If you look even closer, he uses a diagonal cut to create even a cleaner line from the back of the chair to the seat cushion. I was very impressed at his work. His design offered the least amount of seam lines, which seamed the most appealing to me.
However, he didn’t offer a template, so all I could do was stare closely as I zoomed in on his photos to see where his seam lines began and ended. I was going to have to make my own template anyway, since the Basque dining chair isn’t as straightforward as a Parsons’ chair with a few curved edges here and there.
Betty’s Slipcover Design Requirements
I had a few additional requirements that I wanted to add to my design:
2. Simple, yet Whimsical Fabric
3. Added Padding
4. Fewest Seam Lines
I wanted my slipcovers to be reversible, so that if we had guests coming over, I could whip them around in a moment’s notice. Well, honestly I couldn’t decide between classic white or fun/whimsical, so I chose both! Adding batting between the two fabrics was important, since I wanted to give the freedom to let our boys be boys without the stress of protecting the wood. Finally, I thought that the fewest seam lines would give me the least amount of worry when it came to sewing.
Well, there you have it, folks! You have read through my thought and research process to design the most suitable DIY slipcover design. Search on Pinterest or Google, and you’ll find plenty of ideas to choose from. I hope this guide helps you in your process to find the perfect DIY slipcover, and I hope my design turns out the way I intended. Wish me luck!
From my hometown to yours,