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Creative Slipcover Fabrics

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The trend in recovering flea market finds has soared over the past few years and slipcover manufacturers, pattern makers, and retail stores have taken the market by storm. Loose slipcovers, tailored slipcovers, pillow covers and duvets are all the rage…even chic! It’s wonderful to know that one can refresh and old outdated chair, footstool or couch with just a few yards of fabric.

But when I recently embarked on recovering a tag sale sofa with simple, regular cotton duck canvas, I found that it cost almost as much as the sofa itself!

I had barstools, cushions, ottomans and dining chairs to go, too. I knew that I had to come up with a solution to my decorating dilemma.

Here are just a few ideas I came up with that might help you save a few dollars so that you can take up making slipcovers by storm without hurting your pocket book.

Painters Canvas

When I wanted a simple cotton duck canvas – sturdy enough for the family room wear and tear, simple enough to please everyone – I discovered that the fabric ranged in price from $5.99 a yard up to 10.99 depending on manufacturer and fabric width.

I visited my local hardware store and found the same heavy duty, unbleached, cotton duck canvas (quite a mouthful) in a painter’s canvas for approximately one quarter of the price I would’ve paid had I tried to buy it by the yard! And the best part: it was already big enough to completely cover the couch without having to seam anything together.

With a few tucks, hidden safety pins and ribbon ties to gather everything up under the arms of the couch, I have my loose slipcover that can be washed and dried easily and without hardly any effort or cash.

If you just don’t care for plain canvas, try stamping or stenciling the canvas with fabric paints to customize your own look. Or paint straight lines, flowers, or transfer photos to the canvas to make your own custom fabric. You’ll have a one of a kind slipcover that’s also a conversational piece.


For smaller slipcover projects like chairs, seat covers, footstools or ottomans, try using tablecloths.

Tablecloths come in all shapes and sizes, colors and textiles, and can be found at tag sales, flea markets, thrift stores and such. I used a new tablecloth, bought on sale at a bed and bath store, to “gift-wrap” chair cushions. I didn’t even have to sew. I simply wrapped the cloth around the cushions and pinned the edges in back with safety pins so that I may remove it easily for washing. And, I can change it on a whim, or perhaps use the tablecloth for a spring picnic. It’s my choice.

And don’t forget the lace tablecloths! With just the right pattern of lace, you can use it as an overlay for solid cushions or fabric that you just want to tone down.


I had an old white linen dress that was so out of style, I doubt that thrift stores would want it. I couldn’t bear to part with it either – the fabric was so perfectly crisp and clean and I could vividly recall every special occasion for which it had been worn.

It now resides as a wicker rocker chair cushion and bolster pillow.

If you have cotton, linen, velvets, silks, organza’s, or other expensive fabric lurking in your closet that will never be worn again, consider turning them into unique slipcovers, pillow cases, or chair covers. Also, comb thrift stores for these kinds of finds. I once used a gray taffeta skirt to slip over a small round occasional table for displaying gifts at a shower. Now that was really a table skirt!

Old Curtains, Draperies and Sheers

I needed a duvet cover for my new French Country guest bedroom and guess where I found one? At a Goodwill Store.

Of course it didn’t come packaged that way. It came as silk damask pinch pleated draperies. The once bright gold drapes gently sun-bleached to the perfect mellow yellow I had longed for. Once the pinch pleats had been removed and ironed out, the naturally bleached streaks gave it more character and charm than I had originally hoped for. And the best part? The draperies were lined so I didn’t even have to buy fabric for the duvet cover backing. I simply seamed up the bottom and added coordinating fabric covered buttons to the top.

Quilts and Bedspreads

Chenille and matelasse bedspreads are the best finds when it comes to slipcovering furniture. But handmade quilts can be some of the most unique treasures you’ll find.

Consider using these items for larger pieces of furniture as furniture throws if they are in perfect condition or if you don’t want to alter them in any way. If you have insect, mildew, or other fabric damage, just work around it. I have salvaged as little as ten pieced squares from one of my grandmothers quilts. She used it as a furniture moving quilt, much to my dismay, and later told me it was actually made from her own clothing during the depression. I used those precious ten pieces to recover an old throw pillow on my window seat. It is, and will always be, cherished.

Don’t forget to re-purpose baby receiving blankets, bedspreads and comforters too. Whether they come from your own cherished memories or are found at tag sales, you can always add a sweet yellow checked pillow to a silk damask duvet!

With a little imagination, you’ll find the perfect slipcover fabric in all sorts of places and things…and each one will have a story to tell.

About The Author: Kelley R. Taylor is a craft expert and home decor project designer who appears frequently on television and radio. Her works can be found in several books, magazines and web sites including her own website, - Visit Creating Home Decor for more free projects, links to the best home dec projects on the web, and tools you can use for home decorating.


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By kathleen williams [23]12/05/2009

Kelley R. Taylor-Sounds like myself, good luck.

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