Changing the slipcovers on your couch can immediately modernize your living space without having to fork out a fortune. It’s a great way to give your space a facelift and add some personality to the room. Understandably, our tastes can change over the years, and that fabric we loved 10 years ago at college might no longer be the chic or sophisticated style we enjoy today.
Creating a DIY slipcover is a cost-effective way to make old couches brand new and saves you from having to buy a new sofa or pay a professional to reupholster it, both of which can be costly. Happily, you can also decide on what type of material you want to use, and prices can range from super affordable to the high-end of the price spectrum.
Couches are usually located in communal rooms in a home and are an essential feature in any house. They’re the place where we entertain friends, curl up for family movie nights, or where we enjoy a good book while we are relaxing. Since couches are often so well used, however, they can get tired fast. Added to this, they can also get grubby. While steam cleaners can usually get a lot of the dirt out, sometimes, especially if you have pets or children, the fabric needs replacing. Over time, if you couch is close to a window, fabrics can also fade, making an otherwise sturdy couch, look old and shabby. If you are ready to revamp your home, change your color scheme, or want to give a tired and old couch a new lease on life, it is time to read our guide. If you have ever wondered how to make sofa covers, we’ll show you a few tricks and hacks to make it an easy task!
We’ll explore sewed covers and the no-sew variety so that anyone, regardless of sewing ability, can make a cover that they love.
Let’s look at the sewed slipcover first.
Sewing a Slipcover for Your Couch
Materials you will need:
Material of choice: If you are an absolute beginner, it’s a good idea to go for one color or printed material. Choosing fabrics with distinct lines or tricky patterns can make the job challenging, and unless you are exact in your cutting and sewing, it might look skew or scruffy and produce a subpar end result.
You will also want to choose a durable fabric that can be easily washed. 100 % cotton is always a good choice. Other popular options include:
- A polyester-cotton blend
- Twill, or
These materials vary in price, so the material of choice will depend on your budget. It’s also a great idea to checkout local sales at fabric stores, sometimes you can land a fantastic bargain for a fraction of the price.
Other materials needed:
- A fabric marker/chalk
- Muslin cloth or butcher paper (optional, depending on pattern making method)
- A sewing machine
- Measuring tape
- Seam ripper (optional)
Step 1: Measuring Your Couch
The first task, and arguably the most important, is the measuring process. However, don’t feel overwhelmed; just follow these steps.
The adage tells us to “measure twice and cut once,” which is a great habit to ensure accuracy. You don’t want to measure incorrectly and buy too little fabric.
Using your tape measure (and possibly a friend to help you out), you’ll need to do the following:
- Measure the length of the couch: Measure the back of the sofa (the longest point) from the left end to the right end. Include the arms whilst doing this. Now you know the length of the fabric you need!
- Measure the height of the couch: Now, you need to measure the height of the upholstery from the bottom of the couch to the very top. If you have a curved sofa, ensure that you measure the highest point. Do this for the front and the back of the couch, as they will be different heights.
- Measure the width of the couch: Measure the distance from the front of the sofa to the back on the left or right side.
- Measure the back cushions: Now, you need to measure the couch’s cushions. If they are removable, take them off the sofa and measure from top to bottom and from left to right on the cushion’s face. Be sure also to measure the depth. Now measure the area behind the cushions, between the armrests or wings.
- Measure the seating cushions: Do the same for your seating cushions, measuring the length and height of the cushions face and the depth.
Write down each measurement as you go, and then add them all up at the end.
NB: Add about an inch to each of your measurements to be safe, as this will make room for the seam. For more room for error, add 3 or 4 inches.
Top tip: If you can, purchase an extra yard or two of fabric. If you don’t end up using it for the slipcover, you can make some beautiful pillows.
Step 2: Preparing the Slipcover Material
Before you begin making your slipcover, pre-wash your fabric if you will be washing the covers in the future. This also ensures that shrinkage won’t hinder your measurements. Make sure it dries properly before you begin, and then iron the fabric to get rid of any creases. Creases can make the task at hand much trickier, and this might cause problems when it comes to cutting your pattern.
Step 3: Creating a Pattern
There are two ways to create the pattern for your slipcover; you can use the material directly to cover your couch and pin accordingly, or you can use a cheaper muslin cloth or butcher paper and some fabric chalk.
Option 1: Using the fabric directly
- Drape the fabric over the couch and use it as a guide to figure out where you’ll place the seams and hem (the hem gives your couch a professional, stylish look and finishes off the slipcover well.)
- Use your pins to hold the fabric in place. Start with the bigger, central parts of the couch like the inside back, outside back, and deck. Once these have been pinned together, you will notice the slipcover take shape.
- Next up, it’s time to pin the arms (inside and outside.) This process ensures that all the fabric is in the right place and that your couch is covered correctly.
- Now everything should be pinned together; you can make ‘relief cuts. These cuts essentially relieve you of excess fabric, which can get in the way while you’re sewing.
The Second Method Utilizes a Cheaper Muslin Cloth or Butcher Paper
- Drape the couch with the muslin cloth or butcher paper and tuck it around the couch loosely (if it’s too tight, you might create too small a pattern). This mock pattern should mold to the couch’s shape.
- You can use one large piece or smaller pieces for different sections. In this instance, much like the above version, use pins to connect them.
- Using special fabric chalk, mark the pattern on the material, showing you what parts need to be cut. There will be a few different patterns for the different components of your couch. These sections are:
- outside back of the couch
- Seating area, backrests, and the from the part that touches the floor
- The sides of your cover, which begin on the outside and come over the inside of the armrests
- It’s time to measure the arms. These two vertical sections are located on each side of your couch. You can create two separate patterns for ease. (Make one pattern for the two arms). To do this:
- Cut a rectangular piece of the muslin, about the size of the arm
- Use your pins to keep it in place around the arm
- Using your chalk, trace the lines
- Use this piece of muslin or paper as the pattern for both arms
- Now you need to cut the pattern and pin. Follow the line of the chalk exactly to cut out your pattern. Next, you’ll need to attach the pattern to your fabric and cut the fabric accordingly. Once it’s cut out, pin all the pieces together, and you will see a loose outline of what your slipcover will look like.
A note on pinning: For both methods, the easiest way to pin is to lay all of the individual pieces on the couch (the wrong way up, of course so that the seem is not visible on the outside) and then pin them with straight pins until the slip is assembled.
Sewing the Slipcover
Well done, you have measured your fabric and created a pattern for the slipcover using one of the two methods above; now it is time to sew like a pro! Follow these steps.
Your slipcover is now pinned together, and it’s time to start sewing the various parts.
- The Armrests.
- Remove the arm front and armrest section from the slipcover shape, careful not to remove any other pins. Using your sewing machine, stitch the arm front pattern to the armrest pattern. Use your chalk line as a guide of where to sew. Your stitches should follow it.
- Your fabric should still be on the wrong side up to ensure smooth and neat seams.
- Once sewed together, remove the pins on these pieces.
- The body
Now, it’s time to sew the main part of the cover.
- Remove the pieces from the back and seating area, making sure you do not lose any pins.
- Join these pieces together with the sewing machine, making sure not to lose any pins.
- Once done, remove the pins, being careful not to prick yourself.
- Re-joining the sections
Return both pieces to the couch and check that your slipcover falls evenly and fits properly. Add pins to the two parts so that they are joined together. Make sure the cover fits snugly and falls evenly. Add pins to join the sides and body once again.
- Check it all fits
Once you have joined both parts, you need to check the fit on your couch. If you notice any problems, you can unstitch seams with a seam ripper and make them straight.
- Add your hem
The hem is sure to neaten up your slipcover. Take the cover off your couch and place it on a large working surface or a clean floor. Using your fabric chalk, measure the hemline (this should be about an inch from the edge). Check that everything is straight with a tape measure and then secure with pins. For added ease and a crisp line, you can also iron your hem. Stitch it with the machine, checking now and then to make sure everything is straight.
- Test it out:
Wow, you are handling this like a pro! Now it is time to pop your slipcover on your couch and marvel at your excellent work. While it isn’t the easiest task in the world, it is certainly a rewarding one, and you can feel super proud of your skills.
- Adorn the couch with pillows and throws:
Now, you can make your couch look even more fabulous by adding extra pillows and a luxurious throw. If you have any extra fabric, you might opt to make some extra cushion covers.
The No-Sew Slipcover
If you’re unfamiliar with sewing machines and feel that the process of creating a sewn slipcover is too technical, don’t worry. The no-sew version can work well too! It might not fit as snuggly or be as tailored, but it can certainly liven up an old couch in no time.
You will need:
- A piece of fabric, large enough to cover the entire couch (follow the measuring steps above)
- A piece of ribbon or string
- Safety pins
Step 1: Place the fabric over your couch entirely (With the cushions off, of course. You will wrap these later).
Step 2: Once draped over the couch, take each end of the fabric and tie a neat bow behind the couch, ensuring that the covering is not too loose or too tight.
Step 3. Secure the bow with a ribbon for added decoration and support.
If the ribbon way doesn’t appeal to you, you can also let the fabric drape down to the floor.
When it comes to your cushions, you can pin the fabric to the seat pillows, of course ensuring that the pins are on the bottom side where they won’t prick anyone.
Once complete, you can, of course, jazz up the sofa with additional pillows and blankets.
The no-sew option is a cheaper and much simpler way to bring life to a new couch. As an additional bonus, since you’re using a single piece of fabric, it is easy to wash when needed.
What fabric should I use for my slipcover?
A: This is a personal choice and will depend on budget, style preference, and color scheme. As a rule of thumb, you will want to opt for a durable fabric that’s easy to wash, and options might include 100 % cotton, denim, or suede. Check out sales at local fabric shops to find styles that inspire you. If you opt for a cotton base you can always use interesting fabrics with different textures for your pillows and trims.
How many yards of fabric do I need for a sofa slipcover?
Each couch is unique and should, of course, be measured accordingly. However, generally, of thumb, you’ll need to have at least the following amount of fabric for the following couch styles. However, remember that this is a rough guideline.
- 2-seater: 16 yards
- 3-seater: 18 yards
- 6 – seater: 22 yards
- 2-cushion love seat: 13 yards
- 4-cushion love seat: 17 yards
Other Ways to Spruce up an Old Couch
If you are not quite ready to embark on a big sewing job or even the wrapping method, there are a few ways to liven up an older couch. These can be affordable ways to change the vibe of your room and modernize the space.
- Steam cleaning your couch: Sometimes a professional clean can transform your couch in an instant and freshen up your space. This is a great option if you have little children or pets. Moreover, it can get rid of any smells that the couch has absorbed over time.
- Dying existing covers: If you are not ready to say goodbye to the old covers but you want something different you can dye your existing slipcover. If your original cover is light in color your options will of course be greater. Darker shades however can also fade over time and redying them might give them new life. This is a quick way to liven up a dull or faded slipcover.
- Using blankets and pillows to create a statement: If you want to play around with color and style, you can also start small. Use fluffy or stylised blankets in different colors to see what looks great in your space. Add bold pops of color and texture with feature pillows and adorn your existing couch and slip with these additional items.
Creating a DIY couch cover is a fun and easy way to dramatically transform your space without the hefty price tag associated with paying a professional upholstery expert. Opt for bold patterns, embellished materials, sophisticated neutrals, or delightful denims. There really are so many choices when it comes to couch color and design. You can of course also do the following with armchairs and smaller chairs. No matter the size of the chair, once you have mastered the measuring, pattern cutting, sewing, or wrapping, you can expand your DIY repertoire.
Have you ever created a DIY slipcover for your sofa? Let us know how the project was for you!
We would love to hear your experiences and see examples of your projects. Share your stories with us and let us know if you try this guide out. We can’t wait to see what you have created.