Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A Slipcover

When Sweet Daughter got Goldie, the rocking chair in her room had to go. It blocked the view of the aquarium from her bed, and we’d outgrown it. As in she didn’t fit on my lap at story-time anymore. So I kept an eye out for a small chair that would fit in that spot in her room – low enough to see over, but big enough to curl up in and read. Well, we were heading out to do errands one day, and our local thrift store-type place had a chair on the porch that invited a closer look. It was the right size, it was in excellent shape, and the price couldn’t be beat ($5!), but dang, it was ugly. Let me tell you that few things clash with burnt orange and harvest gold plaid like a 1980’s “dusty rose” rug, and pale violet walls. At least it had the advantage of being mostly right angles and straight lines, which would make it easier to cover.

So home it went, and SD picked a fabric she liked. (Excellent taste. She chose a Waverly print that, fortunately, was on sale. A lot on sale.) I pre-washed and dried it and waited for that whole “center brain” thing to shift out of neutral. This Monday morning I woke up in full math-brain mode figuring how to cut the front out of mostly one piece. The interior depth of the arms was the same as half the width of the seat, so I could cut down the middle part of the way, up the interior sides of the arms, and across. I measured up the front and back along the arms and since the front and back of the chair were the same width, added some seam allowances, and I tore myself a rectangle of fabric. Yes, tore. Most fabric (unless it’s twill) is woven at right angles, and tearing will give you a perfectly square piece without having to worry about wavy cutting lines.

Here's the fabric going up the front, and across the arms to the very back of the chair. Notice we've got the pattern running "up", and a flower motif somewhat centered.

Here, I've ripped the fabric lengthwise to get a perfectly straight and square piece. This is the right front corner, and right side of the chair.

Here I've cut down part-way down the middle of the rectangle, folded the ends down, and cut the center flap free. The math part of my brain was going gangbusters!

I stitched up the front interior arm seams, then cut side panels for the outside of the chair. The front was an inch higher than the back, so I angled it appropriately, and made sure that the pattern was still running “up”. I sewed the top and front seams, and reinforced all the seams with some top-stitching.

Here is the side panel sewn on.

Now somewhere around this point the coffee kicked in. I don’t generally drink coffee, especially with French Vanilla creamer. And sugar. On ice. The next section is a bit of a blur, but luckily I transitioned from the “math” to the “art” parts of my brain right on cue. After cutting a scrap piece of canvas for the part of the seat that nobody will see, and sewing that to the front and side pieces, I took what was left of my rapidly dwindling supply of fabric (who knew that a chair with a 37” square footprint would end up using 4 yards of 54” fabric?) and cut a piece for the back of the seat, keeping the pattern running “up”, and managing to sort of center the floral design. I got that neatly seamed in place, and then started fiddling with the sides of the backrest.
Here's the front, pretty much done.

Here's where I've fiddled with the sides of the backrest, and pinned it all in place.

Let’s just say I got really lucky, and managed to piece two scraps together so that the seam wasn’t very noticeable. You can see the seam just left of center.

So, now I’ve pinned the back on, and I’m fitting around the corners with plans to topstitch it all. The math part of my brain hat deals with the precise angles and seams is long gone. I get the back on with plans to put giant snaps down the side edges, once I get some snaps, and I mark the hem and sew that in.

The back panel pinned on.

The back panel sewn on.

I take what’s left of my scraps, and find a piece that sort of has that same flower motif on it for one side of the cushion, and whatever is left for the other side. The sides are pieced together with 3 scraps. I realize I’ve forgotten the golden rule of upholstery zippers, which is “go long – you can always cut off the extra”. So with a zipper about seven inches too short, I get creative. Let’s just say I’m glad I picked up a cheap separating zipper. I summon the last of my strength, get the cushion in the new cover (raking my forearm with a forgotten pin in the process), stick on the chair, and voila! My first slipcover since the Berlin Wall fell.

Not bad for a $5 chair! And the best part is that when it gets dirty, I can take it off, and throw it in the washer.

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