How to Decorate With Canvas Drop Cloths

Canvas drop cloths are not just for catching paint spills!
Canvas drop cloths are not just for catching paint spills! | Source

Did you know a basic item from the local home improvement center could lead to a wealth of home decorating possibilities? Canvas drop cloths have made the leap from painter’s best friend to home decorating essential. They come in a variety of sizes and provide a budget-friendly alternative to off-the-roll decorator fabrics such as cotton denim or twill. Durable canvas drop cloths make excellent slipcovers, curtains and can even pull tough duty underfoot. Inspiration for decorating projects using drop cloths is limited only by your imagination.

Drop Cloth Prep

Before you embark on any of these projects, do this prep work:

  • Launder and dry your drop cloth to soften and preshrink the fabric. This is particularly important if you plan of laundering the items in the future.
  • Wash the drop cloth in hot water and mild laundry detergent to remove the unpleasant stiffness and odor of the fabric sizing.
  • Tumble dry on high heat.
  • If you want to lighten the fabric color a bit, add a cup or two of liquid bleach to the wash water and agitate before adding your drop cloth. Run the fabric through the wash cycle and soak for at least 30 minutes. Rinse the fabric several times before drying. Finish the prep by removing wrinkles with a steam iron.

Note: Drop cloths come in a variety of sizes. If you are washing a 5x8 ft drop cloth, your home machines will handle the load. Drop cloths with extra yardage may require a trip to the laundromat to take advantage of large capacity machines.

Slipcovers

Painter’s drop cloths make great slipcovers for ottomans, chairs, sofas and even pillows. There is really no need for patterns or much in the way of measuring to make a beautiful slipcover. The pin-fitting method is much easier and more forgiving. It also allows for minor mistakes without major consequences.

Shabby Chic Drop Cloth Sofa Slipcover

This example has slipcovered cushions and a gathered skirt. However, you can sew a single-piece slipcover that looks just as nice.
This example has slipcovered cushions and a gathered skirt. However, you can sew a single-piece slipcover that looks just as nice. | Source

Canvas Drop Cloth

Paint Essentials 9-Feet x 12-Feet Canvas Drop Cloth HW912
Paint Essentials 9-Feet x 12-Feet Canvas Drop Cloth HW912

Choose this economical canvas drop cloth for your slipcover project. Its large size is perfect for covering an armchair, ottoman or several dining chairs! For a sofa slipcover, consider purchasing two.

 

Making a slipcover from a drop cloth is relatively easy if you have decent sewing skills. There is no right or wrong side to the fabric and you don’t have to worry about matching patterns. If you do make an unfixable mistake, head back to the home improvement center and pick up another drop cloth for a fraction of what decorator fabric would cost. It is best to start simple, with an ottoman or dining chairs. Work your way up to larger, more complicated furniture.

To make a single-piece slipcover:

  1. Drape the drop cloth over the piece you wish to cover and start pinning and cutting around each section of the furniture piece, e.g., chair back (front and back), seat, arms and skirt. Use your straight pins as a cutting guide, adding an inch for a seam allowance.
  2. Pin the sections together and baste as you go along to create the slipcover.
  3. Make any necessary fit adjustments and then double-stitch over your basting stitches for added reinforcement.
  4. Use a zig-zag or overlocking stitch to finish raw edges – this will minimize raveling and stretching.
  5. Press the seams and turn the slipcover right side out.

Note: For arm chairs with removable seat cushions, add an extra 6 to 8 inches of fabric at the base of the inside back and inside arms. This excess fabric eventually tuck down between the back, arms and seat cushions to keep your finished slipcover securely in place.

Basics of the Pin-Fitting Slipcover Method on an Office Chair

Note: In the video, the instructor makes a tulip skirt for the chair, which requires several measurements. To avoid measuring, opt for a straight skirt. Add several inches of extra fabric to create pleats at the corners for a tailored look.

Other Slipcover Options

You can also use drop cloth fabric to cover dining room chair pads that have seen better days.

  1. Just unscrew and lift out the seat, cut out the fabric and place it over the top of the chair pad.
  2. Flip the cushion over and staple the fabric around the back edge of the chair pad.
  3. Trim away excess fabric and screw the chair pad back into place.

Easy Dining Chair Redo

Replace outdated fabric with crisp, clean canvas to give your dining chairs an updated look.
Replace outdated fabric with crisp, clean canvas to give your dining chairs an updated look. | Source

Creating drop cloth canvas pillow covers is almost as easy. If you know how to sew a straight line and create corners, you can whip up several pillow covers in an afternoon. Dye your drop cloth pillows in designer hues or stencil a large-scale design on the front to add just the right pop of color for your sofa!

Make a drop cloth pillow cover with an overlap closure -- no need for buttons or a zipper.
Make a drop cloth pillow cover with an overlap closure -- no need for buttons or a zipper. | Source

Curtains

Tired of paying big bucks for ready-made window treatments? They can become quite expensive, especially if you have a large expanse of windows to cover. DIY drop cloth curtains are the perfect answer. These canvas curtain panels are durable, fade resistant and provide privacy without completely blocking light. You can use them indoors and out. With the variety of sizes available, you should be able to find drop cloths to cover windows of most any size.

Unadorned Drop Cloth Curtains

Pre-made drop cloths transform instantly into curtain panels with the help of clip rings.
Pre-made drop cloths transform instantly into curtain panels with the help of clip rings. | Source

Simply select the proper size drop cloths, install your hardware and hang your drop cloth curtains from clip curtain rings. Remember to add in the length of the ring and clip when determining drop cloth length. Couldn’t be easier! By the way, this technique is also a great way to fashion a quick and easy shower curtain.

If you want to add some color to your curtains, use fabric paint and painter’s tape to create bold stripes or trendy chevrons. If stripes are too confining for you, try a wild splatter paint effect in several colors that would make Jackson Pollock proud!

Splatter Some Paint on Drop Cloth Curtains

Paint splatter and drop cloths just seem to go together!
Paint splatter and drop cloths just seem to go together! | Source

Floor Cloths

If you are looking for a stylish and traditional way to warm up bare floors, consider the humble canvas floor cloth. Floor cloths are a part of Americana. Early settlers used worn canvas sail fabric to create decorative floor coverings before rugs became readily available. They would paint and stencil these cloths to provide pattern and color to their dwellings.

Hand-painted floor cloths are a unique alternative to area rugs that you can customize to suit your existing décor. They are economical, easy to clean, hypoallergenic and fun to make. Using a canvas drop cloth eliminates the need to hem your floor cloth and since they come in a variety of dimensions, you can find a size that fits perfectly in any room.

What You'll Need to Make a Floor Cloth

Supplies
Work Table or Ample Floor Space
Plastic Sheeting
Double-Sided Tape
Paint Roller
Brushes - Paint and/or Artist
Gesso
Pencil and Eraser
Acrylic Craft and Latex Paints
Water-Based Polyurethane Sealer

1. Plan Ahead

Make sure you have a dedicated area to work on your drop cloth that is free from dirt and is well lit and ventilated. A large table or clear floor space covered with plastic sheeting will allow you to easily move about the canvas as you paint. Securing the plastic sheeting drop cloth to your work surface with double-sided tape will pull it taut and prevent shifting as you paint. All the supplies needed for this project are readily available at your local art supply, craft store or home improvement center.

Make a rough sketch of your floor cloth design. Determine the colors you want to use and purchase either acrylic craft or interior latex paints. Latex house paints come in larger size containers and make more sense to use over larger areas of cloth. If you are an avid crafter or a do-it-yourselfer you may even have paint left over from a previous project.

2. Prime the Drop Cloth

With a paint roller, apply a coat of gesso to both sides of the drop cloth. Let the first side dry for several hours before priming the other side. Allow the primed drop cloth to dry overnight. If your floor cloth requires an overall background color, apply it now as the second part of the priming step. Roll or brush on at least two coats of paint over the primed canvas. Let dry thoroughly before drawing out your design on the drop cloth surface.

3. Draw the Design

Those of you who are artistic might choose to create a freehand design based on your preliminary sketch. The rest of us can “cheat” by using stencils or simply masking off stripes with painter’s tape.

Kitchen Floor Cloth Idea

This is a great design idea for a kitchen or breakfast nook.
This is a great design idea for a kitchen or breakfast nook. | Source

4. Start Painting

Use a thin liner brush to outline your shapes and a thicker brush for filling in color. A sponge or brush bristle tips work well for tapping in stencil color. You may need to apply several coats to achieve your desired effect. Allow the floor cloth to dry for several days to prevent the paint from cracking.

5. Seal the Finished Floor Cloth

Using a wide brush, apply at least three to four coats of water-based polyurethane – allow at least 4 hours drying time between coats in a room-temperature setting with low humidity. Paint the entire surface and brush all the way to the edges, sealing all of the painted surfaces. The cloudy appearance of the sealer will dry clear. Cure the floor cloth for at least one to two weeks before placing on the floor.

Finishing Your Floor Cloth

So, what are you waiting for? Turn this hardware store staple into something beautiful for your home!

© 2014 lindacee

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Start a Conversation! 14 comments

Cre8tor profile image

Cre8tor 2 years ago from Ohio

Nice Hub and some very cool ideas for drop cloths. I never really thought of this stuff but always liked the look and feel of canvas. Thanks for sharing! Voted up!


lindacee profile image

lindacee 2 years ago from Southern Arizona Author

Cre8tor, I'm glad you enjoyed this Hub. It took a while to research and write, but I think the end result was well worth the effort. I even learned a thing or two about decorating with drop cloths. Thanks for the vote! :)


lindacee profile image

lindacee 2 years ago from Southern Arizona Author

keranique, home decorating has always been a passion of mine and I love to share ideas that spark creativity. Thanks for your kind words! :)


Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 2 years ago from The Beautiful South

These are come great ideas and I will def be making some office chair covers, I'd have never dreamed of that and it is so cute! The drop cloth curtains too, wow, possibilities are endless. I love articles like this and this is really impressive for anyone who loves new ideas and saving money! Up and sharing!


lindacee profile image

lindacee 2 years ago from Southern Arizona Author

Thanks Jackie! I learned about the magic of canvas drop cloths a number of years ago when I was looking for an inexpensive way to recover dining room chairs. I wanted fabric that was more substantial, but didn't want to pay the price per yard for canvas from the fabric store. I progressed by making a slipcover for a chair. I no longer have the chairs or I could have used photos for the article. Thanks so much for your comment vote and share! :)


Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 2 years ago from The Beautiful South

Most welcome!


poetryman6969 profile image

poetryman6969 2 years ago

I think it works better for you than it would for me. But a cool idea!


lindacee profile image

lindacee 2 years ago from Southern Arizona Author

Ha! Thanks poetryman. I agree. Not everyone is "into" these types of DIY decorating projects. But I'm really glad you appreciate the ideas and stopped by to read and comment! :)


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 2 years ago

What a creative way to spruce up a room. Your creativity is so amazing!


lindacee profile image

lindacee 2 years ago from Southern Arizona Author

Thank you, teaches! I went on writing hiatus for a few months, so I guess the time off gave me a chance to store up ideas and inspiration. Glad you came over for a read. And, as always, thanks for the comment! :)


vespawoolf profile image

vespawoolf 2 years ago from Peru, South America

I would have never thought to decorate with drop cloths. I especially like the painted floor cloths and curtains!


lindacee profile image

lindacee 2 years ago from Southern Arizona Author

vespawoolf, my favorite for floor cloths and curtains because you don't need to sew--the drop cloths are already hemmed. That's my kind of DIY project! Good to "see" you, hope all is well in SA!


Amy Jo Baker profile image

Amy Jo Baker 2 years ago from Orlando, FL

I love your floor cloths! Now to get rid of the dog and four sons so I can have them too. I actually made slipcovers from drop cloths last summer. They have held up to four sons and their friends, pets, guests, parties and general abuse. The fabric gets softer with each wash - love them. In fact, I just dyed mine charcoal grey (few too many parties? red wine?) and am going in to reassemble the couch.

I'm looking forward to your next project!


lindacee profile image

lindacee 2 years ago from Southern Arizona Author

Amy Jo Baker, the floor cloths are amazingly durable if you seal them properly. You should be able to just wipe up spills and dirt--so no worries! I agree. I love drop cloth slipcovers--they are rugged and can stand up to lots of abuse (red wine included!) :) Great idea to dye them a darker color. Thanks for reading and commenting on this Hub. It was fun to write. :)

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