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Top 10 Tips When Selecting Fabric for Slipcovers

Updated on September 10, 2014

How Do I Know What Fabric to Pick for My Slipcovers?

Do you easily become overwhelmed with a large selection of fabric?

Unless you have narrowed your focus on what exactly you are looking for, the vast fabric selections available can be a bit daunting and can overwhelm you.

If this is how you feel I know for a fact that you are not alone.

I have worked with clients for over 20 years and many have depended on me to help them narrow their selections down to make the best choice.

So if you are not one that likes to look through rolls and rolls of fabrics or books and books of fabric samples then I am here to help.

I will give you 10 quick tips on what to look for and what to consider when you are trying to decide which fabric is the best for your slipcovers.

Recovering your furniture, whether you are slip-covering or re-upholstering is a large investment of your money and you want to make the right decision. After all you are hoping to live with this decision for a few years.

Answer each of these questions and it will help to narrow your selection, fine tune your focus and save you lots of time and money.

First and foremost enjoy this process. It's intended to bring you joy with your surroundings and finishings in your home, not frustrate you.

If this process does bring frustration then check for a local contractor to help guide you. You may be surprised with how much free advice you may receive to help you through the process.

I have been working in the home décor sewing industry for over 30 years and as a contractor it's my top service, helping others with fabric decisions by passing along free advice and suggestions.

If you should have any additional questions from this info please feel free to contact me. I'm always glad to help.

dressing table and stool
dressing table and stool

1. What Piece of Furniture Will I Be Covering?

What piece of furniture are you covering is the significance when deciding your fabric?

Is your furniture a focal point? Then you may want to consider...

  • Statement fabric with large print.
  • A solid for a pallet and add a bunch of accent or statement pillows

Is your furniture an accent piece? Then you may want to consider...

  • Mini print
  • Solid colored fabric
  • Large print centering the main pattern
  • A statement fabric works here as well

What it really boils down to is what do you see for your room?

Take these into consideration when going through your decision making process.

If it's easier, start with process of elimination. What you know you absolutely will not use. See how that helps in the decision.

wing chair footstool slipcover
wing chair footstool slipcover

2. What's the Style of My Room?

When beginning the process consider the style of room you are purchasing fabric for.

Is the fabric in keeping with your room décor?

If you aren't sure what fabric style goes with what room style you have, then do a little research. Look at pictures in home magazines or watch home decorating shows especially those with basic foundations for decorating.

**Here is some food for thought: Would silk fabric fit into a room full of rustic pine furniture; does denim fit a room full of antiques? May sound silly for some but not for those who truly struggle with this. Play the 20 question game if you need.

club chair
club chair

3. Do I Want My Fabric To Be Print or Solid?

When considering fabric to slipcover a piece of furniture keep in mind the style of your room and where in the room the fabric will be used.

This will help you to decide what type of pattern you may choose.

If you are leaning towards a large print you may want to use it on a smaller piece of furniture as an accent.

Consider adding a few throw pillows to your sofa from the same piece of fabric, or another focal piece.

The large print on a large piece of furniture may become overpowering and you may grow tired of it quickly.

Which leads to the next tip to consider in making your fabric decision.

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parsons chair
parsons chair

4. Will I Be Able To Live With This Fabric?

This may seem like an obvious Q &A, but you may be surprised that sometimes our minds play tricks on us when out shopping and comparing a piece of fabric vs. the memory of your room.

I would encourage you to first purchase a yard of fabric, take it home, lay it out on your furniture and live with it for a while before making your final selection.

An investment of a yard of fabric is much more economical and large enough to give you a feel for it. This will help you find out if you can live with this selection. Much better than to invest in your total amount, get it home and find out you it is not at all what you were thinking.

If it isn't really going to work then you are only out a small investment and a small piece of fabric can be made into a pillow for another room in your home or as a gift to a friend.


5. Will My Original Cover Show Through?

This tends to be a general concern especially when your original cover on your furniture is dark fabric and you're ready for something lighter.

I will repeat this tip again and again to drive the point home. Buy a yard of the fabric, live with it on your furniture for a couple of days to see if it will indeed hide the old cover in addition to checking how well it covers in the different light settings of the room.

Here is an example for you. This is a picture of a slipcover that has a large dark print under it. Can you see any hint of the cover underneath? Let me assure you the picture has not been altered.

Using a heavy twill or duck cloth generally does the job.

If it doesn't hide the old cover color then consider having the slipcover interfaced but expect to pay more for your slipcover.

The best resort is to make sure that your fabric is heavy enough to hide the original cover.

patio cushions
patio cushions

6. Will This Fabric Coordinate With the Other Fabric In My Room?

Coordinating fabrics can be tricky but the general rule of thumb to create continuity in your room if you are using a large print [pattern repeat of 13" or more] is to introduce your print a minimum of three times in your room.

A few examples to consider are your windows, a small accent piece of furniture, a cushion, floor cushions, throw pillows or maybe a footstool.

What else can you come up with?

Another consideration when using prints is to introduce one to two coordinating pieces in the room. This will also help in create continuity into your room décor.

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nursery rocker
nursery rocker

7. Using a Monochromatic Theme, Use Lots of Texture

If using a monochromatic theme in your room then I would encourage you to use different textured pieces of fabrics.

Allow the texture to rule the room.

There is no limit or hard fast rule as to how many different pieces of fabric to introduce.

This is a picture of a chair I slipcovered for my daughter's nursery. I did the nursery in black and white and used 8-10 different separate pieces.

If you look at the picture below you can see I even made block pillows out of solid black and white and then stenciled in reverse colors to pull in the flowers from the wall and finished it off with a yet another black and white print for contrast cording. It was loads of fun. I just wish I had taken more pictures.

It may sound like a lot but done tastefully it can work beautifully.

I was very pleased with the outcome.

Monochromatic equals lots of fun!
Monochromatic equals lots of fun!
vanity chair
vanity chair

8. Is This Fabric Durable?

Does your fabric need to be durable?

If your furniture will get a lot of traffic and wear then definitely use a durable fabric that will hold up under the stress for a longer period of time.

I never recommend using a light weight cotton (dress/craft weight) but there are always exceptions to the rule.

Here is my example:

My mother in law has a sweet little rocker she keeps in her bedroom and only uses it for putting her shoes on or occasional morning readings. She found a piece of fabric that she really, really liked but it was a light cotton weight. I felt comfortable enough using it. No kids, no animals and no husband either would be using this chair. It's been well over ten years and she still has the same fabric and it's still in good condition.

So consider wisely how durable you will need your fabric.


9. Is the Fabric Washable?

Do you need your fabric to be washable?

Do you have pets or children? Then you may want your fabric washable.

Several people select slipcovering over re-upholstering for the simple option of having a removable and washable cover.

Keep in mind the fiber content of your choices when shopping for your fabric. If you aren't sure what to look for always ask a sales clerk for help. Any clerk working in a fabric dept should be knowledgeable of the product.

If your still not sure then go to your sewing contractor.

Helpful Tip:

  • When washing your slipcovers, NEVER dry completely through.
  • Leave the covers slightly damp before replacing the cover back onto your furniture.
  • The dampness leaves your fabric stretchable allowing your cover to conform back to the furniture's shape.

WARNING If you allow your slipcover to dry completely before putting them back on your furniture you run the risk of shrinkage and the slipcover will never fit properly again.

table slipcover
table slipcover

10. Should I Consult with a Contractor?

Should you consult a contractor? Well my opinion is that ultimately in the end the choice of fabric is yours.

You are the expert in what you like.

You will be living with the fabric. Not your friend, not your contractor, not your decorator but you.

If you have a contractor you are using I encourage you to take advantage of their knowledge on the topic before making your final decision.

Allow your contractor to share their suggestions and advice from their years of experience as long as you feel they have you in mind.

As a contractor myself, I'm always glad to make suggestions, to coach my clients with selections or to answer any questions when trying to make their decisions. But in the end you have final say.

Never let anyone else make that final decision for you. Listen to you and trust it.

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In Conclusion

Remember, you can't take the fabric back if it doesn't turn out the way you expected it to look so take your time in making this decision. It's one you will be living with for some time.

I can't stress it enough, if there is any question at all, begin with purchasing a yard or two and live with it for a while, It would be more cost effective to loose a few dollars on those few yards than hundreds of dollars on both fabric and labor of your slipcover.

On that note please share with me here any thoughts, tips, suggestions or personal stories you have experienced.

I love hearing from you so please comment below if only to say hi.

Share Your Fabric Shopping Experiences. - Let's hear your funny, scary, overwhelming, best bargain fabric shopping stories.

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    • bead at home mom profile image

      Teri Hansen 5 years ago

      @anonymous: Thx for the feedback Alex, it's always good getting a fresh perspective on something one has been doing for so long. I like your suggestion and will work further to make this more informative. Come back again to see the updates.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      This article was informative, but as a beginner that needs/wants to do a few slip covers (for sectionals) I need a bit more detailed guidance. I think if you gave examples of the fabric types you mean it would help. For example, when you say to use durable fabrics for pieces that get lots of traffic, it would help if you listed some fabric types you recommend for this purpose and not just the counter example of the fabric you used for your MIL's rocker. Same goes for other areas - like, what fabrics do you think are good/washable fabrics?Thanks!

    • profile image

      acreativethinker 6 years ago

      Some very interesting tips here. Thanks for sharing. Take Care :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Great tips for choosing the right fabric, many a times I go with a piece that I had in my mind and come out buying another.

    • profile image

      tssfacts 7 years ago

      What an excellent article. I used to do slip covering a long time ago for myself and friends. I just seemed to know what would work just by looking at the item and fabric. Great tips.

    • JulietJohnson profile image

      JulietJohnson 7 years ago

      The tip about texture when you're dealing with a monochromatic palette is so important. We wound up using lots and lots of "neutral tones" when staging homes and that texture play was key!Nice lens

    • bead at home mom profile image

      Teri Hansen 7 years ago

      @BuckHawkcenter: thanks for sharing that bit of your life's experience. That's how the best lessons are learned huh?Me, too.

    • BuckHawkcenter profile image

      BuckHawkcenter 7 years ago

      Very good advice here. I especially like the tip to make sure you can live with the fabric. My personal mistake and turned out to be costly since I had to redo the look, again!