Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Slipcovering, or How To Make Your Parents Old Furniture New Again

After a 4 year hiatus, I'm just about finished making slipcovers for the couch and loveseat I "inherited" from my parents. For my entire childhood my parents had these couches in their living room. We nicknamed them "The Bird Couches" because of the fabric they were upholstered in: pheasants. Birds neatly centered on every.single.cushion. They looked good for, like, 5 minutes. And then they were fodder for much teasing. Which we did. Endlessly. I was probably the worst at making fun of The Bird Couches.

And now they're mine.

The Birds have come to roost in my house.

My parents decided, at long last, to get new living room furniture a few years ago. The Birds were out. I eagerly told my parents that I'd take The Birds. Shock ensued - MP wants The Birds?? No way! And yet, I did. I'm no fool. I know those couches, while ugly as sin, were built well and had lots of life left in them. Quality and clean lines never go out of style. AND, I was completely without furniture for my living room. So, The Birds ended up with me. And I immediately set out to find new fabric with which to recover them.

Mr. Chick told me I could spend no more than $300 on fabric, which might seem like a lot, but it's not. Have you priced upholstery fabric lately?? Ridiculously expensive. I might have been able to cover the love seat for $300, but that was it. Thank goodness for my mother, the gifted and experienced seamstress. She was with me to shop for fabric, and remembered that tablecloth linen was sold in the same large dimensions as upholstery fabric, only cheaper. And I needed cheaper or I'd have to live with The Birds, and that simply could not happen. I'd never live it down. So I went with a tablecloth linen that is sort of a tone-on-tone (cream) damask pattern. Formal, but neutral. Something I could work with and build on. And I could get enough yardage to cover both the couch and loveseat. Sold!

My mother showed me how to make cording/piping for the edges of the cushions. We carefully laid out the fabric and selected the pattern to center on each cushion. We salvaged the zippers from the existing Bird fabric on each cushion to use with the new covers. We made 10 cushions (4 for the loveseat, 6 for the couch). We weren't able to make the covers for the side pillows, or start covering the frame of each sofa before Mr. Chick and I moved for law school. We were moving into a much smaller house and didn't have room for The Birds, so The Birds went into deep, dark storage in my sisters basement. They sat, neglected and only half finished, for 4 years. My sister even had to move them once when she sold her house and bought another. I told her she was welcome to use The Birds, but she scoffed at such an idea. The Birds? No way - they're too ugly. Well, the joke is on her and everyone else who made fun of me for taking them. With my mothers help, we've just about finished making the slipcovers for the frames, and you wouldn't even recognize The Birds anymore they look so good.

"The Birds" final roost. I have yet to cover the side pillows, so this is the final look at the original Bird fabric that once graced EVERY POSSIBLE SURFACE OF THESE COUCHES FOR OVER 2 DECADES. Picture that bad boy centered on each and every cushion. You would make fun of the furniture, too, wouldn't you?? But can you see the new fabric that's now covering the cushions? How perfectly the two cushions line up with the pattern?? My mom is GOOD.

slipcovering in process. It's not complicated to make a slipcover, but it's very, very, VERY tedious and time consuming to line it all up just right, pin it, sew it, make adjustments, etc.

The couch - almost finished! Just needs the skirt at the bottom and it's done. Not bad, eh? That's no sloppy slipcover, my friends. That's professional-quality work. No way could I have ever afforded to pay someone to do that. It fits like a glove.

The loveseat nears completion. Like the sofa, it just needs the skirt at the bottom and that's it! As an added bonus, The Birds make excellent napping couches. So soft and broken-in just right.

In fact, I think I'll go cuddle up for a quick nap right now!

That looks fabulous! I bet you could make a living at that!
Those are very cool! What a good job!

That is awesome, I can't even sew on a button...
fantastic! They look beautiful! And you are BRAVE for having that color fabric - with two children. Wow. They really are beautiful. Great job.
Wow! Totally with you on the teasing-your-parents-mercilessly-until-they-finally-gave-in-gave-up-and-gave-them-to-you-to-miraculously-turn-into-masterpieces!

You and your mother make a perfect team. I really hate it that I live on the other side of this country......!!
I'm not so sure it's bravery or plain stupidity, Holly! But I had no choice in the color department. The only colors offered in tablecloth linens were white or cream. Take your pick. It was either that or live with The Birds in all their plummaged glory. Umm, no thanks.

Scotchguard is my new best friend. And besides - they're slipcovers! That's the beauty of them - I can just take them off and wash them when my peanut-butter faced daughter uses one as a napkin.
Could you dye the fabric? Or would it make the slipcovers shrink? I have no personal experience with dying fabric but a friend said it shrunk her item. Not sure if it was the coloring that did it or the washing part. Anyhoo just an idea if you didn't want the lighter color. Either way, they look fabulous.
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