The time has come for me to share with you a story of personal growth and accomplishment.
When my husband and I moved into our current apartment, we were escaping kind of a bad situation. We had been so excited to move into our first place together and start to build our life as a couple. However, sometimes life hands you lemons…. and sometimes those lemons are actually blood sucking parasites that live inside your bed. Yup, our lovely new home had a bad case of bedbugs.
To make a long story slightly shorter, we got the H out of there and found a new apartment (our landlord wouldn’t treat the problem and didn’t believe that it was preexisting, so we had to abandon ship). In the process we lost a whole lot of our furniture and pretty much anything we owned that wasn’t a necessity or wasn’t something we loved enough to pay for it to be professionally heat-treated. So when my in-laws offered us their old sectional sofa to replace the futon we threw out, we happily accepted!
Now, I love my in-laws. They are very sweet, warm, lovely people (hi S&L, if you’re reading!). But the sectional had been purchased possibly before my husband was born, and was starting to show its age. But you know what they say about beggars and choosers, so we decided to attempt to recover it. We put A LOT of time, thought, and energy into picking out the right fabric and approach. At first we thought we would reupholster it in a dark grey fabric with a houndstooth print. But when we priced that out, and remembered that a) I am clumsy and b) my husband usually has newsprint/jam/peanut butter/spaghetti sauce somewhere on his hands and c) we have a cat who sheds a lot, we figured it would be easier and more economical to sew a washable slipcover instead.
After much Googling and reading about Miss Mustard Seed‘s and Honey Bear Lane‘s slipcovers, I decided to use white canvas. Stay with me, I will make you see why this was a good idea. The great thing about a white slipcover is that it is super bright and fresh, and if you do happen to mess something on it, you can spot clean and wash with bleach once the stains accumulate! I have had the slipcover for about a year and a half, and it still looks great. In that time I have washed it 2-3 times I think, which is pretty good considering we eat dinner on it every night. And did I mention we’re clumsy? Canvas is really durable too, and it has worn really well under near constant use (and near constant cat-claw sharpening).
But I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that sewing this SOB was easy. I had a few breakdowns and there were definitely some tears shed. Sometimes my husband would have to give me a pep talk after I unpicked my umpteenth stitch, or sewed a zipper on backwards, or broke another needle. I kept going though, and eventually got it done in the end. I think my mom felt bad for me because she ended up coming to visit for a weekend and helped me slam out the last of it when I was running out of steam. Moms are great, eh? Although it was hard work, it was totally worth it in the end. The white cover really freshened it up and helped make it feel like ours, instead of a hand-me-down. Plus it gave me the opportunity to brighten up our living room with a punchy lime/turquoise/grey colour scheme, instead of the blah beige and browns I’d had for years.
Here are some photos of the process- apologies for the quality, they were mostly taken with my iPhone with no natural light to speak of!
This is the best “before” pic I have… the white is the new part and the old cover is the green velour.
It took about 20 m of canvas to cover the entire sofa. 20 Goddamn metres. Half of the battle was bleaching and ironing all of the fabric, which I did in batches to preserve my sanity.
In addition to all that canvas, I also used a few metres of zipper, a whole lot of piping, and a couple rolls of upholstery thread. Oh and the needles for my machine… I burned through several heavy duty denim needles.
The one saving grace about our sofa was that it was pretty square, so we mostly had to cut out squares or rectangles that were the right size. We measured each cushion and cut the fabric out to size, and for the irregular pieces draped, cut, and pinned the fabric until it was the right shape. Once we had the pieces cut out, we labeled them with masking tape so that we didn’t get mixed up.
I was pretty nervous about doing piping for the first time, but once I figured it out it wasn’t so bad. This post from Honeybear Lane really helped me out. Piping made it look a little more finished and a little less like I’d just draped a sheet over it and called it a slipcover. Here is a cushion cover in pieces: front, back, and the middle piece with the zipper.
Once I had the cushion cover technique down, I just modified it for the different cushion sizes and shapes. To make the covers for the frame, we draped large pieces of canvas and pinned/cut to size. Did I mention how awesome my mom was? She was a ton of help with this step.
Here it is finished, before I redecorated… the pieces on the frames were bleached after they were sewn, which is why they look like a different colour from the cushion covers in this photo.
And this is what it looks like these days. I love the pop of blue and green against the crisp white with the grey throw. There is a lot of white in this room because we couldn’t be bothered to paint the walls and have to paint them white again for new tenants once we move out. So any bit of colour helps!
Shoutout to my hometown of Sudbury, ON with that water tower photo that my Dad snapped. I had a hard time taking a good photo of it from that angle, so I ended up rearranging our living room- it’s much more open now!
Here’s a view of the sofa sans my awesome coffee table (see how I fixed that up in this post!)
And just to prove that the whole thing is not, in fact, covered in food stains:
When you add up the cost of the canvas (about $5.50/metre with my Fabricland member discount!) as well as all the other supplies, I figured I spent about $180 on this. Much cheaper than a new sectional!
I hope this inspires someone else to try a slipcover project… it seems scary at first but it’s so worth it in the end! I’d love to answer any questions you might have, or hear from anyone else who has tried to make one.