Big, Bad Slipcover Project

 

Slipcover made out of bleached canvas

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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Here’s a view of the sofa sans my awesome coffee table (see how I fixed that up in this post!)

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And just to prove that the whole thing is not, in fact, covered in food stains:

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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.

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Acetone Transfer Tutorial

How to make a custom wedding monogram print

Wheee! Every now and then I find a project that is simple, cheap, and turns out great. This was one of them. I had previously posted about using iron on transfers to make a cute framed print, but I’m not crazy about the glue left behind from the transfer. Then my husband told me that you could use a solvent to transfer laser printed images (I’m pretty sure his motivation was not entirely altruistic… I kept threatening to try the direct inkjet print technique and I think he was scared I would break the printer) and so I set out to try it.

Note: Only a laser printer will work for this. The solvent dissolves the toner, and then you rub the back of the paper to transfer the dissolved image on to an absorbent surface, like fabric.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Acetone or lacquer thinner* (I used acetone… we’re talking full-strength)
  • Small glass bowl for the acetone/thinner
  • Image printed on a laser printer
  • Material you want to print on, like canvas or burlap
  • Iron-on fabric stabilizer (optional, but it will keep the print from looking floppy)
  • Paintbrush
  • Fine-tip Sharpie marker for touch up (optional)
  • Burnishing tool, or a spoon in a pinch
  • Tape
  • Ruler or measuring tape
  • Iron
  • Non-porous hard surface to work on, like a baking pan

*use in a properly ventilated area, especially if using the lacquer thinner! As always when working with chemicals, make sure you take protective measures and use safely.

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1) Iron the fabric and figure out where you want to place the transfer. Tape it in place on all sides, and brush acetone over the image (the acetone will probably make the tape not stick super well, so be careful not to touch it and keep a hand on the back of the paper). If you have a large image, you’ll want to do it a section at a time, because the acetone will evaporate quickly.

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2) Quickly burnish (rub) the image to transfer it from the paper to the fabric. Pay close attention to areas that are more finely detailed (like text). Stop burnishing once the acetone has evaporated.

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3) If you want to touch up any areas, re-apply acetone and burnish again- just make sure the paper hasn’t moved. Then, peel and admire! If the image didn’t transfer perfectly, you can cheat and use a fine-tip sharpie to fill it in.

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4) If using the fabric stabilizer, iron on the back of the fabric print. You could even hot glue it to a piece of cardboard. Cut to size for your frame of choice, and you’re done!

Compared to the iron-on transfer I did, it’s a little bit more faded. The transfer doesn’t go on with the same sharp, black lines. BUT there is no glue residue, and I like the faded look! It looks even more like a vintage grain sack this way.

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Love it! What do you think, any other ideas for what I could transfer next? I have a lot of acetone left…

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Monogram “Established” Sign Tutorial

A friend of mine got a personalized burlap sign with their monogram and marriage date as a wedding gift, and I’ve been wanting to try making one ever since. I was also a little sad about changing my name when I got married, so making one of these babies cheered me up about my new identity!  Signs like these are all over Etsy and sell for about $20 + shipping… but why buy when you can DIY?

I really wanted to try this method of printing right on the fabric by first attaching an iron-on stabilizer, then feeding the fabric through an inkjet printer… but my husband was worried about breaking our new printer. It did sound too good to be true, but if anyone has tried it I would love to hear if it actually works! I opted instead to use an iron-on transfer.

This project was really pretty easy, and I got it done on a Sunday morning. Here’s how you can make your own:

1) Design the layout. I browsed through a few examples I found online to see what I liked and what I didn’t like. I also downloaded a few different fonts to play around with- I ended up using 3 different fonts to make it look sort of like an old fashioned grain sack. You can use any illustrating software but I would recommend something that supports SVG format so that your image has smooth lines when it’s resized and isn’t pixelated. I used my favourite free illustrating software, Inkscape.

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2) Resize your image so that it will fit nicely in whatever frame you are using- I used a 5×7 frame. Most importantly, you need to flip your image horizontally so that when you iron on the transfer, the image is the right way.

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3) Print your design on the transfer paper. Check which way your printer feeds paper first to make sure you print on the right side.

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4) While the transfer dries, iron your fabric so that the transfer goes on smoothly. Most of the signs that I’ve seen use burlap, but I didn’t have any on hand. I did, however, have a ton of leftover canvas from my slipcover project, so I used that instead. I used a large wooden cutting board with a tea-towel over top instead of an ironing board- you want a smooth, hard surface for this. You may want to avoid using a cutting board that you just chopped onions on, unless you want your house to smell like onions like mine did…

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5) Now you’re ready to transfer! Place the transfer the way you want it on the fabric. If you’re using something with a large weave like burlap, line it up so that the image’s edges are parallel to the lines of the weave… otherwise it will look crooked. Make sure that your iron doesn’t have any water in it and the steam setting is off, otherwise the paper will wrinkle. Follow the directions on the transfer sheets for ironing. You can cut out the transfer around your image before you iron it, but there will be a visible line where the transfer ends. I decided to iron on the entire sheet and then cut it to size, so that there would be no line.

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6) While the transfer is still slightly warm, peel off the backing. I read somewhere that this makes it less “glossy” looking and it probably makes it easier to remove the backing too. The transfer didn’t stick perfectly to the fabric at the edges but I knew I would be cutting that part off anyway, so I left it.

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7) Allow the transfer to cool completely, and then cut it to size. Now you’re ready to frame and display your handiwork!

frame cropped     marriage est sign vignette

Don’t mind my horribly white walls, we are currently in a rental that the landlord insisted on painting with the cheapest paint possible.

Give it a try and let me know how it goes!

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