diy: slipcovering an old friend

I know it probably hasn’t seemed like it from how scarce my blogging has been lately, but things are buzzing for us here at the Gravy household.  Case in point: the project I recently tackled, above.

Oh, wait … here’s a photo of what our sofa looked like before I got my paws on it:

Yup, I made a slipcover for it.  I bought this sofa a single gal right after law school, and its big comfiness has seen me through a lot — nights spent working late and falling asleep with papers and cheese crumbs littered everywhere, temporary roommates, and a move to Kuala Lumpur and back.  And, through it all, this sofa is finally starting to show its age.

The hubby and I debated for a long time about what to do about our beloved sofa, because it’s not really in the budget or logistics for us to spring for a new one right now.  With Gravy Too on the way and a Gravy Baby who eats his weight in roasted carrots and pork tenderloin, I proposed making a slipcover.  For weeks I read everything I could on DIY blogs, including cautionary tales that made me laugh and cry.

From left to right, top to bottom: I started with covering the cushions, which include two separate back cushions and two separate seat cushions; then I moved to the back and the deck of the sofa; a closeup of the three-pronged approach of basting with black thread, using a fabric marker and pinning the edges to getting a good fit; a side view of the finished product; and an almost-completed sofa cushion, pinned and ready to sew

Mind you, I’m no seamstress.  My mom is an excellent one, and she’s taught me how to make things here and there over the years, and until I tackled this project, I’d believed, truly believed, that not one of her lessons stuck.  There are a couple of reasons for that, of course.  First, I was and am a strong-willed, opinionated person.  Combine that with raging hormones and a know-it-all attitude as a teenager, and basically I didn’t believe anything my mom said to me between the ages of 14 and 20.  Secondly, my mom, bless her heart, usually teaches me in Chinese.  When she gets frustrated by my clearly inferior fingers and hands or can’t think of how to explain something to me in said Chinese, she starts using combinations of English and Chinese that basically end with the lesson, “You need to make it go there.”  What?! Where?  What “it” are you talking about?  Sorry, Mom.

6a011570d70884970b017ee4cdc704970d-600wiThe Gravy Baby photobombed me while I was trying to take pictures of my creation

I also had some supplementary lessons when we moved to Malaysia and an acquaintence offered to teach me a few sewing pointers.  I spent a few weeks hauling my trusty little Brother sewing machine back and forth to her house, but again, life in Kuala Lumpur was too interesting and sewing scraps of fabric fell by the wayside.

I’m happy to report that there was only one bout of tears (after I finished the first cushion, I wailed about its imperfections and questioned why I’d ever thought I could tackle such a crazy project) and while the slipcover has been on and functional for a couple of weeks, I still have to serge the seams before we can put the slipcover through its true test: washing and drying.  The hubby and I have been attracted to a white slipcovered sofa after reading so many glowing reports from parents with kids that white makes sense because it’s bleachable and washable.  So far, though, having the white sofa has been just fine, and we love how much brighter our living room seems with this bright spot of clean white. We’re also hopeful that this slipcover will extend the life of our amazingly comfy sofa for a little while longer.

And yes, I do let the Gravy Baby sit on it.  Sticky fingers and all.

For more on making your own slipcover:

This six-part video series gave me the guts to forge ahead

I bought 18 yards of white bull denim here for my project (check for promo codes for additional discounts!)

Before you take on your project, prewash your fabric (lesson learned here)


  1. Milagros says

    Wow! The sofa looks GREAT Ann! And Congratulations on the soon to be arriving Gravy Too!

  2. Amy K. says

    I am considering tackling this project in my house!! I looked at that heavyweight bull denim, but it all says “dry clean” under the fabric care. Have you washed it & had it come out ok? Thanks for all the advice, photos, and links!

  3. says

    Amy K. – yes, I did machine wash it and dried it, and it came out just fine. I think that’s why pre-washing the fabric is so important. I’ve also washed and dried it a few times since I finished the project, and it’s turned out fine as well. Good luck!