I am a huge fan of Miss Mustard Seed and I love her style. I’m definitely looking for ways to incorporate her ideas into my own style, which is more shabby chic (more pinks and pastels, though nothing in my house shows that yet). If I could, I would cover all of my furniture in white ruffled slipcovers.
Fortunately, my youngest child gave me the perfect opportunity to try sewing one of my own. We bought this ottoman in 2004 and it held up well all the way until my youngest child started using it as a teething toy. Once the surface was torn, the whole top just crumbled apart very quickly. I tied a sheet around it to cover it up and stop the biting while I went on the hunt for a new ottoman. Right now, although there are a lot of pieces of furniture and decor that I need to complete my home, I’m trying not to buy anything I don’t love and that doesn’t fit the style I’m going for. The search lasted over a year and I never found something I loved that I could afford. So, after studying Marion’s tutorials and researching different styles and patterns on Pinterest, I decided to make a slipcover for the ottoman to at least get rid of the sheet, until the perfect ottoman or coffee table appears.
Here is the awful BEFORE
Yikes! I promise it didn’t look this bad before I covered it with a sheet. I would not have let my child chew on THAT!
And here is the AFTER
I’ve taken a couple of sewing classes before the kids were born, and I’ve sewed a few things (pull on pants, a sundress, “slipcovers” – I use the term loosely – for two chairs without a pattern). I’m in no position to be giving any tutorials, but I did want to point out the problem areas I had in case it helps the next novice sewer who decides to take this on.
I wanted my slipcover to be as white as I could get it, so I bleached the drop cloths over night for four days, running the washer and adding fresh bleach each day. In all the tutorials I read about bleaching drop cloths, they mentioned making sure all of the fabric was under water. After the first night of bleaching I could see why. In the picture below you can see the difference in color between what is in the water and what little bit stuck up out of the water (you can click on the pictures to view larger).
I really thought that since the fabric was soaking wet, it wouldn’t matter that it wasn’t under the water, but obviously it did. Fortunately, after another overnight bleaching with all of the fabric under the water, the spots were gone and the color was uniform. I didn’t like putting my whole arm in that heavy-bleach water to stuff the fabric down, but it has to be done. I should also note that the 15′ drop cloth shrunk to 13’6″ after washing and drying. Hopefully, that is all the shrinking it will do now that it’s fitted to my ottoman.
Miss Mustard Seed says she uses Finish Factor drop cloths in an 8oz weight from Lowes, in part because they have a finished hem on all sides and she uses those hem lines as much as possible to save time. Well, the Finish Factor drop cloths I got only had a hem on the two short ends. The long ends had a finished edge but it wasn’t hemmed and in some areas it looked like this…
So, I had to hem the bottom ruffle, but that’s not the end of the world. One tip for a novice sewer is to use a sewing gauge when pressing your fabric up to make a hem.
The little blue part slides to where you want it and stays put, rather than a tape measure that slips and slides, so you can make multiple measurements and know they will all be the same. You can also use the slider to push your fabric to just the right measurement as you press. This helps me to sew a straighter line for the hem.
Miss Mustard Seed says she uses her zipper foot to make piping and to attach it to the fabric. My biggest fear that kept me from doing a project like this was sewing piping. I knew I needed all the help I could get to make this project turn out as best as it could. So, I bought a piping (welting) foot that has a channel the cording fits through, while it presses the fabric tight up to the cording like this…
I am so glad I did! I feel like it went faster not having to worry so much about getting the zipper foot close enough but not too close to the cording. They didn’t sell these at Jo-Ann’s or Hobby Lobby, but I found it at a specialty sewing store for $9.99. They have different sized presser feet depending on the size cord you’re using. I used 8/32″ cording, so this is a 1/4″ welting foot. As it turns out, sewing the piping was easy when you do it Miss Mustard Seed’s way. I had seen all of these tutorials online that said you have to cut your fabric on the bias to make piping. Cutting out all these long strips of fabric on the bias looked hard and time-consuming. Miss Mustard Seed says she just uses a straight strip of fabric, and if she can do it that way, I certainly won’t feel bad taking the short-cut. I know with certain fabrics and patterns you would want the piping fabric cut on the bias, but skipping that step was what made me willing to pull the trigger on this project.
I ran into a big problem with trying to attach the finished piping to the main fabric. My zipper foot has the foot part on the left and the open part on the right
Unless I’m totally missing something, this meant that all of the fabric would have to squeeze through on the right side in between the needle and the rest of the machine, which absolutely wouldn’t work! So I had to find another zipper foot with the opening on the left. Handcock’s had this adjustable zipper foot (which can work on the right or left side of the needle), as well as a good assortment of other specialty presser feet made by the same company.
I also found that it is hard to stuff four layers of drop cloth under the presser foot (top piece, side piece and 2 layers from the piping). Dropping the feed dogs made it much easier to get the fabric under the presser foot (your owner’s manual will show you how to do this on your machine).
Miss Mustard Seed tells us in her tutorial to keep checking the fabric underneath as you are sewing, because when you are working with so many layers, it is easy for some fabric to get caught up in what you are sewing. That happened to me twice! And believe me, it will not happen again! Lesson learned! I spent almost as much time going back and tearing out stitches as I did sewing. My stitches were small and working a seam ripper under those tight stitches was brutal.
My biggest challenge in this project was the corners. Although everything matched up perfectly when I pinned it, as I was sewing, the bottom fabric would get pulled forward as the top fabric was pushed back. The material stretches enough that I wound up with extra fabric at the corners, enough to make a pleat. I should have stopped at each corner and gone back to refit the fabric to either make the pleat sit right, or re-pin the rest and let the slack run out at the end which may have made the cover really snug. But I just folded the fabric over to make a pleat as I went along and they just didn’t turn out right. If I had known about a “walking foot” (a presser foot made for sewing multiple layers of fabric or fabrics with some stretch), that likely would have solved the problem.
Two last things I would do differently… Marion says she doesn’t measure her pleats, she just eyeballs it. That sounds great to me, but I should have measured. Also, not wanting to have to make more than two seams in the ruffle, I only used two full lengths of drop cloth (about 27′ to to go around a 12′ diameter). I wish I had used more, so it would be more ruffled and so I wouldn’t have had to fudge the pleats as much to make it work. If I recall correctly, Marion recommends about 2.5 times the diameter. I would have liked this with 3 or more times the diameter for alot of ruffle.
My “after” photos are taken after about three months of alot of wear and tear by two little boys and they have held up well. I am worried that all the seam allowances will unravel if I put it in the wash because little threads are already coming away. Whenever it needs to be washed, I’ll report back on how it holds up. The good news is I have huge seam allowances, so I have room to trim them back and then maybe seal them with some Fray Check.
Here are some more “after” photos. This is in our “TV” room and you can see my old sofa and chair that don’t fit my style. But there’s no point in buying a new sofa and chair when you have little boys. I’ve considered making drop cloth slipcovers for them, but I don’t think it would go well with the modern lines of these pieces.
One last short-cut: To keep the buttons on the ottoman from showing, I bought one of those $10 twin-sized, egg crate mattress toppers from Target and cut it down to fit the top of the ottoman (do this before cutting and pinning the fabric). It adds just enough padding to fill out the corners and hide the buttons. I may use spray adhesive to affix it to the ottoman if it slides around too much, but so far it hasn’t bothered me.
So, what do you think? Maybe not 100% perfect, but better than a sheet and definitely better than before! What piece of furniture do you wish you could cover up?