Friday, August 26, 2011

Slipcovering: estimating yardage

Before I went about choosing a fabric to slipcover our two wingback chairs, I needed to take some measurements to make a yardage estimate in order to have a rough idea of how much fabric I'd need. This helps me to know what my maximum price range per yard will be. In order to do this, I measured each individual surface at its longest and widest point. (As you measure, pay attention to which direction the chair fabric is running -- I always made my height measurement correspond to the vertical grain, or the warp, of the fabric.) The photo illustrates what I mean by "individual surfaces" in case you are a little confused already. :) If a measurement ended with a fraction, I rounded up to the nearest whole number.

chair diagram
[I forgot to label the "arm front," but you can probably figure out where that is!]

After measuring all these areas, I ended up with a bunch of rectangular shapes that all needed to be fitted onto a length of yardage. I decided to assume that my fabric would be 54 inches wide, since that is the width of most home decor fabrics. Now here is where things got tricky for me. I'm pretty visual and I really needed something to look at to figure out the most efficient way to utilize the fabric. Sooo, I used some graph paper to simulate my shapes. Each box represented 10 inches, so I drew a rectangle for my fabric that was just under five-and-a-half squares across. Then I cut out corresponding shapes for each of my measurements, remembering that certain ones (like the arms, wings, and seat cushion) would need two of each piece. This made things so much more easy and I was quickly able to push the shapes around to find a space-efficient layout. I found that if I choose a solid or very small print, I could make each slipcover out of 3-2/3 yards of fabric.

The reason the print of the fabric will affect yardage is that larger-scale prints will need to be centered and matched, which obviously reduces the efficiency with which you can lay out your pieces. At least I now have an idea of how much fabric I'll need (I'd say 4-7 yards, depending on the scale of the print) and can search accordingly.

You'd think that the next part, fabric shopping, would be quite fun, but I can be so indecisive. It doesn't help that my tastes far outrun my budget. ;-) In the past I have been drawn to muted, classic, antique-looking fabrics (especially gorgeous florals). Since my marriage, my husband has helped me be less afraid of color and trends. I still like the same things, but am willing to consider brighter colors and different prints. I want to choose something that is not overly feminine (probably no pale pink florals) and that will stand up to a household with children (no whites or creams, and I would prefer something with a print so as to more readily hide dirt and crumbs). It also has to look good with Douglas' (black) grand piano. Lately I have been more drawn to ethnic prints but I'm nervous about going for anything too trendy. I might prefer to save such things for throw pillows, which are less of a commitment.

It's good for me to write this down and get a clearer idea of where I'm going. How do you go about making home decorating decisions? Do you choose a color scheme first, or find a fabric you love, or just start thinking about a general 'look'?


  1. Those chairs really are very nice, it'll be very exciting to see how they look when you're done with them.

    I am personally quite traditional in my taste, so I would likely not go with anything too trendy. I also usually prefer small prints and woven patterns rather than large ones - but that's what *I* like. I agree on a fabric that hide stains well, and if I may offer a piece of advice, choose something that you won't tire of too soon. That would indeed be a waste of time and money :)

    Good luck, I hope you find something you like, and at a good price!

  2. This is such a great project! I can't wait to see what you choose, Laura. As usual, your blog is inspiring. I'm trying to decide whether to cover our ugly furniture in the living room, or just "pitch things". This will be fun to follow.

  3. It's tricky isn't it, particularly when you're renting. I always end up finding that certain pieces of furniture go really well in some houses we've been in and then not in the next one we've moved to. I definitely find it best to use pictures, cushions and throws as the main decorative pieces. We inherited all our chairs and sofas, but if we ever buy our own I think I'll stick with a fairly neutral print design.

  4. It's been a month since you posted this. Any decisions yet?

    Having seen your living room, a warm red-based print would be lovely with the ebony piano. Other trendy colors are ochre yellows, teal and its lighter value cousin, turquoise, and various shades of brown. Have you perused Anthropologie for ideas?

    Another idea...paint the chair! Read about it here:

    I plan on painting a rather ugly but comfortable chair we picked up for $5 at the thrift store. I'll let you know how it goes.

  5. Keturah, no -- I was hoping to visit one of the large Jo-Ann stores to check out the widest available selection of home dec fabrics, but it's an hour's drive and I haven't had the opportunity yet. You can imagine how thrilled Douglas is at the prospect of watching Edmund in a fabric store while I hem and haw for three hours. ;-)

    As much as I love Anthropologie for their clothes, and can appreciate their decor in other people's homes, "my style" is English Country through and through. So I've been looking at various English Country Style decorating books and my old "Victoria" magazines for inspiration. Also, Douglas got me a subscription to a magazine called "English Home" so I'm looking forward to receiving the first issue. :-D