How To Make Loose Covers

Loose covers are useful to cover delicate upholstery or in matching to a new colour scheme a chair or sofa on which the upholstery is still sound. The same general principles apply to the making of loose covers for chairs, sofas and divans.


Choose a medium-weight firm material with a close weave. A washable fabric is most practical. If it is not shrink-resistant, wash it to shrink before cutting out. Choose from linen (and linen-union), heavy-treated cotton, glazed chintz (for light use), cretonne, dupion, repp.


Choose a fabric of suitable width for the size of the seat. If a join is necessary on a sofa, have a central panel with two equal small side panels rather than one join down the middle. Allow 1-11 yards (91-137 cm) extra for bias piping if required. If a frill is required decide on the depth, usually 6-8 in. (15-20 cm). The length would be 11 times that of the chair base. Box pleats, too, should be about 6-8 in. (15-20 cm) deep. For 2 in. (5 cm) pleats with 2 in. gaps, allow twice the measurement of the base. Inverted pleats, one 8 in. (20 cm) piece at each corner, give a tailored look. Allow for the base measurement plus 32 in. (81 cm). With a large pattern allow at least 1 yard (91 cm) extra for matching.

Make the pattern pieces. Lay them out on a length of joined newspaper, cut to the width of the fabric. Move the pattern pieces about to work out the most economical way to fit the material.

Allow for piping, frill pieces etc. Now measure the length of newspaper covered by the pattern pieces to find out the length of fabric required.

Making the pattern


1. Use old sheet or curtains for the pattern.

2. Fit the pieces carefully on to the chair, following joins.

3. Pin, adjust, mark and cut out.

4. Allow for the following turnings: 11 in. (3-8 cm) all round for seams; 6 in. (15 cm) for tucking in where the back joins the seat and arm sections; 6 in. (15 cm) all round the base of the chair for the tie-under unless a frill or pleat is to be added.

Cutting out

1. Centre any large pattern.

2. Keep the pattern and stripes all running the same way.

3. Check each section and label it.

4. Mark the centre point on each piece for matching when sewing.


1. Lay the pieces on the chair face down.

2. Match centre points.

3. Pin along lines of the original cover.

4. Tuck to ensure a good fit and make small snips on curved seams.

5. Insert piping into appropriate seams.

6. Tack all seams and trim off surplus fabric.

7. Fit the cover on the chair to ensure a correct fit.

8. Leave a suitable opening down one back seam.


1. Make small darts if necessary along tucks.

2. Stitch unpiped seams first.

When joining tucked-in sections. Taper them to meet the front edge.

3. Stitch piped seams with a zipper foot, working close to the piping cord.

4. Finish the opening with a placket and close with hooks and eyes or a zip.

5. For the tie-under, cut away angled pieces from the bottom of the cover to fit around the legs. Turn under 1 in. (2.5 cm) hem and sew. Thread tapes through to tie. Trim any excess fabric and oversew raw edges.


1. Cut 2 in. (50 mm) wide bias strips of fabric.

2. Join them into a long length.

3. Tack the strips around piping cord.

4. When inserting piping around a curve or shape, snip as necessary to the tacking line.

Frills or box pleats.

1. Join the sections and make a 1 in. (2.5 cm) hem.

2. Gather and fit the frill.

3. For box pleats, mark the fabric at 2 in. (5 cm) intervals with pins. Then pleat.

4. Pleats should be piped on to the bottom.

Sprung seat.

When a seat is sprung so that it moves independently, allow extra material when cutting to give room in the cover for this movement. Sew so that the seat and arm have a 4 in. (10 cm) tuck in before joining the front border.


Loose covers can be put on and taken off to ring seasonal changes in the d├ęcor of the living room. Contrast piping on plain covers looks attractive.

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