Carolyn drove a long way to bring me her Ethan Allan couch, chair and ottoman. Though in perfect condition structurally, the fabric was showing signs of wear and needed some attention. She wanted a new casual look and definitely liked the idea of washing the covers to keep them fresh and clean.
Bull Denim is a classic favorite go-to fabric for slipcovers. But you don’t have to settle on just white or off white. It comes in an array of colors like Vermilion (red), Rattan (light gold), Creamy Ivory, Lizard (green), Harbor Mist (light blue gray), Golden Curry, Fossil (taupe/light brown), Fern, Dusk blue, Chestnut, Black Bean, Brown, White, Light Gray, Charcoal Gray. My client chose Vanilla from Big Duck Fabrics. It’s a buttery cream color in a hefty weight. At 12 ounces, this twill fabric is especially perfect for a slipcover if you need to cover a print underneath.
Most bull denims are 100% cotton and though they may say “preshrunk”, you will still need to prewash it before sewing to remove any remaining shrinkage. Just be sure to do this in 3-4 yard segments as this fabric is very heavy.
Her new slipcovers would feature cording on the back following the curves and current cording on the back of the couch, a new line of cording following the curve of the arm construction to keep it simple and avoid lots of pleating and shifting. A placket zipper back with corded Velcro bottom finishes off this transformation.
This creamy Vanilla color is a perfect base for any season. Just add your favorite seasonal colors and textures through different pillows and throws for a whole new look.
When we bought our lake house three years ago, the master bathroom was definitely a room that I was anxious to make some changes to. What initially seemed like a sophisticated master bath soon felt like walking into a dark heavy space with the dark wood shades, brown curtain panels, brown tiled shower, dark wood vanity with gold granite and tile. Though the effort was to make it look elegant with the crystal lights around the vanity and in the closet and the decorative mirrors, it was just a bit too much for me and didn’t fit my style.
Your bathroom should be an extension of your master bedroom retreat space and thus should also be a very personal decision on how you approach decorating it. What worked for the previous owners just didn’t work for me. But it doesn’t have to be a complete demolition to bring it in line with your own taste. Here’s how I approached our master bath.
Pros and Cons Assessment
Start by assessing what you have. What do you like about the bathroom and what is an absolute “redo”, keeping in mind your budget. Making over a bathroom doesn’t have to break the bank if you approach it the right way. I loved the shower, especially the river stone floor. Though the tile was dark brown, the light blue/green glass tile insert helped to break up the darkness and I could definitely work with that color. I also loved the seamless glass outside walls of the shower. No changes there. I also liked the light gold large tiled floor just fine, certainly didn’t want to waste money changing it.
The con list was a bit longer. The lights were too fancy and created too many light prisms and reflections on the walls, the mirrors were too ornate, the vanity was very busy looking with the gold vessels and a dark brown finish. The tub seemed liked a big blob on the floor, though having a tub was a must. The corner dark cabinet was obtrusive. The window coverings covered all of the natural light coming into the bathroom. The paint color seemed a little dark to me. Basically this bathroom needed a total lightening up.
Start with a honest and reasonable objective of what you want to accomplish and feel with your bathroom. For me I wanted to lighten it up, bring the outdoors in and capitalize on the natural light as much as I could. I was going for a cleaner simpler look that would make an easier transition into the master bedroom. After reviewing my pros and cons list, I made a list of things that needed to be done to address the cons that would bring it in line with my dream bathroom that would also be cost effective. My plan would include quite a bit of painting and a few switch-outs of some key elements in the closet and bathroom, some of which I could do myself and some I would have to enlist help.
I normally would paint myself, but there were several places in the bathroom where the sheet rock tape had split and I wanted to have it professionally repaired so it wouldn’t be a problem in the future. Also, the thought of going around all the shelves in the closet did not appeal to me, so I definitely would be hiring out the painting. That was the easy part, finding the paint color was the hard part. In keeping with my overall objective to lighten things up and bringing the outdoor in, I decided to steer away from the blue green tones of paint. I opted for a creamy white and would use the color for accents to tie it in with the master bedroom. Let me just tell you, picking a white color is the most difficult thing to do.
After painting several swatches on several different walls and looking at it at different times of the day I finally made a decision. I wasn’t there when they painted or I probably would have stopped them soon after they started and changed colors. When I got back to the lakehouse and saw the completed room, I instantly thought it looked a little too yellow creamy, almost green at times. WHAT? Do not underestimate how the surrounding elements will affect the paint color because of reflection. The green leaves from outside and the gold colored floor had a huge impact on my completed paint color. I decided to live with it and hoping that once I put on window treatments, painted the vanity and added other blue/green accents into the room, it might just blend in and I won’t notice it.
Lighting is so important. Just the color of the light bulbs can make a big difference. It wasn’t long after we moved in that I instantly removed the chandelier side sconces from the vanity. We also changed out the closet light to something bigger and bright and white with a bit of brushed bronze accent to tie in with the wood shelving. We changed all the bulbs from a yellow tint to a white tint. What a big difference this alone made in the color of the paint.
Cabinets & Storage
When first dreaming about this bathroom I envisioned a sleek stand alone soaker tub. However, before ripping it out and dropping a grand, I decided to paint the bottom to see if it made a difference. I found some leftover paint from another room and after proper prepping, painted the bottom of the tub. Within a few hours, it totally changed the room and convinced my husband that I could also paint the vanity the same color. WOW! I loved it and so did my husband. Big win and it didn’t cost me anything except for a can of bonding primer and a little time. I could live with that.
After cleaning out and purging unnecessary stuff from the tall corner cabinet, we removed it and re-purposed it in the basement storage room for another day and clean out project. I picked up a little white cabinet with the perfect drawers from IKEA (which I put together myself) and put it in the corner instead. What a big difference this little changes made in the overall look and lightening up of this room. We also changed out the gold vessels for white vessels.
The only thing I did differently on the flooring was replace the shag taupe 5×7 rug in the closet with one that had the teal/blue colors in a more geometric design. This put back some of the color that I took out and ties in nicely with the master bedroom.
New botanical prints on both sides of the windows, a lamp, new vanity and wall mirrors from Kirklands, removing some of the stuff on our sink, an added side bench and a clean closet finished it off.
Initially these windows had wicker shades however they were inset in the window frames. I wanted to be able to see out and allow as much light into the room as possible so I bought new blinds and had them cut to just outside the window frame. These Levolor blinds just pull up and down….no cords! I found the perfect fabric that was light enough but had some of the color and texture I wanted to pull in from a package of curtain panels in Lowes. I remade the panels, lining them and cutting them down to make the same style of ring pleated café curtains that hung halfway down the window, providing the privacy we need in a bathroom but letting in the maximum amount of light. We are down a long driveway and it is already quite private, unless our neighbors are walking down their long stretch to the lake.
Before and After
Well, what do you think? The paint color settled in for me and I don’t even notice it anymore with all the pieces put together. It’s lighter, brighter, feels bigger, brings in the light and outside view. I think I hit all of my “wants” and it didn’t cost me an arm and a leg. My husband even said he likes the coziness of this bathroom now. I think it’s a win.
This week I had the opportunity to attend the Custom Workroom Conference in Concord, NC. One of the biggest challenges you can face as a new workroom in this field is training and support. There was a time when workrooms did not necessarily want to share tips and tricks in fear that they would be giving away trade secrets and eventually business. However, this is changing. There are more opportunities than ever to share, learn, mentor and network. I’m sure we can thank social media and technology for this. This conference covered all the bases.
Workrooms come in all shapes and sizes. Some are a one person operation which supports retail while others have several people working for a workroom that supports designers or “to the trade”. Some work out of a designated space in their homes, like me, while others have a rented space. Whatever the scenario, when the workforce of some of these one-person workrooms age out and retire, who is replacing them? Why people like me, empty nesters, stay-at-home moms and those of us who have a passion to be creative, love to sew and still want to learn and do something that provides a value to someone else. At the Custom Workroom Conference that I attended this week, however, I also met a couple of really awesome young adults in their twentys that had decided to follow their passion right off the bat, starting with the education and networking. The future is looking bright!
But even with this passion, there is always something new to learn, new techniques, industry standards, new trends and new products. I started out by buying books on the subjects I was interested in, watched You Tubes videos on specific techniques and processes, and purchased online classes offered by experts in the field. The Workroom Tech in Tryon, NC as well as other workshops around the country offer in-person, hands-on classes on a wide variety of topics. There are opportunities out there, you just have to dig, search, ask and dive in!
The Custom Workroom Conference, an annual three-day event is filled with classes that cover anything from productivity, work/life balance, upholstery topics, slipcovers, social media, window treatments, machine and workroom set-up topics. They offered an Exhibitor Marketplace to meet vendors that provide products we need for our business , demonstrations of techniques, inspirational speakers and lots of opportunities to meet and collaborate with other people doing the same thing.
When I first started out three years ago, I wasn’t sure where my business would go but I decided pretty quickly to treat it as a business and not a hobby. I researched and sought out other slipcover makers online and connected to a Facebook Slipcover group. Working as a one-person workroom can be isolating but professional conferences such as these, and these Facebook group connections can be so helpful for support, advise, education and encouragement.
When I picked up this rocker chair from my client’s house to begin work on it, a sweet little girl was curiously laying on it in the hallway where it waited for me to pick up. She told it me it used to be hers when she was a baby (I think she is about seven now). She thought I was going to draw on it to make new fabric and thought that it should be a dog print. Hmmm. Well, I can’t draw but I can make a slipcover and it’s not quite a dog print, but it is a wild one!
My client is drawn to a neutral pallet of whites and creams, so when she decided to stretch a bit and went with an animal inspired print that had a little bit of wild influence, I was pleasantly surprised. This fabric is from Revolution Fabric, a performance fabric called Magnet in a teal color. It actually looks more like a teal tone of a gray….which you could say is a form of a neutral. It will add a fun pop of color and interest wherever she put it. It has a rub rating of 30,000 and is washable!
The lines of this wingback rocker chair remained the same, with a white piping to break up the print and show the beautiful wing arm curves. We decided to keep the bottom corded and velcro’d to the bottom of the chair. I sometimes like to use a solid color for the seat decking to make it easier to see where the placement of the slipcover goes and to break up the busy pattern. For even more versatility and when she is done rocking the newest baby, she can replace the rocker legs with regular legs that she just happens to have and the finish of the chair will not be affected. I think the cleaner simple look of a corded bottom is perfect for this fabric.
What a better way to update this solid chair that clearly still held strong emotions to this little girl. It went from a heavy linen fabric that had years of stains and most recently cat scratches and dog chews. But that is life! I think this little girl thinks the chair will go back in her room, but I think mom has plans to use it for baby #3 but with a fun updated look.
This was a fun project with a specific purpose other than updating an old piece of furniture. Often times slipcovers are used to give new life to old pieces of furniture. In this case, my client wanted (needed) a solution to preserve and protect her beautiful dining room chairs upholstery that her beloved cats started to use as their scratch post. When I arrived her chairs were completely covered in beach towels to protect them.
There were a few things that were important to Rachele when creating new covers. First, she wanted to keep the color and texture of the fabric about the same as her original upholstery. Secondly, she wanted to still show as much of the wood of the chairs as possible. And lastly, the covers needed to be washable with three little kids. Rachele actually gave birth to her last son during this process.
For the fabric we used the same fabric from Big Duck Canvas I used for the couch and a pair of arm chairs I recently slipcovered, a cotton/rayon blend in a natural oatmeal color. I prewashed it to remove any shrinkage. Initially it wrinkles a bit, but nothing a little steam can’t handle.
In designing the covers for these chairs we decided to make two piece slipcovers so if just the seat cover needs to be cleaned, she wouldn’t have to remove the top piece. Less to iron and wash! For the top, we used side tabs that allows for a removable but a tight fit option. It is secured to the chair with Velcro tabs that not only fit with the design but are pretty much hidden for their function. I lined the tops to cover all the seams providing a cleaner finished look.
The two captains chairs required a slightly adjusted design to work around the arms so that it could still be removable. Arm pads secured with Velcro under the arms finishes off the slipcovers and completely covers and protects the original chair’s upholstery.
The bottoms basically just covered the seat and Velcro around the legs, edged with a light self cording.
The overall look is simple, clean, and functional and hits all the criteria Rachele was looking for. Much better look than beach towels.
My client Jenny is in that familiar state of transition. You know, the time where your kids have all but left the nest and pursuing a life of their own but you’re too young to retire just yet. Currently in a townhome, they do envision this a temporary place until the next phase. Even then, they wanted to update and freshen it up to enjoy it themselves before any resale in the future. My sentiments exactly. Why wait until you are ready to sell before updating! Been there, done that. Do it now so you can enjoy it, keeping in mind what is timeless and sellable.
In addition to the typical repainting and kitchen updates, their furniture needed a bit of a refresh as well. They had a heavy, comfortable and still functional couch, arm chair and ottoman that fit there space just fine and they wanted to repurpose instead of buying something new at this point. The textured chenille couch was a dated gold tone and the microfiber on the arm chair and ottoman were worn smooth in spots.
The couch, arm chair and ottoman all required a bit of prep work before construction of the new slipcovers. Did you know that on attached back cushions there is a zipper on the bottom so you can remove the cushion insert? FYI, if your cushions are looking a bit flat or squishy, you can remove the inserts and refill them to give them more fluff. Check out The Slipcover Makers tutorial on how to do this yourself. With Jenny’s permission, I removed the back cushions and made templates with the old cushions to make new loose cushions. This was a first for me and I felt a little intimidated to cut off the existing cushions, but I followed some awesome instructions and all went well. The Slipcover Maker has a great tutorial on this process. I also cut off the skirt on the couch and stapled the skirts on the chair and ottoman to the bottom wood of the chair to reduce bulk so they would not interfere with the new skirts. With the newly deconstructed furniture I was ready to tackle the slipcovers.
For the armchair, Jenny chose a high performance, linen-look, washable fabric called Phoenician from Revolution Fabrics in a Toast color. It compliments the fabric she chose for her couch and the rug and other chair she has in her living room. A pair of arm covers will help extend the life of the slipcover and reduce the need to remove the entire slipcover should the arms get soiled. But lets face it, in a house without kids full time, it shouldn’t need to be cleaned often.
In addition to stapling the skirt to the wood base of the ottoman, I converted the pillow top ottoman to a solid ottoman by add a layer of batting and a muslin slip slipstitched to the piping. The end result is a clean and simple ottoman with a slipcover that can be easily removed and laundered.
Jenny chose an oatmeal colored cotton/rayon blend from Big Duck Canvas . This fabric definitely required prewashing in order to preshrink it for any future washing. It did wrinkle a bit but nothing an iron and a little spray starch or steam can work out. The back featured two zipper panels that line up with the bottom pleats to make it easier to take on and off yet still allow for a tight fit. The final result is a more casual updated sofa to give them a few more years.
I always try to learn something new from my projects. After tackling the removal of the attached back pillows, I am inspired to try this on my own gray microfiber couch and loveseat for a fresh update sometime in the near future.
This wing chair sat quietly in the corner of this client’s living room, unnoticed except for the fact that it was clearly didn’t fit into the décor and color scheme, though it filled the need to fill a space. My client was in the midst of updating a lot of elements of her home and also preparing for a high school graduation. This was the one piece of furniture that begged immediate attention. Her husband would rather have gotten rid of it, but Anne Marie had another idea. I helped her find the right lightweight cotton blend fabric that would work well with the navy blue and white trimmed living room furniture and the white and greige kitchen you could see from that corner of the room where the chair was designated.
We kept the design the same as the original chair but with a bluish gray contrast cording to emphasize the curviness of the chair. The bottom of the slipcover Velcro’s to the bottom of the chair to give this newly slipcovered chair the appearance of an upholstered piece of furniture. I refurbished the cushion by adding another inch of foam to the existing cushion along with new cushion wrap. Can you see the difference?
If you are considering using a patterned fabric for your project, be sure to figure in extra fabric to pattern match. This fabric had a repeat of the pattern both vertically and horizontally. What is this exactly? It is the distance in inches of where the pattern starts and ends and then starts over again.
Contrast cording emphasizes the curves
Hidden zipper in back panel
I try to match the flow of the design from front to back, from the top of the chair onto the cushion and from the cushion onto the bottom of the chair, as well as the boxing around the cushion (at least on the front where you will see it). Curves and angles of chair can make this challenging if not impossible in certain areas but it is just one of those little details that I won’t skimp on to give the finished piece a professional look.
The end result of this chair got a thumb’s up and approval from the husband. That is always a plus!
It was innocent enough. My husband leaned over to kiss me goodbye as he headed out to work in the early morning. I was editing my latest blog and trying to get it posted. So, rather than just focusing of the kiss, he also asked me to reach for his Ipad so he could pack it for our weekly trip to the lake.
The chain of events that happened next were unfortunate and frustrating.
As I leaned over and pulled up on the Ipad, the cord tipped my coffee cup which was sitting on the end table. Got the kiss, got the Ipad and I got coffee on my laptop keyboard.
In what seemed like slow motion, I tipped my computer upside down and wiped off the little bit of coffee residue on my keypad. It was just a little bit after all. But of course, my computer shut down. When I tried to turn it on, the light flickered and a hopeful sign that all was ok, “attempting recovery”….and then nothing. A sinking feeling in my stomach. When was the last time I did a back up to the external drive anyway? I tried again, nothing.
I quickly made an appointment for that morning to bring my laptop to the Best Buy Geek Squad to see what they would say. Of course they couldn’t do much there but give me a worst case scenario…”you may have to buy a new computer and we can transfer all your information over….if we can”. I had to bite my tongue and hold back tears until I got back to the car, where I lost it. I worked so hard to buy this computer less than nine months ago. What if my information was gone?
So I did what anyone would do, I Googled it.
Google provided me with some bit of hope. I took the solicited advise and sprayed air into my keyboard. Still nothing. So I took the next bit of advise, put my laptop away and just waited.
The waiting allowed me time to process what had happened instead of reacting to what happened. It allowed me time to come to terms with the worst case scenario of buying a new laptop and…gulp…if I lost some of my data. It allowed me to resolve to make another appointment with the Geek Squad on the weekend to do just that. I had come to terms with it all.
Then a funny thing happened.
My husband and I were relaxing on the newly cleaned dock at our lake house, sipping a glass of wine and recapping all the work we had done this spring to get it ready for the summer season. I was feeling pretty content, and then it creeped back into my mind…. If only the coffee hadn’t spilled on my computer. Maybe it was the wine talking but I was feeling hopeful and said out loud, “wouldn’t it be nice if my computer would turn on and work?”
When we headed back to the house to watch Friday night Dateline, my husband grabbed my laptop and turned it on. From across the room I saw a light, a light that did not go off. Hope. Hope that turned to joy and optimism. I kept the appointment with the Geek Squad just to be safe, but as I am writing this on my laptop, I would say….all is ok.
I always learn little lessons from these unfortunate events. How could you not? You would think the obvious lesson was to not drink coffee and work on your laptop. Actually, though this is great advise, I wasn’t even close to the coffee, it was just a freak accident resulting from a chain of events. The lesson is more to not do more than one thing at a time.
My client had what looked like two very different chairs. Obviously they had different fabric. But one had a skirt and one had a corded bottom. They also had different top pillows so they really looked like different chairs.
But once I took measurements it became clear that these were inherently the same chair. What a perfect opportunity to take two different chairs and make a new set of chairs to place in the same room. In order to do this we would use the same fabric, put a skirt on both chairs, and change the pillows to the same style.
June wanted something that looked like a linen but was reasonably priced. We found this 12 oz cotton/rayon blend from Big Duck Canvas in an oatmeal color. I see more slipcovers in my future with this fabric.
Typically I recommend you prewash your natural fibers fabric to take out any shrinkage in case you want to wash your slipcover in the future. This fabric shrinks about an 1″ on a yard (10-12%). Washed, this fabric has a more textured look rather than the polished sheen of the prewashed fabric and irons beautifully. However, June opted for the more polished look and did not want it washed. Dry cleaning is recommended in this case to prevent shrinkage.
What a remarkable difference and perfect update a slipcover made on these two chairs and ottoman. These chairs just jumped decades into 2019.
It’s been a crazy busy couple of months and May is looking about the same. I feel so blessed to be able to do what I love working with fabric, repurposing and transforming your (and my) pieces. Thank you everyone for being environmentally conscious and not just throwing away your still good furniture. I’m a little behind on blogging on all my projects but hope to catch up soon.
I caught a glimpse of a Facebook live post asking for viewers to share what you think you got from your mom in terms of a talent or gift. It got me thinking about my own mom of course, especially with Mother’s Day tomorrow. My mom has been gone now for some time, over ten years, after a long and slow decline from early onset Alzheimer’s.
When I was younger (teen years and then early married life), I always thought I had time to work on fostering and building a stronger relationship with her. Once we had kids, which was in my early to mid 20’s, I thought we could definitely connect over that. The grandkids, were so important to them but being in the military made it hard to connect often.
However, we made an effort to see each other at least once a year. We didn’t have facetime, Facebook, or really even a computer back then so we really relied on letters, photos sent through the mail, video tapes recapping six months of events and milestones and phone calls with only the imagination and memories to recall faces.
Calling mom to tell her she was going to be a grandma
Even though it’s been a while since mom has been here (over twenty years if you count the years we couldn’t be with her as she declined and lost recollection of faces), I think of her often, if not daily. You know the old saying that you become your mother when you get older? Well, I am starting to “see” more of her in me. I hear her voice in mine, I see her face in some of my pictures of myself, and my hands callused and poked by pins. I definitely feel and think of her when I’m sewing.
My mom used to work at an Arctic Cat factory when we were younger sewing snowmobile suits and jackets. I remember taking a tour of her factory when I was younger, seeing all the industrial machines and being pretty impressed. I’m not sure she really enjoyed it, but it was a job. Later she would become a CNA at a local nursing home, the same one she would later live in and be cared for by her peers.While at Arctic Cat, she would often bring home bags of scraps for us to pull threads out of to get the batting in between the slippery layers to use for quilts and other projects. We were great recyclers even back then….actually I think that is something that was engrained in me not only from my mom but my grandmother who reused the cardboard concentrated orange juice containers to freeze strawberries from her massive strawberry garden. Nothing was wasted and everything was reused…even tinfoil.
Sewing at Arctic Cat was a job but sewing at home was not only out of necessity with six girls to clothe, but a talent and outlet for my mom’s creativity. One that I believe I inherited from her. Besides teaching me the sewing basics on her old manual Singer machine starting with Barbie clothes and eventually graduating to my clothes and even quilts, my mom taught me patience (or at least tried to) especially when I would have to rip out a seam. She taught me how to lay out patterns to use the least amount of fabric possible. She taught me creativity through her many “homemade” home projects using recycled elements anywhere from the plastic rings that held a six-pack together to empty thread spools (large cone ones I am assuming from Arctic Cat) and a can of spray paint.
So instead of focusing on regrets and how this disease stole our time and what could have been, I want to honor what I actually got from my mom. I will be forever grateful for the gifts she gave me that I have been able to nurture and build my business. Not a day goes by where I don’t think how lucky I am to be able to do what I love, working with fabric, helping people with their vision, and continuing the ever important repurposing and reusing which, I believe, will become even more important.
I wish I could have one more day with my mom to catch up. I think she would be proud not only of me and my family but she would get such a kick out of her great-grandkids. I’m pretty sure she would pull out her accordion and play “Roll Out the Barrel”.
I saw this video and poem by Maggie Mobley dedicated to mothers on the Today Show this week and thought I would share it with you all. I dare you not to be moved.