Friday, July 29, 2011

Slipcovered Parsons Chairs for the Dining Room

There have been tears, sweat, and yes, even some blood, while working on this project.  I am happy to report that my dining room chairs are complete!


I've wanted parsons chairs for about a year now, and have been perusing Pottery Barn, World Market, and Ballard Designs to find my favorites.  When I realized I couldn't afford something brand new, I began scouring Craigslist for the right thing.  You can read about the ones I ended up finding here.  Six chairs needed some serious work!  Having little children and knowing that even grownups can sometimes make messes, I decided that slipcovers would be the most practical way to go.  But, I'd never made one before, so the task was a bit daunting.

Janell, over at Isabella and Max Rooms, had a post about her dining room chair re-do, and she used drop cloths to slipcover some chairs.  What a great idea!  The reason she used that convinced me was that drop cloths are pretty durable and could withstand lots of washing (which they would most likely need), so I decided to go that route.  And, I'm really pleased with how they turned out.

I have two different types of chairs, so I decided to make skirts for the four matching ones, and leave the other two with a simple hem for now.  I may decide to make skirts for those later on, but for now, it helps me keep them set apart, as the slipcovers are different sizes.

One thing I found interesting when I removed the fabric from the old chairs, was that each one had what looked like a plastic bag over the cushion/padding.  Having that does make putting the slipcover on easier, but I think it might have also been there to protect the padding from any spills.  I didn't really want trash bags on my chairs, so I purchased a vinyl tablecloth, cut it to size, and wrapped it around the seat of each chair, stapling it in place.  Hopefully, this will help in protecting the padding from unwanted spills and stains.

The only trouble with the vinyl is that sometimes the slipcover shifts when sitting in the chair.  Any suggestions?

I'm not giving a tutorial here on how to do this, because there's no way I could, but I will recommend two sources that were extremely helpful to me in this process:

First, Ana, from Ana White Homemaker, has a great tutorial on how to make slipcovers for a parsons chair (she also has designs for making the chair).  My chairs were different dimensions than hers, but the principles there were great to follow.

Secondly, Krisi from, Pink and Polka Dot, has a fabulous tutorial for making knife pleats, which I used for the skirt of these chairs.  Her tutorial is so simple to follow!  And, if you think you might be making a lot of slipcovers, there is also an e-book for sale that Krisi wrote, which you can find here.

Instead of a tutorial,  here are some 'hindsights' from this project.  Hopefully, this will be helpful for any who might try to tackle this kind of project.

1. Drop cloths come in different shades of color. Yes, even the same brand, same size, from the same store.  I purchased the largest drop cloth I could find and when I got through several of the chairs, realized I would need another one.  So, I bought it, washed it and when I laid it out to start cutting, realized that it was a different color.  Ugh!  It's not noticeable from a distance, but there was no way I could use that fabric for the skirts of the chairs I'd already completed.  Thankfully, I found the right shade after a few trips back to the store.  Just be sure you check before you purchase multiples.

2. Measure exact dimensions and cut to size.  Some people recommend draping the fabric over the chair, pinning and marking, allowing ample amounts of extra fabric.  This technique works for pieces with rounded arms and high backs, but with straight lines like a parsons chair, I found this to be more frustrating than anything, and it caused me to rip out the seams from at least 4 of the 6 slipcovers.  It was much easier to figure on 1/2-inch seam allowances for every seam, and measure my pieces 1-inch larger on all sides than the dimensions of my chair.  The sewing was simple then, and the slipcovers fit snugly around the seats.

3. Figure that it will take a long time.  I thought for sure I would be done with this project in a day or two.  WRONG!  The only thing I have to say for this tip is something my dad used to tell me when I was a little girl and wanted so badly to help him with projects.  He would smile at me, shake his head and say, "You can help, but it's harder than it looks."  So true!  Don't get frustrated with yourself if making a slipcover (especially if you're making 6 of them) takes more than a couple of days to complete.  Eventually it will be finished!

4.  Buy lots of thread.  Several times I ran out during this process, and it's not possible to run to the store while my children are napping.  I think I used 5 spools of heavy duty thread for this project.  (This might not have been necessary if I hadn't ripped 4 slipcovers apart to re-do.  Ha!).

Now we're ready for company and no one has to sit in a broken chair!  Let me know if you'd like to come for dinner!

Someone asked to see the new dining room light fixture lit up.  Here you go!  You can read about my $6 Knock off Pottery Barn chandelier here.

I'll be linking up to these parties:
Miss Mustard Seed Furniture Feature Fridays
Feathered Nest Friday, over at French Country Cottage
Show Me What Ya Got, at Not Just a Housewife


  1. GORGEOUS!!!! I'm most impressed. :-)

  2. Yes, we would like to come for dinner....breakfast and lunch, too!! The dining room looks great, Lauren....the light fixture, the paint, and especially the chairs! Your hard work paid off. I'm proud of you!

  3. You did a great job, Lauren! I'd never have believed you've never done slipcovers before. I love parsons chairs as dining chairs, too, and yes, they are expensive when you need 6!

  4. These look SO good! The room looks so complete and pretty - I love it! I never knew what a Parsons chair was but looking at these pictures I think I would love to have some in a dining room one day! They really do add a nice touch to the room. Way to keep working hard on the project and getting them done!!!

  5. These look amazing!! Nice job. The whole room looks so beautiful, and I'm sure you'll get so much use out of it for your family and for company. I'm sure it feels so good to have such a huge project done!!

  6. I love them! They are so very moi, Lauren. You did a wonderful job! And, yes, we'd love to come to dinner--wish we could.

  7. They look wonderful! I love the little pleated skirt you made~ so charming! Thanks for linking up at Feathered Nest Friday! :)

  8. Wow, these look fantastic! You didn't like the fabric before, lol? I love your dining room. It's really similar to ours - we have gray blue walls with white wainscoting and a similar chandelier. We actually got our table and chairs off Craigslist too. Great minds!

  9. Wow - they look great! Well done! I definitely would not be able to make these. I'm curious as to what the rest of your house looks like ... I love the paint in your dining room!

  10. Wowzer!!! They look amazing! I can't believe you haven't done slips before, they totally look professional :D

  11. So beautiful & impressive. I cannot believe they are the same chairs! Did you replace the legs with the wood legs? Or was the wood under that hideous fabric? I loved all the "lessons learned" GREAT JOB! Thanks for the inspiration.

    Warmly, Michelle

    1. I also was wondering about the chair legs, is that what they looked like underneath the fabric?

  12. This is gorgeous!! Love these! I am visiting from Not JUST A Housewife and I am a new follower!! I hope you have a great week and that I see you around soon!

  13. I use the nubby rubbery stuff they sell to keep rugs from sliding around between our cushions and the stools in our kitchen. They don't slide around at all. It can be cut to size.

  14. Awesome! I coudl totally do this if I could sew... haha.
    We just bought new chairs for our dining room (ouch). I've been having fun looking at all your 'old' posts today!

  15. Your slipcovers look amazing. Could you tell me how long your pleats are? I really like the proportions of the cover on your chairs. I am working on making slipcovers for 2 Hendrikal parson's chairs from Ikea. They changed the size of chair and I have one of each so I have to make two different patterns. It's a real puzzle figuring it out.

  16. would you ever make these for someone else? ;-)

  17. Not sure how old this post is, and I'm too lazy to scroll back up and look, but I saw where you asked if anyone had a suggestion to the problem of the slip covers moving around on the vinyl side of the table cloth. If you turn the table cloth over, there is usually a "material like" backing (not sure if your table cloth has it or not, but most do have it). If you turn the table cloth material to that side, you'd still get the benefit of protection plus stop the material (hopefully) from moving around. Hope this helps ;)

  18. I know this post is old, but I was looking for a tutorial,mostly on the best fitting slipcover and yours fit so well! I have watched a bunch of tutorials, including professional upholsterers and yours looked the best. Now I think I'm ready to tackle my threadbare chairs.....then maybe I can have company over. :)


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