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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Sofa Slipcover Courage

I decided to tackle my sofa next. Yikes. If I thought about it for too long, I knew I would over-think and over-analyze and make it out to be more than it was. But I figured that I had nothing to lose. I may have to rip out some seams or throw it who cares. I'm a bit of a risk taker when it comes to sewing and I love to push myself. Why? Because of the reward of a job well-done and the lessons I always seem to learn. And the teacher in me believes in at least trying. Heck. my favorite speech is Teddy Roosevelt's Man in the Arena. If you are doubting yourself, you need to read it. My friend who grew up near Teddy Roosevelt National Park in Medora, ND gave me a framed copy of it and it hangs in my sewing room. So here it is...

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

So today is about courage. The courage to try something that you never thought that you could do. The courage to push yourself when your evil twin sister, Debbie Doubter, tries to step in and discourage you.

The whole thing about tackling something like a slipcover is to be realistic. So here are my rules for your first slipcover:

  1. Let go of perfection. This is a slipcover. It's supposed to be a little loosy-goosy. And I find that they are fairly forgiving. Once you start using a slipcovered sofa, things will move, compress, and flatten. It will not look like a magazine spread. So get over it!!
  2. Let go of the details. This is your first slipcover so it needs to be about construction. You don't need piping or zippers. Use velco or ties..or safety pins. The Student Learning Outcome (in higher ed we call them SLOs) is simply this: figure out how it goes together. For your second or third slipcover, you can add some finishing touches - and let those be the SLO for those slipcovers. When you have too many SLOs for one project, you get overwhelmed. We don't want that.
  3. Let go of fancy. OK, stick with something that is boxy and flat. When you add a lot of curves (like a wingback chair) you are asking for trouble. My first project was an Ottoman. I did a lot of unsewing (ripping), but I learned a lot. And it was a confidence-booster.
  4. Let go of getting it done in a day. You may need to sleep on it. I may be strange, but I problem-solve in my sleep. My mom did it. I do it. So when I get a little lost or stuck, I take a break and do something else like laundry or vacuuming...or call a sewing friend...or take a nap...or actually go to bed. This empties my brain and allows new thoughts to sneak in. It make take a day or two of thinking, but I find that it reduces the frustration I get if I keep trying and screwing up.
  5. Let go of doing it like other people do it. I've scanned the web for directions on making slipcovers. I downloaded an e-book. I consulted some books in my own collection. They all approached it differently. I sew, so I'm used to patterns, marking, and measuring. I'm also slightly lazy and in a big hurry. I also love zippers and am a stickler for detail. So I needed to come up with my own approach that was a combination of what all those designers did. 
Those are my rules for slipcovers. BULLY! And tomorrow you'll see the progress on my sofa.  The cushions are done but I ran out of fabric; today I'll head to Home Depot for more drop cloths (that's what I use) and then get them washed. And in the meantime, I have some crib sheets to make. Looks like baby Gus will be arriving next week!

But here's a sneak peak. And if you need to catch up, read about my Ottoman here.

Read all the posts in the project:


  1. Thanks for the encouragement. I am in the process of making cushion covers for my son's outdoor chairs and loveseat. I don't have the actual cushions, just measurements. It is a challenge but your words above offer encouragement. It can be fun to figure it out.

    1. Yes it can be fun to figure out. I hope to get some more posts about the cushions. The velcro was easy to work with! Good luck!


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