Last summer I heard about a free sectional couch (yes, from a clean home) being put to a curbside, and it was in good condition. It was hauled into a garage for us, and my husband picked it up a few days later. I’d been wanting a sectional couch for awhile, simply because it would take up far less space in our living room than our two full-size couches were taking up. When we got it home, we gave it a good vacuuming. Still, my allergic family members started sneezing and wouldn’t go near it. I thought, “Oh darn. I’ll have to finally tackle figuring out how to make a slipcover.” haha
I’d been wanting to try making a slipcover for awhile, too, so here was my chance on a piece of furniture that would make our space cozy yet still spacious. This sectional has a very slim and basic shape – no rolls, no pouffy parts, no high backs…it just holds a lot of people comfortably without taking over a space. Even though my kids are older teens now, I still wanted a spot where we could all sit together (when they are around and want to hang out).
So. I started looking through books to finally figure out how to make a slipcover pattern. I didn’t want to just lay pieces of fabric on the couch parts and start drawing and cutting – I felt I would waste fabric doing that. And I wanted to purchase as little fabric as possible. I also didn’t want to have to make a mock-up. I know, I know…all the books and tutorials say to do that. But as I studied the couch, I realized that all the surfaces were plain (plane? get it?) geometry – a lot of rectangles and a couple of pentagons. And only a couple of tricky three-dimensional join areas. I figured I could do a lot of measuring, draw shapes on graph paper, and then cut out those shapes and lay them out on a long graph-paper grid. Computer programs probably exist that do this for you, but I like working with paper and pencil and other tools.
So I set to work with my flexible measuring tape and lots of paper. I kept reminding myself, “Measure twice, cut once.” I drew a rough copy of the shapes of the two parts of the couch. Then I started measuring each surface and trying to visualize where pieces would join together. I drew out the parts on graph paper, leaving seam allowances; and then cut out the shapes (after measuring many times). I then laid out the shapes on a taped together strip of graph paper that (graphically) was the width of a bolt of cotton canvas. I played with the shapes until I figured out where each shape would be cut from a fabric width and length. Then I was able to ascertain how much fabric I’d need.
Off to Atlantic Fabrics I went. I searched through all their canvas bolts to figure out what I wanted. They DID have red canvas, which I would have loved; but I know the red would have faded pretty quickly in our sunlit living room. So I decided on off-white, figuring canvas is sturdy enough to be washed regularly. I laid out my graph paper pattern on the cutting counter, and asked a saleswoman to look it over with me to double-check my thinking about how I’d laid everything out (and grainlines!). She started raving and asking me if she could show her colleagues my pattern because she had never seen anything like this before, and I felt a little embarrassed. I explained that I’d done it so I could purchase the smallest amount of fabric possible. Anyway, she looked over my pattern and confirmed that all seemed correct. And then she started hauling bolts of canvas over and talking with me about where she needed to cut and how it would work with my layout (the bolts weren’t long enough, so we had to take from two bolts, which meant me doing a bit of refiguring which wasn’t too difficult). Of course, when you are buying that much fabric, it’s a little freaky watching it be cut up!!
Anyway, I got all my canvas and went over to look at zippers to buy for the seat cushions and the back pillows. I found a bright green which I loved, and bought all that colour in the proper sizes. My purchase enabled me to get a free discount card, so then I also received a discount. Then I took it home.
And realized I had to wash and dry all of it. YIKES! I took it to a local laundromat, and the owner there looked dubious when I showed him the fabric. There was no way I was going to cut all the pieces out before I washed the fabric. He managed to get it stuffed into two big machines, and then into a couple of dryers; but the dryers didn’t manage to dry them all the way. The bill there was….more than I’d wanted to pay, but I had no other way to do it. I took it all home and air-dried the rest, hoping it was all shrunk enough.
Then it was time to start cutting. I had to lay out long pieces on my floor and crawl back and forth on the floor, measuring and cutting for DAYS. My knees and back were sore. I almost didn’t have enough fabric!! But I managed to do some creative cutting – who cares if some parts are pieced together in ways I hadn’t anticipated. Then I started sewing together the biggest pieces. WHAT a breath of relief when I started putting the basic covers on the couch frame and they FIT! (I left lots of room in my planning) After the big parts were done (along with those tricky join sections), I knew the rest would be easy (seat cushions and back pillows). I managed to get the seat cushions done, and then we could at least sit on the couch.
I spent the next few months slowly picking away at crocheting colourful flower mandalas and then hand-sewing them onto the back pillow covers.
And FINALLY, after this recent Christmas, I sat down to do the last part of sewing together the back pillow covers with zippers. I was SOOOOOOOO excited when the last one was done! I gleefully stuffed the covers with the pillows, shooed everyone away from the couch, and arranged the pillows all against the backs of the couch sections. VOILA!!
This couch is so comfortable now – the pillows fluff up easily when I plump them. It’s my favourite couch we’ve ever had! Next, I want to find a square coffee table to put in the space.