I don’t know what kind of classroom chair you have, but mine was terrible. When I first started, I was given a plastic student chair that had wheels. Eventually, I sweet talked my custodian into finding me a slightly better chair only to have it swiped during the next summer. I was then given a yellow/brown upholstered desk chair that had duct tape holding it together. That’s right, DUCT TAPE! Not cute! Even though I chose to create a standing desk, I wanted a chair to sit in from time to time. So one year, I saw some great chairs during back-to-school sales and bought myself my first nice desk chair, and I took it home with me every summer. Although my chair was super comfy with 3 adjustment levers and adjustable arms…It was just plain black and kind of boring. So I covered it!
Unfortunately, this lovely chair is in storage while we ready ourselves for our big move. So I don’t have great pictures of it. Plus, I wanted to give you step by step photos of the process so I covered a smaller chair that I had handy.
To slipcover or not to slipcover?
Can you simply use a staple gun to attach the fabric? Yup! In fact the “before” photo below is gray because I had previously covered it with fabric and used a staple gun. When I bought the chair, it was the typical black mesh type fabric. However, there are several good reasons for making a slipcover instead. 1) If it’s the chair your school provided they may frown on you altering it in anyway (no matter how ugly it is) 2) If it’s your chair and the back is mesh or designed in a way that would make stapling it on difficult 3) You want to be able to remove the slipcover easily to wash it 4) You just like the look of a slipcover
Convinced yet? How about a before and after picture?
See what a difference a little fabric makes?
Before we get started, let me just say that this is how I do it. Is this the best or “right” way? Yes, because it works! Ha! Ok, there is no right way. This is simply what worked for me and I wanted to share it with you. It’s kind of a “fly by the seat of your pants” method but it’s quick and teachers need quick! But be prepared for jealousy! I had about 7 teachers ask me how I did it and want one of their own. (You can just send them on over here to my blog ?)
Piping cord (see below)
3/4 in wide elastic (see below)
Sewing machine (see below)
Hot glue gun with glue sticks
The best part of this project is that there are so many fabric choices! The worst part of this projec is that there are so many fabric choices! ? You will want to choose a fabric that doesn’t stretch and has a little bit of weight to it. I typically use a home decor fabric and I ALWAYS use a coupon! Also, make sure to check the clearance section for some awesome deals. Also, if you go to Jo-Ann Fabrics don’t forget to take your school ID and sign up for your 15% off teacher discount card!
I used three different fabrics. I picked two coordinating home decorating fabrics and one contrasting color for the piping. You do not have to choose three different fabrics, you could choose to use only one fabric.
How much do you need? This is a hard question to answer. This depends largely on the size of your chair. Some chairs are pretty small, while others can be quite large. You will have to take some rough measurements if you are not accustomed to “guesstimating”, which is my go-to technique. Home decor fabric is typically 45″ wide. You can sketch out on a piece of paper approximate sizes of pieces that you will need. You can also use these guidelines as a starting point. To give you an idea, I purchased 1 yd each of the grey and leaf fabrics and 1/2 yard of the contrasting piping color.
Piping is the decorative edging that you see on chairs, couch cushions, pillows, etc. It’s not too difficult to deal with and adds a lot to the finished slipcover. However, this step is completely optional! Don’t wanna try it? Skip it. But if you want to add it to the slipcover, you will need to purchase the cotton piping when you are shopping for fabric. You can find this in the upholstery section of your sewing store. I used 1/4 in cotton piping cord. To figure out how much you need, measure the chair around the edge of the seat and back. (see photo below)
This is what is going to hold the slipcover on the seat portion of the chair. All I did to measure for this was flip my chair over and use my tape measure to form a circle about midway from the edge of the chair, then add about an inch. Super technical, right? This is how long of a piece of elastic you will need.
This is really the quickest way to make this slipcover. Hand sewing is for the birds! If you do not have one, see if you can borrow one from a friend or family member. Better yet, ask them for help and spend the day sewing together!
That’s it for the supplies. Now let’s start creating your slipcover.
Preparing your Piping
We’ll start by making the piping (if you want to include it) so we don’t have to pause to make it later.
1. You will begin by measuring your chair again (measure twice, cut once). You will want two pieces of piping cord. One to follow the edge of the seat back and one to outline the chair seat. Make sure to add a couple inches to your measurements just to be on the safe side.
2. Next, you need to cut your piping fabric into strips that are about 2.5 inches wide. how many strips you cut will depend on the length of piping you need and how wide your fabric is. You want enough to cover your length of piping cord. *note* These strips do not have to be super exact. If your cuts are wobbly, that’s totally fine.
3. Chances are, you will need to sew together fabric pieces so that they are long enough to cover the entire length of cord. You don’t want to sew them in a straight line because there will be strain on the seam and eventually you may be able to see the piping cord through the seam. Instead, you will sew it at an angle to give the seam more strength. Place the ends of the strips perpendicular to each other and pin. Then draw a line across the corner; you will stitch on this line. Once you’ve stitched the fabric and open the strips they lay in a straight line but the angle makes the seam stronger.
4. Next you are going to wrap the piping cord in the fabric and pin it. Make sure the raw edges of the seam are on the inside when you are wrapping.
5. Once you have both pieces of your piping wrapped and pinned, it’s time to run it through the sewing machine. You will sew right up next to the cord, but the cord will never go under your presser foot. You may have to adjust your presser foot and needle positions on your sewing machine. *Remove your pins as you go, you should never sew over pins because you will break lots of machine needles. That’s it! now you have the piping you need for your slipcover.
Back Sashes (Bow)
This is another optional step. You do not need to put the bow on the back and it is still cute without it. I put it on my original chair because there was a weird lump on the back of the chair so the slipcover didn’t hang flat. It looked kind of funny, so I added a bow to tighten the slipcover and cover the big bump.
1. Cut 2 strips of fabric about 6 inches wide and 36 inches long. 6 inches wide will give you a sash that is about 2.5 inches wide. It you want a sash that is wider or narrower, you can adjust the width of your strips.
2. Fold strips in half length-wise and pin (good side of fabric on the inside). Stitch along the raw edge. On one end, stitch at an angle so your bow has finished ends. Do not stitch it closed on the other end!
3. Trim excess. You should have something that looks like this.
4. Turn them right-side-out. You are basically going to use something long and skinny to force the pointy end out the open end on the other side. I have no idea how to explain this, so let me just show you.
5. Once you get it turned right-side-out, iron your sashes so they look nice and pretty. Let’s put them aside while we start on the seat back!
1. Drape your chosen seat back fabric over the back of the chair with the good side of the fabric in. Maneuver the fabric to hang about 3 in below the bottom of the back. On all other sides you want to be able to pinch about 2 inches all the way around.
2. Begin pining the fabric around the edge of the seat back to fit the fabric to the chair. When you get towards the bottom of the seat back, make sure your pins go straight down from the widest part of the back. You will need to be able to pull this cover on and off and if it’s fitted around the bottom, you will not be able to do that!
3. When you are finished, trim the bottom of the the slipcover to hang about 3 in below the bottom of the seat back and trim away the excess about 1.5 in away from your pins.
4. Now you are ready to add your piping and sashes. What you want to do with the piping is insert it between your two pieces if fabric. Make sure the cord side is against the chair and the raw edges point out. You will need to remove pins to do this and it may seem counter intuitive, but trust me, this is easier than trying to do it all at once. You will place the pins right next to the cord where you will stitch. This is the time to make sure you have a good fit. So pull, adjust and smooth out your fabric as you go.
5. Figure out where on the back you want your bow and mark it on each side near the raw edge. Insert the open end of the sash up under the slipcover and out through the seam, removing a couple pins. You want the sash on the inside because then when we flip it, it will be on the outside! Add a couple pins just to help hold the sash in place.
6. Stich! Follow the cord, removing pins as you go.
7. Flip right-side-out and see how it fits. If all looks good flip wrong-side-out again and trim about a 1/4 in away from the stiching line all the way around. On the corners of your chair, clip the fabric perpendicular to the stitching so that it will lay flat on your chair.
8. Put the slipcover back onto your chair (inside out) so that you can hem the bottom. You will simply roll the hem up to the desired height and pin in place all the way around.
7. Remove slipcover from chair and stitch all the way around the bottom edge. Trim excess fabric and turn right-side-out and put back on your chair to see your finished seat back cover.
1. Drape seat fabric over the seat and trim so that there is approximately a 7 in drop all around. (It will NOT be perfect, don’t try to make it so).
2. Remove from chair and flip over to the wrong side. Start pinning up a hem. Roll over about an inch and a half of fabric. You want your elastic to slip easily through the pocket you are creating. Again, this will look way ugly because it is circular. THATS OK!!
3. Stich around the seat cover about and inch from the edge, leaving about 2 inches OPEN somewhere in the circle. This is where your are going to insert your elastic.
4. Insert elastic. This is another thing that is kind of hard to explain. The easiest way to do this is with a big ole’ safety pin. I didn’t have one handy so I used a large upholstery needle. You basically want to attach something to your elastic that you can feed through the seam easier than the elastic. *TIP* pin the end of your elastic near the opening so you don’t accidentally pull it all the way through!
5. Once you have the elastic running through the seam, stitch the edges together. Then close the seam that you left open and arrange the elastic more evenly in the cover.
6. Slip the cover on your chair to see how it fits. By the way, it you don’t want a skirt on your chair, you can stop here. It’s a bit of a cleaner look if that’s what your going for.
1. Cut strips of fabric two inches wider that your desired skirt length. For example, if you want the skirt to hang down 5 inches, cut your strips about 7 inches wide.
2. Measure around the edge of your seat and multiply that number by 1.5. This is how long to make your skirt strips. You will need to piece them together and for this, you can simply put the strips right-sides together and sew a straight line.
3. Fold in all edges an inch and stitch. I recommend you use an iron to help make this nice and straight. Do this to all four edges of your skirt piece.
Applying skirt and piping to chair
1. Add piping to the edge of the chair. I did this with my glue gun because its quicker and you are not fighting the elastic. You simply pin it to the chair approximately where you want it. Sometimes there are curves in the seat that you want to follow, so glueing is really the easiest method. Once it’s pinned, go back and start on one end, glue it all the way around in small sections at a time. Use pins to hold it in place as the glue dries.
2. Trim your piping to overlap in the back and glue them down, tucking the raw edges in. Don’t worry, they will be covered up by your skirt.
3. Next take your skirt and find the middle, pin that to the middle front of your chair. You will position the skirt right up against the cord for a finished look.
4. Pin the ends of the skirt to the back of the chair.
5. Find the middle of the right side and pin it to the middle of the right side of the chair. Repeat for the left. You are basically portioning out your fabric around your chair. Start in the front and create a small pleat. See pictures below. Then pin the skirt flat from the center to the corner and along the sides of the chair. At each corner, create another pleat. Once pinned, start on one end and glue all the way around.
6. Allow the glue to cool and then have a seat!!!
It really hope you try this. I really does brighten up your day to sit in such a fun chair. Feel free to send me an e-mail if you have questions or you want to show me how your chair turned out! I would love to see them!
Thank you for the simple tutorial! I love my classroom chair now! I added more pleats in the skirt and embellished with nail heads which helped to hide my pleat mistakes! I would love to share a photo but I’m not sure how.
Jen Siler says
How wonderful! Thank you for taking the time to share with us. If you email me the photo I can add it to the bottom of the post. I would love for people to see how your chair turned out! Jen@jensiler.com