How to “Slip-holster”

Okay, so I am HORRIBLE about taking before pictures of my projects because I get too darn excited to get going on my projects. I am even worse about taking pictures as I go.  I commit right now to be better at this.

But after my Studio 5 $100 Classified Ad Challenge last week I got a lot of requests on how to “Slip-holster” furniture. This is my term for how I recover furniture. It is obviously a combination of re-upholstery and slip-covering techniques. I am self taught and have recovered a number of furniture pieces over the years… everything from a cushion on a dining chair (easiest) to a full blown sofa (easier than you think).

I like this technique because in the past I have opened up a can of worms by removing the fabric. So as long as the fabric underneath is in fair condition, you would be better leaving it on… well you’ll leave on most of it. 

It is not as hard as you would think to do. You just need basic sewing skills, a lot of time, and even more patience at first.


Supply list:

-Upholstery Fabric




-Lots of pins

-Measuring Tape

-Staple Gun

-Lots of Staples

-Sewing Machine

-Hot glue gun

-Possibly zippers for any cushions (I usually try and steal the one that is already there)


Approximate yardage of fabric needed for projects (depends on size and fabric repeat):

Arm chair: 2-3

Chair: 5-7

Love seat: 8-11

Sofa: 10-15

If you are a beginner I would start with a solid fabric.  The more comfortable you get the bolder you can go.


1. Start out with a sturdy piece of furniture… if it’s not make the necessary repairs.

2. Rip open the back of the chair or sofa (this is unnecessary on a small arm chair). This is where you’ll be able to pull fabric through and staple it… later hiding with a new back.

3. Remove any skirting.

4. Start with the area you think will be the hardest… trust me on this, I’ve done it both ways… it is all down hill after doing it this way.  It is usually the arms.

5. Measure the widest part of the area in both directions and add a few inches. Cut out the piece of fabric in those dimensions.

6. Line the fabric up and pin the fabric directly to the chair.

**Believe or not these sofas were my first slip-covering venture (minus dining room chairs which I don’t count).

7. You’re going to use A LOT of pins on this next part. Put pins (as many as you think you’ll need) around the seam of the arm or wing or part of furniture piece you are working on. This step is somewhat unnecessary on square cushions.

8. Measure a 5/8″ seam all the way around. You may choose to mark this with a marker or pencil… I just cut it out now.

9. Use this piece as a pattern for the opposite side.

10. Repeat this on all areas until it’s all cut out. You may choose to sew and staple as you go, if you like.

11. If you want a more tailored look, you will want to add piping. Most professionals cut the fabric on the bias. I don’t really like this look, plus it wastes fabric in my opinion, so I just cut 1 1/2″ off and keep making piping as I need it.

12. When it comes to cushions, try and steal the zipper and reuse it.

13. Once you have done all the sewing you can, it is time to start permanently affixing it to your piece… pulling through the crevices and to the open back. I use this:

*Best non-air compressed staple gun.

14. Staple fabric to the back of the chair and to the bottom.  Every inch or slightly less than that.

15. It’s time to close the back up.  I start by stapling the top with the bulk of the fabric flipped over the front so when you flip it back down you have a nice seam.  And then I basically make a very straight line (or curved if the piece has a slight curve to it) and make the staples touch each other.

16. Flip the fabric back down and staple to the bottom.

17. Tuck in the open sides and sew by hand closed (or cheat like I do sometimes and glue).

*Houndstooth rocker in my master bedroom.

You are done!  Yay!!


I know this is a simplified explanation of how to do this and you may have a million questions.  So I have been thinking about holding a live interactive class–where everyone brings a piece to work on– on how to do this for a small fee.  If you are interested in something like this, let me know and I’ll work out the details.

Thanks and good luck!!


“Making the house you have, the home you want!”

4 thoughts on “How to “Slip-holster”

  1. natalie says:

    yes…count me in…not something I have tried yet, but would love to have you walk me throught he first project…

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