Replacing Slipcovers: A Tutorial

Earlier today, in a fit of misplaced optimism, I stripped the slipcovers off our PotteryBarn chair, accompanying cushions, and ottoman.

In the time we’ve had these pieces, I’ve only washed one cushion slipcover, and that was maybe a month ago. And we’ve had the chair nearly 5 years. I don’t think this is particularly gross (I’ve never vacuumed the couch – is that something you do?) but after washing the one cushion slipcover and seeing how much whiter it came out, I realized that there were things about the chair that could be improved. To wit: the smell, the probably excessive crayon markings, the pen markings (not yet excessive), that somewhat sticky spot, the dingy color anywhere human skin had touched it, and the embedded legos. And my special, patent-pending wash routine did solve all of these!

Here’s my big secret: I used a washing machine. Presto! I threw in some OxyClean, some detergent, I assume the machine added the water – I don’t know what happens in there with the lid closed. When the washer stopped, I put it all in the dryer, and when that was done, I retrieved all the legos from the lint trap, and set about putting the slipcovers back on.

Now, this part can be tricky, and I saw a lot of very unhelpful online tutorials which did NOT address my needs, so here is what I would consider the most helpful online tutorial for replacing slipcovers, specifically to my chair.

First, just jam the hell out of those cushions. They’ll eventually give up. Repeat this mantra: “My will is stronger than the will of the cushions!” Scream it if you need to.

Once the seams are approximately in the right place, start on those tiny zippers. They’re small becaues they hate you – rise above it. Try to avoid likening how forcing the zipper closed takes you right back to Prom, homecoming, your wedding, and so on.

Now is a great time to marvel at how lovely the cushions look!

Just look at them! You did this! You did a housekeeping! Fuck yeah!


Those wrinkles will just fall out – don’t sweat those.

Next is a good time to tackle the ottoman. It’s little, but substantial. It deserves to be next. It waited patiently, and you put your feet on it, for chrissakes. You should have started with it, if you actually cared about it.

First, start at the top, because starting at the bottom would be a logical impossibility. The only way to screw this up is the same way I screw up putting a fitted sheet on every single time, which is to place the short edge along the long side. You can tug and nudge and poke until it looks right. It’s the easiest, because there are no zippers or obtuse angles!


Like on the showroom floor. Remember, wrinkles don’t count – you put your feet on it. Have a little compassion for the stalwart wrinkle factory.

Finally, it’s time to tackle the big kahuna – the chair. Now, this is probably the part you really tuned in for. My chair has large, rounded arms and a back that tilts… backward. From a purely technical point of view, slipcovering it is actually impossible. It appears to be like slipcovering a staircase in an MC Escher drawing. Luckily we are not concerned with the technical.

Step one, take off your sweatshirt, because this is going to take some work.

Next, you’ll see most tutorials will tell you to start at the bottom-most point and work your way to the topmost point. Frankly, it doesn’t matter.

Get one arm completely slipcovered, and secure the velcro. Move to the other arm, curse extravagantly, and unslipcover the first arm. Slipcover the second arm, with confidence. Sit on the ottoman for this part, because if you’re like me, you’re pregnant and getting tired.

Realize you’ve just repeated your exact mistake. Shrug it off, champ. You can’t be expected to get this right the first time around – remember how impossible it clearly is (which you are not letting daunt you).

While lolling on the ottoman, think about how it should work. While staring at the first arm again, start to slipcover the back of the chair. This is to confuse the chair – convince it you’re going for the other arm again, but do the back instead. It’s a classic move that never fails.

Even though it fails this time, it’s for other reasons (probably you  not staring with enough vehemence). You can try this step over again; I sure did.

You’re eventually going to get to the point that you have a tiny bit of arm covered, as well as a portion of the back. Follow this tack. Find that the back of the slipcover is radically smaller than it really needs to be for this to work. Ignore this harsh reality, we have literally no time for it.

Keep working on alternating between putting all your weight into pulling the slipcover over the far corner of the back, and over the rest of the arm. Just, just ignore that second arm. It probably comes right off.

Eventually, eventually, it’s going to all slide right into place.

Your perseverance pays off! And as some sort of unanticipated bonus, you’ve inadvertently added a nest of sorts. Which, while it does unfortunately invalidate the bottom cushon of the chair, will delight your children.


Bask! Bask in the glow of having completed a difficult, manual task with ease and grace! Have you ever seen a chair look so sharp, so perfectly tailored? You have not! No one can slipcover a chair like you can! Unless they read this tutorial as well, in which case they will be able to slipcover a chair exactly as you can. Which is to say, fabulously, with an eye towards the unexpected.


10 responses to “Replacing Slipcovers: A Tutorial”

  1. “You did this! You did a housekeeping! Fuck yeah!”

    I will now say this any time I clean anything around the house. If my kid can announce how proud he is of himself for doing, well, everything, then I can take ALL the credit for my mediocre cleaning skills.

    Your chair looks lovely. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Perfect! Bookmarking this for later, you never know.

    Pro-tip: hire someone to come over to your house, measure your chair, and sew you a custom chair cover, with matching ottoman and cushions. Be sure to mention that you want velcros everywhere. Really everywhere. This has 4 advantages:

    1. Removing slipcovers will be really easy.
    2. Putting them back will be easy, as long as you take note of where each part belongs. That can be a small issue when you’ve got velcros everywhere.
    3. “Hey, did you buy a new chair and a new ottoman?” Yes, you’ll fool all your guests.
    4. See 1) Your kids will love easy it is to play with velcros and remove the slipcovers themselves. Okay, this might not be an advantage.

    That’s the only way we found to replace our slipcovers at home. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

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