Dining chair covers are an amazing way to transform your dining area while protecting your favorite chairs. These are not your grandmother’s slippery plastic covers. They are elegant, unique and altogether beautiful. They come in a wide range of fabrics, some taking advantage of today’s modern microfiber technology.
You can purchase slip-covers for dining chairs, or you can make them. Both approaches have their merits. The ready-made covers are often created from stretch fabrics that make that one-size-fits-all more of a reality than fantasy. If you purchase a matched set of slipcovers, you can have your worn dining room chairs ready for guests before the soufflé comes out of the oven.
On the other hand, if you do it yourself, you can select fabrics and create special looks without the expense that can be incurred with ready-made covers. Of course, this assumes that you have extensive sewing experience and might even have reupholstered a chair or two. Slipcovering some kinds of chairs is not for the faint of heart.
Planning, Purchasing or Making Your Dining Chair Covers
There are several simple steps that will make planning, purchasing or making your dining chair covers easier.
Determine the purpose of the cover
- Protective covering
- Cover worn but sturdy chairs
- Disguise ordinary chairs, making them look extraordinary
- Match your dining area décor
- Special occasion
Measure the chair. The measurements you will need are:
- Height of the back
- Width of the back at bottom and top, especially if it tapers. You will also need to make an allowance for curved tops.
- Width and depth of the seat
- Height and length of the arms, if it has any.
- Distance from floor to top of seat or, if only covering the seat, distance from the top of the seat to the bottom of the top trim.
Price ready-made slipcovers. You might find a set that will save time and perhaps even money for your project. Your measurements will help in buying the right size and type for your chairs.
- Length of time for service
- Ease of sewing (some fabrics are difficult)
- Ethical (Fairtrade, Socially responsible, Ecologically responsible)
This might seem like a long list for something as simple as chair covers, but these are all possible considerations.
Or you could use the impulse method, which is to buy the set of covers that appeals to you esthetically and let all the rest follow after.
When it comes to the impulse method, one economical, ecological and socially responsible approach is to shop in second-hand stores the proceeds from which benefit a charitable organization. Brightly colored sheets, moderately worn bedspreads and even some types of curtains can be turned into beautiful chair covers.
Different Ways to Use Chair Covers, and Different Kinds
Simple Protective Covers
Dining room chairs sometimes come with beautiful tapestry or embroidered seats. If you have children or even a large number of guests, these lovely seats could be at risk. Clear seat protectors can ward off spilled drinks, muddy jean backsides, feet pulled up into the seat (by members of the juvenile crowd), or even pet hairs and muddy paws. Your lovely seats can still be seen while being protected. Your frugal grandmother or other monetarily careful family members would be proud.
Single Seat and Back Covers
When a good set of dining room chairs, such as leather upholstered parson’s chairs, becomes worn it always seems a shame to discard or replace them. A simple single back and seat cover can restore the appearance of the chairs, allowing them to give several more years of good service. It also protects what is left of the leather upholstery, helping to prevent further damage. The fabric can be of your choice, making it easy to coordinate the slipcovers with curtains, wallpaper, or other features in your dining room. If it is a formal dining room, you might want to consider fabrics such as damask or brocade to uphold the room’s dignity.
Transforming the Ordinary into the Magnificent With Fabric Choice
Fabric choice can be everything when transforming an ordinary dining room chair into a more prestigious seat. A slip-cover that skims over the back of the chair, covers the seat and then drapes graciously to the floor can make quite a statement. It can be coordinated with room curtains, wall treatment or other furnishings. The slipcovers can even pick up themes from your best china, or a wall decoration.
The choice of fabrics
Cotton is a natural fiber that grows in areas with a reasonably warm climate. It can be spun into fibers of varying weights. The fabric is easy to sew, comes in a variety of colors and patterns, and is often inexpensive. Cotton polyester blends are easy to launder. Bedsheets are often made of cotton, or cotton-poly blends and can be an inexpensive source of fabric for chair covers and other projects.
Cotton can be used to make heavier fabrics, such as denim or canvas. These materials are often used to make work pants because of their durability and their ability to breathe. As chair covers, natural colored canvas makes an understated presentation while still being sturdy. It is not, however, stain resistant. Blue denim, on the other hand, has the happy property of not showing a lot of grime or stains thanks to its dark color.
Linen comes from flax and can be grown in colder climates. It can be a finicky fabric to work with, but it has a light texture similar to cotton. Historically, it was blended with wool to create a lighter fabric. Modern linen fibers are often blended with rayon which improves its texture, making it less likely to wrinkle. Frequently, it has colors that are associated with professional attire but can sometimes be made up into prints.
Microfiber is an amazing modern fabric that has interesting thermal properties, as well as being stain and spill resistant. The thermal properties of microfiber give slipcovers made from it the ability to feel cooler or warmer than ordinary fabrics. This is because microfiber has poor conductivity. In addition, microfibers tend to resist moisture, causing spills to bead up on the surface of the cloth where it can be wiped up before it soaks into the actual upholstery.
At the same time, because it is fabric, the microfiber slip covers look and feel like ordinary upholstery. That means you can protect your fine dining room chairs without resorting to those ubiquitous plastic covers. Finally, it is simply stronger than cotton, linen or wool. The synthetic fibers resist seam pulling better and can, therefore, hold up better under the rough use that the covers might get with an active family.
Spandex Slip Covers
Spandex is that stretchy stuff that is used to make bicycling costumes and other sorts of sportswear. Rumor has it that it does a good job of stretching, but not as good a job at wicking moisture. Fortunately, as a slip cover wicking moisture is the last thing you want it to do, but the stretchy quality of the fabric makes it possible to have a slip cover that fits snuggly around your chair without elaborate fitting.
Better yet, it is easy to change out with another slip cover, so they can be washed frequently. When protecting your furniture from a busy family, that can be an important point! Spandex slip covers can be used on just about any kind of chair, even folding chairs, making it an easy way to transform ordinary gymnasium seating into something extraordinary.
Brocade, Lace and Tapestry
Brocade is a beautiful fabric that can be made from a variety of fibers. At one time, it might have been made from silk, but today an affordable version is made from polyester. Metallic threads are sometimes included, and it is available in a variety of colors. For an appearance of luxury and opulence, it is hard to beat brocade.
Lace is not a practical fabric as a seat covering but can be used to make an accent on the back of a chair. For example, a pouf or bow could be attached to the back of a plain or brocade chair cover to create an extra bit of festivity.
Tapestry weave is often created as upholstery cloth. Not as washable as some other fabrics, it does have a certain dignity and suitability as a chair cover. The heavy fabric wears well and works nicely with Victorian décor.
The kind of fabric and the style of chair cover you select can reflect the style already in a room or it can change the style dramatically. For example, you might select a simple, cotton cover for a dining area that is located in a sunroom. The washable fabric would be available in a variety of colors and styles and would be especially easy to match with country or shabby chic interior decorating.
On the other hand, if you have a formal dining room with large windows, you might want something with a little more substance. If your window treatments were red or blue velvet over white sheers, damask or pinstripe satin might be a better choice.
Dining chair covers for a country style kitchen could easily run toward gingham or calico. Gingham is usually white with bold checks, often red or blue. Calico was originally a fabric imported from India but eventually came to mean any mid-weight cotton with a floral print. Both types of cotton patterns make up well into window curtains and, of course, matching chair covers.
These are cotton fabrics that were inexpensive in the days of the westward expansion and in the first part of the 20th century. In fact, animal feed was often bagged in print cotton fabric. The animals ate the feed, then the empty feed sacks were carefully picked apart at the seams, washed and turned into both wearing apparel and home furnishings. The beautiful cotton fabrics wore well, and could be made into curtains, slip covers, and even clothing for the family. You can sometimes find feed sack fabric for sale on eBay. Sadly, the containers for feed these days are made of plastic or paper.
Quilters might want to piece their slipcovers using any of the myriad traditional quilt block patterns to create an absolutely unique look for your dining area. Traditional quilt block patterns or applique offer an infinite variety of design choices.
Although you can make almost anything match with shabby chic just by coordinating colors or making an interesting arrangement, it does have certain distinct properties. Think 1920s elegance or well-worn Persian carpets and you are moving in the right direction. Although it can share some properties with country, it is more elegant, rather like a faded gentlewoman who retains her careful good taste. Soft damasks, velvet drapes in muted colors, gilt tassels and even bobble fringe could be characteristic. Damask, brocade or even pinstripe satin could go well with shabby chic décor.
Victorian or Edwardian
While these two decorating styles are unique, they both share a love of heavy furniture, velvet drapes, and well-dressed seats. Ruffles were very much a thing during the Victorian era, as was covering up anything that could possibly be described as a “leg.” Some interior designers went so far as to put ruffles on piano legs. With that in mind, pretty damask chair covers, either made by you or purchased ready-made, will blend in well with these styles. A ruffled skirt on the chairs with a pretty bow behind – which is really a disguised way to cinch the chair cover in place – turn very ordinary dining chairs into seats that are more than moderately charming and that pick up on the drapes and large, wood dining table favored in such a décor.
Remember that microfiber mentioned earlier? Here is where it can really shine. In a trim, modern style dining room, ruffles or floor-length chair covers could seem out of place. Microfibers are not just cousins of Spandex. They are exceptionally tiny, manmade fibers that can hold their own for a pleasing appearance. Thanks to their toughness, resistance to stain, and the ability to stretch just a little, they are ideal for covering chairs in a modern dining room setting.
Modern moves right on into millennium, which can take advantage of funky fabrics, such as canvas drop cloths or wild and wacky designs based on popular films. It embraces the use of texture, ranging from patterned weaves to the silky feel of micro-fiber satins or nubbly terry. With today’s manufacturing palette of colors, you are not confined to simple prints, checks or solids. You can explore zigzags, stripes, animal prints (without endangering any animals), and even classic logos such as your favorite sports team or a unique company brand device. With print-on-demand designs, you can even sit on the face of your least loved politician or that boss that gave you a major headache just as soon as it was time to go to work.
Fun and jokes aside, twenty-first-century fabrics allow an amazing selection of fabrics for chair covers, including a stretchy cover that is advertised to be able to transform the most ordinary of chairs into a throne-like seat for a wedding party or homecoming prom “royalty.”
Planning for Your Home Décor
If you aren’t quite sure what you want to do with your dining room décor, simple chair covers made of durable materials such as cotton duck or even denim will provide practical solutions to everyday wear. If you are environmentally conscientious, you might want to consider using ready-made covers or fabrics for your DIY chair covers by looking into brands that proclaim that they are “organic,” “ecological”, and ethically produced by workers who have good working conditions and are reasonably well-paid. For example, as wonderful as cotton is as a fabric, for many years it was harvested, and the factories operated by workers who were poorly paid and often at risk.
Fortunately, manufacturers, entrepreneurs and buyers are waking up to the idea that fabrics and other goods should be ethically produced. One way to be sure that your chair covers meet this criteria is to look for the GOTS label. It is a picture of a shirt with the words, “Global Organic Textile Standards – GOTS” around it. The organization’s full title is Global Organic Textile Standard, Ecology and Social Responsibility. It might seem pretty wild for your dining chair cover to be ecologically and socially responsible, but it is one way that you can make a difference.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Or, as the term is now used, Upcycle. Upcycling is repurposing old clothing, worn sheets, or just about any fabric that has some parts that are still good. It is a tradition that has its roots in the emergence of factory produced fabrics which produced a weave sufficiently firm that it could be cut into small pieces.
Since it would be rare to find enough fabric to make a set of chair covers from one upcycled sheet or pair of jeans, patchwork is an excellent solution to creating dining chair covers. It works well with shabby chic or with country décor. If you sew and love to make your own quilting designs, there is no better place to let your talents shine than by creating dining chair covers.
Considerations for Patchwork
With that said, there are some things that you might want to consider if making patchwork covers.
- Select sturdy fabrics such as cotton/poly blend sheets, denim or canvas duck. If possible, use a serger to stitch the edges together.
- If that is not possible, French seam everything. Chair seats get a lot more wear than a quilt or bedspread.
- Back the patchwork with a single piece of fabric. Those old sheets would come in handy here – no one will see the backing, so it won’t matter if it matches.
- If you have a serger or a sewing machine with a ballpoint needle and stretch fabric setting, t-shirts could make amazingly funky chair covers, especially if you are recycling favorite shirts.
Special Occasion Chair Covers
You don’t have to cover the whole chair to make a transformational creation. For example, if you are making chair covers for a wedding, you can create a top cover of tulle or netting, add a big bow and a comfortable cushion for the seat. Within a few minutes, you have transformed an ordinary chair into a seat worthy of the festive occasion. The big bow and matching cushion approach can also be used for birthday parties, anniversaries and retirement parties.
Putting It All Together
Dining chair covers can be a unique way to add richness and interest to your dining area décor. They can reflect any decorating style, from Medieval right on up through current day styles and fashions. You can purchase them ready-made or make your own. For your DIY chair covers, you can use any kind of sturdy fabric, but fabrics that resist water or stains are handy to have, especially if you have young children.
You can buy new fabrics of all sorts from basic cotton, linen or wool up through microfibers and stretchy knits that make fitting your chair cover a breeze. It is kind and socially aware to buy materials that are ethically produced. Or you can make use of found materials from second-hand stores that use their earnings for charitable purposes. The very best thing about chair covers is how creative you can be with them. They can be made from rich fabrics that look expensive such as brocade or velvet, or from frankly utilitarian materials such as cotton duck or denim.
Chair covers can help protect your furniture investment. If you have children, frequent guests, or pets, a sturdy chair cover can protect the basic upholstery. Best of all, they can be fun. You can quickly and easily change the appearance of a room from formal to casual and back again for any need, simply by changing the chair covers.