Adding Some Linen Slipcovers (And Shrinking Them To Fit)

Remember back when we got our conference room slash hotel-ish parsons chairs on Craiglist for $25 a pop?

We always envisioned cheerful apple green ones (and even tried a crazy chair-painting project with limited zero success) so in the end we admitted that slipcovers or reupholstering would be the way to go.

And after a long a$$ time spent going back and forth between the merits of slipcovers and reupholstering we decided that slipcovers would ultimately be the best choice for us (since we love the idea of tossing them into the wash). But we didn’t want anything fussy and long for fear of taking the dining room from hotel conference room to hotel banquet hall. So first we did some serious slipcover seeking and found a silhouette that we both liked. We landed on a no longer sold Pottery Barn option because we both appreciated the clean-lined mostly-fitted look and the short skirt for that show-me-some-leg effect

But alas, they weren’t the green tone that we wanted and they weren’t the right measurements to fit our chairs. Oh yeah and they weren’t even sold anymore (and when they were they weren’t in our budget anyway). After a bit more digging we came across some off-white ones from World Market with the same basic silhouette and they were a lot closer to our chair’s measurements. Although they didn’t come in a happy apple green color (and instead were off-white) I’m no stranger to dyeing things (like my wedding dress), so I thought it might be fun to give green dye a shot.

But of course being the cheap-o that I am, I hemmed and hawed and didn’t even show them to John at their original $60 for two price tag. I know, I know- $30 per slipcover isn’t a bad price but for some reason I was just too scared to pull the trigger. So that tab remained open on my computer for a while without me taking any action- not even just the show-your-husband-and-see-what-he-thinks kind. Then I got an email from World Market saying that a lot of their dining stuff was on sale. Dining stuff? Does that include slipcovers? Off to that always-open slipcover tab I flew, and hit refresh. Bam, $20 off!

Instead of $60 for two they were marked down to $40 for two (just $20 a pop). Heck, I doubt I could have bought fabric and thread to DIY my own slipcovers for that price (especially if you factor in a laaaaarge margin of error and hours spent screaming into a pillow). And my nightmare was ending up with eight slipcovers that were wonky and abnormal (since repeating the same steps eight times would surely yield some being looser or longer or weirder than others).

Yup, $23 slipcovers definitely sounded like the perfect complement to my $25 chairs. So I did that little tap-your-man-on-the-shoulder-and-tell-him-you-found-something thing and then waited to gauge John’s interest. And he proved that I know him well, but not that well. His response? “We should get ten instead of eight. That way if we have any dyeing issues we have extras on hand and if we don’t need them we can return the extras to the store to avoid shipping fees (World Market is nice like that).”

I’m used to him saying “we don’t need that.” So I can’t argue with a man who wants to buy more of something. Especially such a practical man with such good points about dyeing and returning the extras if we didn’t need ’em. Alrighty then. Ten it was. The total for all 10 slipcovers including shipping and sales tax came out to $232, which made each slipcover just $23 a pop (with a possibility of recouping $40 if we didn’t have any dyeing issues and returned the extra two to the store – for a total of $192 spent).

So we ordered them and waited what felt like forever for them to show up (in reality it was probably around 2 weeks) and then I excitedly unwrapped one to slip it onto our chairs to judge how good the fit actually was…

Talk about a wop-wop moment.

I realized I could probably attempt to tailor them myself to get a better fit, but that’s still waaaaay outside of my beyond-beginner skill set (I know someone will tell me it’s easy and I can do it but I’m all about working up to stuff like that and messing around with idiot proof projects like pillows and runners while I build up my confidence). So instead I decided to take the easy way out and wash one in hot water to see how much it would shrink up. Just as an experiment. Into the wash it went and I waited for the beep to signify that it was time to toss it into the dryer about a half hour later.

As I went to put it into the dryer I decided to check the tag to make sure it was ok to put it on high heat (for maximum shrinkage). That’s when I saw that the tag said “dry clean only.” Whaaaaaat?????? Who the heck sells slipcovers that have to be dry cleaned? Isn’t the whole point of slipcovers to be easy to just toss into the laundry pile?

Perhaps in an act of defiance (or sheer lunacy) I decided to high heat dry it. I had already washed it in hot water so I just went for it. I was hoping it would come out fitting really well and then I’d know that I could continue to machine wash them at home (because dry cleaning slipcovers isn’t an option for someone like me – I mean I can machine wash my sectional’s slipcovers, so why would my dining chairs be allowed to be high maintenance?).

When it came out of the dryer it was all warm and delicious and it didn’t look like the cover for a dollhouse chair or anything so I was semi-enthused. I ran over to one of my chairs and slipped it on. Holy bananas, it was almost a perfect fit. Still a tiny bit loose on the sides, but perfectly fitted nearly everywhere else and the slight imperfection of the semi-loose sides didn’t bother me (we’re down with the casual lived-in look, and actually worried that the dining room would feel too formal, so it was a pretty great place to end up).

This story will probably perpetuate the we’re-perfect-and-nothing-ever-goes-wrong-here-in-YHL-world stereotype (we’re so not – more on that here) but it was one of those “ahhhhhhh” sound effect moments where angels sang and the clouds parted and a beam of heavenly light shined down on the amazing little slipcovered chair. I have no idea why it worked, but I guess it was just one of those crazy risks that paid off. Whatever, I’ll take it. And just because I love a little side by side comparison, here’s a slipcover before I washed it (in hot water and high heat dried it) next to a newly washed and dried version of the same one:

And the great news is that the covers are super thick- so none of that crazy pattern beneath them shows through – even on the chairs in front of the window with the light shining down on them. Whew.

So although I definitely still have plans to dye them apple green down the road, it’s immediately nicer not to have all that crazy hotel pattern going on in there. Although with the white walls it’s all a little… white.

We’re actually thinking that we want to paint the walls before we dye the chairs, just to be 100% sure that once the walls get a soft gray coat of color that we won’t want to keep the off-white covers for some reason. We don’t expect that we will (since they look dingy in comparison to the crisp white trim and built-ins thanks to their off-white coloring), but you know, just in case. If there’s anything that this post demonstrates, it’s that I can take my time when it comes to pulling the trigger (and then I can snap and defy the washing instructions of said item with a devil-may-care attitude while furiously biting my nails the whole time). Lookout world, I’m a wild child.

Pssst- Oh em gee. Who watched Jersey Housewives last night? What do we think about the new girl (Melissa I think) vs. Teresa? Either way, Momma Manzo is always my favorite (I love to watch her & her boys hang out in that kitchen, throwing cold cuts and talking jibberish).


    • tarynkay says

      A huge advantage of leaving them white would be being able to bleach them post inevitable kid accidents. All of the hardcore moms I know swear by white slip-covers for that reason.

    • Amanda says

      I agree with the white slipcovers. They’ll look great with the walls & that blue background bookshelf!

      But I have to ask … what constitutes a mum to be hardcore? ;)

    • says

      I, too, am LOVING the off-white slip covers! Can’t believe they shrunk up that much to fit so nicely (albeit not perfect, but very nicely)! Can’t wait to see the room painted before you dye the chairs. I’m sure they’ll look great either way, but would love to see the off-white v. green apple version, side-by-side (kind of like they’re dueling!!!). :)

    • Kate says

      I too love LOVE the off-white. I am swooning in anticipation of the gray wall/white chair combo!

  1. Stephanie says

    Looks awesome!! Glad that worked out. I would have been shipping them back not really thinking to try to shrink them, so good thinking. I’ve never been able to shrink anything I’ve purposefully tried to shrink.

  2. says

    Woah, they look so much better already! I can’t wait to see the final product. Will you do a step-by-step process when you do eventually dye the slipcovers?

  3. says

    Ahhhgg!!! I LOVE them! They fit perfect. Ok, first off – out of nowhere they get 20 bucks off right when you’re looking at them – and then second they shrink to near perfection. My mother would call that a fabric God blessing. Seriously – super stoked for you guys.

  4. says

    That’s amazing that the covers shrunk that much. And yes, dry clean slip covers? What’s with that? Would it be possible to add a little velcro to the under side of the chairs and covers to get a nice, tight fit? Looking better already, but a tailored look is great. Just a thought.

    • says

      I think from now on if I don’t wash it on high heat (and high heat dry it) and just do cold wash and tumble dry low it should be great. Here’s hoping (of course I’ll report back)…


    • Lisa says

      I agree, I’d wash them in cold water the next time to be careful and if they need re-shrinking then use hot. But, are you concerned that the process of dying them might cause more shrinking or otherwise make the “dry clean only” fabric wonky?

      What is the fabric that they are “dry clean only” anyway? It’s not like it’s cashmere or silk or something, right? Insanity.

    • says

      It’s cotton and linen, so I think each one did all the shrinking it’ll do on those high heat settings (so I’m not worried about more shrinkage if I wash them in cold and tumble dry low them). Hopefully dying them won’t ruin them either- but I’m going to do them one at a time to be sure (since I have two extras I feel pretty brave- haha). I’ll keep you guys posted if it all implodes though!


    • Ruth says

      Yeah, I think it should be fine.

      The reason some linen is specified as dry clean only is because linen is crisper and fancier if it’s never been washed (while softer and more casual if it has been washed). Stuff that is sold as dry clean only has never been washed and stuff that is washable has been prewashed and preshrunk.

      Future washings might tighten them up a bit more, but not a lot so long as it’s just cold wash.

    • Lauren says

      In my experience, YES! I’ve done it with silk, cotton, linen. Once it shrinks, it is shrunk.

  5. says

    that is so great! i am so glad that the washing machine fixed them. i love those chairs and the table and EVERYTHING! And the wash-a-bility (is that a word?) of them will be so wonderful.

  6. says

    Well look at that!! Bravo wild child! And speaking of Bravo, housewives was out of control last night! I almost feel gross (almost) for watching Theresa’s family self destruct right before our eyes…

  7. says

    Yes – I totally disagree with dry clean only tags! We bought a Karlstad couch at Ikea and it came with that Isundra grey cover that it DCO – I washed that bad boy pronto (though only in cold so it wouldn’t shrink) and voila – good as new! :)

    If you paint the walls the white won’t be so bad but you know those slip covers will show every little thing. I wish I could do white but my dog is black and the 2 just don’t mix. Can’t wait to see them dyed…if you do dye them, that is!

    • says

      As a spinner (as in, person who creates yarn from fiber), I agree with you — most fabrics aren’t dry clean only. Even silk and cashmere can be washed by hand — and it’s actually gentler on the fibers, as long as you use a gentle soap like Soak, or even shampoo. There are several reasons why manufacturers put “dry clean only” labels on things: 1) it’s cheaper for them to use the simple label for all their stuff, rather than lots of specific information about the special requirements of the fabric; 2) some synthetic interfacings and stabilizers will go limp once they are washed — look out for these on tailored jackets, etc.; 3) the fabric is prone to shrinkage or felting 4) many people will look at a “hand wash” label and throw it in the washing machine on the gentle cycle, perhaps in a lingerie bag. If the fabric is delicate like silk or cashmere, or if it is prone to shrinkage or felting, then it really does make a difference to hand wash it. The “dry clean only” label probably prevents a lot of returns headaches for them.

  8. says

    Great deal! I love the nice calming white, but I am sure whatever you decide to do will end up looking great:) I think it is definitely a good idea to paint first though, good thinkin!

  9. says

    They sure brought the crazy last night! Those outfits for the christening?!? If I ever wore something like that into a church, I’d be afraid to be struck by lightning as soon as I walked in! OMG.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *