Custom slipcovers are ideal for furniture with sinuous, nonlinear shapes―a camelback sofa, say, or a wing chair―or if you want a fitted look that could pass for straight-from-the-factory upholstery. Measurements are done by a pro, who usually orders the fabric, too, which saves you the trouble.
Semicustom slipcovers are sewn by a fabricator to measurements that you provide. To get the best fit possible, choose a slipcover company that gives detailed measuring instructions in its catalog, over the phone, or online.
Ready-made slipcovers, also known as furniture throws, are the way to go if you want a quick, low-cost solution that protects your furniture from spills and wear and tear. They come in standard sizes (usually small, medium, and large), and you can adjust the fit with ties, drawstrings, or straps.
2. Choose a Material
Whether you opt for custom, semicustom, or ready-made slipcovers, pick a fabric that resists stains, wears well, and can be laundered in a washing machine. Also look for a smooth, sturdy weave rather than snag-prone materials (such as silk). “Cotton is usually durable and washable, and cotton-polyester blends also work,” says Elaine Ellis, owner of I Do Slipcovers, in Englewood, Colorado. Spills wipe right off polyester microfibers, including some faux suedes.
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3. Settle on a Budget
Custom slipcovers, like couture dresses, are made to order and are predictably pricey. At the other end of the spectrum, ready-made covers can be surprisingly affordable. Prices vary widely, depending on the fabric and the vendor, but "for a standard-size sofa, expect to pay at least $600 for a custom slipcover, not including the 15 to 20 yards of fabric it will require," says Karen Erickson Rea, owner of Slipcover America, in Snohomish, Washington. A semicustom slipcover for the same sofa will run about $400 if you opt for a standard fabric, such as cotton duck, while a ready-made cover can cost as little as $50. (See ready-made slipcover fabrics for ready-made-fabric sources.)
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Measuring and Handling Fabric
4. Measure Properly
When providing measurements for a slipcover, use a dressmaker’s cloth tape, which can be maneuvered into grooves and corners. If you are in doubt about your measurements (especially if the piece has an unusual shape), call the slipcover maker.
5. Handle with Care
Launder slipcovers right-side out, with zippers closed to prevent snags. Wash large sofa slipcovers at a Laundromat, as covers of this size, when wet, may be too heavy for a home machine. After cleaning a slipcover, put it back on the piece of furniture when it’s still a tiny bit damp. As the last bit of moisture evaporates, the cover will cling to fit.