04 September 2015

Sewing Slipcovers Which Shout Out "Go Spartans!"

Once upon a time, I spent four years living in the Lansing area. Don't know where that is? Hold out your left hand and make it into a mitten shape, better known as the State of Michigan. Have a look in the middle of the back of your hand - that's where Lansing is. On my hand, it's near a freckle and a vein which kind of creeps me out when I look at it. For those of you who are getting on in years, have you ever noticed how the veins on your hands start to become more noticeable? Yuck.

Enough about creepy veins. Let's get back to the story. Lansing is known for a couple of things - (1) it's the capital of Michigan and (2) it's home to Michigan State University. Well, actually, Michigan State is in East Lansing, but let's not get to picky about details. Details are not my strong suit.

Michigan State is a Big 10 school. If you're American, that will probably have some meaning for you. Because it is pretty much near impossible to grow up in the States and not constantly hear about college football and basketball. Americans love their sports, whether professional, college or Little League level. 

Michigan State is big on sports. And it's a big school. It's actually a huge school with over 50,000 students. It, along with other big public colleges primarily in the Midwest, form the Big 10 Conference and attract some of the best athletes in the country. Sure, people come to Michigan State for academic reasons, but they also come to cheer on the Spartans. Everyone in Lansing cheers on the Spartans. It's unheard of not to. It's practically heresy.

Guess what. In the four years I lived there, I never once went to a Spartan football or basketball game. To be fair, it's pretty hard to get tickets, but I never even tried. I never even bought a green Spartan t-shirt. Shocking.

So now, I've been punished by the fabric gods. I now have a saloon on my boat (aka living room) which screams, "Go Spartans!"

What did I do wrong (besides not be a Spartan fan)? I ordered fabric online to make slipcovers for our settees (aka couches). I hemmed and hawed for days over what color to get, but the fabric was on sale and time was ticking away, so I finally chose a green colored fleece. The green I picked looked so different online than how it looks in reality. Yep, I ended up ordering 20 yards of Spartan green fleece.

It looks like the Spartan cheer team bought a sailboat and decorated it. This was definitely not the look I was going for. But, it's the look we have now. I just keep reminding myself that (a) it was on sale and (b) we'll spill stuff on it before long and the stains will start to detract from the overwhelming greenness of it all. 

For those of you actually interested in sewing projects on a boat, here's some of the gory details about my first major project on our Sailrite sewing machine. Keep in mind that the color you see in the pictures doesn't reflect that actual color on our boat. See what I mean about things looking different online than in reality?


Here's what the settees in our saloon originally looked like. 

They're nicely upholstered in a pretty shade of blue ultrasuede. The previous owners had the re-upholstery done about five years ago and it's still in pretty good shape. Ultrasuede has a reputation of being easy to care for - stains and spills wipe off easily. But when I've cleaned off stains on ours, I've noticed that they don't come off that easily and some of the blue dye ends up on the rag. I'm thinking that's not how it should work. There are also some tiny white marks on one of the settees - not sure if that's from saltwater getting on the fabric. Maybe it's a knock-off material?

Given the fact that we're spillers and that re-upholstering the settees properly would take a lot of effort and cost a fair bit of money, we decided to make slipcovers to protect them from us. I had seen how Deb from The Retirement Project had slipcovered a cushion using a Vellux blanket and I shamelessly stole her idea. I checked out prices for Vellux blankets and other materials and ended up deciding to go with a fleece material. I liked the idea that it was a thicker material (spaghetti sauce spills would have to work that much harder to get all they way through it), cozy feeling, easy to wash and, most importantly, on sale for $6/yard.

Making slipcovers for the bottom cushions was fairly straightforward. Kind of. Okay, not really. If you have a boat or you've ever been on a boat, then you'll know that boat cushions rarely have a normal square or rectangular shape. Our cushions have all sorts of weird and wonderful angles to them so that they can fit with the contours of the boat. 

I basically made each bottom cushion slipcover like a fitted sheet - made a seam at each corner and hemmed the edges under with 1/2" braided elastic so that the slipcover can be easily put on and removed. Of course, I ended up ripping out countless seams and redoing them as I tried to get each corner fitted properly. To be honest, I never did get them all fitting properly. 

Here's what one of the side seams looks like. Again, the color you see below is nothing like reality.

When it came to the back cushions, that's when things got really tricky. Notice how the backs are scalloped in the pictures above? I originally made a pattern and tried to make side panels that followed the scallops so that the slipcover would have a more tailored look. I quickly gave up. So frustrating. I tell you, me and my seam ripper are best friends now.

After a break and a chocolate chip muffin, I decided to go with a less tailored look. Still not easy, but much easier than my original plan. Here's a picture of me tracing my pattern onto the fleece.

Here's a picture of Georgie the Sailing Cat trying to help me trace my pattern.

And here's a picture of Georgie being silly with scrap pieces of fleece.

Cats make sewing fun! Sadly, I was just kitty-sitting Georgie for MJ Sailing while they were on a break from their insane boat renovation. They've since come back and taken her back from me. Stole her from me is more like it. Sewing projects just aren't the same anymore. 

You can see what one of the side pieces looks like here. Like with the bottom cushions, I hemmed the edges underneath and added elastic.

There are two L-shaped corner pieces that I had no clue how to slipcover. In the end, I just joined two separate pieces together with a seam down the middle. I'm not crazy about how it fits, but I really couldn't think of a better way without getting into some upholstery techniques.

My next project is making new covers for the throw pillows. Despite how they look like they match in the picture below, they really don't.

I bought this kitschy Hawaiian shirt type fabric online for the throw cushions. Yep, it's a little gaudy and tacky, but I figure they'll detract from the Spartan green fabric.

I ended up using around 16 yards of fabric and 1 1/2 spools of upholstery thread (along with a #16 needle on my Sailrite) so that total project cost was around $100. Now, what to do with those remaining 4 yards of Spartan green fleece? Maybe I'll make some stuffed Spartan dolls or better yet stuffed little green men alien dolls.

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  1. I will have to see how Deb did those slipcovers. Kind of sort of on my list of projects is making ultrasuede (I wish) slipcovers for the salon. I'm less worried about spillage, since our current upholstery appears to have some kind of spill resistant coating on them. I'm mostly concerned about salt getting on them and then they will never feel dry and cozy. Frankly, my joyful sewing days are far behind me. So this is way down on the list of things I will actually accomplish. But if I do ever get to it, I was thinking of doing a simple 'pillowcase' model whereby you just shove the cushion into a sack and then close with velcro. Not very tailored, I admit, but dead simple. Yours look great, in spite of the color.

    1. I think your approach sounds really good. Simple is usually the best approach!

  2. Looks like you did a fantastic job on the slipcovers. I recovered our kitchenette seats a few years ago but the material I used was strong enough material and have since worn through in a few areas so now it looks like I am going to have to redo them again. I am thinking that maybe I will buy the material and get someone in Mexico to recover them for me, seeing as I don't have a sewing machine anymore, or maybe you would like to do them for me?! ;-)

    I saw Georgie and thought that I missed a post or something until you mentioned that you were just kitty sitting. Too bad, I think Tickety Boo looks good with a cat on board.


    1. You're right - Tickety Boo looks so much better with a cat on board :-) But, as much as I would love to have a cat, I know it isn't a sensible move for us. So I'll just kitty sit whenever I can.

      I think that's a great idea to get them made in Mexico. It would be so much fun to go fabric shopping there! I think I'll have to pass on sewing them for you - otherwise you might end up with Spartan green kitchenette seats :-)

  3. I love that you bought even brighter fabric to detract from the green! Can't wait to end up in the same place at some point and see it in person :)

    1. It's quite possible I've taken kitschy a step too far with the crazy fabric for the throw pillows :-) But, hey, it was on sale and we'll end up getting stains on them anyways and I'll eventually recover them with something more subdued.

      Here's hoping we cross paths on the water one day!

  4. I'm not into sports here and we don't watch any games. Hubby doesn't care either.

    Funny how you ended up with Spartan colors. Things happen.

    I love how you did your own work on your boat. That rocks.

    There aren't any before pictures of our boat. Never thought about doing that. Too late now.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

    1. I'm not into sports either and have never really understood how football scoring works. Now that I have Spartan green settees, maybe I'll need to start watching some more games :-)

  5. Could you replicate the logo that's on the mainsail?

  6. This is great! Thanks for sharing~ our newly purchased boat is in solid shape....but she needs some cosmetics, as in, the cushions are pretty awful. So any time I see someone redo and it looks good and fits the budget it lifts my confidence in the project a bit!

    1. Thanks! It took a lot of trial and error, but eventually I got there :-)


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