Tutorial: Oilcloth Dining Chair Covers (Level: beginner)

Hello again everyone!  Here’s a photo-tutorial for super-quick-and-easy stainproof covers for upholstered dining chairs.  I realise that you probably only need these if you have chosen to cohabit with a sticky-fingered octopus children, and also that it might have been more useful before Christmas, but anyway, here it is…


  • Oilcloth (or ‘oilcloth’, ie that really cheap PVC tablecloth stuff.  If you use the cheap stuff you need to back it with fabric to reinforce the stitching lines – this is what I’m doing here.  The decent woven stuff wouldn’t need backing.)  Roughly 60 x 60cm should do it, although I am aware that chairs come in different sizes…  so measure yours first!
  • Equal quantity of calico or other backing fabric.
  • Bias binding, 1″ wide pre-folded.  Again, I used roughly 5m per chair – my ties are quite long so I dare say you could get away with a bit less than this.

Method (is this starting to sound like the write-up of your high-school Chem experiment yet?):

  1. Cut out roughly the size piece of oilcloth you think you’ll need to cover the top and sides of your seat cushion.  Be generous, we’re trimming down to size.  If you can trim up, I salute you…
  2. Place it over the seat and cut to size, taking out any bits at the corners BUT NOT TOO MUCH LIKE I’VE DONE AT THE FRONT.  I blame it on the fact my first one (for the original Gingham Chair) did actually need these large front cut-outs as the legs came up higher.  You will end up with something roughly this shape:
  3. Cut out the same shape in the calico, if using (I just drew around the oilcloth with a pencil, as it has a firm edge).
  4. Lay your two pieces of fabric on top of each other, wrong sides together.  The first step in construction is to bind the straight edges.  If you want to baste the two fabric pieces together to ensure they won’t slip around, do that first, about 5mm in from the edge.  I didn’t bother, because everything’s quite grippy, the sewing’s quite simple, and I’m not that fussed if it’s slightly wonky.  Cut a length of binding to match one of the edges, unfold it, and lay it along the edge of the calico side, with the edges matching (as if you were sewing a seam).  Stitch along the fold-line nearest to the edge of the fabric.
  5. Trim threads, and turn the project over so the oilcloth side is uppermost.  If you need to, now is the time to trim the raw edges down very slightly so the binding will fold over far enough to cover the visible stitching line.  You may not need to, but it’s worth checking now!
  6. Fold over the binding onto the right side of the oilcloth, and stitch along as close to the edge of the binding as you can/like to. 
  7. Repeat for the other 3 edges.  You now have this:
  8. Now it’s time to bind the inner corners and make the ties – this is all one step, yay!  Have a look at how much binding you want to go the length of the curved edge, + a tie extending from each end.  My ties were about 14″ (this is pretty generous), so my binding piece is 28″ + curve length.The first step is to attach the binding to the calico side of the curved edge, like you did in step 5.  When you get to the curved bit, go slow and ease it around the bend.  If you have a corner (probably at the back of the chair), stitch straight, continuing almost 1/2″ beyond the corner of the calico, then pivot.  Don’t stress if you go a little too far – remember you can trim the edges to fit inside the binding.
  9. Now turn over so the oilcloth is uppermost.  Trim the edges if they look too wide to fit comfortably inside the binding.  Fold the ends of the binding in on themselves to make a nice neat end (much easier if you bother to get the iron out for this…).  Fold the binding in half ready for stitching.WP_001282
    Beginning at the top right corner (as you look at it), stitch across the end of the binding (backstitch a little to secure), pivot at the corner, then stitch all along the edge to form the tie.WP_001286
    WP_001287Slow down a little when you get towards the edge of the oilcloth, stitch onto the oilcloth, folding the binding over as you go, then stitch slowly around the curve, holding the binding in place with your fingers.  Ease in the excess as you go – I found that on the curves a couple of pleats formed naturally, so I went with that.  If you have an inner corner instead of a curve, you’ll obviously just have one pleat in the corner, where you will have to pivot in one go rather than gradually easing round the curve..WP_001288
    WP_001289Stitch off the edge of the oilcloth and along the edge of the second tie.  Pivot at the corner, stitch along the end, backstitch to secure.WP_001291
    Repeat for the other corners.  Now tie it on your chair and look forward to blissful years of ignoring your kids’ messy habits!!PS:  I hope that all makes sense, but if not, please let me know at which point I’ve been obscure or made an idiotic mistake, and I’ll attempt to fix it!!



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