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How to Make Slip Covers for a Captain's Chair

Jane Olcott

Captain's chairs are mid-size wooden chairs with vertical supports serving as a back rest and a horizontal support serving as the arm rests. These chairs work well as desk chairs, dining room chairs and are popular in restaurants. With use and age, the wood on your captain's chair may become worn, but you do not have to throw out your entire chair because of a few scuffs. With some advanced sewing skills and some craft supplies, you can make a slip cover to place over your worn captain's chair and make it as good as new.

Making a Slip Cover Pattern and Cutting the Fabric

Printed upholstery fabric can be used to make a slip cover.
  1. Measure the width and depth of your captain's chair seat with your tape measure. Place your tracing paper over the entire seat and with your pencil, trace the front curve of the chair. On the tracing paper, mark the location of the front and back legs with your pencil. Keep in mind you are marking the outside corner of the front leg, and the inside corner of the back legs. Using the leg positions as guidelines, use your measurements to draw the side and back of the captain's chair onto the tracing paper.

  2. Measure the skirt of your captain's seat chair cover to drop 5 inches over the legs. Add the 5-inch curtain drops to the front of captain's chair seat pattern. Then add the 1/2-inch seam allowance to all edges of the pattern. You now have a complete pattern for the seat of your slip cover.

  3. Measure the width of the back of the captain's chair. Wrap the tape measure around the side edges of the wood at the arms of the chair and extend the tape along the curve of the chair. Note the widest measurement of the back of the chair. Measure the height of the captain's chair back from the seat to the top edge. Note the highest measurement on the back of the chair.

  4. Using the width and height measurements you took on your captain's chair back, draw a rectangular paper pattern on the tracing paper. Add 3/4 inch to the top and side edges of the pattern. This includes your 1/2-inch seam allowance and a 1/4-inch wiggle room. Make sure your pattern accounts for the curved back of the captain's chair by adding an additional 1/2-inch to the lower edge of your pattern. You now have a pattern for the back of your slip cover.

  5. Pin the chair back and seat patterns to your printed upholstery material. Position your length measurements parallel to lengthwise grain of your fabric. Follow your traced pattern with your scissors and cut two chair seat and two chair back patterns from your printed upholstery fabric.

  6. Measure out two 3-1/2-inch by 6-inch tabs on the printed upholstery fabric. With your scissors, cut out the tabs.

Sewing the Slip Cover

  1. With right sides of the two pieces of printed upholstery fabric for the seat, use the sewing pins and pin all your edges together. Please note that you will leave a 6-inch opening along one straight edge so you can turn it right side out. With your sewing machine, stitch the pieces of the seat cover together. Sew everything together with 1/2-inch seams, and do not sew shut your 6-inch opening. Clip the corners off your seam allowances on outside corners, and clip the seam allowances up to the stitching at inside corners. On the curved front section of your seat cover, clip every inch up to the stitching. Using the 6-inch hole, turn the seat cover to its right side. Press the edges of the seat cover flat on your ironing board with the iron. With your needle and thread, tightly stitch the 6-inch opening closed. You now have the seat cover portion of your slip cover.

  2. With right sides facing, use the sewing pins to pin the the first tab you cut from your fabric in half lengthwise. With your sewing machine, stitch it together along its edges. Press the seams of your tabs open with the iron, and then turn the tab to its right side and press it flat. Repeat these steps for your second tab.

  3. Position your seat cover on your captain's chair. At the right front corner of the seat cover, pin each end of a tab to the two adjacent flaps. Make sure the tab is positioned underneath the chair seat and/or behind the leg. Allow about 1-1/2 inches of the tab to come behind the side of each flap. Mark the flaps and the desired length of the tab. Cut the tab ends to the desired length. Remove the seat cover and clean finish the tab on your sewing machine with a zig zag or overlock stitch. Cut two 1-1/2-inch lengths of hook and loop tape. With the sewing machine, stitch the tape to each end of the tab and to the underside of the flaps at markings. Repeat these steps with the second tab in the remaining front corner of the seat cover. Using a needle and thread, hand stitch the flaps together at the front corners of the seat cover skirt. Your seat cover can now be secured to the chair by tying the tabs around the two front legs.

  4. Pin the two pieces of back-seat fabric together with the sewing pins. The right sides of the fabric must face each other. Stitch them together at the top edges of the chair back with the sewing machine. Press their seams open with the iron and turn them to their right side. With the right sides of lining fabric facing, pin and stitch together the sides and top edges of the chair back. Press seams open, but do not turn to right side. Slip the chair back cover over the back of the captain's chair. Use the sewing pins to attach the front bottom of the chair back cover to the seat cover. Gather and tuck as necessary to compensate for the curve of the chair. Hand stitch the front of the back seat cover to the seat cover.

  5. Remove the attached seat and back portion of the slip cover from the captain's chair. With the sewing machine, stitch a 1/2-inch seam along the back of the seat back to finish it off and prevent fraying. Slide your finished slip cover over your captain's chair and secure it in the front by tying the tabs to the front legs. You now have a captain's chair slip cover.