Slipcovering an old armchair is a home décor makeover that can change the mood of a room.
I was ready for a change in my home office where I’ve had a dark purple wool Crate & Barrel Elyse chair for nearly 20 years. I use it all the time and, nearly every morning when Mr. AM gets up, he sits there for a chat.
I wanted a monogrammed slipcover that was soft and inviting, not dark and scratchy and showing every piece of lint.
I’d been thinking about the slipcover for some time. Then this past Spring I saw a beautifully embroidered French métis trousseau sheet with my monogram offered on ebay. I figured two of the largest sheets of roughly the same weight and color would be enough yardage for the medium-size chair and ottoman. My initials could go on the chair back or on the ottoman.
Hand-monogramming trousseau linens was a ritual among the French bourgeoisie during the 20th century. Women would spend countless hours embroidering their initials on traditional French-made métis top sheets, often adding elaborate flourishes. The upper classes often had their bed linens embroidered in convents by nuns, who were said to do the finest work.
Métis bed linens — the word translates as half-breed or hybrid — are a blend of cotton used for the vertical warp (chaine) threads and linen used for the horizontal weft (trame). Métis sheets are thick, durable and woven in France for a lifetime of use. As the generation of the 1940s, 50s and 60s who embroidered them passes on, these sheets have been coming out of the armoires into flea markets and onto ebay. There is a wide variety in quality based on weight and on the length of the fibers used for weaving and various border details. In general, the heavier and smoother the sheet, the better the quality. However, the value of the sheets lies in the quality and elaborateness of the monogram and its attendant decoration. Then, too, there are the initials themselves.
Buying textiles online is always a challenge and particularly on ebay. And repurposing bedsheets into a monogrammed slipcover is especially tricky. My first purchase was the largest size sheet [above] made without a seam — 240 cm (94.4”) by 310 cm (122”) — that weighed over 2 pounds and had a very fine weave. I didn’t plan to use the DM initials. The second sheet, same size, had the JS initials I wanted though I could tell it was a thinner gauge. As a back up, I bought an unused sheet with slipcover welting in mind. Including the monogram, my fabric cost was about $100. The downside of buying any textiles on ebay is the shipping cost. Ebay sellers require a signature which, in turn, requires the French version of Express or Priority mail. Those fees are often more expensive than the sheet itself and can triple the cost.
The two monogrammed sheets arrived quickly and in good condition. I laundered them and ironed them carefully on my rotary iron so the upholsterer would have no troublesome creases. The unused sheet required a sanitary (high heat wash) to get rid of the smell of men’s shoes as it had clearly been stored for years in an armoire. Ugh. Vintage linens always have their share of surprises.
I knew how I wanted the slipcovers to look but needed photos to show the upholsterer. I found one plain slipcovered chair with just the right feeling on the Shabby Chic website. Due to the fabric I’d chosen the slipcover would have a wrinkly quality.
I also found an interesting small sofa on the ppebble blog where multiple monograms were used. I took these to the upholsterer along with the chair, ottoman and the sheets.
The heavier sheet was used on the chair itself and the DM monogram was worked into the back. Thank you DM whoever you are! The JS monogram on the lighter gauge sheet went on the ottoman. While the original fabric is slightly more visible due to the lighter gauge fabric, the slipcover is exactly what I intended. It’s soft, washable and lightens up the corner of the room.
As always with home décor projects, I learned a great deal more about French métis sheets than the way to repurpose them. The third — unused sheet I bought was not needed for the slipcover. Although I had washed it, it didn’t match the color of the older textiles and the upholsterer used her own white twill for the welting as it was more durable and easier to work.
So I am left with a plain vintage never-used sheet for a queen or king size bed that remained stiff after two washings and nearly impossible to iron. Then I remembered Perfect Linens president Thomas Danaher telling me that it took multiple washings before you really know what a bed sheet will feel like. As of this week, the impossible bed sheet has been washed four times and only now is it beginning to feel like the others as the finishing agents wash out. I plan to keep washing it until it softens up enough to use on one of the beds. Or perhaps, on another upholstery project.
(Source: shabbychic, ppebble)
Copy and Paste the Link to Quick Share this Post: http://bit.ly/1N4INuN