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Rustic Wedding Redux: Bride & Groom Chair Covers

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The rustic theme is one of the hottest trends right now in the DIY wedding category, for both wedding attire as well as the ceremony and reception decorations. It's all about creating a wonderful mash-up of subtle tones and textures - just like you'd find in nature itself. A hallmark of the trend is mixing traditional wedding fabrics; like taffeta, silk, tulle and organza with unique fabrics not normally thought of as wedding choices; such as burlap, ticking, crushed velvet and muslin. We have just such a blend today in our wedding chair covers. Decorating the chairs for a wedding reception is nothing new, but we especially like the idea of having a unique set of chair covers at the head table for the bride and groom. Our design combines rustic striped ticking and an elegant crush of taffeta. We finish it off with a sleek monogram juxtaposed with a funky-chic button. 

The chair we used is called the "Chiavari Wedding Chair," which is a fairly standard model available for rental and/or provided by large venues. Chances are good you could find an exact or similar chair for your event. However, our chair cover design is adaptable; it is, in essence, a panel and a sleeve. 

Below, we've shown you the most important height and width measurements to use to figure out how to alter the dimensions to fit your own chair style. Most rental companies will allow you to borrow one chair to use when designing a prototype cover. For a true fit and a better finish, it really is best to work with the actual chair rather than just measurements.

Wedding party/wedding guest chair alternative

The supplies listed below are for ONE chair cover and feature fabric from Fabric.com. Make one each for just the bride and groom; make one for everyone in the wedding party... or decorate all the chairs! At the end of this tutorial is an alternative chair accent using wrapped organza and a simple store-bought décor item.

Sewing Tools You Need

Fabric and Other Supplies

Getting Started

  1. From the cotton fabric for the main panels (Ticking in our samples), cut the following:
    NOTE: If using Striped Ticking, carefully fussy cutting along the stripes will make the tucks easier. 
    ONE 21" wide x 52" long rectangle for the front
    ONE 13" wide x 52" long rectangle for the back 
    Q: What is the width equation? 
    A: The finished width must be 12" or slightly smaller to fit between the top posts as shown in the drawing above. At least half of this width should be the featured center section for the monogram. Our tucks are each 4" for a 2" finished lap. You need at least an additional 1" of fabric revealed beyond the tuck on each side and ½" for a seam allowance on both sides. So: 6" (center section) + 4" (right tuck) + 4" (left tuck) + 3" (right reveal, 2" for the tuck to lay over plus 1" of reveal) + 3" (left reveal) + ½" right seam allowance + ½" left seam allowance = 21" wide for the front tucked panel. The back panel is simply the finished width plus 1" for a ½" seam allowance on both sides (12" x 1" = 13").
    Q: What is the length equation?
    A: Take the height of the chair (36" in our sample), add the measurement from the top to approximately mid-back of the chair for the overlap (10" in our sample), add ½" for a seam allowance at the top and bottom (+ 1"), then add 5" for the bottom sweep (you could add more if you'd like a more dramatic sweep). So: 36" + 10" + 1" + 5" = 52" for both the front and the back panels.
  2. From the fabric for the sash (Taffeta in our samples), cut the following:
    ONE 31" wide x 23" high rectangle
    ONE 5" x 7" rectangle for the center loop 
    Q: What is the sash width equation? (The height is our determination for the amount needed for a generous gather/pleat to the sash; this amount should be fine as-is unless your chair has an unusually high back.)
    A: Measure around the widest part of the chair back and add 1" for seam allowance (½" on each end). In our sample, the chair flares from wide to narrow from the top to the bottom, so our widest point (as shown in the drawing above) was around the very top posts of the chair back at 30". So: 30" + 1" = 31".
  3. Cut a 6" length of Velcro®.

At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board

Tucks

  1. Along each side, measure 3½" in from the raw edge and mark with a pin. Do this along the length of the panel, placing a pin about every 4-5".
  2. From each marked 3½" pin, measure an additional 4" in towards the center and place a second row of pins. Again, do this along the length of the panel on both sides. 
    NOTE: We prefer marking with just pins. You could also draw a line with a fabric pen or pencil or hand baste stitches along the marked lines in a contrasting thread.
  3. At your ironing board, bring the two rows together so they align. You are pinching (tucking) the fabric wrong sides together. The measurement from the outside crease to the raw edge of the fabric should be 5½". Your line of pins (or other marking) should be 2" in from the crease (to create the 2" tuck.
  4. Press well to form a sharp crease the length of the panel along both sides.
  5. Topstitch along the 2" line on both the right and left sides of the panel, following the pins or other marking. Or, following the fabric stripe itself as we did. 
  6. Fold the raw sides out so the tucked panel now lays flat and is 13" in width. Press.

Optional monogram

  1. The center point of the panel should be in between the two lines of topstitching. There should be exactly 6" between the stitching lines, which means your mid point is 3" from either side. Then, measure 14½" down from the top raw edge of the tucked panel. Where these two lines intersect is the center point of the panel.   
  2. Check the finished height of your monogram. Divide the height in half and adjust the intersection point accordingly to accommodate your monogram. Our monogram finished at 2¼" so we moved our intersection point down by 1⅛".
  3. Following the instructions for your embroidery model, properly stabilize the fabric, then properly hoop the fabric with the center point aligned. 
  4. Thread your machine with embroidery thread in the top and bobbin thread in the bobbin. Program the appropriate monogram, following the steps in your machine's manual, and stitch. 
  5. Clip any jump threads, if needed, and tear away the stabilizer. Press well.

Back panel Velcro®

  1. Find the 6" length of Velcro®. Peel apart into two pieces.
  2. Place your back panel right side up and flat on your work surface. Find the exact center side to side. On our sample, this was 6½" in from either side. Mark with a pin.
  3. Along this center line, measure 3" down from the top raw edge of the panel. Place a pin where the two measurements intersect. 
  4. Fold the loop side of the Velcro® in half to find its center point. The Velcro® will be placed as a horizontal strip. So, the center TOP edge of the strip is placed at the 6½" x 3" intersection point. Pin the Velcro® in place.
  5. Measure from the top edge of this first strip 16" down the same center line. Place a second pin. Our fabric and tape measure look a little ripply in the photo below. This is because we sometimes just don't have enough hands when shooting our in-progress images. Your fabric and tape should be nice and flat!
    NOTE: This measurement is based on the 10" "to-the-mid-back" measurement shown above. Double that measurement would be 20", but you must then subtract to account for the 3" down from the top plus ½" each for the width of the Velcro® itself to get to the 16" measuremnt. If your mid-back measurement is different, increase or reduce as needed.
  6. Fold the loop side of the Velcro® in half to find its center point. As above, place the center top edge of this strip at your marked intersection center point. 
  7. Carefully loop the the panel over your "test chair" to make sure the flap hits in the right area when the Velcro® strips are aligned (the right side of the fabric with the Velcro® will be facing down - the wrong side of the fabric with be facing up). Remember, it's not sewn, so ½" of the raw edge will disappear.
  8. When you are confident of the positioning, edgestitch each Velcro® strip in place around all four sides, pivoting at all the corners. 

Assemble front to back 

  1. Place the front and back panels right sides together. Make sure the top of the back (with the Velcro®) is right sides together with the top of the front (with the monogram)! Align the raw edges all around. Pin in place, leaving a 5-6" opening along the bottom for turning. 
  2. Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch around all four sides. Remember to pivot at the corners and to lock your seam on either side of the opening left for turning. 
  3. Clip the corners.
  4. Turn the finished panel right side out through the opening. 
  5. Press well, turning under the raw edges of the opening so they are flush with the sewn seam.
  6. Thread a hand sewing needle and slip stitch the opening closed. 
  7. Set the finished panel aside. 

Taffeta sash wrap

  1. Find the 31" x 23" taffeta rectangle. Fold it in half, right sides together, so it is now 31" x 11½". Pin in place along the 31" side.
  2. Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch along the 31" side, creating a long tube open on both ends. 
  3. Press the seam allowance open. 
  4. Turn right side out. Roll the seam to the center back and press the tube flat. You should now have one side (the front) that is a clear surface and one side (the back) with a horizontal center seam. 
  5. You will now make five mini tucks along each side. To do this, lay the sash front side up and flat on your work surface. A gridded cutting mat is ideal as it will help with measuring. 
  6. Working from the bottom up, measure 1½" from the bottom fold and place a pin perpindicular to the raw side edge. From this first pin, measure an additional ½" and place a second pin. From the second pin, repeat the pattern, measuring 1½" and placing a pin, then measuring ½" and placing another pin. Repeat this to create FIVE pairs of pins. Repeat on the opposite side of the taffeta tube.
  7. Bring the bottom pin together with the top pin, pinching the fabric and overlapping upwards. Re-pin through all layers, removing one pin. 
  8. Repeat for the remaining four pairs of pins and for the five pin pairs on the opposite side. The reduces the width of the sash from 11" to about 7".
  9. Pin the tucked ends together. The raw edges should be flush and the folds are facing out.
  10. Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch the tucked ends.
  11. Flip the sash so the raw edges of the seam are hidden toward the inside of the loop. 
  12. The vertical tucks seam will be the front of the sash. 
  13. Find the 5" x 7" taffeta piece for the center loop. Following the same steps as you did to create the sash itself, fold this piece in half, stitch along the long side (½" seam allowance), turn right side out, roll the seam to the center back, and press flat.
  14. Place the loop right sides together over the center vertical tucks seam. 
  15. Bring the loop under and around the center tucks, gathering them up even more in the process. Because of the tucks, this gathering almost creates itself. Align the raw ends of the loop and pin in place.
  16. Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch the ends together. We stitched back and fourth several times to secure this important seam. 
  17. Trim away the raw wisps of taffeta. Twist the sewn loop so the plain front side is now showing and spin the loop to hide the end seam behind the sash. In the photo below, we set our button in position on the finished loop to check the size. 

Final adjustments on the chair

  1. Place the finished cover on your test chair and Velcro® in place. 
  2. Carefully slip the sash over the chair back (the sash front - with the tucks - is facing out, the sash back is facing the chair's seat). It should be a very tight fit at the widest point. Slide the sash down into position just below the monogram (it slides down onto the chair back, like you would slide a bracelet onto your arm).
  3. The back of the sash is still relatively flat at this point.
  4. Carefully lift up the back of the panel, undoing the Velcro®, and lift the back panel up and out from behind the sash. 
  5. Hand gather the back of the sash until it is approximately the same width as the front. We used a twist tie to hold our hand-gathering in place while we did the final button step (sorry... no photo of that little cleverness).
  6. Thread a hand sewing needle with a double length of thread.
  7. Stitch through the front panel, the front of the sash, and the sash loop. Secure with a number of stitches.
  8. Stitch the decorative button in place. 
  9. Un-do the twist tie that was holding your back gathers in place (or simply re-gather them to match the front). Place the back panel flap OVER the back of the sash and re-secure the Velcro®. If you want a tighter gather along the back of the sash, you could even leave the twist tie in place. Whatever you use (if anything at all) around the back of the sash does need to be removeable or it will be difficult to slip the cover off the chair when the party's over.

Contributors

Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation: Debbie Guild

Wedding party/wedding guest chair alternative

  1. Using a one yard cut of organza, you can create a pretty (and fast and easy) chair décor alternative. We used two organza options from Fabric.com, both are an amazing 118" wide, which allows you to do two chairs with a single one-yard cut.
  2. Cut the organza width-wise, so you have two pieces, each 18" x 118".
  3. Gather and organza piece into one long (118") strip. Weave the strip in and out through the rails of the chair back. Even out the ends and bunch together just below the mid back of the chair.
  4. Ties the ends into a loose knot and fluff into a flowing train. It should puddle onto the floor.
  5. Using a long piece of flexible wire, attach a fun decorative wreath or other rustic embellishment to the chair back just above the knot. We found our cute little beaded heart wreaths at a local craft store. 
  6. Feed the ends of the organza through the wreath and let them cascade to the floor. 
  7. This is a great fast, easy and inexpensive option for the guest table chairs. We decorated the chairs for "Table No. 4" at our faux rustic wedding!

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