Fabric armrest covers: the dirty little secret of confirmed cat ladies everywhere!
Okay, okay. They’re not really just for cat ladies. Whether it’s pets, kids, thrift store scores, stains, or just extra-comfy seats that have seen better days, it’s amazing how quickly a simple fabric armrest cover can transform a ratty looking couch or chair into a piece of furniture that’s pretty and presentable. So, after my darling Pixel-the-Cat simply couldn’t resist sinking his claws into my poor living room couch like a vicious tiny tiger (oh, would that we had discovered Soft Paws claw caps earlier), I decided that something had to be done to disguise the damage. And, having zero interest in, say, reupholstering my entire loveseat, I whipped up a set of quick and easy DIY fabric armrest covers to hide the offending holes and scratches.
Want to spiff up your most welcoming rooms before the start of the holiday season? Here’s how to make your own set of custom fabric armrest covers:
Please note that the links to supplies and tools that are provided below are affiliate links, and I will be compensated if you choose to make a purchase after clicking through.
The armrest cover pattern consists of three rectangular pieces. Measure the length and width of the armrest on your chair/couch as shown in the first illustration, then use the measurements to draw each of the three rectangles on a piece of paper. Add a ½" seam allowance around the outside edge of each rectangle as shown in the second illustration, then use fabric scissors to cut out each pattern piece.
If the arms of your chair/couch are rounded instead of rectangular, you can round the top of piece A to fit the curve on your armrest.
For each armrest cover, cut 1 each of pattern pieces A and C, and 2 of pattern piece B out of heavyweight cotton or upholstery fabric.
With piece C in the middle, sew the two B pieces to the longest edges on each side of piece C.
I didn’t want to worry about my armrest covers unraveling in the wash, so I used french seams with a ½" finished seam allowance to enclose my raw fabric edges. (The first photo in this step is the right side of the fabric, the second photo is the wrong side of the fabric with french seams visible.)
If you’re not familiar with the technique, you can see my french seams tutorial from CRAFT Magazine here.
Press the seams flat.
Now, here’s where things get fun!
You’ll be attaching piece A to the large rectangle that you created when you joined pieces B and C in step 3. And, just like in the previous step, you’ll be enclosing the raw edge of the fabric inside a french seam.
Here’s how it’s done:
Using the guide in the illustration above, pin piece A to piece B with wrong sides together, and sew the first seam as shown with a ¼" seam allowance, starting at the bottom left corner and stitching toward the center (look for the blue dots in the illustration, and line those corners up). Remember, you’re sewing a french seam, so you’ll be sewing on the right side of the fabric first.
Continue on, sewing the second seam and third seam. Reposition the fabric edges as needed while you sew to keep everything aligned, especially once you get to that last seam. The corners where the seams meet can be a little bit tricky, so go slow and pull slightly on the fabric to smooth out any bunching under the presser foot. If your fabric isn’t behaving, you can also add a few shallow notches at the corners to allow the fabric to curve more easily.
Once you’ve sewn all three seams, use fabric scissors to trim the fabric edges close to the seams, then clip the points off of the corners.
Press the seams flat.
To finish this final french seam, turn the armrest cover inside out so the wrong side of the fabric is facing out.
Fold the fabric together around the edges of piece A along the seam you just sewed, enclosing the raw edge of the seam between the two pieces of fabric. Use pins or clips to secure the fold, then finish the french seam with a ¼" seam allowance.
Press the seam flat.
Tip: Press all the french seams flat in the same direction to ensure that they lie flat against the armrest.
Finish the armrest cover by sewing a ¼" hem along bottom edge and around the back opening.
Now, doesn’t that look nice?
Even better: The cats must not like the texture of the fabric that I used for my armrest covers, because all couch-related scratching stopped the moment I installed them in my living room. (If I’d known that armrest covers would be such a great scratching deterrent, I would have done this so much earlier!)