4 Tips for Designing Your Buffalo Check Slipcover
Back in the 60’s my Dad wore a red and black buffalo check outdoorsman jacket. It was one of those iconic Woolrich or L.L. Bean styles. Even though I didn’t like the feel of that scratchy, heavyweight wool I thought the big, bold check was pretty cool.
Buffalo check fabric has come a long way since then. Today, it’s one of the most versatile and easy-to-mix patterns for just about every style of home decor: farmhouse, coastal, cottage, modern-country, traditional, contemporary, etc.
Classic buffalo, and variations, in a wide range of colors and sizes are showing up in designs across all categories of interior textile products: bedding, curtains, upholstered furniture, rugs, pillows and throws.
And, it looks terrific in slipcovers, too!
In today’s post, I share a few tips for working with buffalo checks to ensure the best look, feel and function for your slipcover. Here we go!
1. Determine the pattern layout. Look closely at a buffalo check fabric and you might see there is a more dominate, darker stripe to the pattern. This is more common on woven checks than it is on printed versions.
Think about which way you want to position the darker stripe on your slipcover. Do you want it to appear vertical on your chair or sofa? Or, do you want it to run horizontal? The pattern orientation will dictate how much yardage you will need.
Barb chose a horizontal layout for her settee slipcover. I railroaded the fabric, which allowed me to place the darker stripe across the widest width of the furniture without having to piece it. Few seams as possible is always best when working with a check.
As I ran the stripe over the arm it fell vertical on the outer sides of the settee. I did that on purpose to keep the horizontal layout continuous from left to right.
Fabric: Lyme Buffalo Check in color French Blue by Roth & Tompkins.
Take a look at the before photo for this makeover. It’s quite a transformation!
2. Match the pattern. A buffalo check is a high contrast pattern. When it’s matched up on all seams it’s easy on the eyes and gives the slipcover a high-end look.
A buffalo check is easy to match on boxy-style pieces and classic rolled arm designs.
I always make my seat and back cushions first to center and match the pattern. From there I match all other sections of the slipcover to the cushions.
Sometimes it’s not possible to match the pattern in every single area especially if your slipcover design has pleats, tucks and lots of curved seams.
Matching also can be challenging if the check layout is not square. For example, the repeat size might measure 3″ on the vertical and 3 1/4″ on the horizontal. That small 1/4″ difference will throw off the pattern match in a big way.
Fabric: Barston Naples Shade polyester blend.
3. Go with a yarn dye. You will get more bang for your buck when you choose a yarn dyed buffalo check. The pattern is woven not printed, which gives the fabric rich color and some surface interest. The quality of a yarn dye has a more authentic look than a print. It typically wears better, too.
Yarn dyed buffalo checks often come in color combinations and textures you won’t find in a print. The brown buffalo slipcover above is a good example. I don’t know what fabric was used for that project but the P/Kaufman Check Please Java below is a brown option that is uniquely different.
Keep in mind not all yarn dyed buffalo checks are ideal for slipcovers. Stay away from loose weaves and weights under 8 oz. Those are best used for draperies and upholstery.
Some woven BC fabrics in 100% synthetic fiber or blends might not wash and dry very well. Be sure to sample and test before you commit to yardage.
4. Choose a size that compliments your furniture design. Buffalo checks are offered in many different repeat sizes ranging from approximately 2″ to 6″ square. I consider anything smaller than 1″ a gingham check.
Think about which size of buffalo check will work best for your chair or sofa proportions.
Will the check size repeat enough times across the furniture to make the pattern look balanced? Does the size suit the style of slipcover you’re making?
Shelley at Slipcovers by Shelley made this very cute buffalo check seat cover. The small scale pattern is perfect for the proportion of the chair.
Did you notice the little skirt? She made each pleat width the same size as one check width. I love how that created a band of almost solid color all the way around the chair. Smart design!
Talk about choosing the right size check for the job! This beautiful blue and white cover was made by Teresa at Cozy Cottage Slipcovers. The large scale pattern is absolutely spot on for the chair’s boxy shape. And, it’s centered, balanced and matched. Soooooo nice.
I hope these few tips inspire your next slipcover project!
Wow, that is quite a transformation from the floral to the check. Beautiful work!!
Thanks, Julie. I think that piece is Chippendale, possibly 30 years old. Still solid and comfy as can be. Just needed a new look.
Any suggestions of where to find a black and white buffalo check fabric that has larger checks? And one that is affordable?
Hi Jody, I don’t have a particular resource but there are many online fabric stores that sell large scale B & W buffalo checks under $10 /yard. Expect them to be light to medium weight prints, not woven. I would dive into a Google search. I think you’ll find something that will work for your project.
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