7 Things That Make a Fabric Print Ideal for Slipcovers

Coral Color Prints for Slipcovers
Clockwise: Swavelle Glenburn, Richloom Posies, Kelly Rippa Swoon Matelasse, PKaufmann Adelaide Tigerlily

Have you ever shopped for home decor prints online and completely got caught up in the thrill of the hunt?

If you have, you know how much fun it is to click through dozens of colorful fabric designs and envision how each one would look in a slipcover.

Before you know it, several hours have flown by and your list of favorites is a mile long. Florals, geometrics, foliage, paisleys, ikats, stripes, checks, stripes and more. Who knew there were so many gorgeous possibilities?

Finding prints you like is fairly easy. But narrowing down your selection to just one is the tricky part. Why?

Read the descriptions and you’ll quickly discover print designs vary greatly not only in color and theme but also in fabric type, fiber content, repeat size, weight, width, finish, price, and washability.

That’s a lot to decipher! With so many considerations and only a digital image to look at, how in the world do you begin to weed through your options?

The key is to know what makes a print ideal for a washable slipcover. Below are the top 7 things:

Slipcover Fabric Prints Blue
Clockwise: Magnolia Berlin Stripe, Swavelle Hopedale, Richloom Maison Baltic, Magnolia Belmont Harbor

1. Fabric Type

Look for designs printed on plain canvas, duck and slub canvas that are tightly woven.

2. Fiber Content

Go with 100% cotton, 100% linen or a blend such as cotton/linen and linen/rayon. If you choose a fabric with rayon content, make sure it’s under 15% to avoid weird shrinkage and wrinkle.

3. Weight & Coverage

Medium, heavy weight and very heavyweight prints that are tightly woven work best. Don’t bother with lightweight. Keep in mind weight definitions can differ from retailer to retailer.

I prefer a 10 or 12 oz print (that’s my definition of a medium to heavy weight) for slipcovers that get moderate use and a couple washes per year. Unfortunately, most prints are 7 to 8 oz. yet described as a heavyweight. Yes, it’s confusing. Just know an 8 oz print will work fine if the fabric is tightly woven.

3. Personality

Colors, theme and scale give a print its own unique look and feel. The overall design can set a specific mood in your space and/or evoke certain feelings. Ask yourself, do you love the print enough to live with it day after day? Does it bring you joy?

4. Repeat Size

A print design repeats over and over on the fabric up the roll and across the width. Look for the horizontal repeat size and vertical repeat size in the fabric description. You’ll need that info to estimate yardage. The bigger the number (inches) the larger the print scale. Make sure the scale suits your chair or sofa.

Slipcover Fabric Prints Foliage Green
Top: C+S Front Yard Sunflowers. Bottom: Robert Allen Shibori Sol Sea Grass. Left: PKaufmann Country Cottage

5. Finish

Certain printed fabrics are treated with chemicals to make them resistant to stains, repel moisture, or have fire-resistant coatings. If you don’t need those types of features, opt for a print without a special finish.

6. Width

Look for prints that are 54 inches wide or wider for armchair and sofa slipcovers.

7. Washability

Almost all natural fiber prints are labeled dry clean only. However, many of them can be washed with good results. See my preshrink instructions here. To know for sure if your favorite print will work for a washable slipcover, buy 1 yard and do a machine wash & dry test.

Now that you know what to look for, narrow down your search by fabric pattern, weight and price in the home decor section. l also like narrowing my search by my favorite brands, such as these:

The links above will take you to the brand’s websites, which are set up for the trade, but you can browse the different print collections. Note the name and color of the prints you like and then search for them on fabric retail sites.

When you find prints you like, and they meet the 7 attributes, order swatches. Never, ever buy yardage without seeing a swatch first.

Fabric descriptions and online images only tell part of the story. Order a swatch to review actual color, hand-feel and coverage. But to see the full repeat or get a good idea of how the print will look in your space, get a one yard piece.

Happy print shopping!