A simple guide for making protective sofa arm slip covers
It is relatively simple to make your own protective sofa arm covers. The material you choose for them will depend on whether you wish to protect them from actual wear, or just from soiling. Either way, I find it most convenient to use something that can be thrown in the washer and dryer. If you use a heavier, upholstery-type fabric, it might be wiser to have them dry cleaned.
Your next choice is color, of course. If it’s possible to get fabric that matches the sofa itself, this looks neat and almost invisible. Otherwise contrasts or a color that picks out one of the colors in the upholstery, or matches the sofa pillows, or the curtains in the room. In any case it isn’t necessary to limit yourself to one choice. Make a set to serve each of these purposes!
The first thing to do is to measure the arms of the sofa and calculate how much fabric you will need. The covers can reach right down the inside of the arm and tuck in, while covering the length of the arm to tuck in at the back. Alternatively, you may just want a cover that accommodates an elbow or hand (a shoe, if you have teenagers).
If you are planning on the fully protective version, measure from the inside crevice between the seat and inside arm, up over the arm, and down to about the same level on the outside of the sofa. Then add two inches for a hem allowance and six inches to be tucked in on the inside.
The width should be measured from the front of the top of the arm, along the arm to the back of the sofa, adding half an inch for a seam allowance in front and four inches to tuck in at the back and down the corner between the back and the arm.
If the covers are to be smaller, you can pretty much measure them from and to wherever you’d like them to be. You should do the same for the width, depending how far you want them to go back on the arm. Don’t forget the half inch for seam allowance at the front and two inches for hem allowances on the ends.
For the front piece, cut a strip a couple of inches wider than the widest part of the front of the sofa arm. Cut the length to match the length you’ve chosen for your cover.
Position the cut fabric over the sofa arm; right side up, tucking in the allowance at the inside arm crevice and the back for the larger cover. For the smaller one, balance the fabric so that both ends fall to the same length on the inside and outside of the arm. For both versions, make sure that the front of the fabric extends half an inch over the front of the arm. Anchor to the upholstery of the sofa around the front curve of the arm.
Place the front strip on the front of the arm and pin to the main piece, following the front curve of the arm.
Remove the entire cover carefully from the arm. Turn the seam from the right side to the wrong side, matching the insertion of the pins to their original position, only on the inside now. Trim the seam allowance on the front piece to match the seam allowance on the larger piece.
Sew the pieces together, inserting piping into the seam as you go if you wish. This would be a better finish for heavier fabrics. Or just use a regular seam for more lightweight covers.
In the case of a regular seam, I press the seam open first, and then fold over so that the right side of the seam is exactly on the edge of the fold (a little tricky with such a curved edge). Pin in place and run a line of machine stitching about a quarter of an inch from the edge on the outside.
Finish the hems, by hand or machine, including the edges that will be tucked down inside the sofa. Press and fit.