How to Become a Custom Slipcover Maker

Today’s “I Want to Be” Series features Shelley Anderson who works from home part time making custom slipcovers. Shelley is mom to three boys, ages 12, 10 and 8. Find out how to connect with Shelley at the end of this article. 

How long have you had your business?   

12 years-- I started after I had my first baby.

What led you to pursue it?

I made a few slipcovers for myself after we moved into our new house. Friends and family started asking for them....after a few, I decided they weren't free anymore.

This was perfect timing! I was having my first baby and was only to going back to work 3 days/ week as an assistant manager at Bath and Body Works instead of full-time. We needed the money! I did about 1 slipcover a month while working part time at the mall during this time.

When my baby turned a year---I took a leap of faith and quit Bath and Body Works to stay home and sew. The work kept coming---I have never been without work in 12 years.

Are you full time or part time?  If part-time, do you anticipate switching to full time?

I am part time....I try to keep my work to 2-3 days a week. I try to stay balanced and have my "mom" days when I clean, catch up on laundry, cook, etc. But between keeping up on phone calls, and's usually a bit more than I "plan" on.

How do you market your business? 

Word of mouth is my biggest form of advertising. I have lots of repeat clients. If you do a good job and are reliable and dependable---people will REFER you.  The ladies at the fabric store know me and refer me. My upholsterer refers me. My window guy refers me. I have neighborhoods where I have done about 10 different ladies furniture in a 2-3 street radius.  I also keep up on my blog and post before and after pics weekly. I have cards up at the fabric store.

What is your favorite part of the business?

I love working with fabrics and decorating and seeing the finished slipcovers bring a room together. I love first time clients being so excited about their new slipcover, they can't help giving me a hug on my way out the door.

What one question do you get most from people about your business?

How long does it take to sew a couch slipcover? or How did you get started?

What one myth or misconception do you want to dispel about the work you do?

Slipcovers can be fitted and look good! A custom-fitted slipcover isn't a big piece of fabric that's loose and baggy and comes untucked and is sloppy. Custom- fitted slipcovers have piping and separate cushion covers with zippers and fit like a glove.

What advice do you have for others who want to get into a similar opportunity? 

  • It's wise to invest in an industrial sewing machine and serger; they cut down on your time and go through everything. They cost about $500 each used. 
  • Make sure to set boundaries for when you are going to "work" and how much work you are going to commit to at a time. 
  • Be disciplined and try to stick to it. 
  • Take a photography class and practice taking pictures of your work. IT MAKES A DIFFERENCE! If you don't believe me scroll back to the beginning of my blog and take a look at my awful pics! If your pics look great...people will hire you! 
What is the first step? 
  • Do some of your own furniture, then sew some for family and friends. 
  • Put some cards up at the fabric store; make sure the employees know who you are. 
  • Network with upholsterers (they don't like to do slipcovers and will pass the work on to you), decorators, curtain people, etc. 
  • Start a blog and show some before and after pics of your work. Then let the word of mouth spread.   
What websites or books do you recommend for tips?

I have a "How to Slipcover" DVD that I sell from my blog, where I share timesaving tips and tricks that I have learned through trial and error over the past 12 years. With this purchase I share my supplier list for bulk zippers, piping, down cushions, etc.  I share my straight forward "pin- fitting" method on a chair from start to finish...including how to install zippers!  Slipcovering isn't as difficult as what the slipcovering books make it seem. No need to make a pattern from muslin, no need to trace each piece and then try to put all back together like an impossible puzzle, no need to keep taking pieces on and off during the "fitting".

To learn more about Shelley, visit her blog Custom Slipcovers by Shelley as well as her Facebook page.

*Photo by tsuacctnt via Flickr.

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