DIY Ottoman Makeover

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Let’s talk about this ottoman, shall we. Technically, I think it should be called a Footstool. But, I like the word ottoman ~ so that’s what we’re calling it.

Years ago I inherited this ottoman that needed refurbishing. Find out my fast and easy way to make a DIY slip cover that gave this ottoman a whole new look.

Anyhoo, years ago, this ottoman came to me after my grandmother passed away. It was old and ratty back then. It was probably purchased post WWII and used to sit in her faux Colonial furnitured den. It wasn’t expensive furniture back then.

shabby ottoman

Like I said, really, REALLY ratty. Uh, that’s shredded wood in there.

shabby ottoman

It came into our family when the kids were little and money was scarce. I had some leftover fabric from recovering an antique rocking chair so I made a slip cover for the ottoman and called it done.

A few years back, I didn’t need it anymore and was ready to send it on to its reward. At that time my daughter and her husband were setting up their first home and a recovered ratty ottoman worked perfectly.

After moving into our home about a year ago I was still cleaning out fabric stuff when I came across a piece of fabric that I gave to my daughter. She thought it would be perfect for recovering The Ottoman. Well, with homeschooling two boys plus all of their extra activities, a year went by and said ottoman was rattier ratty-er worse than ever.

So, I told her to send bring it to me and I would try to do something with it. And I did. And, I’m going to show you how easy it is so you can save your grandmother’s ratty ottoman and cover it with a piece of fabric someone gave you.

1. Take Measurements

I used a loosely-based formula for calculating the measurement for cutting out my fabric. It’s standard when you want to make a circular skirt to cover a table. I thought, “Heck, if it will cover a round table, surely it will cover a round ottoman.”

Here’s the formula for the cutting length/cutting width:

Diameter of the Ottoman + Drop + Drop + 1″ (for hem allowances) = The cutting length/cutting width (stay with me here, this will all make sense).

This is a picture of the Diameter of the Ottoman which is about 18.5″ across.

measuring ottoman

For the drop I measured to the bottom of the little ruffle. My cover is going to be gathered with a cord on the underside, so this was my best guess-ti-mate since the dang thing is all wonky. But that won’t really matter ~ you’ll see.

The Drop is 10″ so now our formula looks like this: 18.5 + 10 + 10 + 1 = 39.5″. Remember, 39.5″.

measuring ottoman

2. Fold the Fabric

This is how you’re going to get your perfect circle. Fold the fabric in half, matching up selvages and raw edges.

measuring fabric

Now fold the fabric again in quarters, matching raw edges. It’s a good idea to pin this ~ but you will notice that I skipped this step.

Note: If your fabric isn’t going to be wide enough to cover the drop, then you will need to add a piece to both sides of the length to widen the fabric before folding. That’s an entirely different tutorial.

folding fabric

3. Marking the Fabric

Now for the fun part. Pin or hold your tape measure at the center fold point and use it like a compass to mark the Radius. In case you’ve forgotten how to find the radius, it is one-half of our measurement of 39.5″ ~ that means our radius is 19.75″. I rounded down to 19″ because I planned to use my serger on the raw edge. If you don’t have a serger, then keep the extra 3/4 inch.

marking fabric
marking fabric

Now, just like a compass, swing the tape measure left and right marking the fabric with the radius.

DIY Recovering a Footstool

Now, my fabric is a 19″ quarter circle.

marking fabric radius

4. Cut the Fabric

This is the easy part and there is no math. Just cut along your marked line.

cutting fabric

And, this is what you’ll get. Isn’t that great. But wait, we’re not finished yet.

draping fabric over ottoman

5. Create a Casing

So, I cheated a little and serged my circular raw edge. I also raised the differential feed to the highest number. This caused my fabric to pull in a bit. If you don’t have a serger then you will need to fold under the raw edge before creating the casing.

After serging the raw edge I folded it under about 1/2″ and pressed in a hem. Next, I stitched down the casing, leaving an opening for adding the gathering cord.

make a casing

6. Optional Buttonhole

When I turned over the underside of my footstool ottoman I noticed that the legs unscrewed. Hmm. This is a bit of a game-changer. I had originally planned to just add the cord and pull up the cover until it fit.

This opens up a whole new way to recover the ottoman. By making buttonholes I can now put the leg screw through the buttonhole and attach the bolt on the underside.

ottoman underside

So, off came the legs and I added three buttonholes to my cover. I measured three spots each 39″ apart and this roughly gave me three places to set buttonholes. My one mistake ~ I should’ve made them a little larger. #hindsightis2020

buttonhole opening

7. Add Cording to the Casing and Pull!

This part is a little time consuming but super easy. I took a safety pin and threaded the pull-cord around the entire ottoman cover. I used some nylon cord that was in my sewing room {I have no idea how it came to be there ~ I think something similar is available at Joanns}.

add cording to casing

Time to now add the cover to the ottoman. I placed the ottoman in the center of my fabric and began pulling the cording. This required that I carefully shift the gathers so they were even.

As I adjusted the gathers I placed the screw-end of the legs through the buttonholes. Once the gathers were fairly even then I added the nut that attaches the legs and tightened everything up.

gather casing

And, that my friends, is all there is to it. It probably would’ve taken me about an hour to make, but I was taking pictures so that changes the time. Also, I made a practice cover from some $2/yard fabric that I had in my stash. So, technically, this was really my second cover.

finished ottoman

Even though this footstool ottoman had seen better days, the recovering fits the budget of a small family because it cost nothing, nada, zip, zero.

ottoman and chair

Breathing a little more life into a less-than-perfect ottoman is always rewarding. Have you given an old piece of furniture new life lately? I’d love to hear about it.

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  1. That looks really great! I would never have thought to do a casing. I assumed you had stapled it. This way, it is more easily changed. I like it a lot. Making the buttonholes was a good idea too. Nice to give something old another life.

  2. What a great tutorial! Wow, I think I can do this on my old Ottoman! Thank you so much for linking up to The Handmade Hangout, featuring at Redouxinteriors tomorrow 😉

  3. We called that shredded wood material “excelsior” in my childhood. It was a regularly used packing material in the days long before Styrofoam peanuts came into existence.

  4. My friend and I used your directions to cover a hassock (had no legs) using a piece of suede material. The directions were very easy to follow and we were very pleased with the results. Thanks for the great directions!

  5. Hi Leslie, I glad that I found your site. This is vey helpful because I haven’t sewn in many many years. I am going to attempt to make two slipcovers for a pleather ottoman using your tutorial. I am making two covers for it since it is a 2 piece ottoman with storage. There is no hinge and I thought I’d change the cord to elastic. Well, thanks again and I will return to your site!
    Val R.

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