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Decorating With Canvas Drop Cloths

Linda is a seasoned writer and home-decorating authority. She loves sharing design trends, decor ideas, and useful tips with her readers.

Canvas drop cloths are not just for catching paint spills.

Canvas drop cloths are not just for catching paint spills.

Did you know a basic item from the local home improvement center could lead to a wealth of home decorating possibilities? Canvas drop cloths have made the leap from painter’s best friend to home decorating essential.

They come in a variety of sizes and provide a budget-friendly alternative to off-the-roll decorator fabrics such as cotton denim or twill. Durable canvas drop cloths make excellent slipcovers, curtains and can even pull tough duty underfoot. Inspiration for decorating projects using drop cloths is limited only by your imagination.

Prepping the Fabric

Before you embark on any of these projects, prepare the drop cloth:

  • Launder and dry the it to soften and preshrink the fabric. This is particularly important if you plan of laundering them in the future.
  • Wash it in hot water and mild laundry detergent to remove the unpleasant stiffness and odor of fabric sizing.
  • To lighten the color, add a cup or two of liquid bleach to the wash water and agitate before adding your drop cloth. Run the fabric through the wash cycle and soak for at least 30 minutes. Rinse the fabric several times.
  • Tumble dry on medium heat. Remove wrinkles with a steam iron set on linen.

Note: Drop cloths come in a variety of sizes. If you are washing one that is 5x8 ft, your home machine can probably handle the load. Drop cloths with extra yardage may require a trip to the laundromat to use large capacity washers and dryers.

Designing Slipcovers

Painter’s drop cloths make great slipcovers for ottomans, chairs and sofas. There is really no need for a pattern or exact measurements. The pin-fitting method is much easier and more forgiving. It also allows for minor mistakes without major consequences.

Making a slipcover from a drop cloth is relatively easy if you have decent sewing skills. There is no right or wrong side to the fabric and you don’t have to worry about matching designs.

If you do happen to make a mistake that's not fixable, simply head back to the home improvement center and pick up another drop cloth. It's best to start simple, with an ottoman or dining chair. Work your way up to larger, more complicated furniture pieces.

How To Make a One-Piece Slipcover

  1. Drape your drop cloth over the piece you wish to cover and start pinning and cutting around each section of the furniture piece like the chair back (front and back), seat, arms and skirt. Use straight pins as a cutting guide adding an inch for seam allowances.
  2. Pin the sections together and baste as you go to create the slipcover.
  3. Make any necessary adjustments then double-stitch over the basting stitches for added reinforcement.
  4. Use a zig-zag or overlocking stitch to finish raw edges–this will minimize raveling and stretching.
  5. Press the seams, turn the slipcover right side out and try it on your furniture.

Note: For arm chairs with removable seat cushions, add an extra 6 to 8 inches of fabric at the base of the inside back and inside arms. This excess fabric is designed to tuck down between the back, arms and seat cushions to keep your finished slipcover securely in place.

This is what a single-piece, relaxed drop cloth slipcover looks like.

This is what a single-piece, relaxed drop cloth slipcover looks like.

Updating Dining Room Chairs

You can also use drop cloth fabric to cover dining room chair pads that have seen better days. Just unscrew and lift out the seat, cut out the fabric and place it over the top of the chair pad. Flip the cushion over and staple the fabric around the back edge of the chair pad. Trim away excess fabric and screw the chair pad back into place.

Replace outdated fabric with crisp, clean canvas to give your dining chairs an updated look.

Replace outdated fabric with crisp, clean canvas to give your dining chairs an updated look.

Sewing Easy Pillow Covers

Creating drop cloth canvas pillow covers is almost as easy. If you know how to sew a straight line and create corners, you can whip up several pillow covers in an afternoon. Dye your drop cloth pillows in trendy hues or stencil a large-scale design on the front to add just the right pop of color for your sofa.

Make a drop cloth pillow cover with an overlap closure -- no need for buttons or a zipper.

Make a drop cloth pillow cover with an overlap closure -- no need for buttons or a zipper.

Creating Curtains

Tired of paying big bucks for ready-made window treatments? They're quite expensive, especially if you have a large expanse of windows to cover. DIY drop cloth curtains are the perfect answer. These canvas curtain panels are durable, fade resistant and provide privacy without completely blocking light. You can use them indoors and out. You should be able to find the right size drop cloths to cover most standard windows.

Select the proper size drop cloths, install the curtain rods and hang your drop cloth curtains from clip rings. Remember to add in the length of the ring and clip when determining drop cloth length. This technique is also a great way to fashion a quick and easy shower curtain.

If you want to add some color to your curtains, use fabric paint and painter’s tape to create bold stripes or trendy chevrons. If stripes are too confining for you, try a wild splatter paint effect in several colors to resemble a Jackson Pollock painting.

Pre-made drop cloths transform instantly into curtain panels with the help of clip rings.

Pre-made drop cloths transform instantly into curtain panels with the help of clip rings.

Painting Floor Cloths

If you are looking for a stylish and traditional way to warm up bare floors, consider the humble canvas floor cloth. Floor cloths are a part of Americana. Early settlers used worn canvas sail fabric to create decorative floor coverings before woven rugs became readily available. They would paint and stencil these cloths to provide pattern and color to their dwellings.

Hand-painted floor cloths are a unique alternative to area rugs which can be customized to suit your existing decor. They are economical, easy to clean, hypoallergenic and fun to make. Using a canvas drop cloth eliminates the need to hem the floor cloth. You can find a size that fits perfectly in any room.

Supplies and Instructions

  • Work Table or Ample Floor Space
  • Plastic Sheeting
  • Double-Sided Tape
  • Paint Roller Paint and Artist Brushes
  • Gesso
  • Pencil and Eraser
  • Acrylic Craft and Latex Paints
  • Water-Based Polyurethane Sealer

1. Provide a dedicated area that is free from dirt, well lit and ventilated. A large table or open floor space covered with plastic sheeting will allow you to easily move about the canvas as you paint.

2. Secure the drop to your work surface with double-sided tape. That will enable you to pull it taut and prevent it from shifting. All the supplies needed for this project are readily available at your local art supply, craft store or home improvement center.

3. Make a rough sketch of your floor cloth design. Determine the colors you want to use and purchase either acrylic craft or interior latex paints. Latex house paints come in larger containers and make more sense if you're painting an expanse of cloth. If you are an avid crafter you may even have paint left over from a previous project.

4. Prime both sides of the drop cloth with a paint roller. Let the first side dry for several hours before priming the other side. Allow the primed drop cloth to dry overnight. If your floor cloth requires an overall background color, apply it now as the second part of the priming step. Roll or brush on at least two coats of paint over the primed canvas. Let dry thoroughly before drawing out the design on the cloth surface.

5. Create a freehand design based on a preliminary sketch, use stencils or simply masking off a geometric design with painter’s tape.

6. Start painting by using a thin liner brush to outline shapes and a thicker brush for filling in color. A sponge or paint brush works well for pouncing in stencil color. You may need to apply several coats to achieve your desired effect. Allow the floor cloth to dry for several days to prevent the paint from cracking.

7. Use a wide brush and apply at least three to four coats of water-based polyurethane to seal your floor cloth. Allow at least 4 hours drying time between coats in a room temperature setting with low humidity. Paint the entire surface and brush all the way to the edges, sealing all painted surfaces. The cloudy appearance of the sealer will dry clear. Cure the floor cloth for at least one to two weeks before placing it on the floor.

This is a great floor cloth design idea for a kitchen or breakfast nook.

This is a great floor cloth design idea for a kitchen or breakfast nook.

How To Finish Your Floor Cloth

© 2014 Linda Chechar

Start a Conversation!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on October 08, 2018:

Ethel Smith, these are the most inexpensive fabrics to use around the house! Glad you like these creative tips.

Ethel Smith from Kingston-Upon-Hull on October 08, 2018:

How inventive. Some great ideas and useful how to info here thanks Lindacee

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on May 02, 2014:

Amy Jo Baker, the floor cloths are amazingly durable if you seal them properly. You should be able to just wipe up spills and dirt--so no worries! I agree. I love drop cloth slipcovers--they are rugged and can stand up to lots of abuse (red wine included!) :) Great idea to dye them a darker color. Thanks for reading and commenting on this Hub. It was fun to write. :)

Amy Jo Baker from Orlando, FL on May 01, 2014:

I love your floor cloths! Now to get rid of the dog and four sons so I can have them too. I actually made slipcovers from drop cloths last summer. They have held up to four sons and their friends, pets, guests, parties and general abuse. The fabric gets softer with each wash - love them. In fact, I just dyed mine charcoal grey (few too many parties? red wine?) and am going in to reassemble the couch.

I'm looking forward to your next project!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on March 11, 2014:

vespawoolf, my favorite for floor cloths and curtains because you don't need to sew--the drop cloths are already hemmed. That's my kind of DIY project! Good to "see" you, hope all is well in SA!

Vespa Woolf from Peru, South America on March 11, 2014:

I would have never thought to decorate with drop cloths. I especially like the painted floor cloths and curtains!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on February 11, 2014:

Thank you, teaches! I went on writing hiatus for a few months, so I guess the time off gave me a chance to store up ideas and inspiration. Glad you came over for a read. And, as always, thanks for the comment! :)

Dianna Mendez on February 11, 2014:

What a creative way to spruce up a room. Your creativity is so amazing!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on February 09, 2014:

Ha! Thanks poetryman. I agree. Not everyone is "into" these types of DIY decorating projects. But I'm really glad you appreciate the ideas and stopped by to read and comment! :)

poetryman6969 on February 09, 2014:

I think it works better for you than it would for me. But a cool idea!

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on February 07, 2014:

Most welcome!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on February 07, 2014:

Thanks Jackie! I learned about the magic of canvas drop cloths a number of years ago when I was looking for an inexpensive way to recover dining room chairs. I wanted fabric that was more substantial, but didn't want to pay the price per yard for canvas from the fabric store. I progressed by making a slipcover for a chair. I no longer have the chairs or I could have used photos for the article. Thanks so much for your comment vote and share! :)

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on February 07, 2014:

These are come great ideas and I will def be making some office chair covers, I'd have never dreamed of that and it is so cute! The drop cloth curtains too, wow, possibilities are endless. I love articles like this and this is really impressive for anyone who loves new ideas and saving money! Up and sharing!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on February 06, 2014:

keranique, home decorating has always been a passion of mine and I love to share ideas that spark creativity. Thanks for your kind words! :)

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on February 06, 2014:

Cre8tor, I'm glad you enjoyed this Hub. It took a while to research and write, but I think the end result was well worth the effort. I even learned a thing or two about decorating with drop cloths. Thanks for the vote! :)

Dan Reed on February 06, 2014:

Nice Hub and some very cool ideas for drop cloths. I never really thought of this stuff but always liked the look and feel of canvas. Thanks for sharing! Voted up!