Make a Sleeve Board Cover

Finished Sleeve Board Covers - One wool side, one cotton side

Finished Sleeve Board Covers – One wool side, one cotton side

A good sleeve board is something every sewer can use; I find them a bit more useful than a sleeve roll. The small one below I’ve had for years and it was okay but not really long enough, strong enough and it was not well padded. Ann went to New York this week and brought me back the type of sleeve board used in sample rooms and on Project Runway – isn’t it great? These are made by Newhouse Specialty Co. and are sold on their web site. The boards are cut from MDO plywood connected with an aluminum bracket, padded on both sides and each has a muslin cover. The cover is sewn to fit tightly over the open end. On the bracket end a casing with a string pulls it tight. The boards are two different widths, one is for shirts and the other is for jackets. I know from experience that these covers don’t last forever because they scorch from the heat and eventually fall apart. So I made new covers to go over the muslin ones. I made a smooth cotton cover for the shirt board and the jacket side has a wool tweed cover. Pressing tools like hams, sleeve boards and seam rolls have two fabric sides for different situations. The cotton side is used for cottons, lines and blends while the wool side is used with wool, silk and heavy steaming because the wool side absorbs moisture and the pressed fabric dries faster. There is no rule that says one side has to be wool and the other cotton really that’s up to you.

Making a cover like this is easy, just remove the original muslin, rip all the stiches out, press it flat and trace it off to make a pattern. Ripping won’t take long because the original cover made at the factory is sewn with really long stiches and it goes fast. Press the muslin cover flat and connect the dots from the original needle holes to mark the seams. The traced off pattern will look like the example at the right.

The Cover Pattern Traced Off

The Cover Pattern Traced Off


Seam ripper

Cotton string, 20 inches per cover

Fashion Fabric: two 27 x 12 inch remnants of fashion fabric is all you need for each cover and a cross grain or selvage grain layout is fine it doesn’t make any difference. I chose these two fabrics because they look nice together, one is a silk-wool tweed and the other a stretch cotton. The new cover is made exactly like the original the only change is that the center back seam for the fashion fabric cover should be reduced to 5/8 from the original ¾; this little bit of ease will make it easier to pull the fashion fabric cover over the muslin one. Also use a small stitch length on both the fashion fabric cover and the re-sewn muslin.

The process of ripping apart the original cover will pretty much reveal how it goes back together, the steps are these:

Cut out the fashion fabric and clip the four notches as noted on the pattern. The space between the notches is the opening that fits around the aluminum bracket. The area above the notches on the big round end forms the casing for the string. The area below the notches is the t-shaped seam that end fits over the small end of the board.
Fold under the area between the notches to clean finish the bracket opening. Starting at the bottom notch stitch all the way around the big round end folding it to make a casing for the string. Come all the way around to the lowest notch on the other side. Yes, sew from one bottom notch all the way around to the other bottom notch. It’s ok to sew across the top notches as long as you leave enough room to insert the string.
Run the string only through the top notches near the big round end to form the casing.
Fold the fabric rights sides together. Sew the center back seam from the small round end to the first notch. Press this seam open.
Align the rounded cut edges and sew the end seam. Clip this seam to ¼ inch.
Turn the cover to the right side and put both covers, muslin and the fashion fabric, back on the boards. The muslin goes first and the fashion fabric last.

Padding - it's just taped down

Padding – it’s just taped down

A few hints:

This is not fine sewing and I didn’t bother (and neither did the factory) to finish the edges of the muslin for the bracket opening and the string casing, however the wool tweed was ravelly so I serged those edges before sewing the casing. I didn’t serge any of the edges for the t-shaped seam because that end of the cover fits so tightly to the board there’s no reason to do that.



The final assembly: Pull the covers onto the boards one at a time, muslin first and fashion fabric next. Pull the casing string to tighten it around the wide end of the board. Tie several strong knots and clip any extra string. Steam the fashion fabric at both ends of the board so it’s nice and smooth over the padding. Save the traced off patterns to use again when it’s time to replace the covers after they get scorched and stained from pressing; The length of time they last depends on how much you sew, mine last about 2 years.

Enjoy your fab new sleeve board covers!