I thought I’d focus this post not so much on the how to, but the what to use in terms of recycled items. It’s not only good for the environment in terms of less landfill, but saves money, time in terms of shopping trips, packaging, and fuel going to get/having delivered the resources.
I’ve always loved this style of French cane chairs…
Gorgeous isn’t it? So when I saw this on le Bon Coin I knew I wanted it. For 35€ it was a good price too, particularly as the style above is sold in the region of $1,500…
The fabric is obviously 🤢, but the frame is solid with no woodworm and the springs are strong. I checked this when I went to buy it, but the other thing I noticed was that the seat cushion filling is a little strange. It’s sort of….crispy 🤨. Not dirty, but it has a crispy kind of sound when you press it. Weird.
So straight away I knew that this would need to be replaced. That’s ok though. As many of you who follow the blog know I like to salvage as much as I can, so I actually have some feather pads and foam from furniture that is no longer wanted for various reasons. When I first started doing up old furniture I was shocked at just how expensive these items can be, so now any furniture that may have been just taken to the tip gets a good going over to see what can be kept in the attic until I can use it.
You can see that my chair and the one I like are different in shape, which I’m ok with, but the back rest is very different. It doesn’t have wings, but I wandered if behind the padding was more cane. When I got it home I started to look under the fabric and found this…
A solid wood frame, and some strange wadding. It also reeks of cat, yuck.
So there’s no lovely rattan back to reveal, so that’s going to have to be reupholstered in a similar style, but I wanted a more modern wadding. Under the seat pad it looks like this….
The wood itself I really like and, although I had intended to give the chair the whitewashed effect of the target chair, I started to think I’d actually like to keep it as it is. The one thing that gave me pause was the idea that I already had this ottoman….
which I thought would go really well with the chair. However it’s legs were painted white, so I needed to check out if if they could be made like the chair, or if the chair would need to be made like the ottoman. Either away I wanted to bring the chair more in line with this structure on the left, so that I can put the two together like the one on the right…
I knew I’d need to have a second pad on the top of the ottoman that will match that on the chair. So let’s get to work.
After removing the fabric and wadding at the back of the chair I could see those strong springs and this interior section which is still in good shape.
Here’s the front – I’ve yet to hoover off the remainder of the wadding. As I focus on recycling it’s obvious that this is something that can be maintained.
I had to unscrew the side arms to remove the material tucked in. It was hard going as it’s a well made piece.
I disconnected the two springs holding the material that he’d the seat pad above in place and removed it, splitting the worn material open to reveal this deteriorated sponge. I shook that out and washed the remaining material; this and the internal panel was kept. It might not be pretty, but is still strong fabric. So it needed to be washed and have foam placed on top to replace the interior foam. The frame and back were hoovered really well as it was mainly in good condition.
I then used some salvaged foam from a sofa bed that we aren’t going to be using in this home. I cut a foam seat pad in half before cutting it into the shape of the backrest. The second half was going to be used on the seat.
I used fabric glue spray to attach the foam to the seat back, and added fresh wadding from an unused throw cushion that I stapled into place with its interior lining.
The remainder of that sofa bed is going to be used on other projects, so I’ll keep you updated.
The rest of the chair was covered with this knew, lavender velvet material. I also added a new seat pad from the additional back cushions of the sofa bed….
Then for the ottoman.
I made another pad from the sofa bed cushion and sewed one side of a zip along its length. Then I sanded the legs and stained them with this stain and wax, left it two hours then buffed it into a shine.
I took material sufficient to cover the original ottoman and placed it on top of it. Then I put the new pad on top and pushed into both ends of the other side of the zip, then further pinned it along its length. Undoing the zip entirely, I then sewed the second half to the still loose material.
Reattaching the two sides of the zip to make sure the pad was placed correctly I stapled the material on the four sides of the ottoman with one staple each side. After removing the zip again I then stapled the fabric to the ottoman and covered the base in the contrasting fabric.
I’d already added grey piping to the pads, but now I finished the project with some gold, nail-head trim.
It has a very different feel to the target chair, but it goes very well with the room. My daughters love it. Its positioning in t window gives it a perfect place to read and dream 🥰.
I thought I’d focus this post not so much on the how to, but the what to use in terms of recycled items. It’s not only good for the environment in terms of less landfill, but saves money, time in terms of shopping trips, packaging, and fuel going to get/having delivered the resources.
I haven’t just recycled the chairs, I’ve used elements from a sofa bed in this and other projects; so this is one of a series. The sofa bed just didn’t fit the style of our house, but it has foam, wadding, webbing for seats, wood etc. There’s a lot to reuse.
In this case I ripped off the material that covered the padding on the frame of the sofa bed and found foam and wadding that was clean and ready to use.
Here are the chairs pre upcycle…
…..you can see the seat pad is quite thin and it’s quite low down. This is because the part that covers the chair dips down and the seat pad nestles in there. I wanted to smooth out that area so I could just cover the seat with material rather than reproduce something like this…
I removed all the nail heads first. As you prise them off they become too irregular to nail in again and I want to replace them with gimp braid trim anyway. Nevertheless I think they may be able to be salvaged for another project. Perhaps seperating out the reusable ones, and then removing the twisted nails from those that can’t be used. The latter can have their heads used by gluing them on, with the salvaged nails used spread throughout the project.
The material I’ve used to cover the interior of the chair was one I’d bought online at minimum expense from a discount supplier on eBay. The material was originally distributed by Next and is this lovely lavender velvet. It’s also very thick, so good for an upholstery project. As there are two chairs I knew there wouldn’t be sufficient to cover both entirely, but I’d already considered using a second complimentary fabric on the exterior. I was really pleased with the result when completed.
Throughout the project I reused the padding that was already there, as the chair had evidently been reupholstered in its life and these were in good condition.
I took the original apart and sewed the new interior sides and back together in a similar style. However I couldn’t get it as snug.
Oh, and I also built up the seat here.
I hand sewed the gimp braid, adding a stitch every cm or so. I think it gives a cleaner look than the alternatives.
I’ve made covers for the vast majority of our living room furniture. Each time I do it I get more skills and now the room is looking really good. Most of the time we don’t need to buy brand new furniture, a fabric change can make all the difference. It saves the environment too!I’ve used the same pin to pattern technique that I talked about in this post here (you should definitely go read it to get tips on the right cotton and needles to use as well as other upholstery essentials). I did this because I knew taking the chair cover apart would be extremely time consuming and I’ve now finished so many upholstery jobs like this I knew I could. I hope with this detailed step by step how to you’ll be able to too. There are lots of pictures so that it will be really clear. Let me know in the comments if it helps.
I should point out before I start that I’m self taught in all my upholstery techniques, but this work for me.I would advise you before you start to read the entire instructions through.
Prior to starting your project it’s a good idea to photograph all the details of the chair cover construction so you can refer back to it throughout even though you’re not taking it apart.
Step 1 – The Outside Side Arm
I actually kept the old cover on for this as I wanted a guideline for the seam that runs underneath the arm of the chair. I started by taking a piece of fabric (still on the whole expanse) and pinned it to the length of the existing seam. When you are satisfied with the position of the fabric pin all over the area that you want to use to fix it in place, then cut the fabric mirroring the shape of the piece you want. In the bottom image you can see the curve of the front of the exterior, side arm.
Leave a generous amount of fabric allowance cut the rear fabric too and then, taking the length all the way to the floor, cut along the length of the floor until you reach the other side. Congratulations; you’ve just completed your first no pattern upholstery piece.
Step 2 – The Inside Side Arm
Next start on the inside of the arm.
It’s good to have some piping to give the chair more definition. I often use flanged piping as ii’s easier. Pin the piping to the existing line, just as you did before. Then lay a piece of material over the inside of the arm of the chair – again, keep all the length of material together at the moment. You need to make sure that it is positioned well in terms of the pattern and the structure. It is also good to think about how it is going to match to the existing piece of fabric below.
Make a note of the main pattern on the exterior of the arm, in this case a rose, and see where your fabric repeats that (see the images below). Reposition the fabric at this point to ensure it can be included well in the final design.
Roughly pin what will be the inside arm piece of fabric to the exterior arm piece and again pin all over the inner arm to fix the material before cutting. Then, allowing for a generous excess of fabric, cut the fabric so that it extends beyond the arm of the chair, covering about a quarter to a third of the seat as well as part of the lower back of the chair. Then cut the fabric.
When you fit your fabric you’re going to push some material down the side of the chair to make it snug, so you need sufficient material for this.
When you have your second piece of material undo all the fixing pins then remove your two pieces material to a comfortable area to work. Then re-pin the joined fabrics, so that the pattern is accommodated the best but ensuring that they stay in the same place in terms of the pattern.
Sew the pieces together using your zipper foot to accommodate the piping.
Step 3 – The Front Chair Arm
When I cut out the first chair panel for the exterior arm I was left with a square of fabric attached to the rest that I knew wouldn’t be useful for a main part of the structure so I cut it off like this…
I used this piece of fabric for the front of the arm as well as the upper, side of the seat.
Identify a part of the pattern you want to use, in this case I isolated out a smaller rose and positioned it centrally to the front arm. Fix in place with lots of pins again, paying particular attention to the sides of the structure so you have a clear view of what you need to be doing.
I noted before hand that this panel of the arm needed to extend all the way down the length of the chair, so you’ll see the material extends beyond the arm itself. Your photos of the chair before hand can help you when you make decisions like this.
Cut out the shape of the front of the arm, again allowing for a generous amount of fabric. Then pin the pipping around the shape of the front of the arm. I’d noted my piping stopped a few inches below where the seat started on the interior of the part, but it would need to have piping all the way down the exterior, so I cut and pinned the piping according to this.
Sew this onto the material.
Section 4 – The Front and Back of the Chair
Position the fabric so that it best displays your fabric’s pattern. I try to get my material so that it is as close to the edge as possible whilst allowing for the pattern in order to save material. You can see below in the second and third pictures this in practise.
As this is a structured chair the top of the back has a roll type shape. I did this in two separate pieces as the original cover had that. It turns out that underneath in the middle there is a very slight increase which I’d never have known. So those photo notes where worth it.
I pinned all the way along and under this roll and then cut along and down the side of the fabric – again, leaving a generous amount of fabric.
Section 5 – The Back of the Chair
This piece adjacencent to the fabric I cut for the front was sufficient for the back of the chair (they were uneven in width to accommodate the pattern of the fabric. Folding the top of the material over and inwards and with the pattern facing the right way pin the fabric in place along and underneath the scroll by pushing the pins deep into the chair upholstery.
Placing pins down the sides enables you to fix the material to ensure that the pattern is straight.
Cut it off parallel to the floor, as with the others.
Replace the pins so that only the two pieces of fabric are connected and then sew along the line.
Section 6 – Side, Top
Position the fabric so that it is displayed well then liberally pin to fix it whilst working. Cut around the shape allowing for a generous amount of material. Make sure to extend the material down to where the external, arm piping is as shown.
Attach the piping to sew, allowing enough to reach the external, side arm piping and a little more as well as enough to reach the floor at the back. Sew in place.
Pin around the front and back of the side panel as shown below. Be sure to only pin and sew around the side arm – but;
* leave about an inch at the back spare (ie don’t go all the way down the side panel).
*Don’t go all the way down the front either, just go to about an inch below the piping of the external arm as shown.
Take the material from the chair, fold the material edges underneath and re-pin in the same position in order to create a smooth edge and hem. Sew together and then turn the fabric inside out and trim the excess material from the underneath section leaving about one inch of fabric spare.
Repeat section 1 – 6 for the other side of the chair up until the pinning of the fabric for the front and back of the chair onto the top, side. Take into account the next point though.
Step 7 – Space for a zip
We’re going to add a zip at the other side, so only pin and sew to about two inches below where the front and back pieces of fabric meet under the ‘scroll’.
Step 8 – Sewing Down the Sides
It’s best to complete the next few steps a little bit at a time even though it’s frustrating having to take off the heavy material again and again. Start by finishing off the part of the top, side of the back rest where it tailors down to meet the side piping. Fold the fabric under to reveal the piping and pin in position to the other piece. Prior to doing this it’s best to have pinned the fabric to the opposite side to the length of the chair edge to ensure the fabric remains in the right place. Just push the pins through the fabric into the upholstery of the chair itself. This way when you pull and pin on the arm you’re working on you won’t pull to much fabric and end up with a skewered result.
Tuck the piping under the fabric as you reach the horizontal piping and pin in position. Sew this part.
Pin the horizontal piping to the fabric so that it curves slightly in order to taper it off as it meets the back fabric. Fold and fix the fabric and pin in position. Sew in place.
Then when this is finished pin the vertical length of piping along the edge of the back fabric of the chair. It’s helpful to re-pin the arm in position as you did the back fabric before to make sure it fits well. Sew this in place.
Refix the back of the fabric in place as before with pins pushed into the chair itself prior to pinning the piping to the rear piece of fabric. Sew in place.
I made sure that these lengths were sewn as far as the top, rear leg as I knew I’d need to do work to fit the fabric to the underneath of the chair too.
Step 9 – Sewing the Zip
Opening the zip pin it the front side then sew in place. Be sure to have the end of the zip length go up under the part that you’ve already sewn.
Then close the zip again prior to pinning the zip to the back fabric, folding the material over and under so it fits snugly. Open the zip to ensure there isn’t any blockage to its function and repin the zip when you’ve ensured it is allowed to work.
Again, only sew to the top of the chair leg.
Section 10 – Sewing the base front
I used an off cut of material this section, ensuring it could be placed with the fabric in the right direction as well as cover a quarter to a third of the flat, seat area. I gauged the width so it was the width of the chair, then I fold the ends under and pinned it in position so that they ran along the horizontal lines of the front, arm bases. I sewed like this so that there was an obvious seam as I thought it looked aesthetically better.
Notice how my seam starts at the same point where the seat of the chair stops folding inside the arm. Any excess piping was fitted behind this added section, so that it comes to a natural end where the seat starts.
Section 11 – Sewing the Seat
The excess fabric of the base front, interior arms and the seat back now need to be connected to each other as well as the seat.
Start by connecting the excess material of the interior arm to the front. Lay the interior arm material flat then connect it to the folded under front, base material with a pin. You need to sew here so that there is a seam between the two piece of fabric, not allowing any gaps. Do this on the other side as well.
Next get appropriate amount of material for the base – one that covers it as well as some of the sides as shown in the first image.
What you’re intending to do is attach the seat to the other fabric whilst maintaining a sufficient amount of excess fabric so that you can push this down the sides and back the chair to make it fit better when completed, whilst allowing some movement of fabric in every day use as well as being able to take the fabric off to clean.
It’s easier to work with the whole thing inside out. Start by pinning the seat fabric to the top of the front, base; sew this. Then do the same with the sides and back panels. Sewing in between each stage is a lot easier than trying to do it all at once as these areas are uneven.
Turn the material back the right way and zip up the side prior to ‘fitting’ the chair by pushing any excess material down the arm sides and back. It’s amazing how such a mess can be made to look neat huh?
Section 12 – The Velcro Fastenings
My structured chair already had one half of the velcro fastening glued and sewn into the chair as it originally has removable and washable covers. If yours doesn’t you made need to do this yourself.
First of you need to go around where the legs of the chair are and pin so it follows this line. On my chair the fabric sits above the the rear, square legs but tucks underneath the from, screw in legs. So I just did this to the back legs, but continued in the same vein as below around all of the front.
Go around the base of the chair pulling the fabric tight and pinning a hem about one inch in extension from the base. You’re going to sew your corresponding piece of velcro to this area and then bend and attach it to its mirror under the chair base. In this way it will give the chair that fitted look and keep it in place.
When you have removed the cover from the chair to sew it go around the pin hem and, as there should be sufficient excess material, fold the fabric back on itself to cover the edging within the hem. This way you won’t have any frayed area under your chair.
Sew the hem first, then attach the corresponding velcro strip to the hem and sew again.
For the velcro strip I suggest using a zig zag stitch so that the strip is secured over its width. You don’t need to worry about doing this as it won’t be seen – it will be folded underneath the chair after all. I said earlier that i use my zip foot throughout, nut if you’re going to use a zig zag stitch its necessary to change to an ordinary foot first. Sew, then fit your cover to the chair.
Section 13 – The Seat Pad
Lay the fabric onto the seat pad and ensure that you position the pattern well if there is one.
Pin the piping around the exterior of the seat pad staying as close as possible to the structure. Cut the fabric away from the whole allowing about an inch of excess material. Sew in place.
In order to take the cushion cover on and off to clean it you want a zip, so need to include an opening that covers about one third of the back. Pin the length of the zip to the piping flange attached to the seat material with the zip teeth in line with the piping itself. The zip should run in a U shape at the end. My seat pad has a slightly tapered design so I made sure that the zip was at the narrower end.
Cut a length of material that will fit the depth of the seat pad along with the length needed to surround it. I used an off cut for this as I’d bought a job lot of material (see my tips on bargain, upholstery material finds here) and I wanted to save as much material as possible for another job. As a result I didn’t want to cut into large, whole piece and used two slim, offcuts. I just sewed two lengths together, making sure the pattern side that I wanted faced each other so that the seam was the right way when opened.
This meant that I had to ensure that any seams would be on the sides of the cushion to disguise them and I considered this when positioning my fabric prior to pinning the next section. Even if you have one, long continue length you’ll need to consider having the seam connecting the two ends of fabric at the one side for the same reason.
With the zip closed and the edge of the depth fabric folded to give a hem, pin along the length of the zip. Make sure that there is enough of a hem to completely cover the zip and touch the upper piping when pinning (you can see this best in the fourth and fifth pictures below). Prior to sewing the zip to the depth fabric sew a horizontal line about an inch before both ends of the zip to hold them in place and stop your zipper head getting lost within the fabric. It’s best to sew the opposite end to the zip head with the zip closed (so that the zip head is away from it). Then open the zip fully, before re-zipping and opening it only slightly, ensuring the sides are still parallel before sewing the other end.
By doing this you should have also corrected any pins that block the zippers function prior to sewing the length.
Continue pinning the rest of the depth material in place around the seat fabric and then sew this in place too.
To join the two ends together I pin all the way around allowing one edge to overlap the other. I fold this top edge over at the end and pin it along the depth. when the entire length is sewn I just continue straight over this area as if its a continuous run, then I sew along the depth. You can see this in the seventh image below.
Follow the same method to make a section for the other side of the seat cushion. In the final image above you can see that the sewn top and sides of the seat pad have been placed onto the seat pad itself. Do this then turn the seat over keeping the fabric in place. Then pin the depth to the other seat cushion piece as below. You should now be able to unzip your cushion and gently tease it out of the cover, ensuring the pins remain in place. Turn the whole cover inside out then sew in place. Trim off any excess on the interior so it doesn’t bunch, leaving about 1 inch of material.
One word of warning about doing your own upholstery; you become obsessed with keeping your furniture pristine and any spills from the kids become a red light situation! Nevertheless it is satisfying to see your home come together for minimal amount of money and you suddenly develop more of an appreciation for the skills artisans have!
I’m going to do an update soon on our living room and how it’s being gradually changed over the year.
That’s as detailed as I can make it. If you give it a go let me know – would love too see some pictures! Any questions just drop a comment in the box!
The first tip is to consider the thread you’re going to use. Your furniture has a lot of use. If you’re sat on your sofa reading this think about how it’s impacting the fabric and seams. As your body pushes the filling to compact the material is pulled down also and this causes stress on the seams. If you’ve ever worn clothes that are too tight (guilty) you’ll have noticed how this extra pressure on the seams causes them to give. You don’t want that to happen to your sofa after you’ve spent lots of time making them (and it’s hard work).
So when I started to upholster my couches I made sure to buy thread that was specifically made for upholstery. I got mine here and even though it was expensive it was well worth it. You can alternatively use a zig zag stitch to make your seams stronger, but I would highly recommend this.
As you can see by the picture the spoils are big as they’re designed for professional machines. However I just place mine in something beside the machine and it continues to work fine.
As with the thread your choice of needle is essential. You’re going to be going through thick fabric designed to take a lot of stress, so your needle will face a lot of stress too. I was delighted with how these needles worked, they didn’t snap and considering I’ve broken a lot of needles when I sew that’s saying something!
When selecting the material you need to consider how strong it is and what you’re using it for. I’ve used lighter fabrics on dining chairs when I’ve upholstered them in the past and, even though they looked stunning when I first did them, they didn’t wear well over time. They’ll have to be redone soon meaning not only more time but additional cost too.
If it’s something like an occasional chair you can use mid-weight fabrics, but you have to be honest about how often it will be sat in. For example this Queen Anne chair is only ever sat in when all our other seats are taken when we have a lot of people over – so high days and holidays. So a mid-weight fabric was fine for it.
I use this chart from here to assess how much material I’ll need, but I always order more than necessary by about three metres. It means that if something should go terribly wrong I have additional material quickly to rectify the situation- and as it takes a long time to reupholster a sofa or chair you don’t want additional days waiting for new fabric to complete a frustrating project.
Also if you ever have a section of your upholstered piece ruined beyond redemption then you can replace that section if need be. No matter how good Vanish is (and I always have a bottle of the spray around for wine spills and it’s been a life saver) it can’t fix holes. My original sofa fabric has holes in it from wear and although there was a patch of fabric so I could salvage it prior to having the time to cover it it’s still a patch, even though it’s successfully concealed (for my tips on this look here).
5. When selecting the design think about this
Does it have a big bold pattern? If so you’ll also need to think about pattern repeat and the additional material you’ll need to make sure the pattern ‘flows’ throughout the sofa. This is tricky – this was the first sofa I upholstered with a pattern and, although it’s not a deal breaker, I wish I’d thought more carefully about how I was going to match the pattern when I was cutting out.
This leads me on to the next topic too…
6. Buying fabric as inexpensively as possible
Good upholstery material is expensive. A durable, heavy weight fabric is going to be setting you back at least £20/€25 euros a metre. Since a regular couch require up to 16 metres, excluding piping, then that’s a lot of money (for my pocket anyway). It’s still less expensive than a new couch, but the whole point of learning this skill is to save as much as possible.
What I do now is go on eBay and put in ‘upholstery fabric’ in the search engine and then in the criteria options on the let hand of the page I tick over ten metres, bail and whole rolls. You see when a fabric is distincontinued as fashion and seasons change there are often half or whole rolls of fabric that are removed from general sale an de they pass into the hands of discounters who sell them as whole batches on eBay.
So for example, as duck egg blue goes out fabric in that shade passes on to discounters.
I bought th fabric for the sofa above for £50 for 27.5 metres and it cost me about £30 for delivery. I used eBay uk because there doesn’t seem to be a similar discount system in France. However even with the cost of delivery it works out at about £3 per metre!
As we have two sofas I stick to similar tones so that I can buy sufficient fabric in this way.
7. Wash the fabric before you start
I didn’t do this once and when I did wash the fabric it shrunk significantly. Luckily it was the first couch I’d covered and I’d sewn them too baggy and after washing they fit perfectly. For obvious reasons I wouldn’t want to chance repeating this experience and risk them going too small next time.
As upholstery fabric is expensive you may want to consider whether you choose a contrasting piping that’s premade or make your own piping. Making piping is relatively easy, however it takes a lot of fabric when you consider the price. So you may save time and money by buying piping separately.
In terms of the sofa above I used the same fabric and made my piping as there was a significant amount left over.
9. Re-use fabric from elsewhere
I’ve trawled second hand shops before searching for good quality, mid weight curtains that have been kindly donated by someone. I’ve used this kind of material to cover occasional chairs too.
I’ve mentioned the first couch I covered, which I don’t use in our living room now as it’s a sofa bed. I’m probably going to use it elsewhere and I think I will cover it again in more neutral tones. It was pink velvet and with the lilacs seemed too feminine in our new living room. However I hated wasting the fabric, so I dyed it and covered another chair with it. Once you learn the skill of upholstery covers it can be very beneficial in getting a new look relatively inexpensively.
I spoke in this post about how I used Pinterest as a source of inspiration for design details. I’ve also used it to find upholstery how tos. They’re so good I decided to do this list of tips rather than my own!
11. Unpicking V pinning
In order to get a pattern for your sofa you can do it one of two ways. You can remove and unpick all of the previous covers, preferably salvaging zips, cord for piping etc as you go. To do this it’s best to have a marker with you to label each piece (cushion 1 front, cushion 1 side, cushion 1 back etc) as well as details such as whether it’s joined to the other parts by a seam, with piping, has a zip fastening etc. It’s also a good idea to get you phone out and photograph each section as you taken it apart to give you a record to refer back to in case how you’ve marked each piece suddenly stops making sense.
I tend to use that method when a cover is beyond any chance of saving for obvious reasons. However if that’s not the case, and if feeling the original material through the new fabric isn’t an issue, I take the material still in its entirety and pin it to the part I want to replicate. I then cut an approximate size of the piece and use that as a pattern to make a cover for the top of the upholstered piece.
I will do this as a unique post later because it bares explaining in detail. However it’s far better in your initial upholstery attempts to go with the unpicking method if possible. There will be trickier areas where you will have to work out how to make a slipcover work – you’ll have to ensure the material fits neatly on the seat of the chair frame and under the cushions for example. Previous experience will help you do this.
12. Placing the new ‘pattern’ to get the most out of your fabric
As I said in fabric selection you need to be able to ensure that any pattern is used successfully prior to cutting. Back to this sofa you can see how the couch cushions have the main focus of the pattern centrally to the cushion cover. If you flip these over you’d see that it’s not the case the other side. It was only after I’d cut out the first part of these that I realised I needed to be thinking about doing it! Lesson learned.
13. Use pinking shears for the hems
I haven’t the capacity on my machine for a blanket stitch to protect the edges – at least I don’t think I do, not an expert sewer – so I use these to stop fraying.
14. Cutting before mitring
This is an obvious, but so essential it bears spelling out just in case. Upholstery material is thick. A piece of fabric, sewed onto piping grosgrain, then another piece of thick material! If you’re not mitring you’ll find it won’t fit under the sewing machine foot.
15. Design details for mistakes
The first couch I covered I didn’t notice that the previous cover that I’d unpicked and used as a pattern didn’t actually fit anymore. I’d bought it second hand and the cover had evidently been washed and had shrunk. As a result when I went to put the new cover on it didn’t fit. It took me ages to realise what had happened and I confirmed it by spreading the old cover along to back of the couch – it was too short!
I was so frustrated. What was I going to do? All the cutting had taken place and there was no material big enough to replace what was needed. Unfortunately as the cover has now been used for my new arm chair as I’ve previously said, I can’t show you the eventual outcome. However what I did was make a sort of capped sleeve of pleated fabric to create extra width.
Simmilarly when I reused that material I found there wasn’t a piece big enough for the back of the sofa. So I divided what would be the back into three parts and made a button, fastening feature to disguise it. The back of that chair you can now see below.
16. Alternative fastening
Just because you have your ‘pattern’ doesn’t mean you can’t make intelligent changes. My original couch covers were very fitted and it was always a struggle to get them on and off when they needed cleaning. So when I recovered this couch I used a flap and butting fastening. A great way to make it easier and prettier!
17. Zip foot
Obviously you have to use a zip foot for the zip closing, but to be honest I keep mine on throughout. Thick fabric and piping elements make the material a challenge to handle and it helps with my use of time to just use this.
18. Make sure that you organise your time
I spent a week working pretty consistently on my last armchair, so you need to know from the outset this will take some time and plan accordingly. Obviously you can cover the sofa with a throw, but you don’t want a naked sofa around a long time – particularly if you have little ones around. I stripped an ottoman to cover recently, went to the kitchen to do something and found my youngest had torn holes out of the foam!
Which leads me to…
19. Remember your mirror images
Unless your going to re-use zips etc you can just unpick one back cushion and one seat cushion. Then reuse the pattern with the opposite side to create a mirror. It means at least one set of cushion covers will remain on the couch at all time throughout and that’s less of an opportunity for little fingers.
It also means you can unpick the back cushion, make the two cushions, then unpick the base cushion for the same reason.
Obviously if you use the pinning method above you don’t have to strip the sofa or armchair of the current material and therefor you can spend longer completing the project.
20. Upholstery staples
When upholstering with a staple gun you must ensure your staples are fit for purpose. This means making sure they have sufficient depth, so always buy the largest staples to fit your gun and a heavy duty staple gun that fires well.
I’m about to do a post on covering the main body of a couch with a scalloped edge so stay tune for that; hit subscribe and follow on Instagram and Pinterest to be alerted when it comes out. Any comments – or tips you want to add – I’d love to hear from you!
I’ve recently been covering an armchair for our living room. It’s one we’ve had for about 18 years (yikes), but it’s well made and if the cat hadn’t scratched it all up I probably wouldn’t be changing the covers either.
I’ve already covered one of the couches in our sitting room, and I want to do a post later on my tips and tricks to get the material cheap and make covers that last. However, as ever, I often get inspired to do a job by trawling Pinterest and there are lovely examples of upholstery details there – which have come in handy for inspiration for problem solving with style when I’ve needed it. I thought I’d share ten of my favourite examples here.
1. Buttons down the back to close and decorate
I love this, it’s so stylish and for a minimal amount of effort. Neither of these have button holes on them even, just loops, so it’s a lot less tricky. The one on the right I love especially because it reminds me of a wedding dress with the fabric’s pattern. So beautiful – this will always be my favourite detail.
2. Small pleats on the base
Coupled with the pleats on the arm’s curve this is such an elegant touch to a slip cover. Again a simple process with lots of style.
3. Pleats with coordinating trim and buttons
There are a lot of different design details here, but due to the monochrome pattern it actually manages to avoid being overdone. I think that’s one of the general take aways from this – you can include several elements, but make sure that they all blend together rather than standing out.
4. Coordinating coloured trim
What’s especially great about the one on the left is that if you’d bought a regular, inexpensive sofa and had wanted to add your own twist to it you could easily do this yourself.
5. Ties at the back
I’m someone who’s managed to avoid my button hole function on the sewing machine. Recently I’ve developed confidence in my sewing skills and I’ve been thinking more and more about giving it a go. After all there’s always some lovely person on Pinterest or YouTube who’s made a ‘how to’ to help you along – it’s how I mastered zips as I’ve taught myself everything I know about sewing so far.
As a result I often look for solutions that don’t use buttons as I’ve found they add detail, but without the fuss.
The other good thing about this example is that this style of closing mean that slip covers are easier to put on as there’s more room in them (that does mean more material too though).
6. Buttons to shape and decorate
Again these buttons have visual interest, but what interested me about the one top, left is that they’re also used to form a shape for the sofa underneath. Most sofas aren’t straight up and down and have some curve, so this is a way to ensure they don’t look too baggy and undone.
7. Complimentary fabrics
Sometimes you find a piece of fabric that’s beautiful, but way too expensive for your pocket. Or on other occasions you love it, but imagining it on the chair causes you too think it would be too much, particularly if it depicts a scene of nature – how do you make it work with the furniture itself?
This is a solution to all those problems. By using the expensive fabric in conjunction with a complimentary fabric you can reduce the cost, and allow the stronger piece to stand out.
8. Chinese knot fasteners
The fastener with the complimentary trim gives subtle detail to what would be a non-descript ottoman. Perfect.
9. Valances that make a statement or compliment the fabric
The valance on the left perfectly echoes the simple lines and curves of the sofa. It’s a little trickier than a regular pleated frill, I think you would need a pattern to replicate it. However it would be worth it.
The one on the right is far fuller, flowing and captures the romantic material of the chairs fabric.
10. Pleated corners
I talked about the pleated corners on the sofa above, but obviously they were only a few pleats. These ones though are superb. I love them!
I’m going to do a post in the coming weeks on making your own couch covers – it will save you a ton of money.
However I recently bought some material to cover this couch, but to be honest I really like it in its new setting and whenever I imagine its new covers (I bought the material when we were still renting) it doesn’t seem to fit. Not that I’ll waste the material, it’s hopefully going to be used on another couch and chair that I’d been looking for material for. The only thing holding me back from this win win scenario was the little holes that had appeared in our couch over the years. Apart from them it’s in a good state, so what to do?
Then I watched a video online of a woman who’d fixed the insides of her worn jeans with a natty little sewing trick and I thought – that will work!
Luckily I had a patch of additional material attached to the couch that I could cut off to use for this…
but here are the simples steps to repairing a hole in a cushion cover….
See – super simple!
There where also holes on the frame. I mended these the following way…
It doesn’t look too pretty, but they’re behind the cushions and will stop any further ripping. Let me know if you’ve any quick mending tips – I love to hear how to save!