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 bought a little French, wooden sofa last year that I’ve avoided reupholstering. I made a mistake when I purchased it as I didn’t check how sound the springs where. Some are decidedly ropey and will need replacing. That and the horsehair that it’s filled with has made me nervous about even attempting to upholster it.
The couch will be in the American style French Country living room and so it needs to be a white or natural shade. So all these inspirational images follow that theme. Enjoy and have a blessed Sunday!
I’ve been gradually working through the soft furnishing in our living room, you can see my post on the structured chair cover here. Both these chairs are done without a pattern so there is no need to take off the original cover from the frame.
You will notice that I don’t use a zip close as I did on the chair, but used a button detail. You can see more ideas for different closing details on this inspirational post. As usual there are lost of pictures as I want to make this as clear as possible.
Throughout the project I keep the fabric in one mass, then cut off the pieces that were needed as I went.
As per my last post I am not a professional; this is purely amateur hour, but it may just help you.
I would advise you to read all the way through to get a sense of the instructions before attempting this project.
Step 1 – Wash the fabric
Wash the fabric prior to using it as you don’t want the fabric to shrink after the first wash and spoil all you hard work. For more general tips on upholstery, such as use of thread and where to buy bargain fabric you can go to this post here.
Step 2 – Exterior side arm
You’ll notice in the images below that the material in image 1 goes some way beyond the sofa. I redid the pinning process after taking this photograph so I didn’t waste so much material. You can’t just take the fabric to the floor and work from there though as the arm itself has an incline on this sofa.
Just pin the fabric to the arm of the chair by pushing the pins deep into the upholstery. Make sure the pattern is horizontal. Throughout this how to you’ll see my reference to the pattern – as this is a striped one its pretty easy to align.
Then pin flanged piping following the same sign as the current piping; in this case that means along the top and down the front and the back sides – not the bottom. Follow the lines of the current piping exactly – in this case it meant a slight curve for the back piping to follow the shape of the sofa. Do not trim the excess fabric along the back of the panelas you’ll need it later.
Cut the fabric so it runs horizontally with the floor.
Sew the piping in place. I keep my zip foot on throughout the process as it is far easier to deal with thick fabric like this. Trim the fabric, leaving an excess of material of about an inch.
Step 3 – Back panel
Do the same with the back of the sofa, trying to match up the pattern as best as possible. So you can see on my images below where I tried to match the neutral colour with neutral (images three and four). To do so it’s best to re-pin the exterior arm panel in place so it gives you an idea whilst you work of how this is all going to fit together.
You can see in image four that I’ve pinned more piping to the side of the back panel. This is because piping already exists here at the back, but by piping both the exterior side and the back I’ll have double piping in the corners as I’m going to use a decorative, button fastening here.
You can also see that, as I have followed the original piping line, there is a slight curve in the application of the piping just like the exterior arm. This is so it bends with the sofa shape when pulled tight. Do not trim the excess of fabric here on the sidesas you’ll need it later.
Ensure, too, that your piping runs in excess of the top of the sofa slightly as you will need this additional length later.
Do this for both sides of the back of the sofa.
Cut the material along the base running parallel with the floor as before, then sew the piping to the material. Re-pin the fabric to the back of the sofa to correctly asses the second, exterior arm pattern positioning – you’re not going to sew this back piece of fabric to anything yet apart from its own piping.
Stage 4 – Second, exterior arm
Follow the same instructions for the first arm for the second, ensuring the pattern continues correctly.
Stage 5 – Interior, chair arm
Follow the steps below. It’s important to ensure your pattern fabric is matched up well before cutting and also that you leave a good amount of fabric beyond where you’ll sew on all sides, but particularly at the side and base. This is going to be attached to the back piece of fabric and pushed into the sofa frame as far as possible to ensure a good fit, so be generous.
Pin the exterior, arm fabric back in place. Then lay the material, with the pattern in the right direction – with the exterior striped pattern aligned to the material that runs down the inside of the arm of the chair. In this case I had neutral stripes in between lavender, pale lavender and grey stripes, so I was certain these were in alignment.
Once you’ve pinned the interior arm fabric firmly in place push the fabric inside the gap between the arm and the base of the sofa as well as down its back. When you come to put your cover on the sofa in the end you’re going to do this, pushing the material within the frame to give the loose fabric a more structured look. This enables you to lift off the fabric and wash when desired.
Cut the material along the base and back in line with the curves of the sofa, leaving a generous allowance of fabric as in image four.
Re-pin the material in line with the exterior arm; undo the pin, fold the section of fabric under and re-pin in place – continue all the way along the top of the sofa arm. You can see this in the image below. When you remove this to sew you will need to re-pin the pins so that they’re positioned on the inside of this seam in order to do so, but doing it this way allows for certainty that it’s in the right position.
Sew the exterior and interior arms together along this seam.
Stage 6 – Second, interior chair arm
Repeat this process for the other arm.
Stage 7 – Front, arm panels
Below I’ve started doing the front of the arm on the right hand side – however this isn’t the right hand, arm piece of fabric! This is the opposite side that I’ve turned inside out to work on. I used an off-cut of material that was appropriate in terms of pattern alignment. If I mucked it up I wouldn’t be too cross, and it’s economical.
Take the fabric and pin it all over to ‘stick’ it to the front arm. Cut round the shape of this arm, leaving the one inch allowance.
Fold the edge of the material inward and pin it to fabric draping over the interior arm of the chair. This will give you the shape of the front of the arm – but it also allows you to create any pin tucks required to fit the interior arm fabric well, hence the inverted material.
You can see here, similar to the original structure, I’ve created a pin tuck on the top of the arm of the chair. The original sofa cover had two, but I found one was sufficient, probably as a result of the raised piping that was still underneath on the couch. Look at how the original sofa has been fitted and let that be your guide.
There needs to be piping between the front panel and the exterior and interior arms. So when you are satisfied with the way you’ve attached your front panel to the interior arm re-pin with the piping in between.
I only pinned the piping on the top and inside of the sofa arm at this stage. This is because I’d already added piping to the outside of the arm, and didn’t want to double up (you can just see the existing piping in the fourth picture).
I then lifted off the arm material and re-pinned with the arm material the right way round, bringing the end of the piping between the pieces of material and sewing it all in place. I used a length of piping that goes all around the top and interior of the arm, extending right down to the base.
Now pin the fabric for the front of the arm of the chair to the piping on the exterior, front piping. Sew in place. See the image below.
Do this with the other side too.
Stage 8 – Back panel
Take some of the fabric from the remaining bolt and lay it along the back of the sofa the right way round, and pin it so it corresponds with the pattern on the back of the sofa; again pushing the pins into the upholstery of the couch itself to position it in the first instance. Then go along a re-pin, folding the edge of the material over to create a hem, pinning the two pieces of fabric together.
Let the fabric run all along the back and the seat of the couch until the edge of the seat. Tuck it into the back panel where it joins the seat, then cut along the front of the sofa to have one entire length.
At the corners of the back panel of the sofa you should have the two piece of excess piping; tuck these in between the front and back pieces of fabric and sew in place (See picture two below).
You now should have excess material from the interiors arms and the interior back panel. Pin these together as below, creating a triangle of fabric . Pin all the way along the base of the interior arm, attaching it to the base of the seat material, stopping about an inch or two before the end . You’ll sew these together and then, when the couch is completed you can tuck them into the sides to give the loose covers its fit.
Stage 9 – Front, base panel
You’ll need a shorter depth of material that’s going to cover the front of the base of the couch; judge it so that it overlaps the seat by an inch or two and runs to the floor again.
Turn the entire couch cover inside out and position it back on the sofa. Pin the length of fabric along the front of the base of the couch as you did before by pinning into the couch upholstery. Then, when it is secure and you are certain that the pattern is positioned correctly, pin along the top of the fabric so that the seat material and the front, base material are attached. When the fabric meets the arm pin all three pieces together as in image two. Sew this in place.
Then pin the sides of the front panel to the flanged piping that’s already attached to the interior side of the front panel. You can see in the second image the sewing that’s already been done when I attached the seat, interior arm and front base together tapering to a point – up in the top right, hand corner. Sew these in place.
Turn it the right way around and put it back on the couch, pushing the excess fabric down the sides and back so you know it can be fitted well.
If you want to you can stop here and just jump to the final segment about the button fastenings and attaching this temporarily to your sofa. If you want the scalloped edging follow the next steps (for those of you who want to do seat cushions you need to go to the structured chair post and follow the seat pad steps).
Step 10 – Scalloped edging
These are done in four sections; front, two sides and back panel. This accommodates the button fastening on the back of each side. First you need to judge the length of material required, accommodating the existing pattern. As you can see in the first image I’d cut a length of material that would go along the front of the couch; this piece extended past the couch front itself to accommodate the pattern repeat and also the points below. I pinned in place and then cut it so that it finished at the floor giving me a good depth to work with.
On your ironing board (hence the ducks) fold the length in half…
I made a mistake with this first length as I didn’t start working on the reverse of the pattern – so although these photos are sufficient to explain what I did, but you need to be aware of the need to do this if you don’t want to find yourself cursing as I did.
In the middle of a small, salad plate with a smooth edge run some masking tape across its diameter so it has one half completely exposed. Always use this exposed half (I actually drew an arrow on mine so I could be sure I was working with the correct half).
Line the masking tape up with the ironed crease and using a biro draw the edge of the circle onto the fabric. You need to wash the plate afterwards quickly after you’ve finished to make sure it doesn’t permanently stain the plate. Don’t use a sharpie, whatever you do.
You’ll see in image 4 that I drew the next semi circle with it’s side touching the previous one, with these touching parts going above the ironed crease.Cut round the circle shapes as in this photo, leaving about half an inch of fabric spare.
Cut little, horizontal snips along the curve making sure not to go all the way to the line, and then fold and pin in place. As you start the next circle it should look as it does in the sixth image. Continue all the way along the length of fabric.
Take your time and sew all of this in place.
Hem the sides of this edge of fabric before continuing.
Pin the scalloped edge fabric to the front base aligning the pattern, folding the top inside prior to pinning to create a hem. Lift the cover off, re-pin on the interior in the same positions and then sew in place. Do this for the sides and back. Note the next point for the sides though.
In this image below you can see that the excess length of fabric was not only positioned in line with the pattern, but the additional fabric was taken all the way over the front, arm panels and around the sides slightly. Then when I did the scalloped sides I had a bit of an overlap.
You can see in the image below that the inevitable excess of material due to pattern placement was just sewn in place, over the back piping almost to the end of the exterior, side arm. It didn’t matter that it doesn’t go to the end as this piece is just going to be hidden in folds of fabric when the couch cover is fitted. I did this to the back as well.
Step 11 – Back, button closing
The back of the sofa corners should have looked like this prior to the scalloped edge application..
Sew these excess pieces of fabric together so they form an inverted tent shape. You need them so that you can lift of the cover easily in order to clean in the future.
Work out how many buttons you want each side – as you can see I chose five as they are rather big buttons. Measure the length of the couch back from the top to the scalloped edge, then divide this area between the amount of buttons you want to place. So say, for example, the distance was 50cms (I know a couch won’t be that small, but bear with me) successive buttons would be 10, 20, 30, 40 and 50 cms with the last button being just above the scalloped edge.
Start at the bottom, putting a pin into where the base button will be. Then going up in a vertical line continue placing pins where the buttons will go. It’s necessary to start at the base as the curved back means to ensure a horizontal line of buttons the gap between the base button will be shortest and therefore determines where they all need to be positioned as a result. Sew buttons in the positions.
I used braid as loop ties, so cut an approximate length including excess. Holding the braid looped around the button, pin it to the back panel (figures two and three). When all the loops are correctly positioned un-loop them carefully so as not to alter their position and then run another length of braid along the horizontal length to cover the ends of the loops. Sew along the length, securing and covering the loops.
I saw this wicker sofa in the brocante and it’s been sat in my parent’s garage over the summer whilst I finished other projects. As my plans to give the living room an American French Country focus have developed I felt it was time to get it out of storage in time for the Christmas period.
I do this every year. Set myself an unrealistic amount of decorating projects coming up to the festive season, imaging a beautifully finished home to welcome guests in style. It is never finished to the extent I want and sometimes I’m left frazzled from the effort. However each year I’m closer to the home that I want, so there’s that 😆.
I wanted to make it lighter to fit the style of the room so I thought I’d chalk paint it. Normally I don’t give a how to for any chalk painted piece of furniture as there are so many excellent tutorials out there. However as this involved caning I thought I’d share this piece’s transformation with you.
Remove any trim and fabric
The first thing to do is move any trim and fabric. Mine had nail head trim which was rusty. I had to use pliers and a flat head screw driver to get them all out. Levering the nail head with the screwdriver first then prising it free with the pliers.
Mine was covered in nailhead rust and other dirt so a good clean down was needed. I always check my cloth now to see if there is any stain on it along with dirt. After painting my secrétaire and having lots of trouble with that I didn’t want to go through hours of painting to no avail.
It looked ok, but more on that later.
Paint the caning with chalk paint
I started with the caning as I’d heard I might not be able to paint it. However chalk paint did a good job. I used a round headed brush and applied it in a circular motion. It’s really important to only added a little paint to the tip of your brush as you’re painting a holey surface and too much paint will just make a mess.
Applied over a small section on one side then catch the drips on the other, again using a circular motion and effectively using the same paint to cover both sides. You have to really work the paint into the caning to cover it. You can see an image below of blobs if paint that had accumulated before I’d done the other side. Without catching it it would form drips.
Here it is after I’d painted the first panel of cane….
Paint with chalk paint
Next I painted the frame. I alternated between the caning and the frame like this, eventually adding three layers of chalk paint. I needed so many as it was a dark piece which was difficult to cover. However I always get inexpensive cans, so it didn’t break the bank.
As I continued it was evident that I did have some bleed from the old varnish; just in some places the paint was developing a very distinctive pink tinge. Also in spite of my nifty brush work the cane wasn’t completely covered. Onto the next step.
Spray any bits
I got some insulating, white primer and sprayed this over the patchy areas of cane and the pink tinged wood. It was just here and there – I wouldn’t recommend this for an all over job as it can have a bobbly texture due to its formulation. I can show you this in a bookcase post soon.
Double check the legs are well covered
Turn it over and paint any areas missed on the legs. At this stage it’s obvious how disintegrated the underside is (the pictures are below). More on that in a bit.
Lightly sand the chalk paint with fine sand paper, taking extra care on areas that had insulating primer and the caning.
This isn’t the most professional how to. As the sofa will be rarely used and the springs seemed secured I just removed the grotty covering fabric, secured the webbing then recovered in a heavy weight piece of upholstery fabric that I had.
It was a leftover from a previous upholstery job. The fabric had a fire proofed backing which had a plastic like feel. I’m hoping this does the job, but if not I’ll have to redo this part. At present though I’m on a deadline for Noël.
If it does need redoing I’ll put a note here and a link to how I handled it.
Add padding and base upholstery
I added extra padding to make it more comfortable. As I said in the post on making an extra large, coffee table ottoman, I often recycle washed, worn quilts to use in various soft furnishing projects. I just used some of it like batting prior to covering it with the same fabric as the underneath.
Adding the first layer of upholstery
I’d already used the original fabric as a template and cut another piece, leaving an extra inch around the outside whilst cutting.
I started stapling at the back, tucking the edge of the fabric under and stapling it in the middle of the setee first.
Immediately stapling the opposite edge, keeping it taught. Do that all around the outside.
Using a clean, round headed brush apply the sealing wax a little section at a time, then polishing with lint free cloths before moving onto another section. Do the caned area too.
After covering the cushions this is what the little setée looks like….
I haven’t included a how to for the cushions as the technique is pretty much the same for the fitted chair.
What do you think? You can see it’s next to the round table I re-painted. It suits the style of the room so much more now. I keep this largish, dining table in here as I love to display lots of family photos like this.
The room is really developing that American French Country style now don’t you think?
There are some movies I watch just for the decor. Pretty much anything by Norah Effron, particularly with a young Meg Ryan in it, a lot of Hallmark movies (let’s face it the plots are often the same)….I was about to go on but I think this needs its own post.
Back to today’s topic; The Holiday. In particular Kate Winslet’s and Jude Laws respective homes. Rose Cottage, the tiny home swapped for the holiday, has a quintessentially English cottage vibe and in the centre of the sitting room is this gorgeous ottoman…..
Obviously you knew that I was looking in to ottomans from the inspiring ottomans post and as I dreamed my mind turned to how I could have one.
Wow, this has been a challenge. It’s been a real trial and error process; so much so that I actually ache in my arms and back. Yet this is mainly as a result of correcting mistakes that I made on the way to getting this….
….so I thought I’d share how I went about it so you don’t make them.
Obviously I’d been on Pinterest and seen the ottomans people had made using coffee tables as a base. However there was a bit of an issue for me with that. We didn’t have a suitable table, the ones I found at brocantes and other places were comparatively expensive and none of them were big enough. So I started to think about what I could do instead.
I had some furniture legs that I’d bought on a whim at the local DIY here in France; Brico Marché. They had a screw built in, so I thought it would just be case of drilling a hole and away we go. But best laid plans and all that.
I also recycled a lot of things in this project which saved money; namely an old cot, foam mattress and the wadding from an old quilt. I often use the latter as they sometimes get a bit lumpy when they’re old and you can easily cut them up and wash them in the machine, dividing the contents into pillow cases and securing the end with an elastic bands to keep them inside.
The former I will buy if I see them in second hand places or on internet sites. I can get them for as little as 5 euros, and anyone who’s bought foam will know what a bargain that is. So, saving the planet and saving money; woohoo!
Stage 1 – Marking the wood
As I thought I had the legs for the project already I went to the same Bricomarché and bought a large piece of pine wood; 120 x 80 cms.Now, here was my first mistake. I should have bought at least 2, if not 3 straight away. The pine was as much as the MDF board (15 euros per piece) and I later found I needed more. When I returned to the store there wasn’t any, so I just bought MDF pieces and I later found that they didn’t work as well. When I screwed the legs in the material wasn’t strong enough to hold it properly.
The depth of the wood is 1.6 cms, and I needed it to be deeper so that it was more robust and looked good to. I could have happily used one at the 1.6, and another double the depth but there wasn’t that option for me. So make your decision accordingly.
I made a plan for the button hole placement and marked it on the wood. My initial workings where on paper, ensuring that I started button holes with a sufficient gap between them and the edges, and having an alternate extra button so that there would eventually be a diamond effect.
You can see that there would have been a lot of buttons in my initial plan, and I thought it would be too much. So I took this time to re-plan, marking a B for button to differentiate. I should have written in pencil initially, but there we go.
When I thought I was satisfied I even did the diamond, tufted pattern to be sure the shapes would work; then I drilled the holes. Make sure your drill bit is wide enough to give a hole that you can pass an embroidery needle through comfortably.
Stage 2 – Add the foam, and make the holes
Next thing you need to do, if necessary, is cut your foam to size. I just used a bread knife and it went in the dishwasher afterwards.
Once it’s cut to size use some heavy duty, material glue spray and stick the foam to the wood on the opposite side to the plan.
Take a skewer and poke through the holes. Then using a pair of scissors cut a square shaped hole out where the skewer is. You can score four lines coming out of the hole to form a diamond pattern when finished, to give better form for your tufting. Also score out away from the exterior holes to the sides in straight lines too. You may want to make thicker indentations than the ones here, a start of V shaped channel, I did this later and it works so much better when you add wadding.
Stage 3 – Add the wadding
This was a big error of mine. Below is the original attempt half way through – can you see how flat the whole thing is? It ended up too hard, literally a rigid, foam table (you wouldn’t think those two descriptions would go together, but believe me they do).
So add wadding over the foam. I didn’t glue mine in place, I just went onto the next step.
Stage 4 – Start middle buttons
I used greengardening wire for this – yes really! You don’t have to keep passing it through to make it strong enough, which would be tricky with all that foam, and it is strong and easy to work with. Just make sure you use a large enough embroidery needle to let the wire pass through it.
Cut about an arms length piece of garden wire, then thread it through the embroidery needle. You don’t have to keep the wire doubled up throughout. I started off with a good bit of overlap of wire so that I didn’t lose it when going through the layers the first time, then when I threaded the button I reduced the overlap so that it was tied by one length of wire.
I can’t stress this enough – start with the central button hole in the centre of the material. This was when I changed the fabric, inspired by further Pinterest searches to get me going again following on from my setbacks. At this point I discovered The Holiday ottoman again, went on eBay and ordered some velvet material.
I used a really good piece of upholstery velvet fabric – I made sure it was one used for furnishings not just for curtains and cushions. It must be heavy duty in other words. I could tell it was heavy duty as on the back it had a felted, thick texture, not just the velvet pile. I ordered a 3M piece as I knew it would have to cover the length of the board and have sufficient to encase the depth I wanted.
First put the needle through the hole, then through the wadding and, when you’re certain it’s positioned correctly, pass it through your material. Then thread your button, leaving it loose bring the needle back through the material, wadding and foams. Pull on the wire so the button nestles within the folds.
Start on your next button and continue along the middle row.
Then you start the rows above and then below the middle one. As you pull the buttons into position you can start to create the tufts by folding the material into the scored crevices to create diamonds (see image eight above).
When you have completed the middle row, and have started the rows either side then you can pull the middle row extra tight and staple on the reverse a few times to secure the central row wires in place. Continue like this alternating the rows, gradually coming out from the middle. Sometimes I tied the garden wire to its neighbour to see the shape whilst working as you can see in image seven above.
The back is going to look something like this…
Stage 5 – Add depth to the base
As you can see I then added two layers of the MDF to the one with the tufting. Only do this when you are certain your happy with how it’s going. I originally started to drill and screw them together, but I actually found it just as effective and a lot easier to nail it together with the appropriate length nails.
You’ll see how I have 4 x 120 x40 instead of 2 x 120 x 80. They didn’t have the MDF in the right size as well as running out of the pine. Grrr. So I bought double the amount and put them two fold thick and side by side.
Start by nailing one of the boards with about six to eight nails to the one with the reverse of the tufting. Keep the nails in a straight line down the middle so you don’t try and nail one board in the same position and have difficulty.
Then nail the second board to this. I used about ten nails each half to make sure. Do these in parallel lines avoiding the middle.
Stage 6 – Add legs
At this stage the images are from my second, yes second, attempt. So I’ve gone from no wadding to wadding for ascetic reasons and changed the fabric to a plush velvet.
I had put in six of the legs that I’d bought thinking “This will be nice and sturdy”. No. The MDF broke when I put the heavy ottoman on its side to work around the edges and the legs had weight on them when positioned to turn it over.
So then I turned to these legs that I found on Amazon, which almost exactly match the ones on The Holiday ottoman. You can get them in three sizes – I chose 10 cms so it wasn’t too high, but there are varying heights depending on your preference. Because it wasn’t going to be as high I only ordered four legs, I think it would have required more with additional hight to make it more stable.
The legs come with all the essentials ie screws etc. However, the key thing is this metal Plate. You mark where the holes are in the middle of the plate on the side of the leg which will be fixed to the ottoman. Then drill holes and screw the plate into the leg. Then mark the four, corner holes in the plate on the ottoman and drill and screw into the wood. See below.
The stapled material is from my second, failed leg attempt. I undid this to re-style the ottoman. Skip that, obviously, and move onto the next step.
Stage 7 – Fix the fabric
Again, use starting from the middle as your guide here. Add more wadding along the side of the ottoman, to give it a comfy look and disguise the hard structure. Then take the fabric which runs from the middle, exterior row and fold and staple underneath the ottoman base. Then go to your next exterior buttons either side of this middle one and do the same thing. You can then staple the fabric taught in between these buttons before working towards the corner, but don’t do the corners yet.
Each corner button should have a tufted line running from the button to the side and one to the top.
When all of the sides are stapled you’re going to start on the corners. Double fold corners by folding the excess fabric in one way, and it’s counterpart in and over the other prior to stapling.
Trim any excess fabric around the legs in particular and double check it’s stapled well all around the outside.
Stage 8 – Adding gold trim
Add the gold trim by stapling it to the base, making sure the braided part can fit comfortably over the edge. Leave some excess trim to be tucked under away from the ottoman’s edge. Go all around the exterior, stapling every ten centimetres and more at the corners.
When you’ve gone around once do it again, trying to staple as close to the edge of the ottoman as possible to double the piping if you want. Secure it with the ends coming into the base.
Stage 8 – Adding fabric underneath
I did this as I have spare fabric and I’d used those half width boards which caused a bit of a mess underneath. Measure out the size of fabric with additional material so that you can fold some underneath to give a tidy hem.
At the leg secure the fabric in place by folding the four flaps you’ve cut away from the opening circle underneath and staple them in place to give a smooth line around the screwed in plate of the leg. Then fold underneath the other way and staple the fabric to give a neat corner. Do this round all four corners.
Estimate where the leg needs to come out and cut a hole just bigger than the end of the leg. Then cut four lines out of this circle, as if you’re making the circle into a square. Put this over the ottoman leg. Start just below the leg on the edge, and making sure the fabric is straight, turn a hem and staple it as close as possible to the trim. Go down the length of the ottoman and then return to the leg.
Turn the ottoman the right way up, dress and admire it!
What do you think? If you have any questions or comments drop me a line below.
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!