How To: Upholster a Sofa

Nothin Like a Dame's February Jumpstart Project 2009

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Title: Upholstering a Sofa
Name: Nothin Like a Dame
Time: 22 Hours
Cost: $158

A nicely done striped upholstery for a classic sofa. Click above for pics, below for the how-to and be sure to give "Nothin Like a Dame" a THUMBS UP if you find this project helpful....

Tools:
Fabric 16 yds $126.
Trim $10.
Sewing machine Thread $ 3.
Sharp scissors Iron Roping (for piping and retying springs) $5.
Batting 3 yds $6.
Hot glue gun (sticks) $3
Wood glue
Small hammer w/claw
Drill
Screwdriver
Pliers
Blued tacks or carpet tacks $6
Paint stripper $7.
Scrap material
Fine steel wool
Plastic or drop cloth
Dust mask
Gloves
White wine, yes, this is absolutely a white wine project.

Steps:
I prepared the piping and made the cushions first to get it out of the way. I won’t get into it to much since it’s pretty basic sewing. I will say measure twice cut once. If you have a pattern to match up take note of it now. Also I find when making piping, let the foot of your sewing machine ride against the rope. Then when sewing the piping to your project ride the foot of your machine on the piping with the needle just to edge of the rope. This will hide that stitching on the piping should your sewing line slip a little which it always does. It makes a nicer finished product.

Time to rip the sofa apart. Use a dust mast if you have allergies or respiratory problems. It can be nasty in there. Put down a drop cloth or plastic. Trim first, then go after the fabric. Be aware of how it comes apart. You’ll put it back together the opposite way. (trim will go on last) Take pictures to keep track, if you need.

Save the stuffing and reuse it where it came from and you can use the fabric you pulled off as a pattern. Cut the new fabric to more generous proportions and indicate with caulk or in an inconspicuous where it will be used. Again remember to check any pattern in the material you may have and match it up.

Once you expose the frame it’s time to remove any staples and tacks and make any repairs. Check legs, arms, et. and don’t forget to retie any springs in the seat. I was lucky, just tightened up the feet and set a couple of screws in the arms. The finish looked awful. Remember this is a reproduction so I’m not destroying a vintage antique. The stripper worked the slick. Smeared it on thick and wiped it off with a rag. Cleaned it up with fine steel wool dripped in stripper.

I like the way it looks now, so I’m going to leave it naked and just oil it from time to time. I want to share a couple of hints be fore I go on to the fun stuff. Use a hot glue gun to hold the fabric in place where you can. It’s strong enough to take a tug when pulling the material tight, then tack it. (glue alone won’t hold) 2. The tacks are tiny, sharp and hard to hold. Use the roofers technique. Hold the tack between the tip of your index and middle finger pointed end toward your finger nails. Position the tack where you want it, now give it a tap or two. It only hurts if you do it wrong. That should be enough to hold it , remove your fingers! And send that tack home. Now practice holding a bunch of tacks in your palm and feeding your fingers as you go. You may not be able to use these methods every time or place, but it comes in real handy when you can.

Covering the sofa. I started with the seat and back on the inside (seat) of the sofa. A bit of sewing was required for length (note the piping) and for the seat (Yes that’s pink on the seat. No one will see it but me.) I used thin batting on the back section of the sofa to make it as smooth as possible. The stuffing that was saved was a little lumpy looking. The particular batting that I purchased was fusible. You can iron right to your fabric so it stays put. How cool is that.

Tack the fabric to the frame fronts. (I tacked every 1 1/2 –2 inches.) then pull it through to the back, pull it evenly and tight. Tack it or glue and tack. Tack at the center first, then to the sides. You may need to make some cuts in the fabric to go around the interior framing. Just go lightly, a bit at a time and you’ll be fine. See the cuts below. Now do the same for the arms. Use batting if you need. Tuck those inside corners tight.

On to the outside. This is the easiest part. Start tacking the top of the back section. Let it just flop there for now. Arms next. I needed to line up the pattern so I tacked the front ( down the sides) first. Then across the top, on the under side of the arm. Always check that your tacking evenly so you don’t have puckers in the material and it will be smooth.

At this point, decide if do want to do some hand stitching. No. I don’t either. Pull the arm fabric tight to the back, nail it just beyond where you want the trim / seam to be. Do the other arm the same way. Find the center point toward the bottom of the back panel, tack it lightly to the underside of the sofa’s center. This will help prevent you from over stretching, warping or misaligning a pattern. Start tacking the sides of the back panel, where you decided that seam will be. Keep it tight. You should be covering those nail heads from the arm. The trim will cover the back panel’s nail heads. Do a few inches at a time then go to the other side and do a few inches. Back and forth. Tack all the panel bottoms to the underside of the sofa. Apply black material to the bottom of the sofa. (if needed) Glue trim over “nail head seams” and around wood trim. Well, It’s done. I hope I can live with it. I’ve been into color lately. Don’t judge me.

Sources:
Fuseable batting is too cool.

Give "Nothin Like a Dame" a THUMBS UP if you find this project helpful....

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Janel Laban is the Executive Editor of Apartment Therapy and has been working here, at the dreamiest of dream jobs, since March 2006.