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lilikoi's avatar

How do I upholster this couch?

Asked by lilikoi (10079points) August 9th, 2010

Here is a photo of it. I wasn’t able to save the cushions or the old upholstery to use as a pattern because it was in terrible condition. Can anyone explain the step by step process of how to go about this or point me to a good website? And what should I look for in a fabric? Obviously I need something that is strong, easy to clean, and durable, but maybe you can recommend fabric weights or something? I know how to use a staple gun and what the end product should look like, but that’s about it.

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11 Answers

anartist's avatar

I hope you photographed it as you tore it down. That record would help you proceed by working in reverse order. This is not just fabric, it is down to bare bones. If you did not photograph it, make little sketches of anything you remember. I am assuming there was a lot of foam. Or was it a different material? were there 2 big removable foam cushions on the back and 2 on the seat? how thick were they? Is there a manufacturer’s mark on the frame?

From the metal-tipped peg legs it looks like a 50s-60s “modern” or “Scandinavian style” sofa. Is it worth reupholstering?

lilikoi's avatar

Unfortunately, I didn’t take pictures of any of that. There was a combination of foam and cotton batting. Pretty sure there were two foam cushions on the seat; I think there were two on the back also. I’d say they were about 3” thick; maybe it was originally 4”. It kind of looked similar in style to this one as far as the sloping arm rests, seat cushions, and seams go. No mfg label.

anartist's avatar

Look for the manufactures mark. It should be somewhere. Have you turned it upside down? Looked on the feet? On the underside of the frame? Maybe you can find out what it looked like.

woodcutter's avatar

by the time you buy all the materials and figure in your time you could’ve gone to Goodwill and got a decent one for way cheaper. Is the frame of that couch something special? You will need an industrial grade sewing machine to make the cover and all kinds of other upholstery tools to do this up right.

anartist's avatar

Was the back attached to the frame and not removable cushions like your picture of ‘similar’? As @woodcutter says it is a labor-intensive expensive project, possibly needing special tools that you do not have. Is this for learning, craft, hobby or is what is left of this sofa important to you?

My brother-in-law tore down an antique sofa and that was as far as it got. If the sofa was a valuable piece you could get it reupholstered as my mother did with a mahogany Empire sofa—but this?

perspicacious's avatar

The materials are going to cost you more than a new sofa. There doesn’t appear to be anything special about the frame and (rusty) springs. Go to an upholstery website—they are out there. I believe you will quickly decide to go sofa shopping.

BarnacleBill's avatar

I have to agree. If you are not experienced in upholstery, this is probably not the project to start with. You will need to be able to sew; a staple gun is not going to get the job done for you. We just had a chair reupholstered. Judging by the size of the thing, you’re going to need 14 yards of fabric. Expect to pay $20 a yard, and another $150 for foam, batting, lining, You will need to tie the coils. You can pick up a nice used couch at a consignment shop or on Craigslist for under $200.

lilikoi's avatar

I thought maybe the back had pillows, but talked to someone that was there when we dismantled it and they’re sure it was like the ‘similar’ photo with no pillows.

I have no personal attachment to this thing. I thought it might be a fun project, then realized I had no idea where to start. I don’t even need a couch, and I don’t particularly care for the shape of this one. I’d prefer something that looks and functions like this. I figured the fact that I didn’t really like it, got it for free, and don’t need it makes a good first-time upholstery project.

As far as cost goes, mid-century furniture is very hard to find here. There is no market for this kind of furniture here, as everyone either wants/settles for the super new modern stuff, rattan, or K-Mart microfiber barker loungers. $200 will get you something like this (cringe!) or this (cringe), and I’ve seen worse trying to be sold like leather with massive rips or fabric with disgusting stains.

I have lots of cotton batting and foam that I need to get rid of, so I thought this might be the answer. I know how to sew (the basics, nothing fancy). The coils are rusty, but it is just surface rust.

Specifically what tools would I need to do this? Specifically how would I go about it? I’m sure there are tricks that make things easier. It would be great to know them. Are there any websites specifically you would recommend? Any books? Or can anyone just list the steps (off the top of their head because they are experts in upholstery) in some detail referring to the tools? Tell me all this, and then I will decide if I’m up for it or not.

I have a hard time believing materials will cost me more than a new sofa. If I bought a new sofa, I’d be spending probably $1500…For that much, I could probably have a pro upholster this, no?

anartist's avatar

given everything you have said, you don’t bother.

How ‘bout start with a better couch and, this time, save all your deconstruct evidence.
Do you have access to industrial sewing machine?
If not, stick to the parts that use tacks and hire a seamstress after cutting the pattern.

BarnacleBill's avatar

Here’s what you could do, since you have the batting and foam. Check to see if there is an upholstery class through adult education in your high school system, and if they have an upholstery class. This will give you access to tools and professional help, while maintaining the DIY factor. (It will take you longer, but since you have nothing to lose, it will beat watching Dancing with the Stars.)

Step 1 is to make sure the frame is good and tight. Do any repairs/gluing, etc. to make it as sturdy as you can.
Step 2 is to tie the springs
Step 3 is to cover the thing with foam, and then a top layer of batting. Here is some good, general instruction and where your staple gun comes in handy.
I do believe there is back cushions on the couch, as well as seat cushions. I grew up with a green couch that looked suspiciously like both the one you like and the one you linked to. Ours had two cushions on the seat, and three cushions across the back.

I would purchase unbleached muslin or cotton duck in an off-white color, and work to get the base of the piece covered completely. Forget about the pillows for now; they will be the easy part. Work on getting the piece covered in the muslin, loosely tacked to the frame. When you get it covered like you want it to look, take off the muslin pieces and use them as the pattern to cut out the real fabric. If you are going to have to sew any pieces together, make sure you leave a seam allowance. Once you have the base covered, then get foam cut, wrap it in batting, slip cover the whole thing with muslin, and then make covers for the pillows out of the good fabric, with zippers. (If sewing is not your forte, you could pay someone who does sew to to this for you. ) Professional looking cushions would make any imperfections in how the frame is covered less noticeable.

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