Reupholstery 101

20130604-093018.jpgI LOVE reupholstering old furniture. It’s amazing the dramatic change you can make with just a little fabric and time.

So if you’re interested in the basics, here’s your post. This is the information I would have wanted when I was trying my first reupholstery project.

Food for thought before we dive in here: reupholstering is not necessarily a cheap option. Please be aware of that before choosing this endeavor. In the picture above, the love seat cost around $50 – $70. I got the fabric on a killer sale, and I didn’t have to replace the foam in it. However, the couch required all new foam and I chose a more durable fabric for it, so it cost closer to $200. Anyway…

Fabric. You will need to estimate the amount of fabric to buy for your project. Most fabric stores (Hobby Lobby included) have an estimate chart, but here is a chart to glance at, too. You will also want to consider the durability of the fabric. If you’re recovering a cute little corner chair that might be sat on a few times through the week, then it’s not as worrisome… but if you’re recovering the couch that your two children crawl all over every day, you’re going to need a thick, durable fabric that won’t show stains easily. Or at least, that’s my two cents. By the time you finish this project, you will want your work to be permanent and durable.

Foam and batting. Now this is where life gets expensive. If you’ve got an older piece, it’s very likely that you’re going to need to replace the foam. That makes life much more complicated. Also, it’s hard to know what you’re dealing with until you start removing the old fabric to see. For example, the couch and love seat pictured above were a set. Though they were the same age, one of them was directly in front of the window, so when I opened it, the foam was disintegrating and completely unusable, whereas the other (which had been my first reupholstery project) had been fine. Unfortunately, thick foam is hard to find in a store. JoAnne’s has some decent options; Hobby Lobby left me rather unimpressed. There are several online options to consider, or if you live in the DFW area, check out the fabric store outlets on Harry Hines Blvd in Dallas.

Tools. Please. Please. PLEASE. Buy the right tools. I promise you, you won’t regret it. You will need an awl and needle nose pliers to remove the nine billion staples. And seriously–it’s worth the trip to the store. You will also probably need a rubber mallet to pound in the tack strips. By the way, don’t buy the ridiculous fiber tack strips from JoAnne’s. Not only are they wayyyy over priced, they don’t work as well as the metal kind. If you are using the decorative nails, I would highly recommend using a chain instead of buying and hammering the nails individually (it looks like a line of ants if you go individual.) Finally, you will want a staple gun, and I would recommend going with an electric one.

Once you’ve gathered the materials you need, the process is mind-numbingly simple:

1) Gently remove the fabric, being careful to remove all staples as well. Use a sharpie to label all of your pieces (“Back,” “Left Arm,” etc.) Arrows showing which end was “up” are also helpful. Stack your pieces in the order you remove them… you will be using them in reverse order later.

2) Replace foam where necessary.

3) Use the old pieces of material as a pattern for your new material and attach new pieces. You will want to cut the pieces a bit bigger than your pattern, and if you replaced your foam, you will want to cut your pieces much bigger. If you chose a fabric with a pattern, really think about how you want the pattern to lay before cutting your pieces. Go one piece at a time; cut the first piece and properly attach it before moving on to the next piece. You will learn as you go, and this will ensure that you haven’t ruined an entire bolt of fabric before realizing a mistake.

With my first reupholstery project, I was amazed at how simplistic the whole process is. It takes time and patience, but the end result is a one-of-a-kind piece of furniture that is tailored exactly to your liking. I’ve had my couch and love seat for 5 years or so now, and I love them!

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