Monday, August 27, 2012

Antique Couch and Settee Reupholstery

This was my first attempt ever at reupholstery; I am by no means an expert. I will be sharing what worked best for me and any tips I figured out as I went along. I spent a lot of time reading other blogger's experiences and watched a lot of Youtube videos.

This is not a project for the faint of heart, it did take much longer than I anticipated. It was worth it to me, I wouldn't have been able to find a couch in my fabric of choice for such a good deal.

First off, your supplies. I know there are real reupholstering tools out there but I made do with what I had. I know I saw quite a few reupholstery tools at Hancock fabric and many can be ordered online. I'm sure they make the task much easier.

  • Flat head screwdriver or staple remover
  • Rubber mallet or hammer (rubber mallet is best)
  • Pneumatic staple gun or electric gun-I found the hand held staple guns didn't shoot into the wood frame deep enough and my hands would get too sore
  • Batting material (depending on the condition of your couch)
  • Fabric of choice- I ordered mine online for the amazing price of $3.95 yd!
    • Upholstery grade fabric is thicker than regular fabric and is more durable. It is also more expensive and can be more difficult to work with because of its thickness. If you're looking for a solid beige color similar to a Restoration Hardware look, I recommend buying the canvas drop cloth material from Lowe's. It's cheap, durable and if you wash it once before putting it on, it is also soft. I chose to use a plaid on my couch. I knew it would be more difficult because I would have to line up the pattern everywhere. A solid is much easier.
    • When it comes to figuring out the amount of fabric needed to buy, I used this chart. It's wise to buy a little extra in case you mess something up. If you have extras you can always use it for curtains or pillows. I ordered 21 yds. I had enough for my couch, loveseat, and cushions, and even had some left over.
  • Trim or cording- I took a long spool of string and ran it along every edge of my sofa and loveseat and then measured it to determine how much cording or trim I'd need. If you're planning on making cording then measures around your cushions as well.
  • Paint- if you don't like the original color of your wood frame
  • Metal tacking strip
Now you have the supplies, let's move on to the trickier parts. I found my couch and loveseat on Craigslist, the couch and cushions were in good shape (heck, even the material was clean, I just didn't enjoy the design).

I passed up some other couches I saw for a few reasons, 1. Tufting- I knew that I wouldn't have the patience and know how to use any tufting. I also knew I wanted a plaid material. Any material with a design doesn't look as good as a solid with tufting. Just my opinion. 2. If the cushions were in poor shape I passed the couch up. New cushions can be expensive and I knew I wanted to spend the least amount possible. My couches were already a little more than I wanted to pay, so the added expense of cushions would be too much. If I had found the couches at a thrift store for dirt cheap, I probably could have afforded to buy new cushions. 3. If it was a "true" antique sofa, I knew I had to pass on it. I'm not a professional and I knew I couldn't handle anything crazy like horse hair and grain sack fabric.

Believe it or not reupholstering does not involve a lot of sewing. The only sewing is in the cushions or any piping you might want to use. I am a horrible sewer and knew I would have to either pay someone to sew my cushion covers or find a family member willing to help me out. I watched a lot of videos on sewing cushions though, and if you can sew a zipper in you can probably handle it. I, however, cannot. It is also recommended that you have a serger to prevent fraying of your cushions. My awesome sister-in-law did an amazing job on my cushion covers for me!

Take a lot of pictures as you disassemble your couch. This way if you're stumped you can go back and see how something was put together. Before doing anything, I took a sharpie and wrote right on the fabric what part it was. You can use a sticky note if writing on the fabric scares you. Example: R outside arm.

Flip your couch over and start from the bottom. You'll first take off the black weed-matting-like material by removing EVERY staple. This is where I used the flat head screwdriver to pry up my staples. This is the most time consuming part, not a lot of brains needed, but quite a bit of brawn. After you remove the underside of your couch you'll see a million more staples to remove. I started with the bottom, back, outside arms and worked my way into the inside.

When all the staples are removed and you've taken off all sections of fabric, you can assess the condition of your couch. I used some quilters batting to place over the stuffing of my couch. I used it to make a smoother looking surface before applying the new fabric. I stapled this into place and cut off any excess.

Now is a great time to paint your frame if you'll be changing the color. There's no material to worry about getting paint on. I didn't want the original wood color, I wanted my room to be a little brighter and cooler and I didn't want the dark wood weighing down the room. I used my Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in Old White to paint the wood. It requires no sanding or priming, is easy peasy, and fast. I dark waxed it for an aged appearance.

Now it's time to cut out the pieces of your new material.  This is when labeling the old pieces comes in handy. Use the old pieces as a pattern to cut out all of your new pieces. I suggest to cut an extra inch around your old pattern- it gives you some room to play with. I highly suggest labeling the new pieces as well, especially if you're cutting out material for a loveseat at the same time. It can get very confusing.

When putting your fabric back on, you work the opposite of the way you took it off. You work from the front to the back. I started with the lower front piece, the arms, then the front back, the outside arms, and then the back, and finally the bottom. When putting the material on, pull it as tight as you can to avoid sagging. I wish I could tell you more about putting it on, but the best thing to do is observe as you're taking taking it off. When stapling a large piece of material like the front and back portions, start stapling from the center and work your way to the outside. I found this tip in a Youtube video and it helped a ton with sagging and such.

When you go to take off the back of your couch you might run across metal tacking strips.  Be gentle when taking these off; I was able to reuse mine. If you bend yours, you can purchase more. I watched a lot of videos and took pictures of the tacking process. Your rubber mallet or hammer will come in handy during this part.

What about the ugly staples showing every inch all over your couch? You have a few options. You can make cording to match with your leftover material or you can buy some trim and hot glue it on. The cording involved sewing so guess what I chose? Yep, I bought some white trim at my local Hancock Fabric and hot glued it on. Don't be afraid to use hot glue, it holds extremely well, much better than fabric glue.

I am really excited about how my couches turned out. I really wanted the long, one cushion look, but didn't want to spend money purchasing a new cushion. Know that you can order new cushions online quite easily. My living room is one step closer to being finished. I'm going for an English Antique Equestrian look. Can't tell yet? I'm not offended, it'll get there :)


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  1. You did a wonderful, wonderful job! You would never know it was your first time doing that! Perfect- xo Diana

  2. Your post timing is SO perfect! I love all of your creations but this is exactly what I needed right now! I actually was delivering a dining set to a woman this evening and when I arrived at her house she asked me if I would be interested in seeing her old set. Of course I was excited to see it and it turns out to be a 9 piece (table and 8 chairs) Danish Modern set! It was gorgeous and she REALLY wanted me to take it so I got it for next to nooooothing. Total win. I think I'm happier about the new junky furniture than actually making the sale. Any way to make a long story just a tiny bit shorter, I almost passed on the set because of the cushions. They are not the unscrew staple rescrew kind. I've never reupholstered anything major before so I was nervous to even think of trying. But you tackled a whole stinkin couch and loveseat. There's NO WAY I can't handle a few chairs. I'm glad you mentioned the cording since I can't sew to save my life. Now to just find the perfect fabric to inspire my color design for the rest of the set. I can't wait. You did a fabulous job! Thank you so much for sharing!

    Rachel @ Thrifty Inspirations

    1. Glad I could be of some use. Good luck with your chairs, I can't wait to see your finished product:)

  3. Girl you are so brave! Upholstery is not something I think I can tackle. And this job was huge - awesome job! Great lines on this couch and loveseat - what a find!

  4. I think you did a wonderful job.. it looks fantastic! Thanks for all the info too.. take care, Maryann

  5. You did a fabulous job recovering these and I love the ck fabric!! Stopped by from WUW, your newest follower.

  6. I am so impressed! I would not have tackled a project this big but you did a fantastic job. Saw your link at Savvy Southern Style. Following you now!

  7. This is amazing! I could have bought a sofa similar to this for $35! I'm kicking myself now. You give great instructions. I can totally see the English Antique equestrian look. You have the red, black, and the checks going on. You have a great foundation. I wish I had two for the English look and one for the French. :) I am definitely going to be checking back to see this room. I found you through Southern Savvy Style. :)

  8. I am so impressed! I inherited one very much like that bigger one, but it does have tufting all over. I made it a (badly fitting) slipcover for now. I don't know if I have the guts to do what you did. Congratulations on a beautiful job!

  9. Great transformation! You provided a great tutorial! I'd love for you to share this at my linky party, Twirl & Take a Bow at I hope you can stop by and join in!

  10. The couch really came out beautiful! Great job and thanks for the tutorial.

  11. it's so cheery and swedish looking! bravo on this transformation!

    smiles to you.


    would love to have you stop by and/or follow!

  12. I like it!! I cant wait to see in in person!!

  13. What a huge project to undertake but you sure did a great job with it! I liked this so much I've got it linked to my DIY upholstery post too today!

  14. Oh my goodness how did you find my blog? wow didn't you do such an amazing job. You have inspired me thank you for your confidence boost. I am following you as your blog is delightful. Tracy