Mar 4, 2009

Sew-Free Re-Upholstery

(I recently recovered another couch--a camel back. Click HERE for pics of that "recovery.")

Well, I couldn't find pictures of my sofa in its previous lives. I know they're somewhere. Hmmm. Maybe PHOTO organizing will be a future project to blog about...

Here's a picture of it's current manifestation. The material was originally the curtains in this room. I had JUST enough to cover. I'm talking millimeters!

Recovering a couch without sewing.

First, the sofa needs to be fairly simple. If there's wood showing it will be more difficult. The squarish shapes are the easiest. The others can be done, certainly, but it will take more effort. Here's what I mean about "squarish." Mainly it's the arms that are of the most concern:

It's also fairly "do-able" if the arms are rounded like this:

Another area to consider is the cushions. In the two sofas above, the cushions are rectangles. If you look closely at the picture below, you will see that the front outside edges are "peninsular" shaped. Those are a BEAR to try to recover like I'm describing. I speak from experience.

I'm going to write my directions as if I am recovering the second couch pictured above. The one with the "round" arms.

Assemble your tools.
  • glue gun
  • glue sticks
  • scissors
  • staple gun
  • fabric
  • butter knife
  • safety pins
Yes, safety pins. And get the big ones.

Step One: Choose your fabric. I've always been one to use something inexpensive as I didn't want to have to worry about it if I messed up. Twice I've used yard sale material, once I used $2.00 a yard fabric from Wal-Mart, and this last time I repurposed my curtains. My sister chose some corduroy fabric from the store.

Step Two: Remove the cushions and set them aside. Cut a piece of fabric that is wider than the bottom front. Tip the sofa onto its back and staple the fabric to the underside of the wood at the bottom of the couch. Pull the fabric straight up and either staple (if there's somewhere to do that) or safety pin it about 3 inches in under where the cushions would go. You don't want to see the safety pins sticking out. Leave the extra width flapping in the breeze for now.

Step Three: Tip the sofa forward and cut a piece of fabric long enough to be stapled to the underside of the bottom back and come completely OVER the top and down to the inside area that would be covered by the cushions. Staple, stretch over. Place sofa back on its feet. Stretch down and safety pin the bottom well below the cushion level. Leave the width flapping again.

Step Four: ALWAYS leave lots of extra width. Next use the same method to do the arms. Tip the sofa, staple into the wood at the bottom, stretch over the arm, safety pin well below cushion level, leave extra width loose. (NOTE: If the arms are rounded like in the picture, stretch the fabric to underneath the arm and staple there before bringing it over. There should be wood under there.)

Step Five: Now the more intricate part. Staple the front bottom widths to the fronts of the lower left and right areas beneath the arm fronts. (Whew, that was a sentence.) Trim excess.

Step Six: If the arm front is circular like the picture, begin to gather the material with a little fold so that it looks like the picture below. (That's my dishtowel.) Notice that I've gathered it by folding it. Staple the folds toward the middle. Do both arms.

Step Seven: Fold and staple the extra flapping fabric to the front of the arm area as well.

Step Eight: Look at the backs of the arms. Here's where the butter knife comes in. Jam all the extra material (trim if it's TOO bulky) into any edges you can find.

Step Nine: Fold the side flaps left from the very back of the sofa into a "hem." Glue those along the inside edge.

Step Ten: The cushions. Pretend you're wrapping a present and wrap everything so that it is underneath the cushion. "Square" the folds rather than "Triangle" them like you would wrapping paper. Fold the sides in first and secure. Fold the back under next and secure. Finally, carefully fold the front under neath making a nice, neat fold. More safety pins.

Step Eleven: Cut a shape to match the very front of the arm. In our sample couch, that would be a circle with a "tail." Fold under the edge all the way around and glue to the front of the arms to cover all the staples and raw edges of fabric. Make it long enough to fold under the very bottom to be stapled. If you have a rectangular front, use that shape.

And it's finished! Was that clear as mud? Perhaps I'll rustle up a couch to do in my "beautify" phase. If I do, I'll edit this post and have step-by-step pictures.

It's really pretty easy to do. I've now done nine couches and loveseats between mine and 3 other friends. I've now got it down to about 4-5 hours.

If you'd like to ask specific questions for clarification, please do. I'll do my best to help.

(All sofas pictured are from


Anonymous said...

What a good job you've done! I like the idea of recovering the furniture but I've always been afraid to attempt it. :)

Roxanne said...

The key to taking the fear out is CHEAP material LOL! Then, if it doesn't work out, you stuff the pieces into an opaque garbage bag and hide it in the bottom of the trashcan.

No one will ever know.

Of course, you'll actually be successful so you can just be proud of yourself when you've finished!


Anonymous said...

LOL! You just crack me up!!

Rini said...

You lost me on Step Five.

"Staple the front bottom widths to the fronts of the lower left and right areas beneath the arm fronts."

Do WHAT with the what-what now?

I think I need that picture post...

Roxanne said...

Rini--That WAS a confusing sentence!

I'll try it again. Help me make it make sense and I'll type in what we come up with:

There should be extra fabric that extends forward in the front of the arm. That fabric should be folded across the FRONT (not the top) of the arm area and attached with staples.

Is that less confusing? Please keep asking until I make it perfectly clear.

I don't have my camera tonight. As soon as I do, I'll add pictures for step five.

A picture is worth...well, you know!

Rini said...

Okay, so...

In step 2, we have extra material extending to the left and right, in front of the arms...

In step 3, we have extra extending to the left and right behind the couch, and brushing up against the inner arms once folded over the back...

In step 4, we have extra material extending forward and backward from the arms...

In step 5, we use the extra material from step 4, folding the outer edge in to cover the front of each arm.

Then in step 6, we gather the fabric around the rounding top part of each arm, working from the outside in. Once we get around the rounded part - when we get to the straight drop of the inner arm - we can just fold that inner flap outward across the front of the arm, overlapping step 5's work. And this last fold is step 7.

Is that right?

And then step 9 (and maybe part of step 8?) deals with the extra material from step 3...

Does step 2's extra material just get trimmed down, I guess, and covered over by the front-of-the-arm piece in step 11?

What a cool project! I'm starting to think I might be able to do this...

Roxanne said...


YES! That's it!

If you do the project, take pictures and post about it. I'd love to see how it comes out.

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