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How Do You Re-Upholster a Sectional Couch with Recliner?

Updated on December 1, 2016

Upholstry Preparation tools, supplies and planning ahead!

Hi All,

First of all Don't Panic! It's not all that hard, just time consuming! There are a couple of small tricks to it but they are simple to learn. (If you can use a sewing machine, pins, scissors and a staple gun your ready to learn. This can take 24 to 72 hours (allowing for rest) to complete this project dependng on your skill level with the tools. It can be done in as little as 4-6 hours if you are good with the tools).

I will warn you that it can be nearly as expensive to reupholstrer a piece as it is to replace it depending on the furniture piece, your fabric and materials. Only you can decide this! Make a Cost estimate before starting to make sure it's worth it!

The first place you want to start are your tools and Fabric, Staple Remover, small tack hammer, cotton batting, nylon or burlap webbing material or, upholstry thread, Staples, Staple gun, Scissors, a good Sewing Machine, heavy duty needles: both for hand sewing and the sewing machine. Recliner mechanism and springs If they need to be replaced, time and planning.

Everyone always want to dig right in and end up with a mess they can't fix quickly. The recliner mechanisim, the springs, foam cushions, cotton,(webbing if needed) will need to be checked Before you decide to do anything. Most of these items can be found at a Home supply store like Home Depot or Lowes and some sewing and fabric stores will carry a lot of these supplies too. But the best will always be an upholstry fabric and supply store. Try to find one near you in your phone book. If there is one in your area check them out, they can save you ton of time and they will have the better fabrics for what you want to do.

Heaver fabrics are better and will take more daily wear and tear. Do you want matching pillows? Don't forget to add fabric and fluff or foam for the size pillows you want. Also add an extra square yard of fabric per piece of furniture or two if the project is large to allow for sewing and cording.

I'll say this now before we go any further. Warning: If you have never done this before I Do Not suggest you get a patterned fabric! You will have to match the pattern on both sides of the couch for it to look right and it can be a real pain if your fabric is limited.)

There are a lot of supplies you will probably not know about, but if you want to do a REALLY GOOD JOB I suggest you find them. A good list of supplies will include: Cotton batting, cording and cardboard stripping.

The next items are web backing and replacement foam. Most of the time you will be able to re-use these if your are careful tearing the old cloth and padding off the furniture. You will want them to use as a pattern for the new fabric and padding. So don't rip them up removing them or throw them away!

It's always a good idea to use new cotton batting since it mats down after some use and it reduces the wear and tear on the foam so it doesn't shred from the fabric rubbing against it during use. Webbing goes between the springs and the foam. If you want to make things really easy and you can find it, you can use Closing Strip. (Closing strip will help make the final closing of the new upholstry MUCH faster and easier than sewing it shut. It can save as much as 1-6 hours of sewing time).

One other thing is where are you going to do all of this? Somewhere without carpet is preferred, but if you have to work on carpet I suggest you get some cardboard (Refridgerator boxes are great and usually free) to put under the fabric it to make things easier and prevent cutting or pinning into the carpet.

It takes a fair amount of room to work with the fabric. A good rule of thumb is to measure a section (the largest) of the couch and add 3 feet all the way around for manuvering room to pin and cut the fabric properly.

Once you have accomplished all of this you are ready to start! WooHoo!

HINT: If you want to save your back from stress and keep from having to bend over for long periods of time you can get some concrete blocks or milk crates(BORROWED or bought) and plywood and build a small platform to elevate the furniture off of the floor while you work on it.

I'll continue this in the next article...

Thanks for reading jwessa1

Re-uphostry of the Sectional Couch

I'm back, sorry it took so long we sort of lost our power due to a recent blizzard.

I forgot to mention in the first article a Seam Ripper as a tool, my bad. They can be quite handy on occasion.

In the second capsule I'm going to cover the systematic steps in short, to recover a Couch, some people will be able to do it from this even though it is just a scratch on the surface of the actual job details.

One thing I would like to remind everyone about is safety!

Please, use goggles or safety glasses and if you have allergies or just prefer to wear one a mask is suggested. Usually the inside of furniture is dustier than you would think.

1. Remove any and all throws, slip covers and cushions. Place the furniture on the platform (if you have one, if not use the floor or cardboard) upside down. Using the Tack/Staple remover the underbelly of the furniture known as the dust cover, take out all of the tacks or staples you can find out in the open and it should come off pretty easily.

Carefully, trying to cause as little damage as possible to the fabric or furniture frame remove all of the tack/staples from the upholstry attached to the furniture.

At this point you will want to open up the back of the couch, and you will want to use your seam ripper to open this seam all the way to the top on both sides of the couch. Fold over the cloth before removing it completely and check the inside for hidden staples and tacks.

There are always going to be hidden things, coins, staples, tacks, gumdrops from 1882, some cool things and some not so cool things, you never know when opening up an old piece of furniture.

Now you will have the fabric loose, but, usually still clinging to the furniture because of the seams and stiching. Here you can approach this a couple of different ways, you can start ripping seams with your seam ripper or you can slide the coverings off of the furniture, in most cases it might be a little tight but then you can sit down in a comfy chair to rip the seams too. Usually you will remove the deck(the seating part) and back of the furniture fabric before removing the arms. Sometimes you will need to losen the arms before you can do anything else it depends on who built it or re-upholstred it last.

Mark each piece of fabric so you know which section of the fabric it attaches to like the back left wing or piece 1 back right and keep a drawing of where each piece goes. I usually make each larger piece one at a time instead of doing them wholesale. Get out your new fabric and unroll or unfold it upside down on the floor, table or what ever your going to be using.

(I do the back first, then the deck, then each arm. I do this to avoid confusion as to what piece attaches to what piece of fabric.)

As you rip the seams of the fabric lay it out and pin it to the BACK of the new fabric like you would jugsaw puzzle pieces, in the order you will sew or reassemble or cut the fabric for them.

( Another way to do this is to get a large roll of pattern(stencil) paper and make your own paper patterns for each piece. Some people prefer to do this, I don't since I already have a pattern that worked before using the old pieces of fabric.)

Please note: *** Do not make the mistake of thinking that the fabric from both pieces of furniture are going to be cut exactly the same way, they won't be. You need to do this for both sides of the couch separately!

If you decide to cut everything at once you can save fabric since you can lay it out more efficiently, but make sure you keep a detailed drawing and mark each piece so you know where it attaches to.

Now that you have the old fabric laid out and Pinned to the back of the new fabric it's time to make some cuts.

Allowing 1" of extra room around the old fabric cut the outline of each piece ignoring any fitting cuts for corners. If you see a cut in the fabric where it was going around the framing to fit it properly do not follow the cut ignore it and leave the extra fabric so you can actually custom fit it too.

Figure 1 Cutting the Fabric to match

Piping and Cording

Please note: Cording is not a requirement! If you prefer to have a smoother more modern look you can use the double stitching method shown in figure 5. But doing this may make it harder to get the seams straight.

The next step of the process Before you can start assembling the pieces parts you will need to make replacement cording to match the fabric you chose.

This is one of the tricky parts since you need to make cording on the Bias of the fabric. Or you want the weave of the fabric to be diagonal not straight. The reason for this is wear and tear. The cording takes the most abuse over any other part of the furniture and making bias cording will aid your seams and the rest of the re-upholstry job last longer. This is were the rubbing as you get in and out of the chair or couch takes place, where your cothing rubs the fabric of the furniture the most. It also allows you to get nice square seams using a boxing style system like a slipcover.

But good news there is an easy way to do it!

You can just cut the Fabric at an angle. If you have the fabric flat on the floor and you cut at a 45 degree angel. (Figure 2)

45degree layout for Bias cut cloth

Cut ressults example

Figure 4 Attaching the bias cuts together

Sewing the two bias cuts together

Piping - Cording and sewing

Once you have the length of piping you need to make the cording, pull out the length of cording string you need and sew it into the center of the piping. You will want to make sure the stitches are holding the cording string fairly tight but don't strain the fabric to do it. You will also want the extra material left around the cording so you have room to sew it into the pattern of the fabric at the seams where appropriate. You might want to take a picture of the original before you start tearing it apart so you can see where the original cording was placed.


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