Saturday, April 16, 2011

All Sewn Up; Or, a Philosophy of Reupholstery

Ta-da!  There's some welting to add around the feet, the underlining to staple up, and white wooden accent pieces to nail back along the bottom, but the major work is done.  We actually finished the couch in an extended afternoon/evening.  

The interior got put in first, right over the old fabric.  That look on my face is probably consternation when our cheap electric stapler decided to stop working.  Thing learned from this project:  buy a Power-Shot brand manual stapler instead of an electric stapler.  We bought an electric staple gun several years ago for our first upholstery project because I didn't want to deal with squeezing a trigger every time I stapled, but the electric one we got was so weak that it took way more force from me than the manual stapler did in order to sink the staples properly.  My hands are still pretty sore two days later, but no blisters.

One of the other big secrets I wish I'd known when I did my first reupholstery project: you can sew your furniture closed.  Not in a slip cover way either.  In the photo above, I used a couple of staples to kind of pin the fabric in place.  In newer furniture you tear apart, you might see tack strips used in those places where you can't staple it from the inside.  I've found tack strips to be difficult to use and set properly, but with sewing, you can tack the fabric temporarily in place with staples and quickly sew it in with an upholstery needle.  

The seam is put together like a blind stitch on a hem: into the fold of one side, into the body of the other side.  the curve of the upholstery needle helps send it back out as it pushes against the wood of the frame, since you can't bend the fabric to get the needle out.  

So there you have it: a couch reupholstery in two evenings and a long afternoon.  Sewing and putting the welting around the feet (to cover the currently raw edges around them) will probably take another short evening.  J and I are both pretty sore from the pulling off of fabric, the prying of staples, and the bending and other work of stapling fabric back on.

So why reupholster a couch when we may be moving across the country in a few months?  Well, the easy answer is that we've owned this couch and the fabric to recover it for almost a year (since before we moved into our current apartment), and it was about time to get the mystery fabric put to some good use.  

But also because we're going to be here for at least another three months, and the three days it took to recover the couch is worth those three months of not looking at the old one.  If I'd known it was going to take only three days, we'd have done it sooner--I was thinking it would take a week or more, since our last two projects were five days each for armchairs.  There's also the experience value: the next couch we recover will be that much easier because we recovered this one.  And there's the defiance part: I may not know where we'll be living in six months, but by damn, I know where we're living now, and that's here.  And I'm going to make it as nice as possible in the mean time.


  1. Gorgeous work. I see that Groceries agrees! And amen to defiantly being here now. So hard to do in the uncertainty that seems to define so much of this stage of grad school.

  2. Eileen, per usual, I am in awe.

  3. Thanks guys. Groceries does love having new things to sit on; this motivates at least 90% of what I make (except for the jello).

  4. I love that your cat is named Groceries. I for one am eagerly awaiting burning our couch when we move.