Friday, 19 September 2014

Re-upholstering Sofa at home

The source of courage - The Charism of Creativity

It takes great courage to take scissors to your sofa. :) But I have done it, and here is the story. 

Has anyone heard of the proverb 31 woman of the Bible ? Well, she is the superwoman in the words of another woman (Alas! You cannot blame a man for coming up with the complete description!) . She has baffled me always, and made me wonder, is that really possible! My financial, business and marketing skills are next to zero. I would fare similarly in most of the other things listed in proverb 31. I couldn't relate how a commoner like me, could aim for as high a target like that. And I stopped reading this book "Beautiful In God's Eyes" halfway , in spite of its rave reviews.

And then I attended a workshop on charism discernment - Called and Gifted, and was  greatly inspired and encouraged on identifying that my talent of creativity was in-fact a charism from God to be used for the good of my family and others. That made me decide to take on this project, and  I spend about 100 pounds to do this whole project and saved at-least 1000 pounds by not buying a new sofa.

The old Sofa

Our sofa had its fair share of milk, yogurt and baby food on it, that to be honest, it started looking quite horrible!! I myself didn't want to sit on it, let alone any visitors. So the options were to buy a new sofa or to somehow clean up the old one. But for my 2 year old daughter, the sofa is just an extension of her dining table, so the plan to buy a new sofa was vetoed by DH during the first round itself. So it was left to me to fix the old one.

Have a look at our old sofa, ,stained beyond repair. The sofa back cushions looks practically lifeless, and worst of it the sofa seat where we sit down is all hardwired , all stitched permanently to the wooden sofa frame. That made it impossible to wash or clean it. Attempts to use upholstery cleaner only resulted in making the stains lighter but bigger.

If you have a similar situation at home, I hope you will be encouraged by my work. But I do warn you that as every sofa is different, you will have to adapt my solution accordingly. I was inspired to do this work from Ashly @makeitloveit , but unlike her fixed cover solution, I opted for a washable cushion cover.

Things Required

1. Sofa -  I re-upholstered two medium sized three seater sofa, with fixed cushions.
2. Fabric - I used about 4 meter fabric per sofa, You can do this project with lesser fabric if you go for a pattern less one. Matching up patterns does waste fabric, but looks good in the end.
Sewing machine - Though the general advise is to use a sewing machine which can handle upholstery fabrics, I did this on my basic Janome machine.
3. Heavy duty Stapler
4. Cotton ties - as required, I used about 5 meters
5. Velcro - as required

How I did it ?/ How to do it?

1. Cutting up the old sofa

Yes, you have to do it! I first removed both sofa back cushions.  Then I cut the old the sofa seat fabric along the edges and trying to preserve as much fabric for possible. The cushion foam inside our sofa was quite thick , but along the edges it was quite tatty and breaking up. (I forgot take any photos at this stage ) .

2. Clean and prep the old sofa.

 I hoovered the sofa, and cleaned up as much as I can. I washed the cut out fabric and it looked stain free at-least. I stitched the washed pieces together, and stapled it onto the bare sofa to cover the hard edges, using a heavy duty stapler.

3. Start measuring and drawing patterns and start sewing

Now that all corners of sofa are accessible, you can start making your patterns. Thankfully there were no curves on my sofa, all neat straight edges. I decided to cover the sitting and chair back cushions, armrests and other bits visible from the front. I divided the bits to be covered into rectangles , and then it was just a matter of putting those rectangles together.

To sew a basic square cushion cover, you will need a top, bottom, front, and 2 side pieces.
The number of pieces required for armrest and sides will depend on the shape of your sofa.

Some tips , if you would like to experiment ,
 -Make sure to add seam allowances to your patterns as you draw them.
- As the fabric is upholstery quality, pinning the edges together before sewing helped me a lot. 
- All seams must be pressed (ironed) well to give it a professional edge.
- Finish all seams with an over-locker, or a zigzag stitch.
- Do top stitching as required , and as your patience allows you. That will strengthen the edges and 
  give a very clean look.

4. Start making the cushion cover

As our cushion foam was quite tattered, I decided to make a permanent cover for them which will stay on it for ever. I used some old duvet covers to cut out fabric for this cushion covers. For ties at back i used some store bought cotton ties, as I didn't want to make ties from scratch. 

5. Time to breath life into dead cushions

Now that's one of the most useful and easy bit to do. Do this by filling the dead cushions with more pillow filling. The filling can be bought cheapest from store bought sleeping pillows. Open up one or two sleeping pillows and push the filling into the dead cushions till its nice and plump. 

Can you spot the difference between the dead and live one in this pic ?

6. Start making the armrest and front covers

Then it was time to cut the original fabric. (If your fabric has patterns make sure the patterns flow from piece to piece. Easy as it may sound, that is the hardest bit.) I bought the fabrics on a great sale from John Lewis, really really cheap. We chose the color to match with the walls in the lounge.  Now that was an added luxury, to have a sofa that match the walls, if we were to buy new ones, it would have been black to hide the stains :)

Sew the rectangles together, and this is how it looked like in the end.                                                                

When doing such big pieces, keep fitting the piece as it completes, to check if its sagging or stretching too tight anywhere. I used velcro to attach the ends/sides of the arm rest to sofa. (Velcro can be sewn to the sofa fabric, and other end can be stapled to the sofa as required using a heavy duty stapler.)

7. Start making more cushion covers

Make more cushion covers to cover the sofa seats and sofa back cushions. I found it easier than dress making, as it was just a matter of putting the correct rectangles together. Again for the ties I used 'cotton ties' from store. To keep things simpler Make one cushion cover at a time , and try fitting them to make necessary changes to pattern for the next cover.

8. And here we go.

The best part is that I can wash the covers any time, and keep them clean always. And why not, I can even use the patterns to make another set of covers if we ever decide to change to color scheme of the lounge. :)


  1. Great work! Inspirational. Absolutely laudable creativity!!