So, now it’s time to get started on that DIY Upholstery project from last December (Ignore the Christmas tree in the background of these pictures ).
Let’s talk fabric first. Obviously, the most expensive part of the project is going to be the right kind of fabric. Most decorator fabric is over $10 a yard (some over $20 or more). In my case, I had a huge bolt of this black and tan striped fabric that friend gave me about 10 years ago. I had been saving it to recover a couch with. Well, now was the time.
When buying fabric, the decorator fabric is designed to hold up better than any cheaper fabric might hold up to the wear and tear we will subject a well used couch to. With the amount of time you’ll put into this, you’ll want to buy the best fabric you can afford.
There are other DIY Upholstery alternatives though that are cheaper, to meet a short term need.
One of these is to use a good quality flat sheet (180 thread count or higher) to drape over your couch or chairs. To make this work best, I think the way to go is to remove the cushions, drape the sheet over, then use the other sheet(S) in the set to wrap around the seat cushions and other removable cushions on the couch. I’ve pinned the sheets in place with safety pins around the cushions, with the seam side (with pins) down. This way you can easily remove the sheets and wash as needed.
How Much Fabric?
How much fabric will you need for your DIY Upholstery project? That varies based on the size of your couch and all of it’s surfaces. As I said, I had most of the fabric already. I calculated my need to make sure I could complete the project by measuring:
- from the seat (with cushions removed) up over the back and to the floor
- then across the back lengthwise
- multiply those two numbers together and set aside. That’s your back area.
- I then measured the same way over the arm rests, multiplied together, then doubled it.
- Measure the front of the sofa, from the seam just under the cushions around to the bottom
- Measure the width of the front of the sofa
- Multiply the front measurements. Set Aside.
- Figure the surface area of the cushions.Measure all the way around the cushions one way.
- measure the height and width of the unmeasured sides, and add with the other measurements.
- Multiply by the number of cushions you have.
- Add all of the total numbers together for total approximate fabric needs.
When in doubt, I overestimated slightly. I could always do will extra fabric, but you didn’t want to run out of fabric for something like this! Keep in mind the width of the fabric you are buying (mine was 56″ wide), and any patterns that may need to be matched exactly. For example, I needed to make sure my strips lined up exactly so
Cutting Fabric in DIY Upholstery
I know others have done it differently, but I felt the best way to mark off and cut my fabric was to drape it over the sofa, mark it with pins and chalk, then lay it flat on the floor and cut.
Alternately, most diy upholstery books at the library seem to suggest making pattern pieces from draping cheap muslin fabric over the sofa or furniture and marking it well, pinning it, and using that to cut your decorator fabric. This would be especially wise if you have lots of gathers, darts, and curves. With our sofa, the overall shape was pretty straightforward, so I didn’t feel this was necessary.
Again, when I cut, I usually gave myself a little extra room, rather than the usually 5/8″ seam allowance. My allowance was more like 2-3″. I used chalk to mark off where I was going to cut my fabric, using guide marks I put on my fabric while it was draped on the couch.
DIY Upholstery Tools & Extras
When it comes to tools, I find the most useful for a DIY Upholstery Project are the ones I’ve listed below. I kept them on a tray, for easy access.
Hot Glue Gun: You really can’t go wrong with one of these.
Staple Gun: This is awesome for attaching the fabric to the bottoms.
Upholstery Tacks (the cheapest place I found these were at Hobby Lobby) These worked better on visible seams and places where I would otherwise staple gun the fabric in place.
Upholstery thread and a curved upholstery needles are very handy for hand sewing some spots.