Crafty How-to guides: How to Recover Your Sofa Without Going Mad

Several years ago I found the PERFECT couch at a yard sale. This couch was a masterpiece. But time and use both took their toll and the couch wound up in bad shape. So what to do? New couches can cost upwards of $500! The body of this couch was still solid and shape was still great and contemporary….

I decided to tackle the job of reupholstering the old one with the help of my boyfriend. I did a little online research and found that most sites provide basic information, but aren’t very encouraging. There was a lot of talk of slipcovers. Still, we weren’t afraid, so we pressed on. And invited a few friends over to help.

Fabric is definitely the right place to start if you want to take on this project. It’s going to be your major expense. We were lucky to find a fabric store that was going out of business, but there are great deals online as well. Don’t underestimate ebay.com! We used a chart at the fabric store to estimate how much fabric we would need, then we added five yards. Be sure, especially if you are buying fabric that is a real bargain, to get a little extra. Better to have too much (you can always make accent pillows) than not enough!

Also, if this is your first big reupholstery project, make sure the lines of your furniture are simple. Excessive pleating, skirting, piping, or odd angles will frustrate you and the couch will wind up in the trash heap.

On the big day, the first step was to remove all of the old fabric. We were careful to pay attention to how the original fabric had been put on the couch. It made things simpler when we attached the new fabric.

Taking the old fabric off is the most tedious and time-consuming part of the job. There were four of us and it still took three hours! We gave up on removing every single staple. That really sped things up. Do keep some pliers on hand – they’ll make it easier to yank out old staples.

Use a tape measure to figure out the dimensions of each fabric piece you need. Make sure you have good, sharp scissors for cutting the heavy upholstery fabric. We had to stop in the middle of everything to go buy a new scissors! Take your time and give yourself plenty of extra fabric to work with. You can always trim it later.

Once we had our pieces cut it was time to pull out the staple gun. We used a Power Shot Pro, which is a heavy-duty staple gun available for under $20US at most hardware stores. Staple your fabric to the frame of your couch, starting in the middle and working your way out to each end. It’s important to keep the fabric tight and to maintain tension across the whole length of the fabric.

There will also be a lot of tucking of fabric and pulling it through to the backside of the sofa. There is no set way of doing this. Don’t be afraid to try different methods and be patient with yourself.

Take plenty of breaks, too. You’ll feel better and get less frustrated. If you have allergies, be prepared for a runny nose! There is a lot of dust stored in that ages-old couch.

Once the body of the sofa is recovered you can move on to the cushions and pillows. Craft stores sell cushion foam, but we recycled the old ones. I also used the old cushion covers as templates to sew new ones. This was, honestly, the scariest part of the project. If you don’t sew, you can take the old cushion covers to a seamstress. The pillows were simple and we even reused the stuffing!

Our total project cost was about $70. It took a full weekend to complete. Not a bad deal for an amazing new couch.

Crafty How-to guides: How to Recover Your Sofa Without Going Mad - Comments

  • Heather

    I love your new choice of fabric, very bright. So after all this time, is your recover job still holding up, and are you still pleased with it all?

    I need to recover a couch, but I'm still kinda working on inspiring myself that I can do it. :)

  • Melanie

    What a great project! I love the finished product.

    My husband and I got a long and comfy sofa from some friends who didn't need it any more. The color, however, has turned our living room into Clash City. Green plaid doesn't go with very much, I guess.

    Anyway, I didn't like any of the styles, colors or prices for slipcovers. Thanks for providing some inspiration. Feels good to know that with a little ambition and a long weekend we can escape from Clash City :)

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