Upholstering furniture: Where to begin?

Upholstering furniture: Where to begin?

You spot it across the room at your favorite thrift store. The perfect chair. The lines are timeless, the size is perfect, and you can see beneath the orange vinyl from the 1970’s it has “great bones.”

Or maybe you recently inherited your grandmother’s Queen Anne sofa she inherited from her mother. The wood is in great shape, but the fabric has been worn down by thousands of visitors and one curious cat named “Midge.”

Whether it’s a piece of furniture that has been in your family for years or a thrift store pick up, reupholstering fabric can breath new life into your furniture. But where do you begin?

Select your Fabric

This step is vital to the overall look of your finished piece, but it is also the step that is most often taken for granted. Yes, you want a fabric that will look great, but it also has to meet the demands that will be placed on your furniture over time. Will, the piece, sit in a largely unused sitting area or will it be used on a regular basis? Will it sit under a window? Do you have children or pets? What is the overall decor in your home? What is your budget for reupholstering the piece? In answering these questions, it is possible to narrow down your fabric choices from tens of thousands to just a few.

Remove, Measure, Repeat

There is nothing more frustrating than getting into an upholstery project and realizing you don’t have enough of the fabric you purchased. Worse yet, starting to cut the fabric and realizing you cut the pieces in the wrong order and no longer have the large swatches you need. Measuring an item for re-upholstery goes beyond breaking out the tape measurer and guessing, there is a precise science for getting the amount of fabric you will need.

  • Remove the old fabric from the furniture. Try not to tear the pieces as they will serve as your pattern for the new fabric. You will find that your furniture has two layers of fabric, a base layer, and the outer layer. Carefully remove both, revealing the cushions underneath. Be sure to number the pieces on the back with a permanent marker and make a note where the piece was on the piece of furniture. This will help you keep track of which pieces go where.
  • Make a new pattern. Using the pieces of old fabric, make a paper pattern for the new upholstery. Since fabric tends to shift, using a paper pattern allows you to cut the new fabric more accurately.
  • Attach the base fabric. Consider the base fabric a “trial run” at upholstering the piece. This gives you an opportunity to make any mistakes on less expensive fabrics that will ultimately be covered.
  • Make the welting. Welting is the cord, tassel or other finishing piece that goes along the edge of your furniture. Some come pre-made, others must be made out of the fabric you have chosen.
  • Attach the top fabric.

If the idea of upholstering your own sofa, chair or other furniture item makes your head spin, let the professionals at Beckenstein Fabrics & Interiors help. Our fabric experts can walk you through your re-upholstery project every step of the way.