My first foray into sewing/couch upholstery is complete! After about 35+ hours of stripping off the old fabric and removing about a million tacks, measuring, cutting, sewing and attaching the new fabric, and finishing it up with a new bottom dust cover. Ta-da, finished! It isn’t perfect, but for someone who had never used a sewing machine or attempted reupholstering anything harder than a dining chair seat, I’d say it turned out well.
I stripped the couch in the garage but where, you may ask, did I find room to do all of that upholstering? Besides my work at the sewing machine out in the den, I completely took over the office to finish up the sofa this weekend. It looks like an explosion hit, doesn’t it?
I’m really glad that I had a nice bit of open floor space in this room. It was hard enough as it was to shimmy around the couch to attach the fabric (carefully) with my pneumatic staple gun. I can’t imagine trying to work on a couch of this size in any less space.
Before I closed up the sofa again, I added a “couch capsule” that included the original tag, the cleanest scrap of the original fabric I could find, and a short note describing the reason for reupholstery. That way, anyone who opens up the couch in the future will know a good chunk of the story surrounding it. You might think me strange for making a “couch capsule” but I love discovering stuff like this, so why not pass on the hidden goodies to future retro enthusiasts?
Now to the sofa — the process of reupholstering it was quite a learning experience for me. I feel like the second couch will be just a wee bit better thanks to a few stapling and sewing techniques I learned during the process of reupholstering this couch. While the couch turned out very nicely, and I am super happy with the results (I have been randomly giggling and then excitedly running in to sit on the sofa on and off for the last 12 or so hours since I finished it), I don’t deny that this sofa is far from perfect.
I decided to reuse the original horsehair padding, which is in good condition, but a little uneven. Over the life of this couch, most people have chosen to sit on the 2/3 of the couch that has a backrest, causing that part of the couch to become more compressed than the open end. Therefore, the end of the couch is a little puffier than the rest and is not flat and even. Oh well, it adds character, right?
The part of the sofa where the edge of the seat meets the back was hard as well. The transition is not perfect, but it works for me. Note: the original fabric was just stuffed down in there and not tacked at all! I think since the new fabric is thinner, it may have been easier to stuff in there, but harder to make wrinkle free.
You’ll notice I didn’t replace the buttons on the sofa seat. I made this decision because I have very vivid childhood memories of my Dad constantly sewing the buttons back on the seat of his easy chair every month or two — since they seemed to catch on people’s jeans and pants pockets and pop off a lot. I didn’t want to have to worry about that happening to my sofas after all of my hard work (they had a lot of buttons!) so I made the conscious decision to omit them from the seat. I do like the way the buttons look, so I made sure to replace the 5 buttons on the seat back.
In the end, this couch is SO much nicer now than it was when I inherited it. It is clean and free of odor. The fabric is smooth and not itchy, but still has a “retro feel” with bits of sheen. Plus, it is orange — which as you might have noticed — is one of my all time favorite colors.
When I realized I had a dress in my closet that matched the couch, I decided to mark my first major upholstery achievement with a photo or two — you know — after I cleaned up a little. I think my Nana (whose sewing machine I used), my Grandma (who was a thrifty, mend and make do kind of lady and also loved orange) and my Great Grandma (who I never met, but was the original owner of these sofas) would be proud.
One down, one to go!