beforeaftercouch2This past weekend I finished up my second couch reupholstering job. Now I have a matched pair!

reupholstering-sofaOn Sunday — as a nasty blizzard raged outside, dumping 10 or so inches of snow on the Retro Ranch — I was stuck in the house for the entire day, so I decided to give it my all and see if I could put the finishing touches on my second vintage sofa.

vintage-sofa-upholsteryMost of the sofa came together quite easily, since a lot of the sewing was very similar to what I did for the first couch, but then there was that darn arm. Sure, I love the look of the arm — but it was such a pain to upholster! Sewing the piece of fabric to cover the arm was difficult enough, but attaching it — along with all those pesky little details like the small panel that covers the front of the arm were right — would be even tougher.

tack-stripCase in point: attaching the fabric to the underside of the arm without the staples or tacks showing. Problem number one, I had just enough tack strip to attach the fabric to back of the sofa, but none leftover for the underside of the arm. The blizzard was making a trip to the fabric store seem like a treacherous voyage, so instead I made my own tack strip…

cardboard-tack-strip…with some of the cardboard edge band and a box of vintage upholstery tacks that I bought for 25 cents at my local ReStore a while back — for seemingly just such an upholstering emergency.

upholsteryI wouldn’t call the finished results professional, but it is the underside of the arm. No one is going to notice if it is slightly lumpy, right?

retro-orange-sofaThankfully, the part of the arm that does show looks pretty darn good!

midcentury-sofa-armI’m in disbelief that it turned out this well. There were a few hours during my work on the arm when I wasn’t sure I could get it to come together, but thankfully it did in the end.

retro-sofaAlso tricky, was sewing this small, squared area of the seat cushion just in front of the arm, which called for quite a lot of tight sewing machine maneuvering.

1950s-sofa reupholstering-vintage-sofaThere were more difficulties, again brought on by the arm, when attaching the last piece of fabric to the back of the sofa. I used tack strip to attach the entire back, even for the jog around the arm. It wasn’t easy, but I got it to work — phew!

reupholstered-1950s-sofa retro-upholstery-sofaIn my opinion this sofa came out even better than the first, for two reasons:

  1. I had practiced on the first sofa and was getting the hang of sewing and upholstering in general
  2. The sofa was not as beat up as the first one, so the original horsehair padding is not quite as lumpy looking

midcentury-couch vintage-sofasNow I have a lovely matched set of vintage orange sofas with brand new upholstery, making them feel clean and new. Even my Mother-In-Law — who was utterly revolted by the couches when I first acquired them — said she would be glad to have a seat on either one of the sofas now. I think that’s a pretty good compliment, don’t you?

When all is said and done, reupholstering these two vintage couches cost me about $400 for fabric and supplies, however I have quite a lot of orange fabric left over from my purchase of 23 yards — so the actual cost is less when you factor in that I have extra material to use for another project. I’m not sure exactly how much is left (I’ll have to unroll it and measure). I initially ordered much more fabric that I ever thought I would need — just in case I made a big mistake — since it was my first time sewing and trying to upholster furniture like this. Being careful with my measurements before cutting, laying out the fabric smartly and luckily not making any big mistakes saved me enough fabric for another project. My adorable husband Jim suggested that I make a matching ottoman…

leftover-fabric..apparently Leo also wants a dog bed. We’ll see Leo.

kate-reading-on-couchPersonally — after spending the entire month of January reupholstering these sofas — I’m thinking about taking a break from the sewing machine for a little R&R — reading and relaxing on my new, old sofas. Thanks for tagging along on my first foray into reupholstering vintage furniture.




  1. Gosh Kate, you did a magnificent job on those couches!! Kudo’s to you…you are brave and fearless!!! Also, the doll house is the BOMB!!!! I LOVE it!!

    • Thanks Tasha — yes, about 3/4 of the way through couch number 2, I started getting upholstery fatigue, I just wanted it to be over! Luckily the blizzard forced me to stay inside and I hunkered down and kept working on it. If it was summer, I would have totally gone out to garden and abandoned it until the following weekend or later. 🙂 I see you are about ready to make TWO coats! Good luck!

  2. Woohoo! Those look amazing. I moved into a 1960s time capsule house two summers ago and Retro Renovation has been a HUGE inspiration to me. I’m surprised to just now be finding your personal blog (by way of the comments on By Gum By Golly)! I did a loveseat right after we moved and even finishing ONE of it was a huge challenge, so major kudos to you getting through TWO couches.

  3. Wow – this came out awesome! This is what happens when I forget to check for several weeks…bunches of updates all at once!

    That sofa looks like it was designed to optionally mate into a single long unit if you have the space. But perhaps a follow up project could be to build a corner table to go in between them (or just find one, which may be a little tough.)

    We have a couch in our house that was my Grandparents, dating to 1962. It’s even sat in the same spot. When we moved in we had it re-upholstered in a leather-like black fabric. It was the second time it had been done – originally it was a sea-foam green, then gold crushed velour in 1983. It’s similar in construction to yours – horsehair, steel springs, hardwood frame. Finding furniture constructed like that now is incredibly expensive.

  4. Reading about your adventures with great-grandma’s couches is boosting my confidence to tackle the two chairs I have from my childhood home! Great job, as always!

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