Simple armchairs can be reupholstered to add a breath of fresh air to any room.

Breathe some new life into your furniture's upholstery by sewing a simple slipcover or completely reupholstering the entire piece. Both of these techniques can be done yourself at a fraction of a professional's cost.

Sewing a Slipcover

Creating a new cover for your couch or chair may be just the thing to brighten a room or freshen up an older piece of furniture. Slipcovers can easily be removed for laundering.

Measuring Your Furniture

The simplest slipcover to make may be for a chair, but you'll still want to recruit an extra pair of hands for this project. Use a tape measure instead of a ruler or yardstick as it will more easily conform to the shape of your furniture. Covers for sofas and other larger pieces of furniture may have to be done in sections as most fabrics aren't made that wide. To measure the chair:

  • Remove the cushions and covers
  • Measure the length of each section from top to bottom. Denver Fabrics has a simple diagram showing how to measure an armchair. It includes finding the dimensions for:
    • Outside back
    • Inside back
    • Seat
    • Front
    • Inside arm
    • Outside arm
    • Arm front
    • Cushions and pillows, if applicable

Don't forget to write down your measurements before shopping for fabric.

Fabric Calculators

Once you have your measurements, there are several things you can do to figure out how much upholstery fabric you need:

  • Peg's Slipcovers has drawings of different pieces of furniture. You can use these to determine your yardage.
  • The traditional way of measuring is spelled out here. Make sure to bring your calculator with you.

Sewing Your Slipcover

After you purchase and prewash your fabric (see below for guidelines), there are several ways to sew your slipcover:

Reupholstering Your Furniture

If you really want to permanently change the upholstery on a piece of furniture, than reupholstering is the way to go. You will need a bit more sewing skills, as well as patience, to complete this job.

Tools Needed

Many places offer beginning upholstery kits that include the basic tools needed to do a simple reupholstering job. Online companies such as Vista Enterprises offer a variety of kits. Tools needed are:

  • Heavy serrated scissors
  • Wooden or rubber mallet
  • Tack, staple and nail remover
  • Magnetic hammer
  • Miscellaneous upholstery tacks and pins
  • Marking chalk
  • Curved and button needles
  • Webbing stretcher
  • Regulator (adjusts cushion filling)
  • Heavy-duty staple gun

How to Reupholster Furniture

Once you get past the fear of ripping apart your favorite sofa or chair, reupholstering can be quite fun. For the most part, just follow along the seams of the fabric you have taken off.

  • Remove current tapestry or upholstery fabric from furniture.
  • Lay it out on the floor. These pieces are your patterns for the new fabric.
  • Pin it to the new material and cut it all out.
  • Attach the new fabric along the same lines as the old one was removed.
  • When recovering a cushion, baste the casing first to make sure it fits well, then machine stitch.
  • Use blindstitches to fix the imperfections.

Choosing Upholstery Fabric

Not all fabric stores sell the best upholstery material. If you want your purchase to last awhile, then shop at the better stores and expect to pay a little more. It will still cost less than sending your furniture out to be reupholstered, however.Here are some other tips to keep in mind when choosing your fabric:

  • While all fabrics are good for reupholstering or for making slipcovers, the synthetic man-made materials are more durable and hold their color better than cotton.
  • Stay away from thinner fabrics, especially if the furniture is being used frequently or if you have pets or children.
  • Check to make sure the fabric has a stain and soil repellent finish. If it is not finished, a product such as Scotch-Guard will help give the fabric some protection.
  • Check to make sure the laundry requirements for the fabric. If it is machine-washable, you may want to wash it first before you begin sewing.

Upholstery Repair

Your furniture is all done. The new slipcover or upholstery looks fantastic, except for that minor tear in the arm's seam. A repair such as this is quick and simple to do. Gather a few simple tools:

  • Curved upholstery needle
  • Heavy-duty nylon thread
  • Scissors

Thread the needle with about one foot of thread and tie four overhand knots in one end. Insert the needle just beyond the tear and pull tight. Loop through and do the same to the bottom part of the tear. Repeat this several times. Finish it off with a clean knot and snip.

Costs to Do it Yourself

Reupholstering or sewing a slipcover will be cheaper than having a professional do the work. However, you must also consider your timeframe to have the work completed and how confident you are at doing a good job.

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