“Obscure Techniques for Upholstering Your Own Furniture”

“Obscure Techniques for Upholstering Your Own Furniture”

Obscure Techniques for Upholstering Your Own Furniture

I’ve always loved the look and feel of quality upholstered furniture, but the cost of having it professionally done seemed out of reach. That’s why I decided to teach myself how to reupholster furniture on my own using some obscure DIY techniques. Here’s what I’ve learned over the years about how to upholster furniture at home.

Selecting the Right Furniture Piece

The first step is choosing a piece of furniture that will be suitable for a DIY upholstery project. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Size – A chair or ottoman is a good beginner project. Stay away from large pieces like sofas to start.

  • Construction – The frame should be in good condition with no loose joints or broken wood. Sturdy construction is key.

  • Stripping – It’s easier to start with a piece that has the old upholstery completely removed already. Look for stripped-down projects on classified ads.

  • Style – A piece with simple lines and minimal tufting or detailing will be much easier to reupholster. Leave the more intricate styles for later.

Once you’ve selected a suitable furniture piece, it’s time to choose your new fabric and supplies.

Choosing Fabric and Supplies

Upholstering requires some specialized tools and materials. Here are my recommendations:

  • Fabric – For beginners, opt for durable cottons and microfibers. Steer clear of slippery fabrics like leather or silk. Get a few extra yards to account for pattern matching and mistakes.

  • Foam – High-density foam is best for upholstery, and you’ll need new foam cut to size for seating areas.

  • Backing fabric – For stability, cover foam pieces with a basic muslin or canvas fabric.

  • Staple gun – You’ll need an industrial-grade staple gun designed for upholstery work. Don’t skimp here.

  • Scissors, pliers, tack strip – Specialty upholstery tools make the job much easier. Invest in the essentials.

With your materials gathered, it’s time to start upholstering!

Tackling Tricky Fabric Patterns

Matching repetitive fabric patterns is one of the trickiest parts of upholstering. Here are some of the techniques I use:

  • Take detailed measurements of the furniture before cutting into patterned fabric. This prevents surprises.

  • Use graph paper to sketch an overlay of the pattern repeat to optimize fabric cuts.

  • Cut fabric on the bias (diagonal) rather than with the grain when possible – diagonal stripes are more forgiving.

  • Start with inconspicuous sections like inside back corners when aligning patterns.

  • Pin, don’t stretch patterned fabric around curved surfaces to avoid distortion.

  • Masking tape can temporarily hold patterns in place for finicky alignments.

Slow and meticulous work pays off for flawless pattern matching. Be patient!

Securing Foam and Fabric

Getting the fabric fitted smoothly over the foam foundation is key to a professional finish. Here are the best methods I’ve found:

  • Wrap foam in backing fabric, stapling each piece securely in place on the underside before upholstering.

  • Use a foam layout that minimizes seams to reduce lumpiness. Cut foam a little wide and compress it slightly with batting.

  • Staple fabric to the frame starting at the center of each side, stretching it tight and working outwards. Add staples close together all around.

  • For arms and curves, make small cuts to ease in fabric rather than stretching tightly. Take it slow.

  • Check tension frequently. Re-tighten areas that get loose by pulling fabric and adding more staples.

  • Trim excess fabric only after checking fit, leaving several inches for mistakes. Then apply trim or topstitch for a finished edge.

Helpful Tools and Tips

Here are a few more upholstery tricks I’ve found helpful for tackling things like tufting and corners:

  • A power drill fitted with an upholstery spiral makes quick work of tufting buttons and channeling fabric.

  • Metal upholstery tacks give tufted buttons a professional finish. Set them with a rubber mallet.

  • For tight interior corners, clip and notch fabric instead of mitering. For external corners, miter and topstitch.

  • Do temporary fittings with twill tape or duct tape to check measurements before cutting into expensive fabric.

  • Use painter’s tape to temporarily hold pleats, tufts and gathers perfectly in place until secured.

With some patience and these helpful techniques, you can tackle upholstering furniture at home. The savings are tremendous, and taking things slowly yields impressive results. Transforming a worn out furniture piece into a custom showpiece is incredibly rewarding.