How to Reupholster a Sofa – A Step by Step Guide
When the sofa begins to look a bit grey, most of us assume that buying a brand new model is the best way to address the problem. However, an alternative approach is becoming more popular: sofa upholstering. Have you ever considered how to reupholster a sofa? Not a mainstream skill, reupholstery might strike you as a daunting prospect – particularly on larger items like sofas and armchairs.
Seeking advice, we reached out to furniture dealer Mary Hossack who, with her husband, has accrued years of experience in the area of reupholstery.
How much does it cost to reupholster a sofa?
Mary Hossack advises that the price of sofa reupholstery will start around £550. However, every sofa is unique and the cost of re-upholstering depends on the individual model, according to its size and form.
So, is it cheaper to reupholster an old sofa or to buy new?
It’s about what you value. Is it necessary to buy new and create landfill if you can breathe new life into a piece using your own fabric?”
Arguably, reupholstering a couch allows you to tailor the sofa to fit your existing home and lifestyle. You have full control over the quality and style – and there is much more scope for fun.
A sofa reupholstery project underway in the Hossack studio
Is it worth reupholstering a sofa?
In short, reupholstering a sofa can be challenging but it’s worth it. DIY sofa upholstery is quite a physical task and requires technical know-how. However, this is not impossible to learn. Let’s start with a simple step-by-step guide to upholstering a sofa yourself using one single sheet of fabric. Here’s Mary’s simple approach:
1. Inspect the frame
If the integrity of the sofa is failing, this needs to be fixed first. Check for wobbly parts that may need re-glueing. If the frame needs rebuilding or replacing in parts, source the wood from reputable online retailers.
2. Choose a fabric
It’s vital to choose a fabric that matches the frame and style of the sofa. Some boxier designs can take pattern readily whereas others could be too complicated to manipulate the fabric around. Pay close attention to directional fabrics and ensure any chosen pattern matches across arms and backs.
3. Cut and pin the fabric
Cut your chosen fabric to size – slightly larger than the sofa. Then use small pins to attach the fabric loosely to the frame. Pinning your chosen fabric over the frame of the sofa means you can manipulate the positioning of your pattern to make sure it looks great.
4. Staple and sew
When you’re pleased with the positioning, you can staple in place your velvet, silk, cotton, hessian or linen fabric. Any lingering fabric will need cutting and removing. To finish, a hand-sewn or studded edge can add a professional look.
Sounds doable! Why not invest in a staple gun and give it a go to recover your sofa and give it a new lease of life?
A beautiful Belle Époque French antique sofa c. 1880 upholstered in a rose pink velvet
What is the best fabric to use for reupholstering a sofa?
The most suitable fabric for sofa reupholstery will depend on the end use but here are four fabrics popular with professional reupholsters.
- Velvet – for a luxurious look
- Cotton twill – a cost-efficient option
- Leather – durable and hard-wearing
- Silk – hard to work with but a sumptuous choice
- Linen – a lightweight fabric for a boho look
- Canvas and microfibre – the longest lasting fabric for upholstering a sofa.
Consider if your sofa is going to used once in a while or if it will be a high-traffic centrepiece in the living room. If the latter, the fabric will need to withstand the demands of everyday life. Any fabric that is upholstery weight should suffice – if in doubt, consult your local haberdashery.
Interior designers will judge the durability of a fabric based on its Martindale ‘rub score’. This is a long-standing test, using oscillation, which fabric houses employ to measure how long it takes for a fabric to wear down. A score, between 10,000-100,000, is awarded based on its durability. For heavy-use furniture, experts recommend opting for fabric that scores at least 25,000 on the Martindale test.
Mary and her husband reupholster a wide variety of vintage and antique pieces
Long viewed as high maintenance, velvet is surprisingly a very tough fabric, deemed highly suitable for use on high-traffic furniture. It is also easy to clean, so you need not break out in a cold sweat every time someone spills coffee or gets crumbs everywhere.
Vinterior tip: Haberdashery shops sell fabric by the metre. If using a re-upholstery service, ask your reupholsterer to advise on the quantity of fabric needed for your sofa so there’s less wastage.
Do you have to remove old fabric before reupholstering?
Many people ask if it is possible to reupholster over existing fabric or if they should remove old material. We turned to Mary for her expert advice. “Reupholstering over fabric is not a problem, provided that the frame is structurally sound and the old fabric isn’t too dark otherwise it will show through. However, in my own practice as an upholsterer, I prefer to be thorough and take everything off before starting again.”
Should you also reupholster your cushions? Why not? If other soft furnishings could do with a new lease of life, roll out the sewing machine and fashion up new covers. And, the good news? After reupholstering the sofa, this project will seem like a breeze.
A chair undergoes a reupholstery transformation
Like any new skill, sofa reupholstery will not be mastered overnight. However, with some practice, we suspect that you will reap the rewards of going that extra mile. DIY reupholstery ticks so many boxes. In just one project, you will combat throwaway culture, save money by repurposing an existing piece, and add a unique flair to your home.