How Does Reupholstery Work?

Whether you have some thrift furniture that is not in very good shape or a well-loved piece of furniture that has gone out of style, you can completely change the appearance with reupholstery. It is time-consuming and requires specialized skills but saves hundreds of dollars and gives a piece of furniture a style of its own for your home.

The Preparation

A well-done job consists of stripping the piece to the frame, reinforcing the frame and joints, and replacing the coil and zigzag springs. The piece will have filling, padding, and the fabric added. A common misconception about upholstery is that it is all about the fabric.

The furniture should be solid wood, not plywood or veneer. It maintains its value and lasts a long time. Plywood and veneers do not last. Look at how the furniture was constructed to see if there are problem areas or significant damage.

If the frame, padding, and springs are in excellent shape, upholstery deals only with fabric. Usually, furniture people want to upholster is beat up on the interior. The best combination of stuffing for cushions is a core of foam with a soft down-and-feather wrap. Down is comfortable but compresses quickly and does not hold its shape very long.

For the back cushions and seat, the ratio of down to feathers should be about 60:40. If the feather percentage is too high, they will poke through the fabric. The tag on the cushion indicates what the ratio was before reupholstering it. A 5:95 ratio of down to feathers is still labeled as ‘down-and-feather.’ Ask the upholsterer to use the 60:40 ratio.

It is a mistake to pick patterns or stripes for rounded pieces of furniture. The stretching required to apply the fabric properly pulls the design or stripes out of whack. A quality upholsterer can advise about the fabric that will work well. Any fabric is technically used to reupholster, but most are not sturdy and thick enough to last long into the future.

The Process

An upholsterer follows these steps.

1.Remove existing fabric from the furniture.

2.Clean the furniture.

3.Measure and cut new fabric.

4.Sew fabric if necessary.

5.Staple new fabric to furniture.

6.Add finishing touches.

The screws, tacks, or staples are meticulously removed to keep from cutting into the fabric because it is used as a pattern for new fabric. Any dirty areas are cleaned before adding anything new. The fabric that is removed is laid out in a manner that indicates where it was placed originally.

Old fabric shapes are traced on the new upholstery fabric. The pieces for the project are then cut. Typically, only the arm covers and cushion pieces need to be sewn. Looking at the original fabric piece is used to mimic the sewing pattern.

One piece at a time is lined up to correspond to its intended location. Staples or a staple gun are used to attach the fabric to the furniture securely. When the fabric is reattached, finishing touches, such as feet or legs to the bottom, buttons, and piping are added.

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