DIY Sofa Reupholstery | Sources and Tips

Thank you again for all the super nice comments this past week about my sofa reupholstery job.  It’s one of my favorite projects to date and I’m happy to report it survived its first real test with flying colors.

Ellie went running into the living room on Monday directly after drinking a berry smoothie and apparently rubbed her dark-purple-smoothie-covered-mouth on one of the cushions.  Once I recovered from my mini-stroke, I grabbed a wet washcloth and it came right off.  Just water, no hard scrubbing even.  So, I would totally recommend this fabric to any of you with messy little people living in your house!

How to reupholster a sofa - tips and tricks from The Chronicles of Home

Today isn’t exactly a tutorial because any given couch will be a little different.  But I hope some of the techniques I used, tutorials I referenced, and materials sources might be helpful to you in small and big upholstery projects alike.

So, as a reminder, this is what I started with:

I know…EW.

One BIG bonus to this sofa is that the arms are removable, so I was able to pop them off and work on the arms and the center separately.

Step one was stripping every last bit of leather off and then removing all the staples.  The tools I would most recommend for this part are a pair of very sharp scissors, a small flathead screwdriver (for prying staples), and a pair of needlenose pliers.

It can be kind of tedious but in the end it’s worth getting all the staples out.  I had Pandora playing and it took me a couple hours to get everything stripped down.  There will be cambric (the black cloth underneath) that doesn’t all need to come off.  Just pull out the staples at the edges where your new fabric will go under.
After that I worked on upholstering the base in my new fabric.  I wrapped and stapled across the front bottom of the sofa and across the back on both front and back, then re-stapled the cambric underneath where I needed to,  Like any upholstery project, you have to play with your fabric a bit to see how it lies best.
For the arms, you can see how I pleated and stapled them here (the front is on the left and the back on the right).
To finish the arms I cut two identical pieces of fabric with a rounded top and used brass nailheads to attach them to the fronts.
For the backs, I stapled the fabric on and them made double cord welting to cover the staples.
I worked about 8 hours straight the day I started and got the whole sofa stripped and the frame and arms finished.
To finish exposed edges I made single welting and stapled it to edge I needed to finish.

I held the fabric for the inside upside down and stapled the top right up against the top welt.


Then I used tack strips along the sides to seal the fabric down right up against the welt.

I sewed removable box cushion covers with welting and zippered backs for the three seats and flat back cushions with welting and zippered bottoms.
Tutorials I used to help me through this can be found here:

How to reupholster a sofa - tips and tricks from The Chronicles of HomeThe fabric I used can be found here.

Have I missed anything??  If you have questions, please ask and I’ll try to help.

Happy upholstering!

  • Veronica

    Hi Jennifer, I stumbled across your feature on BHG whilst googling whether it was possible to DIY reupholster a sofa. It is indeed possible! We live in Australia though and upholstery fabric that costs less than $30 a metre is hard to come by so I was contemplating ordering the same fabric as you used from Housefabrics and having it shipped over.
    Quick question though – how has the fabric held up for you in terms of pilling? And also, when you had it shipped over, did they ship it in a roll or folded up?

    Thank you!!

    • Jennifer@TheChroniclesofHome

      Hi Veronica, sorry for the delayed reply! The fabric has held up GREAT so far. Not a pill in sight and it doesn’t shed at all. I’m pretty sure it shipped in a roll but would imagine you could request something different if that was better for you. Good luck!!

  • April

    I ADORE your “new” sofa! I desperately want to do something to ours. We’ve looked at new furniture and quickly retreated. I know I could reupholster it, but I’m afraid of the time commitment. I was so inspired by yours, tho! Truely beautiful!

    • Jennifer@TheChroniclesofHome

      Thank you, April! It’s a big time commitment but I have no regrets – it saved us a boatload and I really love the finished sofa. Hope you figure something out for yours soon!

  • Christy

    I am so inspired by this project! I have a similar couch(except it is a sectional) with the same cushion problem. I really love the couch and reupholstering is the perfect solution. The only thing that is keeping me from diving into a makeover is that the back cushions are attached to the sofa. Do you have any tips for how to handle that issue?

    • Jennifer@TheChroniclesofHome

      Once you cut the existing fabric off, they might come off, or give the option to remove the materials underneath and add loose back cushions. The seat cushions of this sofa were actually attached originally but once I removed the leather they came right off and I could sew individual covers for them. Good luck!!

  • Linda Lloyd

    Hi there, Great job on the sofa! I’m attempting to do my sofa and loveseat soon…my fabric looks a lot like yours but it is a medium grey color. I have a few questions. What kind of staples and staple gun did you use? Did you have to order special upholstery ones? (Im hoping to avoid this) and did you buy a special hammer to put the nailheads in? Can you share where you bought your nailheads? Thanks so much! Love your blog

    • Jennifer@TheChroniclesofHome

      Hi Linda! You don’t HAVE to order special upholstery staples but for a project the size of a sofa, I wouldn’t rely on an electric staple gun. A pneumatic stapler makes for such easier and faster work. I didn’t buy a special hammer but a magnetic tack hammer is supposed to be good. I used a smallish hammer I had on hand already. I got the nailheads online at Good luck with your project!!

  • Madison Bodenmann

    How much fabric did you end up using for this project?

    • Jennifer@TheChroniclesofHome

      I’m pretty sure I ordered 14 yards of fabric and used most of it. 12-13 might be enough, but it’s probably good to err on the side of having too much rather than too little.

  • Charlotte Smith

    Me again. I should just send you an email. :) For the little pieces of fabric that go on the front of the arms of the chairs/ sofa… do you fold over the edges or are they just raw edges that you cover with the nailheads/ piping? Does that make sense? Email me if not… I can attach a picture of where I’m talking about. Thanks!! Oh.. Happy New Year! (What on earth am I going to post about in 2015?!) xx

    • Jennifer@TheChroniclesofHome

      Raw edges – staple them in place and then you cover the staples with nailheads or double welt cord!

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  • Jennifer Cooper

    So I am absolutley gaga over this sofa! I have two questions… well maybe more, but I am not about start an interview here in comments; 1. Is that fabric really velvet? 2. Do you have dogs in the house???? My biggest issue with my white couches are my large shedding 365 days a year black lab and my 9 month only always dirty pit puppy. Any notes?

    • Jennifer@TheChroniclesofHome

      Hi! It is velvet, but a short-pile velvet, so not as thick as a traditional one. I don’t have pets…but my guess is any velvety fabric is going to be a little bit of a pet hair magnet. Sorry!