Daybeds turning into daypads
January 19, 2011 12:20 PM   Subscribe

What are some good ways to learn upholstery on my own?

I have two midcentury daybeds that seriously need recovering, and I'm not quite sure how to go about it.

They are just rectangles, do I need more than a staplegun? I am handy with many tools, but upholstery seems like a rarefied activity that would have tools that were originally used for horses or something.

How do you choose fabric? I went to Britex some time ago and the lady helping me showed me all kinds of fabrics that, honestly, seemed thin even though she told me they were the kinds of fabrics bought for upholstery. I'm inclined to think I simply don't know what I'm looking at, is kinda thin OK? Currently it's a kind of velvet, which is lame, easily stained, and has worn thin in (big) spots. I was thinking something like cordura or other fat-weave material (similar to the unseen back cushions), but I wonder if it would be too difficult to hand-sew for the corner seams. Something cleanable and more-or-less period, and I'm also considering piping at the edges, but that may be beyond my ken.

The foam. I'm sure the 20yr old foam could use replacement, are there any standards here? Nothing but the bones and hardware are original, so there's no need to save the foam or anything. Is my choice of fabric affected by my choice of batting/foam or vice versa?

As you see, I haven't been able to find a beginner's overview so far that is oriented for a project like this. It's always tuck & roll or a crappy redo of someone's kitchen chairs, so thanks for anything!
posted by rhizome to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
From what I can see in your picture, what you are looking at is cushions which aren't attached to the wooden frame. If this is the case, then what you are wanting to do is actually more of a sewing project than anything else. You will want to replace the foam with foam of a similar density, designed for upholstery. There is absolutely no way that I would dream of trying to hand sew those cushions- that's definitely a machine sewing project.

A better search term to use would be "reupholster couch cushion" which gave me several hits that looked much more like what you are wanting to do. The piping is certainly possible as well, and is included in several tutorials I have seen.

The fabrics they showed you at Britex probably were exactly the direction I would send you in as well.
posted by Zophi at 1:27 PM on January 19, 2011

No, they're attached. There is a wood frame around the whole thing, where the hinges for lifting attach (and appears to have a metal support inside). There's also a canvas "basket" suspended below, which is what that green comforter is contained by, which has no problems.
posted by rhizome at 1:38 PM on January 19, 2011

Check out youtube. But from what I can see, it looks like you'd be able to just staple gun the fabric and then stitch down the inevitable corner folds. If you want to get fancy you can blind stitch it, but in my experience (I'm a complete n00b, fwiw) any looping stitch is quicker, stronger, and doesn't show enough to make blindstitching worth it.

If you are really unsure, try it with cheap fabric first (even over top what you've got now if you want to feel safe, though it'll come out bulky looking. I bet you will find that although it's not professional grade, it'll be miles ahead of what you have now and no one will notice a difference.

When I was trying to learn how to reupholster cushions in a big hurry, I looked on youtube, and there are some pretty decent videos on there, so that's one resource.

For fabrics, I recommend Discount Fabrics. I only know the Berkeley one, but I love them and go there probably weekly to see what new things they have. If the SF stores are similar, they'll have a LOT of upholstery fabrics for much cheaper than Britex. I wouldn't be surprised if custom ordering from Paris was cheaper than Britex, though I'll grant they have some lovely stuff that's hard to find elsewhere.
posted by small_ruminant at 2:18 PM on January 19, 2011

Oh, and I'd unscrew the base side of the hinges, just because it'll be a PITA to deal with it still attached to the base.
posted by small_ruminant at 2:19 PM on January 19, 2011

Also, did you look through Instructables already?
posted by small_ruminant at 2:31 PM on January 19, 2011

Between this place and this place you can probably find reasonably-priced upholstery fabric (of whatever weight you'd like) and some foam. Also, here's a nearby foam place to explore. I've never bought anything from them, but it looks like they have some good information about foam. Foam is a fun word to say.
posted by bendy at 11:23 PM on January 19, 2011

In regards to choosing fabrics for upholstery (and Britex is going to be very expensive, unless you can score something from the top floor) you kind of have to touch the fabric. I want a couch I can sleep on, so I'd be likely to put my face on a bit of the fabric pulled taut. Seriously, a reupholstering project is not small so do what you can to make sure you'll be comfortable. Try feeling the fabric with a bit of foam or a pillow form under it.
posted by bendy at 11:29 PM on January 19, 2011

The particular stitch doesn't matter so much to me, and if it's an externally showing stitch I'm fine with using thick red thread or something similar as a design element. The hinges do indeed come off, and maybe more depending on what I find when I remove the bottom liner stuff (google calls it "decking").

Bendy makes a great point about choosing fabrics by stretching them and, y'know, rubbing them on my cheek or whatever. Now I find I have a choice of fillers (foam/feathers/springs/etc.), so I'm certainly learning a lot.
posted by rhizome at 2:56 PM on January 21, 2011

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