Thinking out and planning a job in advance (as much as you are able) often makes a big difference in how a job turns out. It is so easy for a beginner to want to get started before he/she even knows what he/she will be doing. As much as anything, this tutorial will help you examine what you will be doing and help you in the planning process.
Assessing a Sofa to Reupholster
Just because you have a sofa in your house doesn't necessarily mean that you should reupholster it. It takes a lot of work and a fair amount of cost to reupholster a sofa. Make sure that you like your sofa before making the decision to recover it. If you do you like your sofa, then skip the section below about finding a sofa, but read through the other sections below about accessing the style and condition of the sofa. If you really don't like your sofa, then you may want to find another sofa to recover.
Each sofa style will take a different amount of work. If you are just a beginner, you may want to chose a very simple sofa style to begin on. If you have never done any upholstery before, we'd strongly suggest that you do some small simpler pieces of furniture before starting on a sofa.
Assessing the Condition of the Sofa:
As we inspect the frame, springs, and support linings, one of the primary principles we keep in mind is, "will it last the life of the new cover?" This will be our guide as we try to determine what to fix and what to leave alone.
Check the condition of the frame
Check the frame. Try to wobble all parts of the frame. wiggle the arms side to side, grab ahold of the top of the middle backrest and try to pull it towards the front and then push it toward the back. Try to wiggle all parts of the frame. Listen for squeaks and watch for frame wobble and loose joints. If the frame is wobbly, it can be fixed, but it ads some extra work. To fix loose joints often requires that you take everyting off the frame (fabric, padding, springs, etc. so that the joints can be opened up reglued, make triangle fitted corner blocks and reglued. You will also need to have some woodworking clamps. If you or a helper can do wood joint repairs, then you might be OK. But, if neither you nor anyone else is comfortable with doing the frame repairs, you might want to pass us any sofas that have loose jointed frames.
Determining the type and condition of the springs:
Sofas general have one of these types of springs:
Hand-tied coil springs, which are among the best types to have. If tied propery, coils springs give superior support and comfort. Much of the time yoiu can determine is the sofa has hand tied springs by putting your hand under the sofa and pressing up. If you feel a firm spring support underneath at the bottom of the sofa, it may be hand tied springs. A sofa with hand tied spring generally has webbing across the very bottom of the sofa, with the springs pressing down against the webbing. This gives the bottom of the sofa a firm "full" feeling. When this type of set needs retieing, the bottom often sags down because the webbing stretches as it gets older. Also, the top between the springs will feel loose.
Arc springs (commonly called zig zag springs). If, when you feel the bottom of the sofa, all you feel is
Machine wired coil spring
Rubber or Elastic Webbing
After you have the sofa all taken apart, it can be quite confusing to try go figure out how all the assorted pieces get put back together. "Better to have the pictures and not need them than to need them and not have them."
To the observant, the sofa itself will tell you how to put it back together. The pictures that you take and the old cover will show you far more than this tutorial about how to put it back together.
In this modern day of inexpensive digital cameras, it is nearly essential that every do-it-yourselfer (and professionals) have one within arms-reach, and use it constantly, throughout the whole process of recovering the sofa.
Before you start removing old cover, take pictures from all sides: front, with the cushions and without the cushions, back, side, bottom. Take pictures that include the whole sofa, take closeups that include just the arm, take extreme closeups that include any special detailing, such as folds on the front of the arms, etc. Take pictures throughout the whole process, from stripping the old cover off, taking the seams apart, cutting and attaching the new fabric, until you have the sofa finished. As you unsew seams, take pictures of how the pieces looked before you took them apart. (Be sure to mark the pieces, as described under Method 2: Cutting the Fabric.) Your pictures should also include showing how the folds are made, the type of padding, the support linings, and anything else that you may need to know. Take more picture than you think you will need. Be thoughtful of how you frame the pictures and what you include in the pictures. Once you have the old cover removed, your pictures will be one of your main reference points. The other main reference point will be looking at the old cover.
Choosing a Fabric
If this is your first sofa that you will be recovering, choosing a good fabric will help you do a better job. It is easier to work with a medium to heavy weight upholstery fabric.
Lifestyle of users:
As you are determining the yardage amounts, be sure to allow an extra amount for making mistakes. Even professionals make mistakes, and as an amatuer you also will make mistakes. Depending upon your skill level you might add approx 25% to 50% additional fabric above any already generous amounts. As your skill improves you will need a smaller allowance. Even professionals commonly add an allowance of 5% to 20% more fabric for mistakes, fabric flaws, etc.. It is far better to end up with extra fabric than it is to run short of fabric for a job. Sometimes the fabric store or wholesale supplier may sell out of your chosen fabric. That could be a disaster, or at least a challenge.
Now, to answer the question, "How many yards will your sofa take". Look at one of the upholstery yardage charts that you will find here.
Ongoing Self-Inspection & Correction
We all make mistakes. Even professionals make mistakes. One of the biggest difference between a profession quality job and an amatuer job is that the amatuers don't correct their mistakes.
On the same vein, correcting your mistakes will improve your skill more than just about anything else. Correcting mistakes is often not dun and easy. Sometimes it involves taking a lot of the job apart. However, when you are in the mindsed to correct your mistakes, and you actually do correct your mistakes, your awareness increases dramatically. After you've corrected a lot of mistakes you begin to watch the quality of your work as you do it. Many professionals catch their mistakes as they begin to make them, and can make the needed corrections without much loss in time.
Amatuers often either don't see their mistakes (or don't want to see them) or don't care. They just want to get the job finished and don't correcte their mistakes. Consequently, their finished projects look like an amatuer did it. Here is something you should keep in mind. Correcting your mistakes may increase the time to recover the sofa by a few hours or even a few days. BUT, you will have to live with sofa for years. Do you want those mistakes staring you in the face for years to come?