my first reupholstering job…and what I learned from it

So of course, as usual, I’d pick the biggest, most complicated place to start reupholstering furniture ~ a couch. But, you know, I like to keep things interesting. I mean, I guess it could have been worse…it could have been a sectional. I’d seen lots of tutorials on pinterest, so I mean, really, how difficult could it be? Well, to tell the truth, not very. If you can sew , remove staples, and know how to use a permanent marker, staple gun, and hammer, you’ve pretty much got the skill set down. I’m not even going to attempt to try to offer a tutorial on how to do it because I’ve got no where near the experience, but I will share what I learned.



1) Read this tutorial. I read lots of them and found this one the most informative and easiest to follow. Just mho…

2) You’ll most likely need at least two different sizes of staples : 5/16″ for the regular stapling; 1/2″ for areas where you use cording or you have multiple layers of fabric gathered. If you have an extra staple gun available to you, use it! I had 3 available to me and have no idea why it took me so long to figure out that it would be easier to put different size staples in two different guns so I wasn’t constantly switching staple size. It would have saved me so much time. Even if you have to buy an extra one, they’re pretty inexpensive considering.  I found this one the easiest to work with and control exactly where the staples went…which is nice for the flexible metal tack strips.

3) BUY NEW FLEXIBLE METAL TACK STRIPS!!! SERIOUSLY! Especially if the piece has already been recovered or you aren’t sure whether or not it’s been. Trust me! Just save yourself the headache and buy new. All the tutorials I’d seen said to be careful removing it so you could reuse it. So I was. And then I installed it and the metal was just too weak and didn’t hold the fabric in place the way it should have….so I had to remove it. For a second time. We needed roughly four yards, which ended up costing about $5. FIVE. DOLLARS. Verses a day of work wasted. Not worth it in my book.



4) Don’t trust the person at Joann’s that tells you they carry flexible metal tack strip….Especially, if the nearest Joann’s is 45 minutes away and you are making a special trip just to purchase flexible metal tack strip. Because chances are, it’ll turn out it’s cardboard tack strip…Of course your Joann’s could be different…mine has pretty awful customer service…and I’m not drawing that from one experience…but you didn’t come here to hear me complain about my local craft stores, so let’s move on.  Just order it online. Or call a local upholsterer and ask them if they’ll sell you some. That’s where we got ours.


5) Watch this video so you understand what flexible metal tack strip is and how to install it and also how to remove it. I wish I’d watched it before I got started, it would have made removal of it so much faster and easier. I was trying so hard not to mess it up so I could reuse it. It ended up taking for. e. ver. to remove it. Plus, I had no clue how it was attached, so that made removal even more difficult.

6) Take pictures ~ Label ~ Make notes. Take pictures of every step as you are removing the upholstery. Make notes on the order you remove pieces. Label everything each piece as you remove it, and the new pieces as you cut them out. I used permanent marker for the pieces I removed and sticky notes pinned to the new pieces.



7) If you choose a fabric with a print, be sure you are experienced in matching prints…or at least pretty dang confident you can figure it out. It gets exhausting on such a big project…trust me.

8) If you decide to go ahead and choose a fabric with a print, be prepared that  you will never. eva eva eva. EVA. match it up perfectly. Trust me. I’ve tried. It doesn’t work. There are just. too. many. pieces. So get over! No one’s gonna notice…except maybe you…so if you’re that OCD…just go for the solids…



9) Don’t be afraid to make design changes. When I first started, I thought I needed to copy the fabric pieces exactly. There where these pleats in the center front that I thought where there to help the fabric fit the shape of the couch better. They weren’t. So I took the pieces off, removed the pleats, and put them back on again. It took an extra few hours, but seriously, if you are putting this much effort into something, you want to LOVE  the finished product…at least, I know I do!  The fabric my grandma had chosen was just too modern for that design detail…not to mention it made the pattern of the fabric not match up which drove me crazy(ier than I already am).  We also removed cording from the cushions and would have removed the little skirt at the bottom, but it’s a sleeper sofa and you can see the bed if we’d removed the skirt, so that just wasn’t an option, but the point is, if your working on it and see something you aren’t in love with that isn’t necessary for it to function, change it!



10) Don’t try to get the cushions perfectly squared.


You gots ta’ round those babies out!


I’ve done this before. I have no idea why I forgot this…maybe so I could save one of you some trouble…I don’t know…Just round them out because it’s a giant pain to rip those seams and do it all over again!

11) If you are working with a sleeper sofa and working in the house….work with a partner! This might be true for regular sofas also, but I know for sure it’s true for sleeper sofas, seeing as how I made a HUGE gash in my grandma’s floor on the VERY day I finished the couch! Yeah, everything went off without a hitch, then I was finishing up and wouldn’t you know I flipped it forward ~ something I’d done many times, no problem ~ and the stupid sleeper part falls on the floor and the metal made multiple gashes in her floor! Thankfully they sell kits to fix that! But, uh…she wasn’t happy…

Would I do it again? Heck yeah! I’m a gluten for punishment! Would I do it at someone else’s house or for someone else? Absolutely not! When I started, I thought it would take me a week, but I was also homeschooling and taking care of my normal duties as a SAHM. It ended up taking me a month and a half to complete, and to be perfectly honest, my “duties” went undone for most of it, but truth be told, it may have taken even longer if I’d done it at my house and I didn’t have the pressure of my grandma watching over me the whole time making sure I was making progress. But it was definitely a lot of stress knowing I’d turned someone else’s house on it’s ear and I was responsible to keeping it moving forward ~ and my house at the same time.

So I suppose after all that, you’d like to see how it turned out? So here it is…


I’m pretty happy with it ~ there may have been some hot glue involved at some point, but I’ll save that for another post… All I know is my grandma loves it, and it hasn’t fallen apart when anyone sat on it (as far as I know. it’s only been a month lol)

What do you think? Are you brave enough to give it a try? If you’ve got any tutorials/links that might be helpful please feel free to share them in the comments!

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