We have been wanting to recover our couch for ages. And when I say recover, I actually mean recover our original recover.
I found this super comfy couch at the Habitat for Humanity Restore in Georgia. It was a wonderful size and was probably the squishiest couch I had ever sat in. Plus, it was only $60! I wasn't a big fan of the original fabric at the time as it looked pretty worn down in person, but I figured in time, we could recover it beautifully.
Eventually, the time came for the first recover. I had just learned about a place called Fabric World that sold a wide selection of upholstery fabrics at really great prices. I went in and walked away with I don't know how many yards of a green and white fabric that had a tropical print woven into it. I'm honestly not sure what possessed us to purchase this very bright fabric that literally matched nothing in our home, but we did.
I went on to recover our couch using a combination of the front and back side of said green fabric along with a yellow + white striped upholstery fabric for parts of the pillows. The reason for adding this additional fabric was because I hadn't purchased enough of the original tropical printed fabric, even though I literally bought all that Fabric World had at the time!
Thus, our first recover was complete. Originally, I had planned to write up a blog post detailing my process of taking the couch apart and recovering it back then, but I failed to take many photos in our old house. Ahh well!
Fast forward to today and I have officially recovered our couch a second time! Honestly, I really have no idea what I was thinking using such a mix-matched set of prints, most of which were light in color and took to staining quite easily, and none of which matched our style or -- as I mentioned earlier -- anything else in our house. 🤦♀️ A recover to the recover has been long-overdue.
As you can see, our cushions have taken a slight wear down over the years. What started out as a white cushion slowly turned grey through use, even after multiple washings. Yikes!
It took me quite a bit of time to locate a fabric that was affordable, sustainable, durable, AND a suitable color. But I am so thankful that I waited and kept the search up because the perfect fabric appeared one day while browsing the FabScrap website! For those who have never heard of FabScrap, it is an incredible non-profit that takes in unwanted/ discard textiles and recycles, resells, and donates them for continued use, saving them from landfill.
I wound up purchasing 18 yards of a woven grey wool fabric from their site based on an estimate for my couch I found online. I actually wound up purchasing 2 yards less than what was recommended AND I wound up with an additional 2 yards left over after I had finished the couch! I think this was due to how wide the fabric turned out to be.
Ready to see how I recovered my couch for a second time? 🤩
Uncovering The Couch
The first step to recovering a couch is in completely dismantling it. This not only aids you in figuring out the order in which the pieces were put together on the couch, but it also lends the pattern pieces needed for cutting out your new fabric! There was a point in which I thought about skipping the dismantling of the couch -- I remember not enjoying the process during the first go -- but in the end, having the pattern pieces seemed to be worth the extra effort, especially when it came to economizing the use of my fabric.
For this process, generally you will need a flathead screwdriver to help remove the millions of staples holding your couch together. A pair of pliers also helps for removing any broken staples. I also wound up keeping a pair of scissors nearby along with a hammer to secure anything that may have popped loose during the dismantle.
To my surprise, taking the couch apart the second time around was much easier than the first mainly because I wound up tearing the fabric from its staples rather than prying each one out individually. The reason for this is because half of the staples I had used to recover the couch the first time were SUPER heavy duty and so small that I wasn't able to pry them out. Tearing the fabric was the only way!
Thankfully, the tropical fabric had a loose weave so tearing it away from the couch didn't damage it too much, and it even left the seam allowances intact! However, I would not recommend tearing your fabric unless you absolutely have to. Removing as many of the staples as you can is best as it provides the most accurate pattern piece AND it frees up space for new staples when it comes to time attaching your new fabric.
Throughout the course of dismantling the couch, I also tried to take lots of pictures. This was mainly to help me remember how the couch would go back together again, especially if I had to pause for a few days in recovering it.
Having photos to refer back to would help to jog my memory and also remind me of where I needed cardboard or batting to be replaced.
With the couch fully dismantled and my pattern pieces all in a pile, it was time to move on to cutting out my beautiful wool fabric!
Cutting Out The Pattern
Cutting the pattern from my new wool was relatively straightforward as I had all my pattern pieces taken directly from the couch, so there was no guesswork involved. For the most part!
As I had removed each piece from the couch, I made sure to mark the fabric with what the piece was and how many I needed to cut, as well as what was the top vs. the bottom of the pattern piece (or front vs. back) for important bits like the back of the couch or the arms.
I then ironed all the pieces to be as flat as possible. Some of them -- such as the arms of the couch -- had stretched out in the center of the piece over time, so a bit of guess work was involved in cutting out the proper pattern shape. Whenever I felt doubtful, I simply cut a bit extra because cutting too much is always better than too little as I could remove any excess fabric if necessary later on!
Finally, I pinned each piece to the fabric laid out on my living room floor. This part took awhile as there was only enough space to cut out one or two pattern pieces at a time. To get the most of my fabric, I didn't cut anything out on the fold. This ensured that there was less fabric being wasted.
After every piece was cut out, I wrapped it up with the original pattern piece just as I would any sewing pattern. This helped me to not confuse my pieces, especially as some looked so similar to others!
With the pieces all cut out and sorted, it was time to move on to actually recovering the couch - eeep!
Recovering the Couch
Over the course of a few days, I tackled reassembling the couch in pieces. I started with the bits that required no sewing at all and only staples which were the front backing of the couch (where the back cushions would rest) and the arms. I tried my hand at reimagining the front arm folds and came up with a fun pattern. You really can't see it when the lower couch cushions are in place, but it delights me knowing that there is such a fun pattern beneath them!
I made sure that my pieces were lined up as best I could on grain prior to setting in my first round of staples. Then, once I had a row of staples on one end, I would go to the other and pull the fabric taut before setting in the second row of staples. This takes a bit of time, but it is also super satisfying once done!
The next night, I wound up sewing all the cushions for the couch. I re-used the original zippers from the couch (which were from the couch back when it was red!) as well as some random long zippers I had on hand. None of them really match, but that's ok because none of them are seen!
These are all the original zips from when the couch was still red! One of the zipper heads was broken, but it still worked well so I wound up reusing it, too.
I then put the cushions back together the same way I had taken them apart, with the only exception being the upper cushions. Two of the original cushions had been an odd shape that sort of rested on the arms of the couch, but neither of us loved them. So instead, I kept it simple and replicated the original center cushion three times to create three identical cushions.
Once all the cushions had been sewn, I stuffed them up with the original stuffing/ cushion material. The upper cushions had become a bit deflated over time, so I added some of the fabric I had dismantled from the couch to help fluff them back up.
Finally, on the last day, I finished putting together the under arm segments as well as the back panel and the bottom covering. These both required some sort or straight, hard edge along the top seams to provide structure and a crisp finish. For the original recover, I wound up using old cardboard cut into strips. This turned out to not last very long as the cardboard easily sagged around the staples over time.
This time, I opted to use compressed cardboard shims instead! We have had a huge box of them for a long time and use them for a variety of projects. They are pretty strong and because they are compressed, they don't warp in the same way normal corrugated cardboard does.
Just look at that crisp finish!
With the majority of the couch put together, all that was left was some finishing touches. This consisted entirely of hand sewing pieces together that I had no way of attaching in any other fashion. There weren't that many pieces to sew, just some of the arm details, the sides of the back panel, and attaching everything to the inner bottom layer that covers the springs.
Originally, I assume that part would have been machine sewed prior to attaching to the couch. But seeing as it was attached to the couch and I didn't want to remove it, hand sewing was the next best bet!
Et Voila! My new couch is officially recovered for the second time, and I am in LOVE! The fabric is so lovely and soft and I feel the color and fiber will last us for years to come.
All-in-all, the total cost for this couch recover was a bit of time, elbow grease, and ~$150 for the fabric + staples. Not bad for a practically brand new couch!
Oh my goodness, thank you so much everyone for your kind words and stories about your own experiences with couch recovering! I just love that as makers we are able to breathe new life into something that has been cast aside. It can definitely be a challenge, but once the final project reveals itself, I feel like it is totally worth every bit of time spent :)
This is brilliant! Tackling a face-lift and some cushion refilling of our couch is on my list of projects for this year. A bit daunting, but I’m inspired by how beautifully yours has turned out.
Thanks for sharing.
Looks fantastic! I remember growing up with my parents having a Queen Ann style 3 piece suite that they brought secondhand, recovered and replaced the original feather stuffing on the cushion for foam. I think they had it for at least 30 years before replacing it again with something used.
Great job!! I love the fabric and love that it’s “rescued”! I really admire your cleverness – I would never attempt to recover furniture. :-)