30 November 2012

How To Re-Cover Couch Cushions

 I showed you here a bunch of pictures of my newly re-covered couch,
but here is a quick reminder of how the couch looked

and after:

The couch was originally covered in microfiber, which I absolutely hated, so I re-covered it with this fabric:

I'm going to split this tutorial up into two posts, so in my next post I'll talk about how I made the long cushions for the back of the couch, and today will be about how I re-covered the seat cushions.

I must start this post by saying that if I can do this, ANYONE can. 
A small child even.

Okay not a child, but really anyone else. 

I am not a fantastic sewer and watching YouTube videos of professionals putting couches together had me almost hyperventilating and wondering why the heck I was going to attempt this. 

Adding to my nervousness about my lack of sewing skills was the fact that Rob had warned me that if I destroyed the couch and was unable to fix it we would not be buying a new one.

If that's not incentive to not screw up then I don't know what is. 

But the fear of sitting on blankets draped over bare foam for the next year and a half was not as great as my hatred for that microfiber. So I took a deep breath, downed some hot chocolate (cause I don't drink, so I've got to get a boost from something) and got started.

Since I suck at math and didn't want to do a bunch of measuring, I used the original cushion covers as my template for cutting out my new fabric. They were also my guide for putting the new cushion covers together. 

I started by taking the old covers off the cushions and taking pictures of them to help me remember how everything was suppose to go together. (-a friend gave me that tip and it helped so much- especially with the underside of the biggest cushion, which was pretty complicated.)

In order for my method to work, I had to separate all the different parts of the cushion covers without cutting them. So I used a seam ripper to separate every piece of microfiber that made up the covers. 

The big black nylon piece on the bottom has the zipper going up the middle of it. Every piece of fabric that was microfiber was going to be replaced with my new fabric, and it was all going to be reattached to the black piece that's on the bottom of the cushion.

Every time I got a piece of microfiber fabric separated from the old cushion cover, I'd put a piece of tape on it and label it A, B, C, etc. If it was a funny shape with say one side wider than another, I'd stick another piece of tape on it with directions like "This side attaches to black fabric" or "this end to back of couch" just to help me orient things when I was putting everything back together. 

Once the whole cover had been dismembered I laid the pieces out one at a time over my new fabric and carefully cut around the edge so the new fabric pieces were in the exact size and shape as the old pieces. I didn't have to add anything for a seam allowance because I was using the same allowance that the old pieces had been given and since I'd used a seam ripper to take the pieces apart the extra fabric was already there.

Every time I cut out a new piece of fabric I made tape labels for it that matched the labels on the old cover pieces. 

I then saved all the old pieces in a pile just incase I needed to reference them for something- which I did several times.

To make things even easier to reassemble correctly, I drew out a picture of the cushion and wrote in where each piece went by writing the letter of each piece of fabric on the side of the cushion that it went on. 

Then it was time to start putting everything together. Basically I was building a fabric box.

Since I was starting at the top and working my way down, I first laid the fabric that was going to be at the top of the cushion down on the table. Then I arranged all the side pieces around it and made sure I had all of them in the spots they were suppose to go.

Once I knew exactly where all the side pieces were suppose to go, and which of their ends attached to each other, I went around and pinned all the side pieces together so they made a big circle
and I sewed them all together. 

Then I arranged the attached sides to the top piece and pinned them all the way around so that I knew for sure that everything was lining up exactly where it was suppose to go before I started sewing. 

Then I sewed it all the way around. 

I mentioned before that I already knew my seam allowances because of the old fabric. Since it was microfiber I could easily see the holes where the stitches had been after I ripped them out. So before I started sewing my new fabric I just measured the distance on the old fabric between the stitch marks and the edge and that's how much space I left between my stitches and the edge of the new fabric. 

Also, a tip about the stitches themselves- I had wanted to use upholstery thread but had heard that home machines can't handle it. I'd read a tip though about only threading the top of your machine with it and leaving regular thread in the bobbin. I tried it and it still didn't work for me. It jammed the threading mechanism and I had to untie it with a pair of tweezers. 
So to help make the stitches stronger since I was just using normal thread I did two rows of them and would back up the stitches multiple times at the beginning and end of every section I sewed. 

And now, another tip....if you're recovering an L-shaped cushion like I did, make sure you pay attention to which direction you face your L so that you don't get finished and realize it's on the wrong side of the cushion. 

Think even a moron wouldn't do that?

Well this moron did. 

I was like 70% done with the L cushion, which was the hardest and most time consuming part of the whole couch, and just as I was gloating to myself about what a spectacular job I was doing, Rob came downstairs, took one look and was like "You did that backwards."

I could have died. 

I have no pictures of what followed but I can tell you it looked something like this:

So save yourself the agony and pay attention to what you're doing. 

But anyways, back to the tutorial-

So after putting the top of the "box" together, which was the top and sides, I put the bottom together by attaching the few new fabric pieces that belonged on the very bottom of the cushion to the black piece of fabric. You can see which ones I'm talking about if you look at this picture again-

-see how it has a few pieces of microfiber that go on the very bottom? 

I attached those new pieces to the black piece first, that way it would be easier to attach the top section because both halves would be the same shape. 

Then I laid the bottom piece over the top, right sides together, and pinned it all the way around and then sewed. 

I didn't get a picture of the process of getting the cushions into their new covers. Rob had to help me. The big L-shaped one was kind of tricky. Rob had to fold it in half to get it in the cover. I've heard that if you are having a hard time getting a cushion into it's cover you can wrap it in really thin plastic and suck the air out with a vacuum, then while it's really thin you put it inside the cover and then rip open the plastic so it expands. We didn't end up having to use that trick but it sounds like a good one. 

All of the cushion covers had zippers already in the black fabric that was on the bottom, so I didn't have to try sewing zippers on which was another plus about taking apart the old covers and reusing the bottom of them.

Oh and speaking of the bottom of the covers- there were a couple pieces of microfiber fabric under there that now that I look back on it I didn't need to remove and replace with the new fabric. Most of the microfiber underneath did need to be replaced with the new stuff because it connected to pieces on the side of the cushion so it would have showed. But a couple pieces were on the very bottom and don't show at all, so if I was doing this again I would have saved myself a little time and left them alone. Just something to consider if you are planning on doing this.

Also my plan for the cushion covers changed after I got my fabric. I had originally planned on removing them frequently and putting them in the washing machine so that's why I made sure to get washable fabric. But now I am not planning on washing them in the washing machine unless I absolutely have to. Here's why:

1. If I was planning on washing them after they were made, I would have had to wash and dry the fabric before I cut it, that way it could preshrink. If it didn't get washed until after it had been cut, then the size would have been completely wrong and would no longer fit on the cushions. I'd been planning on pre-washing my fabric, until the huge roll of it got here and I started getting really really nervous about stuffing 30 feet of fabric into my ancient washing machine.

2. Since I couldn't use upholstery thread in my sewing machine, I was worried that if the cushion covers kept getting taken off, and washed, dried, and stuffed back on the cushions frequently, that the weaker thread wouldn't be able to hold up to all the stress and that the seams might eventually start coming apart.

So for those two reasons, I chose to spot-treat my couch instead. I'm still glad I got washable fabric though, because if some crazy catastrophe happens that nothing but the washer can get clean, I can take the covers off and wash them. I just wouldn't dry them since they weren't pre-shrunk- I'd put them back on the cushion wet so that they'd stretch over it and then just let them air dry.

But I really don't see that having to happen because we're pretty strict about the kids eating on the couch- most snacks that they have are stuff like animal crackers, dry cheerios, dry corn pops...couch-colored  snacks. The most dangerous thing I let them carry around with them are fruit snacks. And my daughter already spit one out on the new fabric and got red stains on it and they scrubbed out really easily with some couch cleaner I already had. So I'm really not worried about stains.

So anyway this was such a long-winded post, but that's the recover process for the cushions!
I can't even say how much I hated doing it, but I am completely in love with the results!!

My next couch post will be about the cushions I made for the back

Have a great weekend! I'll be relaxing on my "new" couch!

*August 2013 update: to see how I tufted the back cushions on the couch (see photo below), go HERE

Weekend Bloggy Reading

Liz Marie Blog


  1. Wow!!! This makes my head spin just looking at the photos. You did a fantastic job and should totally pat yourself on the back, kick back on your fabulous sofa, and (carefully) drink some hot cocoa!! How long did this take you?

    1. Four days and five very late nights. I have three kids so I had to work on it sporadically- whenever they were leaving me alone! Thanks so much for your sweet comment!

  2. Brooke, you are amazing! I would never attempt something so ambitious. I guess that is why you have a design blog and I don't. lol. It looks beautiful.

  3. Wow I still can not believe you took this huge project on! Props to you, it looks so good!

  4. I would have been crying right there with you! :) Cheers for sticking with it. They look amazing, it was well worth the effort!!

  5. Wonderful, magnificent, fantastic (you name it) JOB!!! I wouldn't have 1/10000 of the patience!!! And then the backwards bit.....I would have died!!!
    CONGRATULATIONS GIRL....you are fabulous!!! And the sofa looks gorgeous!!!

  6. Wow! The time and thought put into this gives me a headache just thinking about it! You're amazing!!


  7. I so feel for you. The seam ripping takes FOREVER. I will never take my slipcovers off off either. Too much work to get them on.

  8. Wow! Excellent job! looks like a professional did this!
    Linking back from Serenity now

  9. Thank you so much for stopping by Home Everyday! First off these cushions are superb! Great work, the results are so worth it. Also, I love your ottoman! I'm planning on making one for our family room in 2013. Who doesn't love such a beautiful place to rest their feet?!

  10. Brooke! hello! just wanted to make sure i didn't miss a post so i just dropped by. guess what? i broke my camera. dang it! yes, see my post all about it. have a super evening or day or night, k?

    1. Oh no, I'm so sorry! I'll go check out your post. Thanks for stopping by!

  11. Wow! That is some task! Such a bummer on making the the L go the wrong way. I would totally do that...especially after a little too much self gloating.

  12. Anonymous10 July, 2013

    Hi there - I have this exact same couch and I am going to attempt your makeover....do you have any idea how many yards of fabric it took?

    1. Hi, it took about 10 yards. Good luck with your couch!

  13. you work hard.Nice post.I love varieties of cushions for sofa .Congratulations.

  14. I have this exact same couch! Just inherited it from relatives and I'm not digging the stains they donated along with the couch. Haha! THANK YOU for posting this! Now I have a question, where did you get the lovely ottoman, did you recover it, and are the buttons like that easy to do?

    1. Thank you! I'm so glad this will be helpful! The ottoman is something I recovered; it actually used to be a coffee table but my husband and I upholstered it and turned it into an ottoman. And the buttons weren't hard to add. Here's the tutorial for the coffee table to ottoman: http://www.inside-outdesign.blogspot.com/2012/06/turning-coffee-table-into-ottoman.html And here's the tutorial for adding the buttons: http://www.inside-outdesign.blogspot.com/2012/07/tutorial-tufting-ottoman.html. Hope these help as well!

  15. I too have this couch & two dogs & am desperately trying to figure out how to make slip covers for the cushions, this has given me hope that I can do something with it!

    1. I'm so glad Shawna! If I can do it you can do it!

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  17. The update to the back cushions, the tufting, gave your couch a whole new, modern look. How much fabric did you need for the entire redo? And what was it about the microfiber that you didn't like?

    1. Thank you Carina! It took about 10 yards you do this. And what I didn't like about the microfiber was how dirty it always looked. It got rings on it so easily from water spills or even just my kids falling asleep and drooling on it...it's suppose to be so low maintenance but for me it wasn't. I like regular fabric a lot better.

  18. I have this same couch wanted to do the same but with a darker color do you think u could give me some pointers I bought a sewing machine today and used it for the first time I did a straight stitch and did it in reverse I need help doing this. Never did this before could you help me please and highly appreciated. Thanks

    1. Hi! I would definitely recommend making some smaller things first just to get comfortable with your sewing machine. (Like maybe some throw pillows for your soon-to-be-new couch? Here's a tutorial for pillow covers: http://inside-outdesign.blogspot.com/2011/03/easy-peasy-pillow-covers.html.) When you are ready to make covers for your cushions my biggest tip is to use the old cushion covers as your template. There is no way I would have been able to figure out how to cut all the fabric in a way that it would fit back together over the cushions without doing it that way. And then label every single piece the way I showed in the tutorial. Let me know if you have any questions.

  19. brooke you deserve an academy award for this cudo's xx

    1. Aw you're awesome, thank you! :D

  20. The French Hens Nest hens are new followers. Fab tutorials. I too have a sofa I am making do with. I made a slip cover but have no back cushions. Your tufted back cushions will be perfect! I searched all over the net and happened on your site. Your sofa looks beautiful and so comfy. Pointing out little things you would have done differently is a great help. Thank you! Love your blog! Linda

    1. Thank you so much Linda!! It almost felt like I was redoing the entire project to write it all out, so it's really nice to hear that it's helpful!! xo

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