How to Upholster a Sofa Cushion or Chair Cushion

Nothing screams “amateur upholsterer” more clearly than a cushion sewn with uneven seams. While the best way to learn how to sew a chair cushion evenly is by spending time practicing on the sewing machine. The learning curve can be minimized by using tools that attach to your sewing machine. Use a heavy-duty or industrial sewing machine for upholstery work because they sew straighter and make stronger stitches on heavy fabrics.
The things you will need to sew a cushion evenly:
  • Tailor's chalk
  • Ruler
  • Heavy-duty or industrial sewing machine
  • Seam guide
  • Welt foot
  • 2 squares of upholstery fabric cut to 1 inch larger than the cushion top
  • 1 long skinny rectangle cut 1 inch taller than the foam, boxing fabric to go all the way around the outer edge of the cushion. The boxing fabric will normally be the same kind of fabric as the top and bottom of the cushion. Boxing is a term used to describe the location of the fabric on the cushion.
  • 2 strips of welt, also called welt cord, the same length as the boxing
The steps you need to follow when sewing a cushion so the edges are straight:
  1. Using tailor's chalk, mark the corners and the center of each side of both the top and bottom pieces of fabric. Fold the fabric in half and hold the corners together to find the center.
  2. Use the ruler to measure the distance between each mark on the top and bottom pieces and use the dimensions to make marks on the long upper and lower boxing edges. The boxing is the piece that covers the cushion edges.
  3. Prepare your sewing machine by attaching the seam guide and installing the welt foot. The seam guide is a T-shaped piece of metal that screws to the sewing machine. The welt foot is a thick sewing machine foot that has a tubular guide that holds welt, or welt cord, in place and positions the machine's needle correctly when sewing.
  4. Sandwich the fabric layers of the cushion top and boxing together, with the right side together and the welt cord in the center. Check the tailor's chalk marks and make sure the pieces are lining up. Sew all the way around the cushion.
  5. Position the bottom piece of cushion fabric along the other edge of the boxing strip, lining up the marks. Place the ruler vertically across the boxing, lined up with the marks, to make sure the marks are lining up on the top, bottom and boxing. If they are not lining up, you will need to pull on the shorter piece while you sew or your cushion will not be sewn evenly.
  6. Sew all the way around the bottom of the cushion; leaving a gap on the back edge large enough to install the cushion foam, all but four inches of the full length of one end is best. Hand-sew the gap closed after you have inserted the foam.
Straight Upholstery Sewing Tip

If you are making cushions that do not have welt, or welt cord, use only the thread guide and skip the welt foot.


How to Hand Sew a Small Rip on a Car Seat's Seam

Simple Upholstery Repair Job

Sometimes a car seat will get a small rip in the seam - or basically the threads in the seam will rip. This is an easy repair to do at home - and much cheaper to fix than hiring an upholsterer.

The materials needed are:
  • a curved needle
  • heavy thread in a color that matches the upholstery
  • a thimble if the person sewing is comfortable wearing one
The seat does not need to be removed from the vehicle as long as the rip is small and all of the fabric is still there.
Steps to repair the loose seam of the car seat:
  1. Thread the needle with about 18"-24" of thread. Any more will be likely to get knotted.
  2. Make a firm knot in the end of the thread.
  3. Run the needle under the fabric to the start of the opening in the car seat upholstery fabric seam. Try to come up a stitch or two behind the tear so the new thread will catch the old seam.
  4. If the needle does not slide easily through the fabric - push with the thimbled finger.
  5. Do a hidden stitch to close the entire rip in the seat.
  6. Secure the end with a couple of tiny stitches.
  7. Cut the thread close to the fabric without cutting the fabric or the securing stitches.

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