Feedback: How To Reupholster Furniture

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With this knowledge we began the restoration of an Early American davenport which was solid and in good shape except for the disgracefully threadbare covering.

While browsing through our favorite bookstore, my husband
and I came across a few early numbers of MOTHER EARTH NEWS and
bought a copy of each, because the contents spoke to our
hidden desire for a truer, more natural way of life. We
subscribed, and each issue inspired us to further dreams of
a down-to-earth mode of living. Apart from some experiments
with sprouting and baking, however, dreaming was as far as
we went.

Then MOTHER EARTH NEWS NO. 30 arrived, and Virginia Schmitz’s article “How to Reupholster Furniture” gave us the incentive to begin on
something practical: specifically, how to reupholster our couch. With this knowledge we began the restoration of an
Early American davenport (See photo 1) which was solid and in
good shape except for the disgracefully threadbare
covering. We didn’t feel that we could afford either to buy
a new piece or to hire the old one redone and we certainly
didn’t want to dispose of the poor thing, since we
sometimes have to use it for an extra bed. So, with
‘Virginia’s advice as moral support and our ragged couch as
stimulus, I set out in search of material.

My first stop was a well-known department store, where I
found the selection very limited partly because I wanted a
period design, and partly because of the prices. The two
possible fabrics I did turn up were marked to sell at $8.00
and $10.00 per yard (a total of $112 or $140 for the 14
yards I needed to reupholster the couch). A check at
other department stores revealed the same conditions.

Then I tried an upholstery and drapery house and
discovered tables of good material marked down for various
reasons: short lengths, outdated patterns, and manufacturers’
imperfections. Among the remnants were two pieces-seven and
eight yards respectively — that would have sold for $20.00 a
yard if perfect, but which had been reduced to $2.75 because
of small flaws. Since there seemed to be plenty of the
complete pattern to cover the main parts of the couch, I
bought the two lengths ($38.50 plus tax) and, with careful
planning, was able to match the design over all sections.

My procedure in re-covering the davenport was one I had
learned back East. I chose this method-,which differs
somewhat from Virginia Schmitz’s — because the old fabric was
firm and secure (though threadbare) and I didn’t want to
remove it.

The first step was to slit the top of the
cording and remove the interior. I then bought four yards
of muslin (two yards for $1.00 at a discount store) and
covered the back and seat of the couch in the following
manner: I held the piece of fabric over the portion to be
reproduced, pinned around the shape, and cut outside the
markers leaving a seam allowance. The sections were pinned
together and laid on the davenport as a final check before
sewing. (If the old material is greasy, it must be cleaned
before the muslin is applied so the oil won’t-bleed
through.) The finished inner cover was then stapled to the
framework. (See Photo 2.)

This preliminary operation gave
me the experience I needed to begin on the new upholstery
fabric, and also provided a more solid surface by
protecting the threadbare areas. The outer cover was made
in exactly the same way except that this time around I
inserted the cording (either during the sewing process or
by tacking where conditions allowed).

Photo 3 shows the
finished davenport. Its transformation cost a total of
$45.00, including materials, tacks, staples, thread, and

I’m writing in the hope that these few ideas may help
someone else. My method isn’t as easy as Virginia’s (in
which the stripped-off pieces of old covering serve as
models for the new). It does, however, offer a fairly
simple method of fitting and cutting without a pattern and
might give others the courage to reupholster a piece when
they realize that they don’t have to uncover it first.

closing, I’d also like to mention how happy I am with the
whole concept of MOTHER EARTH NEWS and her very useful and practical
articles. With the economy in its present state, I’m sure
this magazine will continue to be a most instructive
publication. Thanks to MOM and her contributors!.