Sunday, June 29, 2014

How to Recover Your Couches the Amateur Way (part 3)

Now...we sew.  You have your pieces all cut and ready to go.  This is the order I sew mine in.
I always start by sewing the base to the arms.  It's a super simple straight stitch.  I take my pieces and place them right side down in place and make pins.  A few tips on this:
1) Put your pins EXACTLY where you want to sew, starting them where you want your stitch to start and ending them where you want it to end.
2) Trust your pins.  If you've placed them where you want to sew, sew exactly where they are.  That sounds self-explanatory but after the 12th time you've pinned and removed the cover to sew, you will question your pins.  You will be going cross-eyed, y'all.
3) Do not, for the love, pull too hard on your fabric to make your cover crazy tight.  By all means, make it fit, but if you make it too tight, you will end up with a cover you can't put back on after you wash it.  I made this mistake the first time I made a cover and ended up having to re-do it.  Whomp, whomp...
This is the part that's the hardest to explain, because it greatly depends on your couch's shape.  You can see the order that I connect my pieces above and copy that if it works for your couch.  You will be working with your cover inside out as you pin and sew.  After you sew each piece, be sure to look at it right side out to make sure you didn't sew an awkward bunch or make a mistake on the shape.
This is us a few steps in.  You can see we have sewn pieces 1-5 in and are working on pining on the front arms.  This step is one of the hardest because it involves a tricky curve AND piping.  I like to pin the pieces together first and then go back and put the piping in.  I just take out a couple pins at a time, put the piping in (make sure the raw edge is facing out and the cord is on the right side of your fabric) right along where my seam will be, and put the pins back in place.
You can see my pins along the shape of the curve here and alllllll the extra fabric I will go back and trim later.

My sister is going back and placing her piping along the seam here (you can see the end of it curled up in the chair waiting to be pinned/trimmed).
One big huge piping tip: make SURE you leave about an inch of piping BEFORE you start and about an inch AFTER you finish.  You will need to put this little extra piping through your seam so that it looks finished or it will be tucked under in the couch's hem. 
This will make more sense as you sew, but make sure the cut end of your piping is tucked through the back and you sew through it to hold it that way.  I had no idea how to finish my piping the first time I made a cover and did realize until I was finished how I should have done it.
After you sew your piping in, the rest is downhill from there.  Next, I sew the front of the back (#9).  This is where your couch will start to take shape. 
The last pieces I always put on are the back pieces.  I use two pieces that close with Velcro in the back.  I first sew the Velcro on the two pieces and connect the two pieces with the Velcro so that when I pin it to the rest of the couch, I am working with it as one piece.

When you pin the back on, be sure to pull your side pieces to that the couch takes shape but don't pull too hard.  The back of my couches was kind of tricky because of the arms.  What I ended up doing was folding the fabric around the curve to create pleats.
Once you have finished sewing on all of the pieces, go back and trim your extra fabric.  Make sure to place your cover right side out on your couch or chair BEFORE this step.  You would hate to find a huge mistake (like the unfinished end of piping poking out the front or a weird bunch in the your fabric) after you've cut the extra off.  It's almost impossible to fix without that extra seam allowance. 
The final step is to hem your couch.  With all of the couches I have done, I have hemmed the edge to fold just under the chair and added Velcro to hold it in place.  This isn't absolutely necessary but I think it has given my chairs a finished look and keeps the covers in place.

(this is the underside of our ottoman)
After I fold and pin my hem, I attach a strip of Velcro all around my cover.  I then staple the other side of the Velcro to the underside of my couch.  It's worked like a charm!
I hate to be a Debbie Downer...even though you feel SO good, you still have a long way to go.  The cushions are beasts.  Of course you could stop here and leave your couch like this (or at least something like this).
Next, we'll talk cushions.  But take heart...that's the last step!

(Psst...miss part 1 and 2? Find them here and here.)

Saturday, June 28, 2014

How to Recover Couches the Amateur Way (Part 2)

In the last post I mentioned I used cotton canvas fabric.  If you are using a washable fabric, be sure to wash and dry it before you start.  This is not breaking news if you have ever sewn before but it's super important in this case.  Canvas (sometimes you'll hear it referred to as cotton duck or canvas duck) shrinks a ton when you wash and dry it.  I wanted my couches to be washable, so I washed it the first time with hot water and dried it hot.  When I wash my finished covers, I wash them on delicate/cold and dry them in the sun.  I don't want to take any risks by washing them in warm water or drying them completely in the dryer because it takes so. much. time. to make them.  You will feel like they are your babies.

Before you start, you need to fill at least a billion bobbins with thread.  Okay, maybe 3-4. Easily the most frustrating thing ever in the history of the world is to be sewing away, not realizing that your bobbin thread is out.  This is tip numero uno: fill lots of bobbins.

The first sewing I always tackle is making piping.  I've seen a lot of tutorials for this but I figured I'd add my two cents.  Cord for piping is sold for around 30 cents a yard so I do a rough measure of how much I need and then buy a couple extra yards.  Cushions take a ton of piping and a whole chair can take around 10 yards or so (depending on the size).  The first thing I do is cut strips of fabric that are about 1.5 inches wide (I like to have plenty of extra fabric on the edge of the piping for pining--it can always be trimmed later).  I do a simple seam to connect each piece and make a giant train of strips.  There is an "official" way to do it that is not this way, but I didn't have any issues nor do I think anyone would notice my piping seams.
I just line my pieces up...

and sew.  Connect all of your pieces together and make sure that your seam allowance on each piece is facing one way--this will be hidden on the inside with your cord after you sew.  You can see that I am not to worried about cutting straight lines when I cut my strips.  They will be hidden/trimmed so don't waste too much time making them perfect.  You can also see the bare cord behind it on the table.  The next thing you do is take the cord and fold it in your fabric train.

I always start it a bit back from the edge of my fabric (you will probably utilize that later as you use the piping). I don't bother with pinning the piping.  I just fold as I go--it doesn't need to be perfect and it ain't rocket science.

Using a zipper foot, sew as close to your cord as you can.  Just use a simple straight stitch.  You also don't need to use your heavy duty thread here--it's more expensive than regular thread and this stitch doesn't have to be strong.  It will be reinforced when you sew it on the cover.  Sewing piping isn't complicated but when you need 10 yards, it can take a while.  It feels very unproductive so I like to have it all finished before I start doing my real sewing.  That way I don't have to stop and sew more when I'm on a roll.
Next is cutting.  I have made tons of things lately and have stupidly not taken a picture of this step. A professional blogger I am not.  The first thing you need to do before you cut, though, is make a plan for where you will have seams on your chair.  This is a chair I covered with my sister a few weeks ago and we did it very similarly to how I did my couches.

This is with the cushions removed.  I got all fancy with photoshop (not) to show you where I have seams and I have numbered my pieces.  The first step to cutting is to determine where you want to have your seams and how many pieces you want.  One tip: if you have curves on the arms like these chairs do, cut another piece (here it would be my #4 and #5 pieces) and connect them to your curve pieces with a straight seam right where the curve of the arm meets the straight part of the side of the chair.  This will limit the sag you have on the sides. 
The very not professional way that I cut my pieces is to take my fabric, drape it over the part of the chair I am cutting it for, give myself at least 2 inches extra at every future seam (just trust me...give yourself a ton of extra), and cut a rough shape.  I always go back and trim it later as needed.  This picture is actually as we started to pin but you can see that I don't cut my pieces very close to the "pattern" of the chair.  I have found it's so much faster to just give yourself a lot of extra than to get a perfect shape or seam allowance as you cut. 

(front of the arm--as you can see I just cut a square and I trim after I sew)
 As I cut, I put post its on each piece to label where it goes.  Once this is done, go give your sewing machine a loving pat and a pep talk because it's about to do the sewing machine equivalent of running a marathon.  While you're at it, give the same pep talk to your fingertips...because you are definitely about to poke them with any number of pins and you will (I repeat: WILL) draw blood.

Next sew sew sew sew!

(Psst...miss part 1? Find it here.)

Thursday, May 29, 2014

How to Recover Your Couches Amateur Style (part 1)

I haven't blogged since...oh, look at that picture of Easton up there.  I haven't blogged since he was that old.  Crazy.  Since then I've had a new kid...also crazy.  I had a friend request a how-to on how I've recovered my couches, so I decided to dust this old blog off and write one (or a few) up.  Since that new baby doesn't have any shout outs, I'll let her (and her brother) demonstrate my new couch covers.

Adorable, right? But back to the couches.  A few years ago our couches looked like this.

Not good.  We were given these couches by my aunt and uncle when we got married.  They are super well made and crazy comfortable, but they were looking well loved.  I wanted a change in the look (the flower pattern was pretty dated) but we were so attached to the quality of the couches and we knew that our budget wouldn't allow us to replace them with equally nice couches at that point in our lives (I had just started staying home with Easton).  So I decided to give recovering them a chance. 
I am going to do a few posts about this so I will start with the preliminary stuff here.
Let me preface this by saying I am a self-taught sewer (I can't even use the word seamstress).  I got a sewing machine for Christmas in 2009 and learned how to sew a straight line.  I have sewn curtains, pillows, crib skirts, nursing covers, and other super simple things like that.  Everything I learned I have learned from the internet.
I started by watching/reading a few tutorials. This one gave me the idea and then these videos were super helpful.  I also googled how to sew piping. I have a very "I can figure it out once I get started" type of personality, so I decided just to go for it.  I essentially made very well fitted, custom, removable, washable (can I get an amen from the mommas?) slipcovers.
I decided to go with thick white canvas material from Hobby Lobby for a few reasons.  It's super durable, soft, easy to work with, and CHEAP compared to true upholstery.  It was $9.99 a yard but no one ever enters Hobby Lobby without a 40% off coupon in tow so it was more like $6 a yard.  I chose white because A) I LOVE white and B) white means it is super bleach-able.  I have had the couches covered for almost 2 years and have yet to have a stain that doesn't wash out.  They have held up fantastically.
Our wide chair took 7 yards, the love seat was surprisingly about the same, and the couch took around 10 yards.  I also bought the cord for my piping at hobby lobby. 
In addition to fabric and cording, I also bought heavy needles (the canvas is pretty thick and you will be sewing through 4 -5 layers of it at points) and heavy thread.  My covers Velcro in the back to close and are also attached to the bottom of our couches with Velcro.  Joann's sells Velcro by the yard so I hit them up with a coupon after measuring how much each couch would need.

(check out that flower pattern living under there...bless its heart)

(this is the underside of our ottoman)
Before you start, make sure you have tons of pins and tons of patience.  I got REALLY fast by the third couch but the first two took me several hours a day for almost a week.  The tips of my fingers hurt just thinking about how many times I stabbed them with pins in the late night hours while my baby slept away.
In the end, the couches cost us under $300 and some blood from my fingertips.  I'd say that's a win because an Ikea couch is around the same price but not nearly as comfortable. 
Stay up: piping and fabric prep!