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.)

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