Refurbishing tips for total newbies and beginners
Everyone knows crafting is better with a friend- and sometimes you just need a few extra hands!
My good friend Racheal had this crusty little ottoman with good bones, all it needed was a bit of love. She found it on curb alert - its leather exterior has worn and cracked, but on the bottom it still clearly has a $60 price tag from Ross.
After a day’s worth of work and fiddling around, trying different things until it was perfect, we came up with this beauty. Pretty dramatic difference if you ask me:
Neither of us really had experience reupholstering anything before, but I think the results still turned out pretty fantastic. Anyone can give a project like this a try though as long as you have the right tools for the job and a little bit of gumption! From one beginner to another, let me give you some tips to make your own reupholstery project a success.
How two newbies expertly made over this ottoman (and so can you!)
The supply list:
An industrial stapler / staple gun - A heavy duty stapler really makes this job easier. It’s strong enough to puncture the wood unlike a regular stapler, and the only way you can remove the staples is with a pair of plyers. You might want to spring for an extra pack of staplers so you don’t run out mid project!
A TON of Fabric - Well, I guess not a ton. Really just a yard or two. We used a bed sheet for the body of the ottoman and there was a bit left over. For reference, queen sized sheets are about 2 yards of fabric.
Handyman Tools - Plyers, Scissors, Hammer, Screwdriver. Just the basic things you need when working on hands on projects like these.
Helpful but not essential - Chalk for marking where to cut on the fabric. Chalk can be wiped away after you’re finished unlike whatever marker or pen is within grabbing distance- the finished product will look much neater if you’re not lazy. Clips and pins will keep the fabric from slipping while you’re wrapping it. These tools aren’t essential but they are sure helpful to have on hand!
1. Remove any extra hardware
Racheal’s ottoman had a lid that had hinges and screws holding it in. To get the neatest effect possible, it was impertinent we removed all those pieces before continuing. Removing hinges are super easy and just require the correct screwdriver.
You’ll also need to remove the feet if your piece has any- they should have a screw inside them to allow you to easily take them off and put them back on again when you’re finished. Put all the little pieces aside - bonus points if you put them in a zipblock bag or something so that they don’t get lost. Prevent yourself a meltdown later when you’re one screw away from finishing your project!
**Important: Don’t forget to mark where the original screw holes are so that you can put them back in at the end! **
2. Cut out that Fabric!
I don’t really like measuring things, I’m more of an “eyeballer,” so I can’t really help you on how to determine numeric measurements. I’m sure some sort of mathematical formula exists out there to calculate it, you just won’t find me using it.
We eventually decided on laying the fabric out completely flat and then “rolling” the ottoman accross the surface to determine how much we’d need to wrap the thing completely. We were also very generous with seam allowances because it’s always better to have to trim some off than to not have enough fabric to cover the surface to begin with. Another reason we cut it large is because we wanted enough extra to fill the inside of the ottoman as well.
The lid of the ottoman was much easier to manage. In our case, it was just a flat square shape with a plush top to it. We laid the fabric out and placed the lid on it and cut around the shape- again, with generous seam allowance. Seam allowance is so so important to be aware of, especially for newbie crafters. As a basic rule of thumb for seam allowances, cut AT LEAST 2-3 inches more around the edges than you think you might need. If you want to research this subject more, check out this brief introduction to the concept by Freeswing.
3. Staple things together
Once you have your fabric cut out, it’s time to really get started. It definitely helps to have a partner for this part, to help keep the fabric taut as you staple it. Try not to pull it so tight that it’s going to tear at the slightest movement, you’ll want a small bit of give but not enough for wrinkles or draping.
We started on one side and made a line of staples along the top edge of the ottoman. Keep your staples as neat and uniform as possible, even if you think they won’t show. You might be underestimating what will ultimately be visible on the finished project, and any sloppy craftsmanship is absolutely going to reveal itself at some point.
Some techniques you’ll use during this step that others can probably explain better than me:
How to wrap the corners neatly
This fantastic little video and write up by Lynn of Nourish and Nestle will help out a lot when trying to get those perfectly wrapped corners on your ottoman. This will especially be important for getting that neat, professional look to your refurbish.
Neat Hem Lines…AKA No raw edges!
Indie Sew has a basic tutorial for hemming that will give you a basic idea of what we’re trying to achieve. I think adding a hem on the edges made a big difference in the overall quality of the finished piece, but we didn’t go through all the trouble of sewing the hems or even ironing them. With a bit of finess, we rolled the raw edges over before stapling them down to the ottoman. If you staple close enough to the hemmed edge, the fabric will catch and stay neatly folded down. We kept the hem pinned down and gradually removed the pins as we stapled. If you’re having trouble with this step, an iron can be used to help flatten the edges down before you staple them.
4. The Finishing Touches
To finish off wrapping our fabric around the ottoman, we had to cut an angled slit on the inside corner of the fabric so that it would lay flat without any wrinkles showing on the outside. From there, we folded another hem line so that it would align perfectly with the corner edge, and forced pins into the edge to tack it down instead of using staples. Alternatively, you could sew the corner edge by hand, but that’s a daunting task for newbies compared to just pinning the outside edges with tiny pins that barely show. We decided to go the easier route!
From here, go ahead and put the hardware (if any) back on your ottoman. You’ll have to poke holes where the screws go in, hopefully you marked them as described in step 1!
5. The Finished Product
Didn’t it turn out completely fabulous? With teamwork, anything is possible, even for reupholstery / refurbishing newbies. I hope your project turns out just as good. Happy crafting!