Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Upholstering A Bench - Photo Tutorial

I finished reupholstering a bench for a client.  I'll show you how I did it, step by step in photos.

The bench to be reupholstered. 

Behind the bench are two more projects.  A round table with round drawer purchased for $10 at a garage sale.  And, leftover gray chevron fabric recovering four more chairs for the art studio. 

Laying the bench on its side, looking at the construction, there are six tabs and screws holding the fabric top to the bench frame.

It doesn't seem possible spending half and hour just to remove stubborn staples.

Sometimes you can grab a hunk of fabric and lift off the staples and fabric in one tough jerk. 

But for heavier or stubborn staples a cat's paw pry tool works wonders.  Cat's paw tool costs just under $4.00 at Hancock Fabrics. 

Using the cat's paw to lift staples.

 This is a dusty job, sneezey job removing the old fabric.

Measuring and cutting new soy foam.
Attaching batting over the foam

I look at this assembly on my dining room table.  It is the table and room where I do all my sewing projects. 

 I can't help but think what a pleasure it will be to have the sewing room in the studio, and my old wood dining room table with leaves will be a layout table for future projects like this one.

With zipper foot tight against the 3/8" cotton cord I begin sewing the piping.

Here's a tight shot showing the the piping being sewn.

Measuring for the top panel, and finding the center to mark side seams.

The bench top is 41 inches long by 20" deep.

Below: joining piping seams.

Overlap piping by one inch

Remove stitches on left piece of piping, snip one inch of piping cord.  The snipped cord (left) immediately retracts to meet the piping cord on the right exactly.  Works every time!

At the left, turn piping material 1/4" inward to make a hem (shown held in place here with white head pin (top).

Fold the left side of piping downward. 

Secure with pins.  There you have it.  The two cords are joined and ready for a couple of stitches to secure.

I used this flat carpenter's pencil to show the center of the fabric (location for side seams, and piping seams).

This is the piping seam, pinned now to the top of the seat panel.

I spent time snipping the piping, careful not to cut the stitch line that holds the piping in place.  I make snips at one inch intervals.  This helps the piping relax, allowing it to be pinned to the top seat panel, and making the curves easy to pin and stitch.

With the piping pinned to the top seat panel, I try a quick fit before permanently stitching piping.  You'll want the fit to be snug.

These next photos show the process of stitching the piping to the top seat panel. Be sure to remove pins as you stitch along.  Pins are meant to keep fabric in position.  Removing the pins as you go along allows the piping to relax and lay smooth flawlessly against the seat panel fabric as you stitch.

Approaching the corners, attended by three pins.  1) before the curve, 2) at the center of the corner, and 3) completing the curve and down the straightway.

The first pin removed.

The second pin removed, the machine needle is in the down position, the presser foot is lifted, allowing the fabric to be turned. 

The turn is made and stitching on the straightway continues until reaching the next corner.

Above: the top seat panel has the piping attached.  Now I lay the side wall panel on top.  Placing pins snug against the piping, pressing the fabric with my fingers.

Below: you can see pinning the side wall panel.  Placing 3 pins at the corner, the same technique as the piping was pinned and stitched.

After stitching was complete.  I fitted the seat cover over the foam/batting/board form, and stapled the fabric to the board. 

It rained, and rained during the month of June delaying sanding and painting the bench frame.  Finally, I took the frame to the basement and set up a TV tray to complete the paint job. I sanded and wiped down the frame prior to spraying the paint.

Two coats of Valspar black satin enamel (sanding and wiping down between coats), then a final coat of polyurethane clear satin finish.  The secret to a "silky smooth to the touch finish" is sanding and wiping down between coats).
Here's the finished bench, sitting in the foyer for a couple of days.  I'll deliver the bench to the client on Friday.

Below is a sign I have at home to welcome guests.


  1. the bench turned out great...maybe gave me some inspiration to get my cedar chest recovered I keep putting off!

  2. Wow ! what an interesting blog with nice pictures.Thanks for sharing this information.Your information is really informative for us.
    Nice blog on Dining Table.
    Keep sharing more & more.....

  3. Foi um prazer encontrar seu blog
    lindas suas restaurações.
    Aqui no Brasil temos muitos serviços de restaurações mais o material usado aqui no seu trabalho é lindo e da para ver que é de excelente qualidade. .
    Além de muito bem restaurado .
    Um beijo no coração,Evanir.
    Te seguindo.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Hello Ann,

    How are you feeling in this hot hot weather? We have two window air conditioning units, and several floor fans.

    I wish it would cool off 20 degrees so I could go outside to work on "refinish" a dining room table (layout table/craft table for the art studio).

    I am keeping cool. Itt is a good day to sew and stay inside.

    Will you post about your cedar chest project? Tell me more about it. I am interested.

    Your friend,
    Mrs. D (Linda)

  6. Fantastic!

    Mrs. D,
    Could you please provide info on where to find the "soy bean" foam core board?

  7. Mrs. D,
    Could we get some purchasing info on the "soy bean oil based foam board"?

  8. Hello Anonymous,

    I purchased the soy based foam at Hancock Fabrics. It is reasonably priced, and comes in many sizes.

    Hancock Fabrics has sales all the time. I purchased the soy foam for half-price. Stop in a Hancock Fabric store or register on-line to receive their weekly sales flyer.

    Thank you for visiting my website. Will you sign up and become a follower? I'd really like that.

    Mrs. D