Mafe Maria: Personal stories by autism parent mentor, Maria Stultz

DIY Reupholstering

I really, really,… really thought that I would have many words of patronizing wisdom to share with all of you after going through this long and daring process. I really, really thought that after screwing up one of the seat’s arms, the second arm would turn out perfect. And painless.

Well, I may not have found the secret to perfect and painless DIY reupholstering, but at least I have to tell the world that for better or for worse, I did it. I feared it, yes. And I wasn’t sure that I would be able to succeed. But I did it: Our love seat has a new and brighter burnt orange skin, and I feel like a true champ…

Love seat in old skin


Reupholstered love seat


Imaginary Journalist: Champ! Champ!… How do you feel about your performance?

Mafe Maria: Well, pretty satisfied. “The victim” may not have perfect classic beauty, but she surely looks a lot happier now. The flaws, although evident, are not bad enough to completely ruin my Feng Shui.

IJ: What flaws?

MM: I couldn’t get a clean line along the seams between the inner side and the front of both arms. Both seams look a little rippled.

IJ: Why not? What’s so hard about that?

MM: Well, you have to to staple the material backwards along a curved edge, and then flip it and hope that your curvature is perfect for the material to fit tightly along the curve of the arm. Pretty hard if you’ve never done this before… Although I tried all crafty engineering tricks in my bag, I couldn’t get it perfect. I have a new appreciation for people that do this professionally.

IJ: Is there anything you can do to fix the flaws?

MM: I could do it all over again (no thanks), and my husband suggested gluing piping to conceal the flaw. I laughed at him, ha! ha! ha!… “Glue”, please!… but then I thought that I might sew some cord to conceal the rippled edge. Or not.

IJ: Sounds like applying piping from the beginning would’ve helped, don’t you think?

MM: I guess. When I started this process I decided to skip the piping to make it easier — and faster. I think piping would’ve brought a few more challenges anyway.

IJ: Hmmm…. Did you take any more shortcuts?

MM: Yes I did. I didn’t remove one piece of material on the front. Just covered it with the new fabric.

IJ: Tricksie… Very tricksie… Do you have any words of wisdom for people attempting this at home?

MM: Cut the material a little larger than the original pieces to allow for error.

IJ: That’s it? I thought you were going to give more detail on how you did it…

MM: Every piece of furniture is different. I thought I would share more of my process, but explaining it with words is harder than seeing it. In the end, what you need to do is remove the material in a logical way, make notes, take pictures, understand how the piece is put together. And then you need to put it together. I didn’t know this, but there are some very good upholstery books in your local fabric store.

IJ: Will you attempt this again?

MM: I still need to do the ottoman that goes with this piece. Will I reupholster more furniture in the future?… I’m not sure. Maybe. Definitely not a bigger piece, definitely not this year. So, maybe not…. But perhaps.

IJ: Thank you champ.

MM: Thank you.

Me likey


  1. On , Ivan wrote:

    The victim looks pretty good!! invites to get comfortable. Chao prima. Nos estamos leyendo.

  2. On , Joey wrote:

    We still need to take a photo with me in the chair, wearing my favorite Texas football shirt, giving the hook’em!

  3. On , Marla wrote:

    Looks fantastic. How are your fingers? Saw that you were wearing bandaids after the first few pics.

    I think it looks much better than the original.:)

  4. On , Maria wrote:

    Fingers are good now. Thank you for asking… and for liking… :)

  5. On , Kim Rodriguez wrote:

    I think it looks great! What a good little engineer you are to figure that out all by yourself! ;-) Now that you’ve had your practice, auntie Kim has a couch! ;-)

  6. On , Maria wrote:

    HA! HA! HA!

  7. On , Juxtaviews - » Weekly Roundup 03/09/07 wrote:

    […] DIY Reupolstering – Mafe Maria and her great blog (a true “blog” mind you) keeps it real in this interesting blog post about her experience reupolstering her sofa chair. […]

  8. On , Suzanne wrote:

    way to go…I like it ….it looks really good! I’ve re-done some small chairs myself but nothing as big as a couch, and thats what i would like to do next, but i dont know how much fabric to buy, how do you measure and determin how much fabric to buy for when doing a whole couch?

  9. On , Maria wrote:

    Suzanne, what I did was to first remove all the existing material. That way you understand how the piece is put together, and you’re left with pieces you can use as patterns to cut the new material. Once it’s all out, you can easily measure how much fabric you’ll need for each piece.

    I made a sketch of all the pieces I would need to replace (each with its measurements), and took it to the fabric store. I never know what will be the width of the fabric I’ll buy, so it was only at the store, with my sketch and a calculator that I figured out how I would need to place the pieces on the fabric I picked, and then how much I’d need in total. Of course, buy a little more… I found that I needed to cut some of my pieces a little larger than the original pieces. I guess I couldn’t stretch the fabric as much as the original, so I was glad for that extra fabric.

    Good luck!… You can do it!