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White living room with sofa and black, decorative accessories

New Year New Project: Reupholster the Easy Way

You don’t need to replace an aging couch to redecorate. Reupholstering is a low-cost, green way of sprucing up a room and giving new life to old furniture. And using the old fabric as a basis for your project keeps you from needing to start from scratch and can help you finish the job in under a day.

  1. Measure your couch and its cushions before buying fabric. Using a tape measure, take the measurements of the length, width, and height of the couch, and take the same measurements for your couch cushions. Multiplying the length, width, and height of your couch and your cushions will tell you how much fabric to buy. Consider buying 10 percent more fabric than you think you need, in case you make a mistake along the way. Choose a stain-resistant fabric that will complement the colors in the room where the couch is.
  2. Use scissors to cut the current couch fabric at its seams. Cut carefully, since you can use the old fabric as your pattern when you cut the new fabric. Remove fabric one section at a time.
  3. Lay the new fabric face down, and place the old fabric, which will likely be in sections and resemble the shape of your couch, on top of the new fabric. Trace the outline of each section of old fabric — including cushions — creating a pattern on the new fabric that you will follow, and then slowly cut along the outline, allowing for one-inch seams. If you’re using one long piece of fabric for your entire project, you may want to trace and cut out each section as you go instead of tracing all sections before cutting them out.
  4. Attach the fabric to the couch frame using a staple gun. You may want to start at one end of the couch and work your way to the other end, which will let you smooth out the fabric as you go. The seams of your new fabric should line up where the old seams were, and the staples should not be visible.
  5. Create slipcovers for your cushions by cutting along the patterns you drew earlier on the fabric and sewing the fabric together. Adding a zipper will let you easily remove the slipcover and wash it. You can hand-sew your slipcovers or use a sewing machine. Place the cushions on the couch when you’re done.

Things You Will Need

    • Tape measure
    • Fabric
    • Scissors
    • Synthetic foam padding (if replacing cushion padding)
    • Pencil
    • Staple gun
    • Needle and thread or sewing machine
    • Zipper (if installing a zipper on couch cushions)
    • Screws, nails, and wood glue (in the event you need to reinforce the frame of your couch)


  1. Before reupholstering your couch, test how sturdy the couch is. You may need to tighten a loose screw or add additional screws and nails to the frame of your couch for support.
  2. You can replace worn padding with synthetic padding if the back of the couch does not provide good support or if the arms of the couch have been damaged over the years.
  3. You can easily replace or bolster old cushions with batting or foam rubber.
  4. You can reuse any zippers that were on your old cushions by carefully removing them from the old fabric.
  5. After you’ve sewn two sides of the slipcover, see how well your cushion fits inside. If there is too much room, you can make up the difference when you sew the third side, but if you haven’t used enough material, you’ll need to start over. It’s better to know that before you’ve finished your slipcover and added your zipper than after.