Ask an Upholsterer

Do you have an upholstery question, need help, advice or professional support on an upholstery project. With 42 years of furniture upholstery experience, I may be able to help. My name is Joe Gramm, owner and upholsterer at Cape Cod Upholstery Shop. Submit your upholstery questions at the bottom of the page and I will try to answer them from a professional upholsterer’s perspective. Please allow a day or two for my reply.

To help me answer your questions, please include a link to photos of your upholstery project. Use a service like Dropbox or Google+  and include the link with your question.

4,036 thoughts on “Ask an Upholsterer

  1. Hi, I have a leather sofa it’s about 4 years old.
    The two cushions that are sat on the most has
    Dipped in the middle.
    The cushions are sewn into the sofa so can’t
    Take them out, could these be repaired?
    Thank you

    • Hi Brenda, You basically have to take half the sofa apart to be able to remove the cushions and replace the foam. It’s something you could attempt yourself (I wouldn’t). If you had a professional upholster do it, it would cost a small fortune in labor and new foam.

      I try to tell people every chance I get, DO NOT buy a sofa with attached seats. The foam is the first thing to go and if the seats are attached it’s just about impossible to fix.

      Wish I had better news.

      • Thank you Joe for your help, I guess I would be better of just buying a new sofa! The other sofa that matches is a bed sofa, so I hope I can get something to match!
        Thanks again

    • This is out of my expertise. I rarely, if ever, glue fabric to wood. But your idea of wrapping around to the bottom and stapling is a good idea. I would not use foam. I think a countertop should be flat and solid. You don’t want to put drink on a countertop and have it not be stable because of padding.

      My 2 cents worth of advise.

  2. Hi,
    My wife and I are large people and we are replacing the s-curve zig zag Springs in our sofa what gauge spring would you suggest for people who weigh upwards of 300 lb. Each time we buy new furniture it lasts about 6 months and then the Springs are shot I want to buy Springs that will last the life of the sofa and will support our weight thank you

  3. I am upholstering a antique rocking chair. It has drop in coil springs. I am thinking I want to get rid of them for multiple reasons. I am looking to have a removable cover over the cushion because it will be in a nursery. Any advise about how to switch from coil springs to something else? Would you use ply wood or webbing? And any advise on making a cover would be great. Thanks so much

    • Hi Amanda, Sorry for the delay getting back to you. I won’t ask why you’re getting rid of the springs even though I’m curious. If you could send a link to a photo of your chair it would help. The easiest thing to do would be to make the whole seat removable. But since I can’t see your chair, I don’t know where the fabric attaches to the chair. You wouldn’t want to make a removable seat and have the unfinished frame show.

      Based on your information, I would suggest either the the webbing or plywood to cover the space where the springs were. Upholster the seat with something like 1″ foam or less plus a layer of batting. The idea would be to cover the seat but try to keep it flat. Then make a removable cushion. Since it’s a rocker, you could use ties on the back of the cushion to help keep it in place.

  4. Good Day:
    Can you offer any suggestions on how to remove folds and deep creases in low density fiber cushions (compressed polyester) each 72″x24″x3″. Time has not helped; they’ve been laid out for several days, nor has weighted pressure or a moist towel and steam made any significant difference. I’m tempted to thoroughly soak them and drape them over the deck railing to drip dry. Will that help?

    • Hi Lorrie, Sorry for the delay getting back to you. Hopefully you’ve solved your problem by now. I find with fiber cushions, once they are damaged they are damaged for good. It’s almost like the fibers melt themselves together. So no I don’t have any suggestion other than to replace them.

      Foam on the other hand can sometimes, but not all the time, be steamed. Again depending how bad and for how long.

    • A bit unusual, but still pretty straight forward. Start your webbing pieces going side to side, then weave them from back to front.

      It’s a bit tricky because of what you’re calling the groove. First staple one end of your side webbing to the “groove”.

      Then using your webbing stretcher: Even though the goal is attaching the webbing to the opposite groove, place your stretcher on the outside of the frame as if you were attaching the webbing to the top of the frame instead of the groove. Now that you have your webbing stretched, at the same time, push the webbing into the groove with your staple gun while maintaining some tension on the webbing with the stretcher. Continue until you have about 5 staples securing the webbing. Now you can release the stretcher. So basically you are stretching, pushing into the groove. On the front to back webbing, start in the back and stretch to the front and follow the same procedure. Don’t forget to weave your webbing for strength and fold your webbing ends over and place another row of staples.

  5. Hi! Are you still answering questions here? Im in a diy reupholstery pickle. I am trying to stretch webbing on a bare boned rocking chair, but the original webbing sat in a groove, rather than the top of the wood. I cannot stretch it with my gooseneck stretcher. I will lose an inch of seat depth if i staple/tack on the top of wood. Any thoughts or suggestions?

    • The only webbing I’ve seen that fits in a groove is on Scandinavian furniture, where you hand stretch rubber webbing with clips into the groove. I’ve never seen a frame where jute or synthetic webbing is stretched with a stretcher into a groove.

      Could you provide here a link, to a photo of your rocking chair. I use Dropbox. It would be easier if WordPress allowed for images to be uploaded into a comment, but they don’t. So a link to a photo is the best way for me to see your chair project.

  6. Hello! I’m upholstering a couch that I would like use decorative tacks to secure a front panel to finish the arms. It was originally finished using metal tack strip on the sides so no front panel piece. I was wondering what material you would suggest to make it out of and what I should use to cut it with or if I can have someone cut it once I make the template. Thank you for your time!

    • Normally, if a front arm panel is made, secured by tacks, no panel board is used. You would pad the arm panel area, temporarily secure your fabric over the padding, then put in your decorative tacks.

      If you wanted to upholster a panel first, then attach the panel with decorative tacks, you’d want to use panel board as seen here by example.

      If you use a product like panel board, you may need to use a decorative nail with a 3/4″ shank vs the standard 1/2″ shank. This will be to compensate for the thickness of the panel board.

      Panel board can be cut with a jig saw or metal cutting shears.

    • Your question has both a simple and complicated answer. The simple answer is:
      1) All cracks and breaks should first have any old glue scraped off as clean as possible
      2) Glue both sides of the breaks with a quality wood glue like a Titebond wood glue for example
      3) Clamp for a minimum of two hours
      4) Use screws or dowels only if absolutely necessary.
      5) Start cleaning any excess glue ASAP.

      The complicated part is some cracks and breaks are not in a convenient place. You may need several clamps to clamp one break and need to be creative as to how you use the clamps. Cracks or breaks that are on finished wood need to have special care. You’ll need to use a protective pad(like a piece of dense cardboard) as to not dent or scratch the wood with the clamp(s). Once glued, you may need to sand, fill and stain the crack or break. Cracks and breaks to the unfinished frame are more forgiving. Protective pads are not necessary. You can even commonly use screws to further secure the crack/break. You can even add a brace as needed.

      Glueing and repairing furniture is something I find a lot of upholsterers do not do well. It’s in a category of it’s own besides the upholstery part of a job. You need to have knowledge of how to use clamps, when and when not to use screws and dowels. And you need to have a knowledge of filling techniques and stain blending. You can do a masterful job at the upholstery, but a crack or break, especially if exposed, that hasn’t been repaired properly, will ruin the look of you upholstery work.

      Let me know if you have a more specific question beyond what I’ve said above.

      • Thank you so much! Your comments are very helpful. The unfinished wood with the worst damage is the top piece that holds the back cushion in place. It has extensive splitting yet must be strong enough to hold up the cushion. Will Titebond wood glue be strong enough to provide structural strength or should I try an epoxy like JBWeld Kwikwood?

        • I use Titebond glue for everything. As long as the wood is relatively clean and clamped, it should hold fine. Reinforce as needed with a screw or dowel. Never use a nail. Don’t skimp on the glue. It’s better to have the glue ooze out vs not enough.

  7. Hi Joe,
    I’m working on a tufted couch and not quite sure if I’m getting the tufting right! It has stitched rectangles and when I put the buttons in, the fabric looks a little loose along the horizontal line and around the holes. Can I add another layer of dacron to the rectangles or fill the holes in with some cotton to get it a little tighter?

    • Theoretically adding a layer of batting may help, but I don’t know enough about your project to say what would help and what wouldn’t help.

      If I’m going to do machine biscuit tufting, which seems to be what you’re describing, I would use 1/4″ foam and 1/4″ bonded dacron and a backing fabric like cambric. This combo fills out the biscuit nicely. So you would have your finished fabric, dacron, foam, backing fabric, all stitched together.

  8. So I’ve been working on an old chair and I m at a stall. I’ve taken the chair all the way down to the frame. I wanted to reuse the springs. The springs on the bottom are coil springs and some are stretched. I don’t think I can replace them because they are on a wire base. The springs are tapered at the bottom where they attach to the wire base. What options do you think I have. I know it’s hard to tell without a picture. Do you think even though they are stretched that I can just tie them down extra firm or is it too much pressure. I don’t know why to do.

  9. Joe – I am in need of a upholstery onto for two wicker porch chairs. The cushions need replacing. comfort is paramount. Should I use filling/batting or foam wrapped with a product like Dacron for the back cushion? I have gone to two different upholstery shops and had a different opinion from each

    Thank you!

    • Everyones definition of “comfort” could be different. So it doesn’t surprise me you have two different opinions.

      Foam wrapped in dacron batting will hold up better in the long run. The key to a back cushion with foam and dacron is to use a soft foam. Try to use a foam with a soft compression of about 18-27 lbs. Super soft being 18 lbs and soft being 27 lbs. For the dacron wrap, use a soft stitched dacron, vs bonded dacron.

      100% fiber filled cushions can work as well, but they are less resilient than a foam cushion. I recommend you use a loose fiberfill dacron. The fiberfill cushion cover should be baffled so the loose fill has less chance to shift. A micro fiberfill would be the best choice. This would give you something similar to a feather and down cushion.

      You’ll need to decide what is comfortable to you. Foam provides a firmer soft comfort vs fiberfill provides a soft comfort.

    • Joe – that is exactly the kind of detailed guidance I was looking for! Thank you very much. Wish I could have you do the work!

  10. Hi Joe,
    I have striped the fabric and foam from my dining chairs and found that the wood seat has an open center with mesh fabric stretched across it. The fabric is stapled front and back but not on the sides. I assume this serves as a sling to support the foam.

    Would it be acceptable to reuse this or should I replace it with plywood or webbing? What is this called? I couldn’t find an reference on the internet.

    • To be honest I don’t know what the stretchy fabric is called. It’s a product that used in the new furniture industry more so than the reupholstery trade.

      Most times I see it, I replace it with webbing because it’s always stretched out. If it’s in good condition, you theoretically could reuse it. Otherwise, replace it with a few pieces of webbing.

  11. I would appreciate your opinion about my upholstery project. I am upholstering a built in banquette seat in my kitchen. I have bolster back cushions and seat cushions. The seat cushions have a three inch high density foam covered in 1 inch of batting sitting on a 1/2 inch piece of plywood. I am using this upholstery fabric:

    However, my issue has been that the fabric looks amazing until I sit on it, then it develops comfort wrinkles that do not go away and rebound back to smooth again. I have to drag my hand over the fabric to smooth it back to normal. The wrinkles make the fabric look worn and old.

    In an effort to try and remedy the issue, I added another layer of 1 inch medium density foam and an additional layer of the batting but this only helped minimally. Then I added upholstery interfacing to the back side of the fabric but this only made the fabric feel stiff and it did not resolve the wrinkles entirely.

    I think that there is an issue with the elasticity of the fabric. I have upholstered many items in the past and have not come across this issue with any other fabric. This fabric did appear to be good quality but I can’t seems to make it look acceptable. The fabric does have a stretch on the bias only but it doesn’t have any elasticity to regain it’s original shape even when tested on it’s own and not attached to my seat and bolster.

    I have attached a photo of how the cushions look right after I sit on them.

    I will be returning the fabric if this can not be resolve, but I do love the feel and the color and pattern of the fabric meet my design needs so I thought that I would see if there is any other trick that my help remediate the issue.

    Any advice you have would be greatly appreciated.

    • I think you have a few things going on to cause the wrinkles.

      1) It’s a large expanse of fabric. Depending on the firmness of the foam and thickness of your dacron, you will likely get a few wrinkles at some point with regular use. No matter what you do.
      2) This is I believe your main issue. I can see that your front boxing has wrinkles. This indicates to me that your cover overall is cut to to big. To big means you have not taken the stretch out of your fabric, hence the wrinkles. The boxing should not have any wrinkles. It should be taught.

      Your seat top should be cut exactly to the size of your seat plywood with the addition of 1/2″ seam allowances all around.(Example: plywood width is 50″, fabric top is cut 51″).
      Your foam should be cut at least 3/4″-1″ bigger than the plywood all around. (Example: plywood width is 50″, cut foam width 51.5″-52″)

      Same basically applies to the back. I can see from the photos the fabric was applied to loose, with not enough stretch removed from the fabric.

      • Hi Joe,

        Thank you so much for your reply. I greatly appreciate your advice and I will follow it exactly when upholstering the next section of the bench. I have 4 sections. I will post photos as soon as I complete it.


        • Hi Joe,

          It worked!!! Perfectly. Thank you so much for your advice. The mistake that I made was that I didn’t cut my fabric the exact same size as my board, instead I had cut it 1/2 larger plus the 1/2 inch seam allowance. This was just enough extra fabric to cause the saggy sloppy fabric, thank goodness that I only needed to cut fabric away, this didn’t require me to purchase any additional to complete my project. You are a genius to be able to see my mistake without even looking at my project in person. I am truly grateful.

          With sincerest thanks,

  12. On the front of wingback chairs there is thick cardboard with nails. The nails were very weak and heads broke off during removal. Is there a place to get new ones and what are these called? Thanks in advance!

    • These chairs can be tricky to work on. I would use the existing inside arm and back fabric as a template. Before you remove the inside back and arm, mark up the pieces for your template. I like to stitch the inside arm and back together as one piece. Using a welting on the bottom of the inside arm and back makes the job a lot easier. With either chalk, or magic marker, make a line at the bottom of your pieces where they meet the seat deck. Make one continuous line from one end of the arm, the back and to the end of your other arm. Now make several marks where your arm and back meet from the the bottom of the welting to where they end on the wood frame. Three or four marks should do. Now this will give you a good template. Remove the old fabric and steam out your arm and back separately. Be sure not to remove any of the marks you made. Once your fabric is steamed out evenly, you can use your template to cut out your new fabric. Be sure to add all seam allowances. Add your welting to the bottom and then sew a strong piece of fabric to the welting, long enough to be stapled to your frame.

      Mark the center of the top and bottom of your inside back fabric and mark the center of the chair back frame top and bottom

      Start to upholster by attaching the center of your fabric to the center of the chair frame, with your welting resting on the seat deck. Continue upholstering working your way out from the center to either side eventually working your way over to the arm.

      Go slow,. Be careful how you cut your fabric to release any tension working on the curves.

      Good luck.

  13. Hi there! I’m the owner of an IKEA Karlstadt sofa. I purchased the Karlstadt because with kids and pets, I wanted to be able to take the cushion covers off and wash them as needed (which is frequently!). Over time, the cushions have become rolled-up blobs. I thought I might try my hand at tufting the cushions. I am intimidated at the thought of button-tufting, so thought perhaps stitch-tufting was more my speed. Here’s my question: Is feasible to tuft the bare cushions so that I’d still be able to take off the covers and wash them as needed, without having to cut off the tufting and re-stitch each time? My search of the web doesn’t give me an answer as to why nobody does this. Since I don’t have a lot of faith in my ability, I expect any tufting to be only for utility purposes and not that great looking anyway. Thanks in advance!

  14. I was wondering if you could tell me if 80% polyester and 20% linen is a good blend for fabric to be used on a sofa that will be heavily used? Or would 100% polyester be better? Thank you.

  15. I’m upholstering dining room chairs. Someone told me I should use sheet metal to reinforce the cushion underneath. If so what gauge? If not other suggestions. Also is it okay to leave the old covering and go over it?

    • I’ve never heard of using sheet metal and wouldn’t recommend it. I also don’t exactly know what “reinforce the cushion underneath” means, so it’s hard to offer an alternative to the sheet metal. If you mean reinforcing the webbing, then there are several ways to do that without sheet metal. But, the spring twines need to be in good shape in order to only do the repairs to the bottom webbing.

      As for the old covering, in some cases you could go over the old fabric, but in most cases you wouldn’t. It’s usually best to remove the old fabric, especially if it’s dirty or the material is thick. If you were to go over the old fabric, it’s best to cut out any parts of the fabric where it’s bunched together, like in the corners..

      It really depends on how much effort you want to put in, in order to make the finished product look good.

  16. Good morning Joe
    I am hoping you could help me with a problem I experienced re-upholstering the arms of winged dining chairs. I found that I could not get the fabric to wrap smoothly around the curved inner arm of the chair and wrap around to the outside. I ended up creating a seam. Here is a drop box link to a picture of the chairs completed.

    I have an inquiry about re=upholstering another 4 chairs like this and do not want to have the same problem. I think the problem is in the way I cut the fabric but I am not sure. Thanks, Joanne

    • Sorry for the delayed reply. I think the arms look good. It’s common to put a seam where you did. One of the reasons to use a seam is to help keep the pattern straight. In your case, it looks like there isn’t much of a pattern to deal with, but if you had a stripe, for example, you couldn’t keep the stripe straight without putting a seam at the arm/wing.

      Theoretically it’s possible to make the arm and wing one piece if there is no pattern to contend with. But at some point where the curve is, you could be putting in one staple, making a cut, one staple, making a cut, one staple, making a cut, you get the point. An enormous amount of labor/skill to make the arm one piece.

  17. Hello Joe, I am recovering outdoor furniture cushions and am having trouble with the piping.
    I am working on the backrest cushions which are rounded with a squared bottom where the zipper is. These are not box style cushions but rather are cushions with one seam and with one piece of piping between the two sides. The fabric is an outdoor fabric so a bit stiffer than some, maybe like a Sunbrella. I have sewn the piping between the two sides of the fabric and when I turn the cushion right side out it looks fine and lies flat. But when I insert the filler cushion the piping kinks inward in numerous places around the cushion. What have I done wrong and how can I resolve this issue? Thank you, Joanne

  18. I am fixing the seat of an antique chair that needs the jute webbing replaced. After removing the old webbing, it looks as though it has too many nail holes from previous repairs. Can I attach the webbing over the side to the bottom or the side of the chair? Or should I think about getting a plywood base made?

    • I don’t recommend attaching the webbing to the sides of the frame except under extreme conditions as I feel it torques the frame to much. I’m also not a proponent of using plywood as the seat base in place of webbing.

      I would recommend filling the holes and cracks with a wood filler such as Minwax High Performance Wood Filler

      You’ll then be able to easily attach new webbing and any fabric.

  19. Hi Joe,

    I have an armchair (see photos: that has jute webbing on the back that I am going to replace. The webbing is not taut and falls in a graceful curve towards the back. I am wondering if that is simply due to age, or if back webbing on a chair like this is usually a little soft. Is it just there as a barrier to keep the back from popping out? Thanks!

    • The webbing is there to support the padding on the back. The webbing should be taut. Replace the webbing starting with the vertical pieces, then the horizontal pieces. Use a webbing stretcher to get them taut.

      I personally would use three vertical and three horizontal pieces of webbing. Then your burlap, then your padding.

  20. Joe,

    What are your tips for sewing low pile velvet using a walking foot machine? That is, trying to prevent the ‘walk’ of the fabric.

    • Been a while since I had to deal with that. Some Sunbrella fabrics act the same way.

      Make sure your machine tension is correct and most importantly, I think, the bigger the stitch length, the better.

  21. Hello, I would appreciate some tips on how to go about reupholstery four Chromecraft chairs. Should I make a pattern or just wrap and glue? Can’t tell in the original pics, but the upholstered chairs have piping which was sewn in. Don’t know if that’s necessary.

    • I would make them the same style as the original. You could leave out the welting if you wanted to, but I would make them with the boxing as before.

      Make a template from the seat frame, not the old vinyl and it looks like you need new foam. If you get new foam, get the same thickness as the old foam and wrap with one layer of batting.

  22. I have a victorian settee I am saving. I am an upholster but have not done to many antique pieces.I have my shop in Hawaii for the past 30 years.I came across this from a friend and knew I had to save it. My question is it a tufted back with over 100 buttons I got that done.Now I am trying to do the seat.It has a curved edge wire on the front which is damage.How do I make a new one. And the outside springs are very curved does the curve face in or out.The last time it was done was 1947 the upholstery dated it and signed his name.I will keep it inside the piece.I was thrilled when I found it. Would appreciate any help you can give me. Mahalo

      • Thank you for your reply my question is how do I bend the edge wire to fit the curves?There are 5 of them.Thanks Jeannie

        • I bend it by hand with a metal pipe with a circumference not much bigger than the wire edge. You can also use a vise. Mark on the wire where you want to bend it, then either use a small metal pipe or vise and bend at your mark.

          You usually only need to bend the wire edge at corners as the wire will bend on its own on a curve.

          • Mahalo this should be interesting because it curves in and back out and then end 1 3/4 returns.It is only 52″ overall.

  23. i am trying to make a self supporting back cushion which will sit on a backless armless sofa
    i am using a legless bent plywood chair frame with the seat cut off and bolted backwards. I am going to sandwich 2inch latex foam, wool,and a goose feather and down pocketed duvet as padding wrapped with batting and stapled.I have 4 questions – what would be the best sequence for this padding, should i leave the back solid, or cut it out to a frame and use 11 gauge zig zag springs or elastic webbing, what weighted material would sit smoothly under the padding at the back and can you suggest a nonslip material for the underneath.

  24. Hi Joe, I have 10 old french chairs and instead of the springs fastened to webbing they are fastened to metal strips which are fastened to the wooden slip seat frame .Can you give me any info on this system.
    Kind regards,
    Tom Lawton.

      • Possibly,not sure what strap springs are.These are metal strips 3 running north south and three running east west. One end of each strip is fastened to the slip seat same as with webbing,then each strip is bent downwards about 45degrees for about 2inches then a 90 degree bend so the strip goes to the opposite side then is bent the same and is attached to the frame,as the strips go to the other side they are woven through the bottoms of the coil springs, then the top is covered with hessian and the tops of the springs fastened to it. Wow what a mouth full,hope it makes sense.
        Thanks a lot,
        Tom lawton.

        • If you click on the hyper link in my last reply. you’ll see what a strap spring is.

          As for you’re straps. a picture is worth a thousand words in this instance. You can’t upload a photo directly to the blog, but you can add a link to a photo as I did in my last reply (Dropbox, Google+, etc}..

  25. i have a recliner that has a broken zig zag seat spring. the spring measures to be a 6 gauge spring and the only springs I can find available are 8 or 9 gauge. do you know where I can purchase 6 gauge springs, or if not how many more 8 gauge springs I should add to provide the same support.

  26. Hi Joe,
    Happy new year!!
    I will be reupholstering an old sofa that has coil springs on jute webbing. After inspection, I find that the webbing has sagged due to old age but springs are well tied and no broken twines. To fix the sagging, first I thought I have to replace the old jute webbing, then retie springs. However, I did some research and find that steel webbing can be applied over the old jute webbing but I can not seem to find where to buy the metal webbing.
    Is there a way to reinforce the old jute webbing without removing the springs. Do you have any suggestion of a place that sells the steel webbing? OR any suggestion of how to reinforce the old jute webbing without replacing them. Thank you very much.

  27. Hi Joe, I’m glad I found your blog because I think I have a question many others might have. I just finished reupholstering my entire couch for the first time and made the point of using only natural materials, so I have layers of jute webbing, burlap, natural latex foam, organic cotton batting, organic wool batting and organic ticking fabric. Now that I have the entire couch ready, I am at the point of planning for the cushions. My question is about the seat cushions. I already purchased two blocks of natural latex foam with the correct size and want to wrap these with wool batting; however, I am not sure that the wool batting would stay in place on its own. What I was thinking was that I should either glue the wool batting to the foam or glue burlap to the foam and place the wool batting on top. It seems that the burlap would hold the wool in place, but I am not sure. What would you suggest to be done in this case? And do you have a non-toxic glue to suggest for such use, if necessary? Thanks in advance!

    • I don’t know of any non toxic glues that would work. My suggestion would be to wrap your latex foam with the wool batting and hand stitch the wool to itself. Another option would be to use a hand stapler to staple the wool to itself.

      • Hi Joe, thanks for your reply. The wool batting I have does not have a backing attached to it. Would it still work to stitch it? It just seems to be so fragile to be stitched…

        • I’m not sure what to tell you. I don’t work with wool batting so I don’t know how fragile it is. You’ll need to figure out a way to stabilize it or you risk the wool shifting around and becoming lumpy over time.

          My only other suggestion would be to make an envelope style cushion Use your latex as the core and encase your wool in the envelope. The envelope with keep the wool in place.

          Maybe other upholstery blog subscribers who have worked with wool can make suggestions.

  28. Joe–that you so freely share your time and expertise speaks volumes about you as a person. Thank you for being so very kind and generous with your readers. Here is my favor…Would you please offer your wisdom to this bewildered “Do-It-Yourself-er”–My 14 year old American Leather sofa needs new foam cushion inserts–while I was sent new replacement foam of identical dimensions to the original, I suspect the new foam inserts don’t adequately fill their now stretched covers and as a result feel flat. Is there a rule of thumb one should follow with respect to sizing replacement foam when working with older leather covers? Additionally, I have researched high-end leather furniture manufactures and while they state their cushions have ILD’s between 15-20, the foam retailers think I’m completely out of my mind to want such a soft foam. My original cushions were 6.5″ thick with an inverted 1.5″ convoluted crown patch, wrapped in 2oz dacron yielding an approximate 8″ cushion.

    • Thank you for the kind words.

      To be honest, and I’ve said this in previous comments, I am not a leather expert. I try to stay away from doing any leather work.

      That being said, you can’t fit the new foam to the stretched out cover because the cushions will likely not fit the sofa anymore. I completely agree an IDL(compression) of 15-20 lbs is way to soft for seat cushions. That is the main reason your seat cushions don’t last and that they are stretched out. The IDL(compression) should be at the minimum 35 lbs, which is considered a medium compression. An IDL(compression) of 45 lbs is considered firm.

      Unless you can have the manufacturer send you new cushions with a higher compression, of say 35 lbs, your only other option is to add a series of additional batting to the the foam. The added batting will fill out the cushion, but not oversize them so as to not fit. If you brought your cushion to a local upholsterer they could probably do it for you. Keep in mind though, adding batting will not fix the inherent problem of the 15-20 IDL(compression).

      Also keep in mind, once the leather is stretched out, you may never be able to fill out the cushion enough as to make the cushion look like it is not stretched out. The only way to possibly solve that issue is with a firm foam that will not allow the leather to stretch further.

  29. Can someone help me on how to upload a picture? I have installed Google+ the pic is ready to go, just unsure of how to upload it to this forum?

    • You can’t upload the photo to the blog. Go to Google+ and get the URL address for the photo. Then include the link with you question.

      Please make sure the photo is public so no one needs to login to Google+ to view the photo.

        • You’ve done a fantastic job if your foot stool was a Christmas present.. Just joking of course.

          Two things. To get a rounder look, you need to pull the fabric tighter around the foam. Also, pleats should be in the corners, not in the middle of the side. It also looks like you did not use any batting on top of the foam. I would add a layer of batting.

          What I would have done is measured the base and cut the corners to fit the base, then machine stitched the corners. The next step would be to simply slip the cover over the foam and dacron and pull appropriately.

          I don’t expect you to do it that way if you don’t have a sewing machine, but if you follow what I said up top, it will look closer to what you want.

  30. Hello I rececently repurposed an industrial metal drawer into a foot stool but I don’t like how the 3” foam is so square looking. I’m new to the DIY universe especially something that requires upholstery. I like it but do not love it! Guess I was hoping for a more rounded/natural looking piece? Sorry can’t figure out how to upload a picture:(

  31. Hi I have a question please help. My springs to our couch seemed to have expanded pushing the cushions way up in the air a good 4 inch’s is there any way to ge the springs back down to be level?

    • 4″ is an extreme amount for the springs to pushing up. You don’t say if the springs are coil or zig zag. How can I help without any information. Either way something is drastically wrong.

      I suggest you flip the couch over and look to see if there are indications of what the problem could be.

  32. Hello.
    I have found a leather sofa I love with nailhead trim, the color of which I dislike.
    I can have the trim replaced with another color, but same sized nailhead.
    Once they pull the original nailheads, will the replacement heads be as snug as the originals?
    Thanks for your time to answer this question.

    • As long as the new nail heads don’t go back in the same holes as the old nail heads, it should be fine. The only other issue would be if the wood is split because of the nail heads. If the wood is split, then it might be an issue. All depends on how old the sofa is and how many times it’s been upholstered. But in general, it should be okay.

  33. Hi Joe,
    I’m redoing seat cushions for rattan sets. They will be used in a hotel with high traffic
    I am debating which foam I should use? We used to have a big upholstery supplies shop on the island but it is closed down
    Can you help advice me which of the foam below is appropriate for this application:-
    foam 5” with 1.8 ILD , 45 Lbs (a local store here carries only 1.8 ILD)
    Foam 5” with 2.5 ILD, 35 Lbs ( not sure if this one will be too soft I have to order from the mainland
    Or what will you recommend?
    Thank you

    • Sorry for the late reply. The 5″ 2.5 density, 35 lb medium compression would be what I prefer. Firmer foam will hold up better in high traffic areas. So if you were able to get 2.5 density with a 45 lb firm compression, that would probably work as well.

      The only issue with a 45 lb firm compression with 5″ foam is it will border on being hard rather than firm. If you can get samples of each, you may want to get samples first.

  34. Hi I’ve taken all the old foam out of a buttoned back leather arm chair, the foam had almost gone to dust so I vacuumed it out. The buttons are still attached so I’m wondering if I could use foam chips by pouring them into the large opening at the top, do you think they would be firm enough ? I’d rather not have to take all the buttons off

    • Maybe shredded foam would work, you just need to try it. Being the high end professional I am, it’s not what I would do. But since you are the owner and user of the chair, do what you feel works for you. Theoretically the shredded foam might work. Anything will be more comfortable than powdered foam!

  35. Hi,
    I have two bamboo chairs and recently had cushions custom made for them. They are 3″ foam wrapped with a thin layer of something. The problem is they aren’t very comfortable. Do you recommend a certain type or density of foam for this type of seat cushion? The cushions rest directly on the bamboo frame, there are no springs. Would some type of latex or memory foam be better? Or a thinner foam and a thicker layer of the wrapping? I sat in one of the chairs to watch TV the other night and my hips and back got sore.

    • Three inch foam is a little tricky because that’s not a lot of foam for a seat. Maybe your chair can’t take more than 3″, I don’t know. I haven’t used memory foam in seat cushions so I can’t help there. My go to specifications for seating foam is 2.6 density with a medium compression of 35lbs. I also wrap most cushions with a 1.0oz stitched dacron. Three inch foam would make me change the compression to a firm 45lb compression.

      Without knowing more about the chair, that’s all the help I can offer.

      • Hi, here’s a picture of the chair. (I hope this works):
        I don’t think it could handle more than 3 inches of cushion to sit comfortably with arms at the armrests, and also at the dining room table (we sometimes use it there for extra seating.) The info you provided is helpful in that I can go back to the place where the cushions were made and ask about the density and the compression of the foam. Perhaps they can make some adjustments that would make it more comfortable.
        Would you have wrapped this a bit more, so it’s a little fuller looking and not so flat? I don’t know if they can do that now, because they haven’t allowed extra fabric for the extra fullness, so it might shrink the cushion in from the sides of the chair.
        Thanks for the information, it gives me a place to start!

        • The seat cushion does look a bit flat. You should be able to add a bit more dacron to give it a more crowned look. The added dacron may or may not effect the fit of the cushion. You may also want to switch to a square type back cushion vs rectangular as to give more support to your upper back.

          There are several issues here I need to point out.
          1) 3″ foam sitting on a bamboo base is going to be difficult to make comfortable.
          2) Your bamboo chair is not designed to sit in for long periods of time and watch TV. If you have any type of back issues, you need to find a chair to accommodate your back.
          3) Your chair is designed for things like seating at a dinner table maybe for short periods of time and reading the newspaper in a 3 or 4 season room.
          4) Let your chair be the chair it is. Make it as comfortable as it can be considering it’s design intent. Use the best foam and back cushion you can and leave it at that.
          5) Go out and find a comfortable chair that accommodates your back to watch TV in.
          6) If you must continue to use your chair for watching TV, consider adding an ottoman to get your feet off the ground which in turn may help to relieve stress on your back.

          • Thanks so much! You’re absolutely right, the chair isn’t made for long periods of sitting, and it’s comfort level is limited. We bought it mostly as extra seating at the table and for short stints when guests are here. I will take your advice and not try to use it for something it wasn’t intended for heheh!
            I will change out the back cushions, also plan to check the foam and the Dacron wrapping, and may add more Dacron to give it a softer, rounder look and feel.
            Thanks so much for your helpful input! Much appreciated!

  36. hi can you help, I want to replace some leather car seats, the leather is fine but the sponge underneath has gone hard,what can i do to stop it getting worse? Can I apply spray latex or something else?
    thanks In advance.

    • I assume when you say sponge you’re talking about the foam padding you sit on under the leather. I don’t do auto upholstery, but the premise would be the same as furniture foam. If the foam has gone hard there is nothing you can do to soften it other than replace it with new foam.

      I personally have not heard of any product to soften hard foam. Sometimes you can use steam to bring back the edge of foam that has lost it’s shape, but if the edge has gone hard, even steam won’t help.

  37. I have been asked to make two cushions for an L-shaped banquette that measure approximately 76”w x 18”d x 3”h and 48”w x 18”d x 3”h.

    I originally thought I would use 3” high resiliency foam (2.7 / 35idl) as that is my go-to for Upholstery projects but I doubted that was the right option for banquette seating. I have 2 samples that were sent to me by my supplier that are 2”h and about 6”x6” so they’re big enough to feel but not sit on. (Note: not 3” so I’m not comparing apples to apples).

    In talking with the designer and her client, the client mentioned that she doesn’t want to sink in too much when sliding in (because it’s a rather long cushion) so she agreed to go with the 2.7/50idl. (I brought her both samples to feel. (35/50).

    I’m now second guessing what would be best for this seating. Are most clients actually meaning “medium” but say firm?

    This is for a residence, not a restaurant needing high traffic.

    • I think you’ll be okay because the customer sounds like they know what they want. I consider 2″ & 3″ foam not very thick for seating. So when using those thicknesses, I think it’s better to go firmer.

      I also agree with a long banquette, you don’t want to sink in because it makes it harder to slide around.

      I think you’ll be okay with the 50idl. I agree it is firm. The foam I use as “firm” is 45idl. Not much of a difference. The firm foam will actually make your job of stuffing out a long cushion easier. Use a good quality bonded or stitched dacron to wrap the foam and I think you’ll be fine.

      I know what you mean when the customer says firm, do they really mean firm. Because medium compression foam can feel firm. But I think in your case, along with the type of application, go firm.

      • Joe, thanks for you’re reply. I can get 44idl from another supplier if you think that’s actually better. I believe theirs is 2.9lb/44idl. Also 3”. (The client’s bench height is 16-3/4” so they want to keep it at 3”.)

        Also, I planned to wrap top/front/bottom with 1oz bonded dacron. Do you think that will be a problem with causing the short part of the L to push up against the side of the long L causing the other end to hang over? My plan was to cut foam and fabric same size as the bench top.

          • You want cushions to be properly filled out or they won’t look good. Be careful cutting your foam to small. I can’t really help with that because even for me it can be a trial and error thing until I get the cushion perfect.

        • I’m not sure how much of a difference the two foams will make. That being said, I’d probably use the 2.9 density with a 44 lb compression.

          You may have to experiment with the size of foam in relation to wrapping it with dacron.

  38. hello
    I have had a beautiful single box cushion cover for my sofa made locally.
    It is 4.5″x 25″ x69″.
    It is not tufted.
    In order to be able to afford the quality materials I wanted, I decided to DIY the foam & stuffing of this cushion. I have a high quality 4.5″ 3.2lb high resilient foam core with a softer ILD about 25ild.

    My issue is the Dacron/wrap materials & effect of the ‘lines’ of the sofa.

    On the other cushions, I DIY’d previously, I used the same foam, & the DAC 91 faced/backed/stitched Dacron. I purchased a whole roll & have plenty left over.
    Those cushions were smaller, so the crown effect was not too bad.

    I am trying to achieve a lower crown, but still fill out my cushion & I do not want tufting.
    I have seen where a thicker cotton batting can be used, but because of the width of the cushion, I am hesitant to use cotton, my concern is that it will matt up due to getting heavy use.

    I decided to use a very thick 1″ bonded Dacron on this long cushion it is more flat & not as ‘puffy’ & achieved the lines I wanted EXACTLY.
    Here is the issue:
    I was not sold bonded Dacron. My mistake for going to Joanne Fabrics.
    Instead of the batting being ‘bonded dacron’, cushion wrap, it is actually NuFoam.
    This is an entirely different product.
    While it looks exactly the same, it does NOT behave the same. It has reacted with the glue somewhat aside from just bonding to the foam, & it has some hardened & flattened & bunched areas that are ‘telescoping’ through my fabric. I did not know this product had different characteristics than the bonded wrap. It has only been on for a few days & the effect is getting worse.

    I *know* I need to pull out the cushion & strip this off of the foam.
    My question is:
    Will actual bonded Dacron react with glue in this manner?
    I am using 3M Super 77 spray glue.
    Also, will I need to also have a cover over the bonded Dacron, like remay. The 1 side of the cushion is a woven cotton, & I am concerned about migration/bearding.

    My only experience is with faced/backed Dacron, which gives wonderful results, but I do not want that much crown.
    Would cotton work better?

    Live & learn!!!

    • I would not use cotton batting. Wrong application for the project. I don’t know how thick you Dac 91 is, but you can purchase standard 1.0oz stitched dacron which works the same as Dac 91 and is less expensive. The 1.0oz is about 1″ thick or slightly less.

      When it comes to bonded dacron, I only use thermal bonded. I’ve never had an issue with the dacron reacting to spray adhesive.

      • My Dac 91 is 2 sided, stitched , it’s 30″, 1.5oz.

        What is your trick to filling out a cushion without getting that extra crown in order to achieve more square lines?
        I’m thinking the thermal bonded in 1″ is the way to go since the 1″ Nufoam filled everything out perfectly & kept the lines, but the NuFoam seems more dense than bonded Dacron, so I am not sure if I should bump up the thickness to account for that. Suggestions?

        Also any tricks to getting ALL of the Nufoam stripped off of my core foam?
        Since the reaction was so bad, I want to be sure I get all of this product off so there is none remaining to react when I put the proper Dacron on the cushion.
        Is there a method, or a tool to shave off the fuzz?

        Just for future reference:
        What occurred with the 3M Super 77 spray glue & the NuFoam appears to be 2 fold.
        #1, the glue did not seem to cure the same & remained tacky on the NuFoam, & everywhere it grabbed, it kind of hardened the fluff factor, & remaining tacky, it keeps grabbing, & everywhere it grabs loses fluff & becomes stiff. The glue was not over applied, but seems to have bled through due to extra tack. I attempted to cut down the tackiness in a last ditch effort by using some talc, but there seems no end to the issue, so it must come off. I’m posting this part so that anyone doing outdoor cushions, which is the actual application for NuFoam doesn’t use the 3M Super 77 spray glue.

        • What is your trick to filling out a cushion without getting that extra crown

          The finished boxing size is the trick. My standard cushion for example is 4″ foam with a single wrap of 1.0oz stitched dacron. I finish my boxing at 3 1/4″ which gives me a bit of a crown. If you want a cushion with no crown, than make your finished boxing 3 3/4″ – 4″.

          Also any tricks to getting ALL of the Nufoam stripped off of my core foam?

          Can’t help there. I try to only apply adhesives, not take them off. I’m not trying to act smart, I really don’t know how to remove glue from foam.

          • Hah! Thanks. I just want to get all of the NuFoam off. I didn’t think I could get all of the glue off. I was just -meaning all of the stray fibers from the NuFoam since that is what reacted to the glue. Maybe one of those little pill shavers & a lot of patience because it will surely gum up due to tackiness.

            On the boxing & less crown question:
            You mentioned about making the boxing smaller. I am thinking on that.
            On that note, at this point, will the opposite work also?
            My boxing is 4.5″ & my foam is 4.5″, & I was planning 1″ Dacron each side.
            Since I am stripping the Nufoam off, I *do* have the opportunity to add a layer of foam, say 1/2″ each side, bringing the foam proper to 5.5″, then add the thermo-bonded Dacron. If my understanding is correct, it should achieve the same effect correct?

            Thanks so much for this site! It has a wealth of information.
            The woman who made my box cushion covers is on vacation, & is not an upholsterer, but she is a professional a seamstress who does amazing work. She will order the proper materials for me, but cannot give advice about which types are more preferable &/or why, since it is not her area of expertise. I won’t be stepping foot in Joanne Fabrics again for anything upholstery related after this nightmare! All of this extra work due to attempting to buy 4 yards of bonded Dacron-which was not bonded Dacron at all!!

  39. I am reupholstering a french provincial chair with Sunbrella canvas fabric. When I attempted to staple the fabric to the inside back of the chair, I could not get the material to lay flat. It had multiple puckers. I removed all of the staples and am now wondering if I should/could use curve-ease to navigate the curves. Any suggestions as to why the puckers occurred or a solution to my problem would be appreciated. Thank you!

    • Sunbrella inherently wants to pucker. You need to center your fabric in place. Then get the stretch out of the Sunbrella by pulling evenly to the corners. Then filling in from the center to the corners. it’s not easy.

      I would not use ply Grip or curve-ease. Curve-ease is mainly for outsides, not insides.

  40. Hi, I’m a capable sewer and I am reupholstering a weathered faux suede sofa. The problem I’m encountering is the squeaking when sitting. By a process of elimination I have determined that there are two parts to the problem, both are due to the webbing.
    The main squeak comes from the dust cover rubbing on the webbing as you sit on the couch. The less problematic squeak is the webbing rubbing on the edge of the wooden frame at the front of the couch.
    So my question is, how do I eliminate the squeak? The webbing itself doesn’t appear to be overstretched. It only runs in one direction, front to back. What can I use other than the dust cover?
    Cheers from Australia

    • I must say I haven’t encountered a situation like yours before with webbing. A few questions first:
      1) What type of webbing are you using. Is it a jute webbing or a synthetic webbing of some kind.
      2) Are you using coil springs in the seat.
      3) Is the frame tight. Especially the from rail.

      I could see it’s possible for webbing to squeak against wood in certain situations. I can’t think of any reason why the webbing would squeak rubbing up against the dust cover. That is based on the premise you’re using the standard cambric type dust cover cloth. As for the webbing against the wood; my only suggestion would be to try and jam a thin(1/4″) piece of foam between the wood and webbing and see if that eliminates the squeak. I don’t have any suggestions about the webbing and dust cover as I’m having a hard time seeing how webbing rubbing on a dust cover could squeak.

  41. Ok don’t laugh too much. This is my first attempt at tieing springs. This is about a 1910 chaise and I hated to see it thrown out. I guess I’m just looking for a quick view and an OK to move to the next step. I do see a few hills and valleys……do I need to start over? What do you suggest as the next layer? It had straw, then cotton batting and then muslin. What do I use in place of straw and cotton? Dense foam?

    Here is drop box link to pics
    Thanks for your advise as I move forward.

    • I’m not sure I see enough from the photos to suggest you do the springs over. However, this is what I could comment on.

      1) Some of your ties are not knotted, rather looped. This is somewhat done in the industry, but you are better off making every tie an actual knot. If your twine were to break, the loop does not stop the twine from unraveling. With a knot, if the twine breaks, the unraveling can only go so far as the next knot.
      2) You don’t need to twirl your extra twine around your ties. The exception may be where your tacks are. Wrapping the twines near the end where your tacks are can some times prevent the twine from rubbing on the edge of the wood. The edge of the wood is a common place for twines to break, especially with jute twine.

      Other than that, I can’t tell from the photos how uniform your springs are. The more uniform they are to each other, the better shape of your final seat. So if there are springs that are to high/to low, you may want to consider adjusting those.

      For new padding I would cover the springs in Burlap, then dense pad, then 2.6 high density foam, then batting, then muslin, then a layer of batting, then your finished fabric.

        • I edited my reply so if you did not see the edits, please read my reply again.

          One more thing. I noticed you used the old antique copper coated springs. Those were probably the original springs. It’s okay to re-use them as long as they are still good.

          As long as the spring stays straight as the spring gets pushed down, the springs should be okay. If you push down on the springs and they try to move to the side and not go straight down, then you are losing quite a bit of tension from the springs. Lack of tension will result in a seat that is less resilient. So just be sure your springs are good before proceeding.

  42. I have a 1960s French provincial sofa with two pocket coil spring cushions and a matching chair. One of the sofa cushions was ruined by cat urine and the Muslin fabric covering the coils started to rot and the wire that reinforced the perimiter of the pocket coil unit was broken. My husband threw it out. I don’t want to reupholster the sofa using foam cushions, because I am concerned the overall look and feel of the sofa will change. How difficult/expensive would it be for a professional upholsterer to make one new sofa cushion (or two if it would be difficult to match the remaining cushion) using a new pocket coil unit? Can foam be made to look like the original cushion, with a slight crown and no square edges ? I have photos but not sure how to send them with this comment

    • It’s not difficult for an upholsterer to make new inner spring seat cushions. Either the upholsterer will make them in-house or they will send them out to their cushion fabricator.

      As to matching the old, I don’t think there could be any guarantees of making an new inner spring cushion to match the other. I think you’d be better off having two new ones made.

      As for foam vs innerspring. An innerspring cushions has a look/feel of it’s own. Foam and dacron is not a good substitute in my opinion.

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