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Dear Becky,

I have something I would like to mend this month (and it is Mending Month) — my sofa. My awesome and sweet cat, Flaquita, has spent years scratching at the upholstery. On the back corners you can see some stuffing and framing. I plan to keep my sofa, but I really would like to cover up the corners that my cat has macked. I am not a slipcover girl and my sewing skills leave something to be desired but I can always try.

Laura
New York, N.Y.
http://ladylulu.wordpress.com

Laura, it happens to us all. Here’s mine:

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Sweet Beatrice just loves this chair so much, she tears it to shreds. I can show you how to mend it if you can get the pieces of fabric to line up, but yours looks a little further gone. Use the tips and sewing technique below, but you’re going to have to use an inset piece of matching fabric. Maybe there’s an extra piece you could cannibalize from another part of the couch (under the cushion, perhaps?). Otherwise, snip off part of the fraying bit as a swatch and go hunting for a match. Since you live in NYC, see if the folks at Mood can help you find the right one. Once you find it, cut off the damaged bits from the couch and patch it using an invisible stitch. This method doesn’t make the patch sit above the base fabric, but lay flat with it, so you should hardly notice when you’re done. Read on to see how!

If you have a crafty question, send it to me at becky@craftzine.com. You can record a video, send me pictures, or use just text; ask any way you like! Check out this post about Ask CRAFT for more info.

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Thread a needle. If you’ve never performed an invisible stitch before, use a thread that matches the fabric you’re sewing. Hide the knot on the inside of the folded seam allowance, and start by making an in-out stitch along the very edge of the fold. If you’ve created your own patch for setting-in, you’ll be making up your own seam allowance; 5/8" is usually fine. Since I’m repairing a seam that was split open by kitty claws, I can see where the original seam was and have the excess already creased under.

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Now make the same stitch, but on the opposing piece of fabric, directly across from the previous stitch. This is also called a ladder stitch, because the threads will look like rungs of a ladder before you pull them tight.

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Here’s a little graphic of a ladder stitch I got from the Embroiderer’s Guild website.

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Here’s what my ladder stitch looked like before I pulled it tight.

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I just continued up along the seam, tied a tiny knot, and buried the tail in the fabric by stitching under to another area, pulling the thread through, and snipping it close. Laura, fixing your couch isn’t a beginner’s task, but look at it this way: you can’t make it any worse! If you try and it doesn’t look good, just take out the stitches and try again. It may help to used a small, curved upholsterer’s needle, available at your local fabric store, but I managed with a standard straight needle. I hope that helps! Next Tuesday we’ll also have an upholstery repair how-to from Diane Gilleland. If you have tips for Laura, post them in the comments.

Becky Stern

Becky Stern is head of wearable electronics at Adafruit Industries. Her personal site: sternlab.org


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Comments

  1. KathyB says:

    So once the couch is nicely fixed and neat, how do we craft a method of keeping the beasts away from our handiwork?
    I have a couch that we’re guarding with cardboard shields, but this is hideous – we leave them on most of the time and only take them down when we’re expecting company we need to impress. They haven’t been badly damaged, but it’s only a matter of time.
    Shooting Juliet in the face with a squirt gun, shaking pennies, or tossing balls of yarn at her is only as effective as the time we’re home during the day. What can be done when the mice are away and the cats come out to play?

  2. Kristina says:

    If you can’t find matching fabric you could find a coordinating print and put a patch over the scratched part and on the same spot on the other side of the sofa.
    At Petsmart they sell something that is basically doublesided clear tape that is supposed to keep the cat from scratching the furniture. I haven’t tried it yet myself.

  3. Anonymous says:

    To get your cat to stop, first understand that your cat WILL scratch something. You just need to make sure it’s a scratching post (or something similar).
    If the sofa is your cat’s favorite spot to destroy, try putting a scratching post right next to the sofa, so there are options. My cats prefer a rougher textured material on their scratching post, as opposed to carpet. I’m not sure how universal that is, though. Don’t try to teach him how to use it…you’ll just make him mad! He’ll use on his own eventually, and notice he doesn’t get yelled at like he does when he scratches the couch.
    In addition, try draping a soft blanket over the edge of the sofa. The cat won’t be interested if he can’t get his claws dug in.
    Hopefully, the cat will catch on soon enough. You can then gradually begin moving the scratching post away from the sofa, and to its final destination. If this works the blanket can eventually be removed as well.
    Anyway, this is the method I use. Good luck to you!

  4. kelly says:

    don’t bother with the stuf in PetSmart. Go to a regular store where rolls of tape are sold (I got mine at Awl-Mart) and look for a roll of regular double-sided tape. It will be a lot less expensive than the pet-store stuff. Double sided tape worked moderately well for me (so far). It’s a magnet for cat hair, so change it often because its not sticky (or very effective) once it gets all fuzzy.

  5. stringkitty says:

    My 12 year old destructakitty has shredded every couch cover we have had. We tried double-sided tape but it ripped more hair off my husband’s legs than anything else. The only solution I have come up with is an IKEA couch with two slipcovers, one for every day and one for when company calls.

  6. Nick says:

    HOW TO BEND A NEEDLE to simulate an upholstery needle – Prepare two pair of needle-nose pliers by covering the “grip” area with duct or masking tape to prevent gouging the needle shaft. Next, GRADUALLY start the bending process be keeping the pliers close together and start creating the curve in very small incremental steps along the shaft. You’ll be able to shape your needle in a couple of minutes.