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March Mending Month
gilleland mend upholstery image1 How To: Mend Torn Upholstery
How-To: Mend Torn Upholstery
By Diane Gilleland

If you have a sofa or chair with a rip in the cushion, don’t despair! Torn upholstery can be simple to fix with the right tools and a little care.
gilleland mend upholstery image2 How To: Mend Torn Upholstery
Materials:
Use a very strong nylon thread for this project, and a curved needle. This kind of needle is usually packaged as a “mattress needle” or “upholstery needle.” The curved shape allows you to sew easily on a flat surface, like a sofa cushion.
You can also make your own curved needle by bending a crewel embroidery needle with needlenose pliers. It won’t be perfect, but it will do the job.


gilleland mend upholstery image3 How To: Mend Torn Upholstery
1. Assess the rip.
First, take a moment to study the rip. This rip, for example, happened along a seam in the cushion. The fabric on the left side of the opening is intact, but the right side is fraying. This tells me that I’ll need to watch that right side carefully when I’m sewing.
gilleland mend upholstery image4 How To: Mend Torn Upholstery
2. Stop the fraying.
If you have frayed edges, apply some Fray Check. This clear liquid will harden the edge of the fabric slightly and prevent further fraying.
gilleland mend upholstery image5 How To: Mend Torn Upholstery
3. Turn under the edges.
Fold the edges of the rip under, pressing the folds with your fingers. In this rip, I’m folding the frayed side under a bit more than the intact side. I don’t want that frayed edge too close to my stitching, because it can become a weak point in the repair and lead to more damage later.
I don’t recommend trying to pin the edges of the rip together for sewing — this can pucker the fabric too much, which can result in a crooked repair seam.
gilleland mend upholstery image6 How To: Mend Torn Upholstery
4. Stitch.
Instead of pinning, try gently pinching the 2 folded edges together as you sew. Begin the seam by taking a stitch only through the right-hand edge. This allows you to hide the knotted end of the thread.
From there, each stitch involves passing the needle through a tiny bit of each folded edge, as shown. Keep your stitches small and close together. A textured fabric, like the one I’m working with here, will help hide your stitches. A smooth fabric will require very small and regular stitches.
Since, in this rip, we’re most concerned about that frayed right side, keep checking as you sew to make sure this side is folded under consistently.
gilleland mend upholstery image7 How To: Mend Torn Upholstery
When you reach the end of the seam, you’ll see a pucker like this. Not to worry — it formed because we turned under the edges of the rip, which changed the seam line.
gilleland mend upholstery image8 How To: Mend Torn Upholstery
To blend this new seam with the original seam, gently pinch the edges of the fabric together and continue stitching, gradually pinching less and less fabric until the new seam joins with the old and you have a smooth edge. (You might need to repeat this process at the beginning of your seam, too.)
gilleland mend upholstery image9 How To: Mend Torn Upholstery
5: Knot.
When you knot your thread at the end of the seam, make sure it’s very secure — the knot is another potential weak spot in the repair. Try this method: on your last stitch, pull the thread through until there’s a loop, as shown. Then, pass the needle through this loop twice, forming the basis of a surgeon’s knot.
Pull this knot tight, and then take a few tiny stitches back along the seam line, stitching away from the knot. This helps anchor the thread. Cut the end of the thread close to the fabric.
gilleland mend upholstery image10 How To: Mend Torn Upholstery
See? Good as new!
About the Author:
author dianegilleland How To: Mend Torn Upholstery
Diane Gilleland produces CraftyPod, a blog and bi-weekly podcast about making stuff. Her first book, Kanzashi In Bloom, will be out in July.

Goli Mohammadi

I’m a word nerd who loves to geek out on how emerging technology affects the lexicon. When not fawning over perfect word choices, I can be found on the nearest mountain, looking for untouched powder fields and ideal alpine lakes.

I was an editor for the first 40 volumes of MAKE. The maker movement provides me with endless inspiration, and I love shining light on the incredible makers in our community. Covering art is my passion — after all, art is the first thing most of us ever made.

Contact me at snowgoli (at) gmail (dot) com.


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