How to Reupholster a Modern Sofa with Velvet

We made some questionable furniture-buying decisions when we moved into our first house. And that’s OK! Making the right decor choices the first time around is not easy. One of our most blatant mistakes was picking a dark grey sofa. And then realizing we don’t like grey. Fortunately, there’s nothing a bit of DIY can’t help. Whether you’re trying to fix a sofa upholstery you’ve outgrown or just need to refresh a thrifted couch with good bones, you may be wondering how to reupholster your sofa – with velvet, because if you’re going to tackle this project, you might as well make it swoon-worthy!

Now, I love green, that’s no secret (check out this sage green painted bed frame & our new dining chairs makeover). But green VELVET! That’s been at the top of my wish list for a while. How can something be cozy and luxurious at the same time?

Before & After

I went into this project with a hidden agenda – beyond getting rid of this huge grey mass in our living room. When we move into our next house, we’d love to get a sectional. And velvet is definitely on the table! While velvet fabric has a reputation for being high maintenance, the counter opinion is that it’s in fact very easy to clean up. The nature of the fabric makes it quasi-stainproof – if you act fast in case of a spill!

Before investing good money into a velvet sectional that should last long enough to withstand future pets and kids, I really wanted to try it out. The idea to reupholster our current sofa with velvet seemed like a great way to experience velvet fabric before making the big plunge!

Original grey sofa before reupholstering with green velvet
How to Reupholster a Sofa with Velvet

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To Reupholster your Sofa with Velvet, you’ll need…

Optional (if you need to replace the stuffing):

  • Upholstery foam
  • Batting

Step 1: Take measurements & order the fabric

First things first, you need to get a rough idea of how much fabric to order. Taking measurements of your sofa will help you do that without having to rip your current upholstery to use as templates. Sitting on the floor next to a gutted sofa while waiting for your fabric order to arrive is not part of the plan!

Your couch is made up of different parts assembled together. Consider all these parts when you take measurements. Do you have a sofa with a solid back or is the back made up of several cushions?

Every sofa is different but for most modern sofas you’ll need to measure the seat, the sides, the back, and the various cushions and bolster pillows. Write everything down and, if possible, make simple sketches for each part with height, length, and width.

Add all your measurements to find out how much fabric you’ll need. This will give you the minimum amount of fabric necessary to reupholster your sofa so make sure you add a few spare yards to account for potential mishaps and to give you room to breathe. I didn’t and had to work REALLY hard to make everything fit. In the end, I was left with a few inches of spare fabric. Economical? Yes. Stressful? You bet.

Step 2: Demo your sofa!

OK, not literally. Taking your sofa apart is usually straightforward, especially if you bought it new and had to assemble it. You may even be able to download the assembly manual from the manufacturer if you forgot.

Grey sofa taken apart before reupholstering with velvet

Remove all the cushions and detach the sides and back from the main seating deck. The order in which you should do that varies. On ours, we had to remove the back first before detaching the sides. Lastly, unscrew the feet and store them safely.

Next, turn the seating deck upside down. You’ll find a dustcover, mostly likely stapled to the frame. Remove it if it’s in good condition, you can reuse it once you’re done reupholstering the sofa.

If your upholstery is in bad shape, now is the time to rip it apart. Invest a few bucks into a staple remover, it’s cheap and will make your life much easier when faced with the prospect of removing hundreds of staples.

Step 3: Cut and sew your fabric pieces

If you’re reupholstering with velvet, bear in mind that velvet fabric has a pile direction. The fabric color will vary depending on how the light is hitting the pile. An easy way to find out the pile direction is to brush your hand against the fabric. Is it smooth or did you leave a ruffle mark with your finger? If the velvet stayed smooth, you ran your hand in the same direction of the pile. If you bruised the fabric, your hand ran against the pile.

When you cut your upholstery pieces, make sure that the pile of every piece runs in the same direction. Yes, it’s an additional challenge but hopefully, the thought of lounging in a gorgeous velvet sofa will give you strength!

Tip: label every piece both on the back of the fabric itself and on your sketches. You’ll be so glad you can refer to your drawings when you find a piece you can’t recognize.

Finally, get your sewing machine out to sew together pieces that need stitching like armrest cover, cushions, etc.

Step 4: Attach the new velvet upholstery

Now for the fun part! Start recovering your sofa pieces with your new fabric. Depending on the shape of your sofa, you may need to staple or hand-stitch fabric in some places where pieces join. Most probably, you’ll just have to staple it. With lots and lots AND LOTS of staples.

It may be a good idea to invest in an electric staple gun, especially if you have issues with joints.

Recovering the back cushions with green velvet upholstery

For the most part, it’s fun watching your sofa slowly change appearance, even if you won’t get the full picture until you put it back in one piece.

Step 5: Reassemble the sofa

Once you’ve reupholstered every part of your sofa, reattach every part in the reverse order you detached them. For example, if you took out the back first then the sides, reattach the sides first before adding the back.

Don’t forget to reattach the dustcover at the bottom of the seating deck!

Now is also a good time to change the feet if you’re not a fan of your current sofa feet. Instead of buying new feet, I just sanded the old ones and stained them with a darker wood stain.

And voila! Feeling super-satisfied and proud is a normal symptom of having just reupholstered a large piece of furniture. Go brag!

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How to Reupholster a Sofa with Green Velvet

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