Friday, February 14, 2014

Restoration of an Adrian Pearsall Sofa, Part Three…Or... Measure Twice, As You Would Have Others Do Unto…errr…A Cut In Hand Is Worth Two On The… ummm…Never Mind

Oh yeah, "Measure twice, cut once" is the proverb we're looking for, and if there is a rule #1 in upholstery, (No. Really. I don't know if there is a rule #1) this might be it. "Don't talk about upholstery rule #1" is probably a close second. We left off last time with new straps, burlap, foam, and dacron on our seat platform, and now it's time to start laying on fabric.

 Choosing fabric for furniture that we're going to sell is kinda a crapshoot. No matter what fabric we 

choose, there will be someone who doesn't like it, or maybe the color just doesn't work in their space. 

We usually try to stay somewhere within the range of "neutral", which for this project is a nice heavy 

duty, earth-toned, wool blend fabric. 

 So if you remember, the total length of the sofa is over 10', but the seat/back section only measures 

75" in length. To get our measurement for the length of fabric we need to cover the seat, we are going 

to take that 75" plus another 5" per side (the 4" foam plus the thickness of the frame), which gives us 

85".  We are going to cut our fabric 90" so we have plenty to pull around and staple to the bottom. 

  The depth of the seat is 24" with a 4-5" drop on the front and back, so we're going to cut the fabric 

40" front to back. Next we "base tack" our 90" x 40" cut of fabric to the seat platform, making sure it 

is centered. To "tack" it on, we just hold the tip of the staple gun at an angle so the staple goes only 

partially in, making it easier to remove.

  We could just go ahead and staple the fabric on, making folds on the four corners, but we're going to 

cut and sew the corners to give the piece a more finished, "tailored" look.

 With the fabric temporarily tacked in place, we mark our seam line with chalk on all four corners, 

then remove the staples so we can get the fabric off to cut and sew.

 This is how our seam line looks laid out on the table with those very serious scissors ready to cut…

…and after we cut about 1/2" inside the line (using a bit of artistic license) to give us our seam 

allowance. When we have all the corners cut, we'll just lay it back on the seat to double check the 


 …then sew them up. I'm going to skip the sewing details on this project, but get to that another time. 

With the four corners sewn in, we go back and lay the fabric over the seat the same way we did to get 

our pattern, "tacking" it in place starting at the center, and corners.

 Now we're ready to go back around pulling the fabric a little tighter, shooting staples, and pulling the 

tacked on staples. The most important and challenging aspect of this step, is getting a uniform "pull" 

on the fabric all the way around. Although our seat foam is firm enough to hold it's shape, it's still 

possible to pull it down an inch or more. So any edges, front, side or back, could have noticeable dips 

and waves if we're not consistent.

 So we've got our seat ready for action, next we'll get the sofa back good 'n 'polstered, and reassemble 

this sweet baby.


  1. Question: When you lay out the fabric to mark the seams on the corners, are you marking the good side or do you have it "inside out". You probably sew it inside out, but does it matter which side you mark? Thanks! This is great since I have two sofas and a huge bolt of fabric waiting for me to start this process. I wish I had a giant table like yours to cut fabric on! :)

    1. Hi Kate. I marked on the "face" side of the fabric with chalk. If the fabric allows, always mark with chalk, not pen or marker. Chalk easily, and cleanly comes off most (but not all) fabric.
      If you plan on doing a lot of cutting, having a 60" wide table is a MUST, and not difficult to build. Screw some 2 x 4's together for the frame of the top, fasten some plywood over the top, and set it on a couple of sturdy sawhorses.

  2. Jeff, is upholstery a business - asking if you do work for others, like me!

    1. Hi Jennie. I don't like to turn down work, especially if its something interesting. But I have quite a backlog of my own projects that I'll be working on for the next few months.

  3. When you want to tackle a 65 inch sofa with arms that can be put into 3 different positions, let me know. I can send you a picture. Many moons ago (1968) as newly weds we bought a matching Pearsall sofa and chair. Some 10 yrs later just gave them away.

  4. It is so cool to see the process of how Jeff makes these pieces so beautiful. He has transformed so many amazing pieces that we have had the honor of showing in our shop. As always they are a show stopper!

  5. Thanks for posting your project, Jeff. Aside from you easy to understand directions, your work looks great. As a fellow upholstery fan, I am always on the lookout for good fabric and foam sources, especially good deals on foam. Would you care to include your sources in your post? I recently moved to the Louisville area and other than Jo Ann's there isn't much here. A road trip back to St. Louis is a must do for me soon,