My first ever DIY blog posts appeared in Sunset magazine’s now defunct blog, homebysunset.com. Because Sunset is no longer hosting these projects, I’m making revised and updated versions available here at Crafty Nest. This post comprises Making the perfect ottoman, Part 1-5, originally published May-June 2007.

Reupholstered ottoman - after

Reupholstered ottoman - before

Pottery Barn Alexandria ottoman

Inspired by Pottery Barn’s Alexandria Ottoman.

Lately I’ve been coveting a coffee-table ottoman. You know: one of those oversized ottomans that you can kick your feet on from nearly any seat in the room and use as a coffee table. I loved Pottery Barn’s Alexandria Ottoman, but $700 was more than I wanted to pay.

Then I found this ottoman on Craigslist, and bought it for $60. The only thing it had going for it is its size and sturdy frame, so I gave it a makeover. I had never attempted reupholstering anything before, so with a little trepidation, I forged ahead.

After several weeks and copious amounts of stray threads strewn about my apartment, the ottoman was finished. People asked me if it was worth all the work. The answer is yes. The total cost (including the price of the original ottoman) was only $137.

And now, five years later, I concede that white fabric is impractical—even for a single gal with no kids. So this footstool needs to be recovered again. Someday. Next time, I’m thinking slipcover.

Tutorial and photos after the jump!

How to reupholster an ottoman

Supplies

Tools

  • flathead screwdriver
  • hammer
  • pliers
  • drill and drill bits
  • phillip’s screwdriver drill bit
  • iron and ironing board
  • straight pins
  • sewing machine
  • fabric chalk or erasable fabric marker
  • 10-inch upholstery needle
  • fabric scissors
  • tape measure

Remove old casters

1. Replace casters with bun feet. My footstool was too low to the ground, so the first thing I did was remove the casters. The casters were attached to pins that were set in plastic holders. I wedged a screwdriver under each wheel and hammered the handle end until the wheel popped out. My casters were two inches tall. To make the ottoman three inches taller (and level with my couch seat height), I needed 5-inch-tall feet. I found stained bun feet with the hanger bolts already attached at bingltd.

2. Remove and discard the dustcover. Using a flathead screwdriver and pliers, remove the staples holding the dustcover on the bottom of the ottoman. (Specific upholstery tools are available, but a screwdriver and pliers work fine.) With the dustcover off, you can get a pretty good idea of how a piece of furniture is put together.

Attach the mounting plates

3. Attach the mounting plates. Drill pilot holes for each furniture-leg mounting plate (all five holes), then attach the screws using a screwdriver bit.

Attach the bun feet

4. Screw in each bun foot. Screw the foot’s hanger bolt into the center hole of the mounting plate. Check that they are mounted correctly, then remove the feet to complete the rest of the steps below.

5. Decide on your fabric. Choose a durable heavyweight fabric, leather, or vinyl. I wanted to reupholster mine in white twill to match my Ikea Ektorp sofa, but I couldn’t find matching fabric. Then I found a white sofa slipcover in the As-Is department at Ikea for $10. I laundered it, cut off its seams, and saved the big pieces.

Remove the old cover

6. Take apart the existing cover. Using a flathead screwdriver and pliers, remove the staples holding the existing fabric to the frame. On my ottoman, the foam and batting were inside their own case, which made reassembling easier. Take apart the outer cover with a seam ripper. You’ll use these pieces as a pattern for your new cover. Save and reuse the piping as well.

Cut the fabric

7. Cut the fabric pieces using the old pieces as a pattern. Iron the old pieces and new fabric, then pin them together and cut out your new pieces the same size as the old.

8. Make the welting (piping). Cut your own bias tape from your fabric. I cut my strips the same width as the old strips of fabric (about 2 inches wide). Encase the original piping from the ottoman in the bias tape and baste it together lengthwise, stopping about two inches from each end of the piping. Cut your bias tape about two inches longer on one side than you think you need. You will tuck that under and sew it later.

Pin and sew the welting

9. Assemble the sides of the cushion. Sew the four sides of the cushion end-to-end, to make one long loop. Leave a half-inch seam allowance on all seams. Then pin and sew the welting around the top and bottom edges of the loop.

Tip: Fold each piece that you’ll be sewing together in half and mark with a fabric marker. Fold in half again and mark. You will then have four marks on each piece to match up and pin in place. Then pin halfway between those marks and so on, until you have a pin every few inches.

Top cushion assembled

10. Attach the top of the cushion. Mark, pin, and sew the top piece to the side pieces. Sewing the corners is difficult with all those layers, but be patient and persistent.

Tip: Use your zipper foot when sewing welting, and move the needle to the far left—it allows you to sew closer to the piping.

Sew on old zippered piece

11. Sew on the bottom of the cushion. If your ottoman is like mine, you can reuse the original bottom zippered piece of fabric. Sew it to the bottom edge of the cushion sides. Reusing this piece saves time and money, and it will be hidden anyway.

12. Sew the bottom pieces. Sew the bottom sides (that will cover the wooden frame) and welting using the same process as Step 9, except this time cut the welting strips twice as wide so you have extra fabric to wrap around the bottom of the ottoman. Sew the assembled ottoman sides (with the welting at the bottom) onto the bottom edge of your cushion cover.

Bottom zippered piece

13. Stuff the cushion. Unzip the zipper and stuff the cushion into the cover while trying to minimize wrinkling of the inner cover—which is harder than it looks.

Sewing button tufting

14. Tufting. Measure and mark with straight pins where you want each covered button placed. Then, following the package instructions, make eight covered buttons (using circles cut from leftover fabric scraps).

Thread a 10-inch upholstery needle with a 2-foot-long piece of waxed button thread and push it through the cushion from the top down. Then, unthread the needle at the bottom, loop a button onto the piece that is still sticking out the top, and thread the needle again at the top. Push the needle through about ¼ inch from your first entry point, so both ends of the thread emerge from the bottom of the cushion. After repeating this on all eight buttons, place the cushion face down on the floor. Stand on the cushion (which compresses it), straddling each pair of threads. Pull the threads tight, tie them in a knot, and trim the excess thread.

Attach cover to frame

15. Attach the cover to the frame. Once the cushion is zipped inside the cover, flip the whole cover over and slip it over the frame. Straighten and pull the edges tight. Flip the ottoman upside down. Fold the fabric over the bottom edge of the frame and staple it every few inches. Trim the excess fabric.

Tip: If any of the staples stick up a bit, hammer them down with a hammer.

Sew on the dust cover

16. Attach the dustcover. I used Pellon as the dustcover because it’s the closest fabric I could find to match the texture of the original. Cut the dustcover about 4 inches bigger than the ottoman. Fold the edges under about 2 inches and staple it to the frame. Then, cut holes where the hanger bolts screw in, and screw on the bun feet.

Finished footstool

17. Finished. Flip the ottoman right side up. If you also choose a light-colored fabric, I suggest protecting it with Scotchguard before using your footstool.