Doll house stories: re-upholstery

This part 4 in the Doll House Stories series shows how I re-upholstered the sofa which is in the living room of my newly renovated doll house. The house, which I built in 1975 while in art school, is on view in my exhibition, “Bedtime Stitches” at the Cahoon Museum in Cotuit, MA through Dec. 19, 2020. Other posts in this series: part 1 (history), part 2 (wall-papering), part 3 (kitchen).

The “made in Japan” 1930’s era sofa came from my mother’s childhood collection of doll house furniture. Over the years since she gave me the furniture, I’d become quite fond of the sofa, with its sinking seat and rusted tacks. But, as I fixed up the house, I knew that it was time to re-cover the sofa.

When I started sharing the re-upholstery process on Facebook, an immediate alarm went off, as I committed the grave sin of altering a vintage item! And on a cherished toy of my mother’s no less! I imagined that many of the people who commented were just preaching the gospel according to Antiques Road Show. As I posted new photos, the chastising subsided and when they saw what it looked like in the end, I even got some requests for forgiveness.

It actually took years for me to overcome my sentimental attachment to this sofa and decide that my mother would be excited about upgrading it. The first challenge was to find a fabric that was the right color, weave and weight. I looked through my large stash of upholstery fabric and chose this one, with its appropriately scaled pattern and subdued color palette. The only problem was its distracting reddish purple dots, which I pulled out, thread by thread.

I didn’t want to take the sofa apart, since I wasn’t sure what I’d find underneath, so I left the existing fabric in place. Using a combination of white glue and stitching, I covered the seat first.

Then, I covered the back…

and stitched along the curve of the top.

The arms were tricky. Looking at this photo months later, I can’t even tell how I did it.

The front of the arms where all of the sides came together looked kind of messy, so I sewed a metal button on top.

It took several wee hands to help move the sofa into the living room. All it needed were some pillows and a doily antimacassar draped over the back.

Stay tuned for part 5 in the Doll House Stories series. I will show photos and a video of the finished doll house. Other posts in this series: part 1, part 2 (wallpapreing), part 3 (kitchen).

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5 thoughts on “Doll house stories: re-upholstery

  1. Sometimes furniture needs to be given a little TLC.
    When my mother bought our family sofa she also bought enough fabric to have it reupholstered 2 times, in anticipation of children and general wear and tear. None of her friends could figure how it stayed in such good shape for 50+ years!
    Good for you giving your dollhouse an update~

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