Upholstery Sewing

Cording on Oval Pillow

Smoothing Out Cording on Curved Pillows
The solution can be fairly simple, however you may need to experiment a little with some scrap fabric.

Others may have different solutions. This is my suggestion. The solution has several parts. Read all the instructions before beginning.

1. Summary.
In order for the welt to lay flat in the seam after the cushion is stuffed, both face fabrics of the cushion need to be sewn loose and slightly gathered while pulling the welting tight. As you are sewing, you are slightly pushing the face fabrics into the seam, being careful to line up the top and bottom marks (see #3a below), or have it pinned together (3b below).

Try on a Scrap
2. I would suggest that you try this with some scrap fabric first. This method assumes that you are using two oval type (or curved, arced, etc.) cushion faces, a strip of welting fabric (I cut my welting strips 1 ½” wide), and the inner cording. In this picture, I've only used one piece of fabric ( 1/2 of of cushion) and the welt fabric

(Click on Picture to enlarge)

Keeping Two Faces Together
3. Here are two methods to keep the top and bottom fabrics lined up as you sew. (when you are lightly gathering, it is more crucial to keep the top and bottom fabrics aligned)

A.)To make sure that the top and bottom pieces of the cushion stay lined up, I would suggest that you make marks every few inches on the back side of the seam allowances of both fabrics. ( I do this by laying the fabrics with the faces together and then line up the marks on both fabrics. As you sew around the edges (as explained below) keep checking that the marks on both fabrics are lined up.

B.) An alternative to #2 would be to put both fabrics together, face to face. Next, pin the fabrics together, about 2 inches in from the edge. Space pins ever 4 to 6 inches all around. The pins should help to keep both fabrics aligned as you sew them together.

Snipping the Welt Seam Allowance
4. One problem is that the welt on your cushion is sewn uneven and bumpy, some places are sewn tighter than others. This can easily happen on these oval cushions. To fix this part, (in addition to 3a or 3b) as you sew the welt onto the curved edge, snip "V-shaped notches" in the seam allowance every few inches all around the curved edge. (see Buck's message below) This will help the welt to spread out (like a fan) and lay flat as you are sewing the welt, which will enable you to sew the welt more consistently.

(Click on Picture to enlarge)

Slightly Gather The Face Fabrics
5. A second problem is that the welt was not pulled tight enough when it was sewed (which causes the “snaking) as compared to how much the seam allowances of the faces were pulled. Clipping the edge of the cushion (as explained above) will also help with this problem. The other part of this is, as you sew the welt into the cushion edge, pull the welt (fabric strip and inner cording) tighter than the seam allowances of the pillow faces. This will cause the face fabric to gather* just a little, (slightly like a drawstring purse) which is what you want.

(Click on Picture to enlarge)
(In these pictures, because I wanted the gathering to show in the pictures, I have gathered it more that you would.)

As you are sewing all the pieces together, pull the welt snuggly towards you as you are gently pushing the seam allowance away from you towards the sewing machine foot. This will slightly gather the fabric into the seam. On slight curves, you only need to gather a slight amount. On rounder curves, add more gathering into the seam. This will lightly gather the top and bottom fabric into the seam. Ideally only let it put the top and fabric slightly into the seam where it shouldn’t actually have any folds in the fabric. (* I don’t mean the tight gathering in the traditional sense, which has tiny folds. This slight gathering , in most cases, wouldn’t have the tiny folds. This light gathering is needed to allow for expansion of the cushion when filled.) The amount of gathering at the seams will also be partly determined by how much filling is put into the pillow. Not much gathering is needed on thin cushions, while more gathering is needed on thicker cushions.

This picture shows after it is finished sewing, the welt is tight, but the fabric is not flat, but a little gathered

(Click on Picture to enlarge)

This last pictures show what the welt would look like after the cushion was stuffed:

(Click on Picture to enlarge)

Because I gathered the pillow top more than you would, this would take a pretty thick cushion and notice how the welt doesn't snake, but is smooth. Also note, the sample in the picture is just one side of a pillow, and is only set on top of some cotton. On your pillow, you would gather it less than these pictures, and you would stuff it fuller, since your cushion would have 2 sides. As I said at the top, you need to experiment a little to see how much gathering you'd need to do.

Fixing Sewing Machine Stitching Problems

It is so easy in our day to day work in upholstery (or any sewing business or craft) for any of us to space out for a moment, to not be watching what we are doing or to get distracted. The next thing we know our sewing machine isn't sewing right. Any number of things can cause a sewing machine to miss stitches, the bobbin can get tangled up, the needle might split the thread or any number of other sewing irregularities. Many times we have inadvertantly or unknowingly caused the problem and we wonder what happened. Let's examine some possibilities of what might be wrong.

When trying to fix sewing machine problems, make sure that its not a thread problem or an adjustment problem before taking it in to the repair shop.

Did the problem start suddenly or did it develop gradually? If the problem started suddenly, what changed just before the problem started? 

  • Did you change to a different spool of thread or a different type of thread? Is the new thread thicker or thinner than the previous thread?
  • Did you start sewing on a different fabric?
  • Did you just change needles? (Could you have put the needle in incorrectly?)
  • Did your needle just hit something that may have dull the point or bent the needle or knocked the sewing machine out of time?
  • Did you just rewind your bobbin?
  • Did you just switch to another bobbin or another type of bobbin?
  • Was there any type of noise (such as a knocking sound, etc.) just before the sewing machine started sewing irregularly?

First thing to do is the make sure that we set everything back to a known good starting spot. Let's go through the whole thread system systematically.

  • Check the top thread
    • Unthread all the thread from the top thread path.
    • Check at each thread guide for any buildup of lint, dirt, or anything else that would clog the thread guide. Also closely inspect each thread guide for any sharp burrs or knicks that might nick the thread.
    • Check that the thread tension is adjusted properly.
    • Check that the needle is in correctly.
    • Pull a length of the upper thread through and cut the end of the thread off cleanly.
    • Rethread everything through all the correct threading path.
  • Check the bobbin
    • Take out the bobbin.
    • Make that the bobbin thread is wound smooth and even. (Sometimes the bobbin winder may have wound the thread unevenly. Sometimes the bobbin threads get tangled up, etc.)
    • Rethread the bobbin thread. Rewind the bobbin if necessary.

Other things to check:

  • Sometimes the thread is from a bad batch. Thread the machine up with a known good thread to see if it works with that.
  • Sometimes some spools of thread have sat around too long, or have some type of irregular stiff finish on the thread that causes the thread to stick together on the roll, which causes stiching problems.
  • Check that your bobbin hook is free from knicks or burrs.
  • Check that you didn't overwind the bobbin, which causes the bobbin too be tight in the bobbin case
  •  If you have just changed the thread, change back to a thread that was working properly. If it sews correctly then, maybe the other thread was defective.


Making A Down Feather Cushion

Making Cording

In most upholstery sewing that needs a cording we use a 5/32" welting that is covered with fabric. The fabric is cut 1 1/2" wide, usually up the roll. The welt fabric only needs to be cut on the bias if

  • The fabric easily unravels. Cutting the cording fabric on the bias prevents it from unravelling.
  • The fabric has small stripes, such as corduory or a pin strip. It is extremely difficult to exactly match the small stripes in a seam with welting. We cut the cording fabric on the bias so that the cording will have diagonal stripes, which help to Camouflage any slight misalignment of the stripes.
  • On round cushions the welting fabric strips go around the turns better if it has been cut on the bias.

The welting can be sewn using any of several different methods

  1. The fabric can be sewn around the cording separately, and then sewn onto the cushion panels.
  2. The fabric strips and cording can be sewn onto the cushion panels at the same time.
  3. The fabric strips and cording can be sewn into the seam of the panels and the cushion boxing all at the same time. This takes a little more practice and skill to have it come out looking smooth and nice.


Making Cushions


An important part of sewing cushions is lining up corners, which is based upon the premise having all the other pieces cut to the proper shape and size. So, we'll begin at the beginning. (This is not how I sew the cushions, but a novice will have a better chance of getting the cushion sewn and the corners lined up using this method.

  1. First make a pattern (you can use constrution paper, butcher paper, or any stiff (non-stretchy fabric). (be sure to add on enough for a seam allowance (usually 1/2") all around.
  2. Make sure that boths sides of the pattern are identically opposite. (If you are making a footstool top, make sure that ALL the corners match one another. Fold the pattern in half both ways to make sure all the corners are the same.
  3. When your pattern is correct, lay it on the fabric and cut around it for both pieces.
  4. Cut 1 1/2" wide strips of fabric for the cording.
  5. Cut the boxing (for around the sides of the cushion about 1/4" wider than the thickness of your foam. For example, if your foam is 4" thick, cut the boxing about 4 1/4" wide.  cut the boxing long enough to go around the front and the two sides plus about 6"(3" on each side to fold off the ends.) When the cushion is finishes, the boxing will have a finished size of about 3 1/4" inch high. 
  6. Cut the zipper the width of the boxing plus about 1 1/2" divided in half. For example, with a 4 1/4" wide boxing, add 1 1/2" = 5 3/4". Now divide that in half = 2 7/8" inches. Cut the sipper about 10-12" longer than the width of the back of the cushion. For example, if the back of the cushion is 20" wide, then add 12" to that width. So, using this example, you'd cut two zipper pieces 32" long X 2 7/8" wide. Sew the zipper pieces together with the zipper between. Put the slide on the zipper and sew across each end of the zipper several times.
  7. Separately, fold the cushion top in half from side to side (the fold line of the cushion will run from front to back.) and exactly line up the side edges of the sides of the cushion. Use this to mark (on the back side) the exact center of the front and the back of the cushion (use tailor's chalk (crayon) or a pencil. Don't use a felt tip pin as it tends to bleed through. 
  8. Starting in the middle of the back of the cushion sew the cording all round both the top and the bottom cushion pieces, join welt in the back.
  9. Starting at the back of one side of the cushion, fold back about 3" of the boxing and start sewing at the back corner towards the front, across the front and then down the other side. Fold the . When you are finished, you will have the boxing sewn around the front and two sides. The back will be open at this point.
  10. At the center of the cushion front, tranfer the center mark from the back of the cushion top to the other (unsewn) side of the band. (That mark should be exactly in line with the center mark of the cushion front.
  11. Now, Sew the front center pieces together first: with the other cushion top (which only has the cording sewn around it), line up the center marks on the cushion boxing and the cushion front. (By lining up and sewing the front center togher first, the cushion corners should be close to being lined up.) From that middle starting point, sew across the front, as you get near the corner check to see if the top and bottom corners line up. Then continue to sew the boxing around the corner to the back of the cushion.
  12. Turn the cushion over, starting at the front, overlap where you started to sew at the front before, then sew to the corner (check if corners line up) and sew  around the corner to to the back of the cushion.
  13. At this point you should have a closed cushion, with only the back open.
  14. Now, fold the sewn zipper section in half end to end. Mark the exact center on both sides.
  15. Just like you did on the front of the cushion, now line up the center marks on the back side of the cushion top with the center marks of the zipper. Starting there, at the center of the back of the cushion, sew to the corner and around. The zipper piece should go around the corner about 5 or 6 inches.
  16. Flip the cushion over and sew the other half of the zipper to the corner and around.
  17. Following the same procedure sew the other side of the zipper.
  18. at this point, check that all corners are lined up.
  19. Then sew all the seams again sewing tight against the welt.
  20. Turn cushion inside out and stuff.

Pillow Ticking Covers

Pillow Ticking Covers

Whenever a cushion is stuffed with feathers or down, a ticking cover is required to keep the feathers/down from coming through the cover. You can chose from a number of different pillow ticking styles, depending upon the application and your budget. Here are some various style shown.

 1. Knife Edge Ticking Cover


Down Knife Edge


The simplest style of ticking cover is the knife edge style. This is basically just two pieces of ticking sewn togther, with the feathers/down inside. This it typically used for throw pillows, although it could also be used for larger pillows, such as backrest pillows on sofas and chairs.



2. Box Cushion Ticking Cover

Down Ticking Box Cush


The next ticking style is the Boxed Ticking cover. A very simple style to make, All the feathers and down are in one large compartment. This style is very easy to fluff up. However, one larger cushions specially, when sat upon, some of the filling can squeeze out from under the person to the other end of the cushion.





With time, if used in a backrest cushion, it begins to look a little "poochy"; It doesn't hold it's shape very well. In comparison, look at the picture (#3. below) of the sofa with Baffled Box Ticking backrest cushions.







3. Baffled Box Cushion Ticking Cover


Down Ticking Baffled Box


The baffles are added to better control the movement of the filling, keeping it in place under the user.






Baffled Ticking cover- verticle

When the above Baffled Box Cushion is used as a backrest cushion of a sofa or chair, it is used vertically. In this placement the cushions keep a better vertical shape. The baffles help prevent all the cushion filling from falling to the bottom of the cushion.







Here is a sofa that used the Baffled Down Ticking Covers for the backrest cushions.


Nelson 09.jpgNelson 13.jpg








Building a Firmer Down Seat Cushion

One inherent feature is down/feather cushions is the soft and luxurious feel. However, one drawback is that for all that softness, the cushions have very little "body"; the user can easily feel "unsupported". One solution, is to add more down/feather filling to the cushion to make the cushion firm.. But, in the process, the cushion bulges in the middle and, looses the fluffiness that down is known for. To keep the natural softness of the down, while adding some body to the cushion, is to add an inner core or foam or springs.


4. Box Ticking Cover with Insert

Ticking Cushion Cover with insert






5. Baffled Ticking Cover with Foam Insert



I had a client who wanted his sofa reupholstered. The sofa had down/feather cushions,which he liked, but the cushions didn't give him enough support. So we designed and created a pillow ticking cover with a foam inner core.





Double Baffled Down Ticking



Double Baffled Down Ticking-Expl

We decided upon this design because the client wanted to keep his down cushions, but wanted it to be a little more substantial. Just having the down by itself just didn't have enough support. I had suggested packing the down a little tighter. We tried a sample of that, but that wasn't satisfactory. So we decided on this design because it has a firmer core while still keeping the softness of the down.
















Here is the finished sofa.

IMG_8351-richardson.JPG IMG_8353-richardson.JPG


6. Baffled Down Ticking With Spring Insert

Not Pictured, but this is made very similar to the same design with the foam core. The main difference is that the springs have to have additional padded insulation to keep the springs from wearing holes in the ticking.