In our first how-to article, we demonstrated Trevor’s method for fabricating cushions from scratch by making new patterns. We discussed how this strategy gives the fabricator total control over the quality of the finished product; however, it is labor intensive and also requires all new materials, which can make it cost-prohibitive in certain instances. On the flip side, we also see a lot of reupholstery projects on which we work within an existing framework. Some jobs involve reusing at least some of the upholstery materials, such as mounting boards or foam, that are still in good working order as a way to hold down the total cost. The fabricator’s challenge is to make the resulting product look as good as new.
For this particular project, Trevor is working on board-mounted cockpit cushions for a 44-foot Tiara. To get started, Trevor removes all the old vinyl from the cushions and confirms that the foam and backing boards are in good condition. Normally, the old vinyl could be used as a pattern, but in this case it was badly ripped, so Trevor had to make his own.
Since the cushion he is going to reupholster has a round corner with a bolster in the front, Trevor is going to use vinyl to make the pattern. Unlike paper or plastic, the stretchable quality of the vinyl makes it easier to negotiate around the curves where other materials would bubble. Trevor saves leftover vinyl from previous projects for use as patterning material, and it is important to use the same type of vinyl to make both the pattern and the cushion because they need to have the same amount of stretch.
Next he maps out the blueprint for the cushion’s seams directly onto the foam with a pencil. Then he tacks what will become the stapled end of the vinyl pattern to the foam with T-pins to hold tension while he transfers his seam lines from the foam to his pattern for each piece of the cushion. Once he has all the pattern pieces, Trevor fine-tunes the bolster corner by pinning those pieces onto the foam and stretching them to assess how much “play” is in the vinyl. He eliminates any excess fabric, usually 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch, depending on the length of the cushion, so the corners will fit snugly for a tailored look.
At this point the pattern is finished, so it’s time to sew all the pieces together and finish with a top-stitch. Before the new cushion cover is stapled on, Trevor pulls out a little trick commonly used by upholsterers: Using a steamer, he heats the foam so it swells back to its original size and shape. The newly plumped foam pushes outthe vinyl for the desired tight look.
Most important, all work, no matter the scope, needs to attain the same level of resulting quality because most people will never know what obstacles you had to work around. But a great looking cushion will speak for itself no matter how you get there.
Rebecca and Trevor Kenned own Kennedy Custom Upholstery in Ocean City, N.J.