Last week my daughter came up to me with a cardboard box she had cut into a couch shape and asked if I would cover it in fabric. Here's how we turned a simple cardboard box into a cute little couch...
Step 1: Build the Cardboard Base.
To achieve a couch shape, cut out the top and one long side of a cardboard box. For the armrests, cut the ends of the box halfway down.
To make sure it would be sturdy we added an extra layer of cardboard all around the original shape, including the armrests, and attached it with hot glue. Then, to make sure it would stay together, we secured the seams with duct tape.
Note: The upholstery instructions that follow require an experienced level of sewing. If you are not adept at this, you could simply cover the cardboard in duct tape and make a cool looking bench. Just follow the instructions in the next step for adding the feet and you'll be finished!
Step 2: Add Feet.
To attach feet to the couch, we used drawer handles I bought at the dollar store.
First, we measured and marked an inch from each corner.
Next, we used a pen to poke holes in the cardboard. I don't recommend this though because pens can break and get ink everywhere, like ours did. Use some other sharp pointy device instead.
Finally, we inserted the screws from the seat side and screwed on the knobs at the bottom. If your knobs are loose, add a nut and some washers to the underside and screw the knob back on. (The third photo shows the nut and washers on the seat side - don't do that. Later we realized they belonged underneath to extend the length of the legs.)
Step 3: Attach Batting.
To have a nice plush couch, you need some cushioning. To achieve this, I wrapped the cardboard couch in 4 layers of batting and used hot glue in the corners to hold it in place.
I used one long piece of 4-ply batting to cover the seat and back of the couch, and wrapped it all the way around so the ends met each other on the underside of the couch.
Next I squeezed some hot glue along the armrests and starting in the seat corners, wrapped them in 4 layers of batting with enough excess length to meet end-to-end underneath the couch.
It was getting bulky on the underside so I cut away the 2 bottom layers of batting on each of the 4 pieces I was going to fold over and secure underneath the couch.
First, I unscrewed the feet and folded over the armrest batting and poked the screws through it to secure it in place.
Then I folded the seat and back batting over top that, poked the screws through it to secure it in place, and replaced the couch feet.
Using needle and thread, I stitched together the batting on the underside of the couch and along the back corners. I thought it needed a little extra batting on the top corners of the backrest so I added a small square of batting to each side and stitched them in place.
Step 4: Make an Upholstery Pattern.
Okay, this part's a little difficult. Take your time and measure before you cut and leave some extra fabric on all sides. You can always trim excess fabric if you need to, but it's harder to extend your fabric if you cut too small.
Here are the main parts of a couch pattern:
Couch Back: Measure the width of the back of the couch (add an extra inch for seam allowance) and cut a piece of fabric that extends from the seat, up the back, down the back and underneath the couch. Carefully cut around the angle that extends from the seat corners to the top of the armrest. Fold your fabric in half to ensure symmetry.
Seat: Cut a rectangle of fabric that starts at the back of the seat and wraps underneath the couch. (I left a little extra fabric on the sides after the armrest - don't do that. I trimmed it later.)
Armrests: Do this x2: Measure the width of the armrest (add an extra inch for seam allowance) and cut a piece of fabric that extends from the seat, up and around the armrest, down the side and underneath the couch. Carefully cut around the angle that extends from the seat corner to the top of the armrest. Compare each armrest fabric and trim them to be identical to ensure symmetry.
Couch Back Corner: Measure the width you will need and cut long rectangles rounded at the top to fit around the couch back corners.
Armrest Endcaps: Again, measure the width you will need and cut long rectangles rounded at the top to fit around the front of the armrests.
Step 5: Sew That Upholstery Pattern Together.
Now that you have your couch pattern cut out, you're ready to sew it together. Here are the step-by-step instructions.
1. Sew the Couch Back to the Seat fabric.
2. From the seat corners, sew the Armrests to extend outward.
3. Starting at the seat corners again, sew the angle of the armrests to the couch back.
4. Put the cover back on the couch and make sure you didn't totally mess up yet.
5. Pin the Couch Back Corner on top of the backrest, wrong-side up.
6. Starting at the top, sew down the length of one side. Next, return to the top and sew down the length of the other side. (If you start from one end and sew continually to the other, your arc might end up in the wrong spot and throw everything off.)
7. Put it back on your couch and see if it came out ok. Now do the other side the same way.
8. Now do the Armrest Endcaps the same way. Pin the endcap to the top corner of the armrest wrong-side up. then sew down both lengths from the top. Pray that it comes out ok. (In the photo of this step I had an extra inch of fabric extending from each side of the seat fabric around the inside corners of the armrests. Don't do this. I later trimmed those to extend straight from the seat corners. It's much less complicated that way.)
9. If it came out ok, Yay! Now flip it over and figure out what to do with the underside. I chose to make our couch cover removable but you could choose to do it differently and simply fold the fabric underneath and stitch or glue it together permanently.
Here's what I did:
I trimmed and hemmed the raw edges of each side and added Velcro on the front and back fabrics. Next, I folded over the armrest fabric and snipped holes for the leg screws and reattached the feet. Finally, I attached the front seat fabric to the couch back fabric underneath the couch via Velcro.
Congratulations if you made it this far. You have a tiny couch!
Step 6: Make Some Pillows.
To add a little decorative flair you can make some pillows. Here's how I did it:
First, I cut 8 symmetrical rectangles and 8 symmetrical squares of complementary fabric.
Next, I doubled the fabrics up (wrong side out) to make 4 pillows total.
Then I sewed around the edges leaving a small opening on one side, turned them inside-out, filled them with cotton stuffing, and hand-stitched the openings closed.
Step 7: Invite Some Friends to Try It Out.
This couch inspired my daughter to make her first stop-motion YouTube movie entitled "TV Time."
We hope you enjoyed our tutorial. If you were inspired to make your own tiny couch please share your photos in the comments. Also, please vote for us in the Big or Small Challenge. Thanks!