If you have ever been a poor collage student (or just thrifty) you may have had to by a "craigslist special" couch at one point in your life. I think we all know the type...odd colors, ugly patterns, food stains from other peoples relatives. However, these couches all have one thing in common. They are cheap...I think we paid $25 for this hide-a-bed couch on craigslist. I fixed the fold out bed and oiled the moving parts and it worked as good as new...unfortunately it did not look new.
Lucky for us (and you) reupholstering a couch is not very hard. With mediocre sewing skills and lots of pictures (for putting it back together again) it is a nice Saturday job.
Step 1: Take Lots of Pictures and Begin to Disassemble
We took pictures of every surface of the couch, and of every piece we disassembled. This helps in putting it back together and also helps if you have questions about how something was supposed to look when you are sewing or stapling.
Step 2: Disassemble and Strip Off the Fabric
Disassemble anything that needs removed, and strip off all of the old fabric. Careful to use needle nose pliers or a flat screw driver to remove staple rather than ripping the fabric off, also be careful to use a seam ripper and take the fabric apart rather than rip it where needed. This will make measuring for the new fabric and attaching the new fabric easier.
After removing all of the old fabric, we laid it out flat (sorry I forgot to take a picture of this step) and measured how many square yards we had (+2 yards for error). You can also use a cheat sheet chart like the one I included above to estimate the required fabric I found this chart at (http://littlegreennotebook.blogspot.com/2010/07/upholstery-charts.html).
Then we went to a home fabric store near us. You are looking for the kind of store that carries huge bolts of fabric for drapes and upholstery, we found our fabric for .98 cents a yard and ended up paying $12.50 total. If you want to buy more expensive fabric, or do not have a home fabric outlet close buy it may increase the price of the project.
Step 3: Cutting and Sowing
Next we used the old fabric as a pattern to cut the new pieces (this is another reason to be careful not to rip the old fabric off). We then sowed the pieces together and fitted them over the couch like a glove (the arms and back in particular). Refer to your pictures as you go so that you can staple the pieces on at the appropriate time. The idea is that you don't want any staples to be visible by the end, so pieces fit over each other and at the end you staple the bottom fabric to the bottom frame of the couch.
Step 4: Finishing the New Upholstery
Our cushions pieces ended up a little baggy for the padding, we just bought more padding, cut it to the shape of the cushion and it made for slightly taller cushions. Another note is that you may need to replace some of the padding, this couch had good padding in decent shape, but I have done couches before where the padding is starting to disintegrate and needs replaced, or where the old couch just wasn't comfortable and we added or changed the padding to make the couch more user friendly. You can add other embellishments like upholstery tacks to change the look even further.