My "office" is a banquette (booth) area at the side of the kitchen. The original upholstery was vinyl and after a few years it had become shabby and worn, and a hole or two had appeared. I decided to re-do it myself. And since I was going to so much trouble, I figured I might as well use nice leather. I estimated the amount of material needed and ordered two full hides of top grain leather. By my standards the leather was quite expensive ($628 including shipping), but when it came I was impressed by its softness, great uniform color, and wonderful smell.
Space is always a problem at our house, so I paid for a month of work space at a nearby upholstery shop and teaching place (about $150). This worked well as they had large work tables, specialized upholstery tools, heavy duty sewing machines, and occasional advice from experts.
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Step 1: Strip Off Old Upholstery
After hauling the furniture to the work space, I stripped off the old upholstery from the frames. This involved pulling many many staples and trying not to rip or ruin the old fabric. The old pieces were to be used for patterns. In most cases the padding was OK and didn't need replacing. In a few instances more batting would be added to smooth out the surface. Sorry, no pictures of this process. I was just glad to get it done.
Step 2: Make Patterns
For patterns I used what they call resin paper. It comes in rolls about 36 inches width and is reddish in color and rather heavy. I used Sharpie marking pens to trace the old fabric pieces onto the paper to make patterns. In cases where the old fabric had been trimmed short I estimated the larger size needed for the new pieces. I had to leave enough at the edges to pull and stretch the leather for stapling into place. I numbered the pattern pieces and labelled them before cutting them out with scissors. I made separate patterns for the piping (the rolls between seams that give it a finished look). Sorry, no pics here either.
Step 3: Create Cutting Plan
The hides are not symetrical. There are a few flaws, holes, thin spots that have to be worked around. I shuffled and reshuffled the patterns on the hides, giving priority to the larger, more visible pieces. The piping pieces got the left overs since thin spots wouldn't show and they could be sewn together in pieces to give the right length. Although the hides seem huge, it was a challenge to get the important visible pieces placed where there would be no flaws. There is a lot of waste in this process, and it turned out two hides was barely sufficient. I traced around the patterns onto the back side of the leather, and labelled them. The Sharpie ink did not bleed through (I tested first). Then it was time to actually cut the leather. It's an odd sensation when you take scissors to your very expensive leather. But I dove in and did it.
Step 4: Reupholster
This step is where I was glad to have the resources of the upholstery shop. I used their pneumatic staple guns as the primary assembly tool. The piping had to be stitched over cording, and I used their heavy duty sewing machines. Most of the piping goes in the corner seams between pieces, so the machine has to penetrate four layers of leather. Sewing this all together creates three dimensional "boxes" that have to fit snugly over the padded frame. This is where more experience would have been useful. But I got lucky and it came out passibly well. Later I made two pillows out of left over leather.
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