My mom has always been a real textile expert, and she loves upholstering her furniture in exotic textiles. When she decided to give me her old lounge suite, I was somewhat stuck as I didn’t particularly like her colorful tribal upholstered sofas. The upholstery was high quality and in excellent condition, but I’m more of a plain Jane. Now what? I needed to find some alternative uses for upholstery.
Getting rid of high-quality upholstery fabric is such a waste unless you can upcycle it to make something new that will give that upholstery a new life. That’s just what I did, and I’ve found some amazing alternative uses for upholstery fabric since.
10 Non-Furniture Uses for Upholstery Fabrics
1. Tribal Bags
Making use of mom’s tribal weave upholstered cushions, I managed to cut out enough fabric to make uber-cute teen girls’ bags. The thicker-than-usual fabric is sturdy enough to carry all of a young lady’s assorted personal effects in this colorful bag. Christmas was around the corner, so I managed to make one for each of the girls in the family, which was an absolute hit.
2. Upholstery Fabric Baskets
I still had some fabric left, so I combined it with a plain-colored fabric that picked up a medium tone from the upholstery fabric. With these two fabrics, I easily made some fabric baskets to keep magazines in.
3. Make a Rag Rug
There are several ways to make rag rugs. Essentially, all you will need is lots of scrap fabric, such as the upholstery covers that I ripped off Mom’s sofas when I reupholstered them. Circular designs are popular, but you can also weave the upholstery fabric strips to create a more traditional square rug. I love this tutorial by Malena Skote Design.
4. Cover Useful Stuff
Upholstery fabric is sturdy and can be used for many things that don’t have to be furniture items. Mom and I share a taste in colors, but I just don’t want such overly colorful sofas. Happily, I could use her sofas’ upholstery fabric to create upholstered boxes to store the kids’ toys in.
A friend also suggested that I use my mom’s upholstery fabric for my old lampshades to create a nice focal point in the room. I love this idea I found to use the fabric for some amazing lamp shades.
5. Create Useful Stuff
Upholstery fabric is also rub-resistant, making it an ideal choice for hardwearing useful items such as door stops that are weighted down with pea gravel or river sand in a plastic packet.
You can also use upholstery fabric to make a decoupage wall hanging artwork. Simply purchase a canvas from the local art shop, then cut the fabric into narrow strips. Once the fabric is arranged in interesting lines, simply glue the strips down with modge podge for a wipe-friendly surface that requires no sewing.
With the strength of upholstery fabric, you can also use your upholstered covers to make a tote bag (or ten) to take with you when shopping.
6. Cover Traditionally Non-Upholstered Furniture Items
Furniture items can really get a new life if you use fabric in surprising ways. I delighted my daughter when I used granny’s fabric to facelift her chest of drawers. You can also try to “upholster” furniture sections, such as the back of a door or panels that decorate a furniture item such as a cabinet or chest.
7. Wallpaper With Upholstery Fabric
Usually, if I were to consider wallpapering a wall with fabric, I’d opt for a roll of nice and straight fabric, but upcycled upholstery fabric covers can be cut and decoupaged for smaller sections of wall you want to turn into a feature such as the panel of the wall above the fireplace.
Extend this idea even further by using the upholstery fabric to upholster the backs of your shelves. Making different tones of the same upholstery fabric by using different vegetable dyes can help you achieve a unique look.
8. Fabric Book Covers
If you’re looking to make the best gift for someone special, look no further than your upcycled upholstery fabric. This fabric is ideal for covering books, making stunning notebooks, and protective sleeves for special books like your family Bible or diary.
9. Pet Beds
Your pets will also enjoy a sturdy bed that’s made from quality upholstery fabric. As an added bonus, upholstery covers are already in a box shape when removed from sofa seat cushions. The boxed shape means you have very little sewing to do to make it into a pet bed. Simply add a zip (if it doesn’t already have one) and then fill it with loads of sturdy stuffing, and voila.
10. An Apron
For extra splatter protection, a sturdy upholstery fabric can make for a great apron. Simply cut the leftover panels from your furniture item into the shape of an apron. Sew a hem around the apron edge, then add a few ties to secure the apron around your neck and waist.
Considerations When Upcycling Second-Hand Upholstery
Before you grab the upholstery that comes off your grandma’s sofa and start sewing, there are a few things to keep in mind.
- Fabric Age
Older fabrics tend to suffer damage to the yarn that the fabric is spun from. Heat, changing weather conditions, and even insects can damage the yarn, leading to rubbing and fraying. You wouldn’t want to put in all the effort to sew a beautiful tote bag only to have it disintegrate on you.
Keep the fabric age in mind and treat the fabric appropriately.
- Wash and Inspect Before You Plan
Before you get your hopes up, first check out the fabric. Flip it over, and look for signs of fraying, water damage, stains, bug damage, etc. Next, wash the fabric, ensuring any dust, grime, or dirt is removed so you have an idea of the fabric’s real color qualities.
- Support Structure
Older upholstery fabric may be resilient, but it’s still a great idea to provide a support structure to the fabric, ensuring the threads stay intact and correctly connected.
The Final Seat
Your upcycled upholstery fabric may not be entirely enough to achieve your new project, so be sure that you combine similar fabrics to achieve a sturdy texture and uniform flexibility. There is no need to throw away reused fabric covers. Instead, let those out-of-the-way covers shine. For more advice on how to care for upholstery fabric, read about the best practices for velvet upholstery fabrics.