Basic Car Upholstery Tutorial

Thank you a million times Missy for hosting.  Thank you readers for your votes.  This has been a liberating (and tiring) couple of months.  Great work Amber, you were a fierce competitor.

Now that this project is over I am very pleased with the outcome (and relieved to be done).  We spent about $300 on supplies and figure we have saved about $2,000.  That being said, it is going to be long time until I attempt this again.  
This project was my first time upholstering with vinyl.  I am NO WAY a professional.  My intention is to share how I completed this project and what worked for me.  This is not a tutorial of how you should complete similar projects.


hair dryer- Vinyl is plastic and can not be ironed.  Use the hair dryer to heat the vinyl and make it more pliable when stretching it on your chairs.
double stick tape-  Use tape to hold your pattern piece to your vinyl. DO NOT USE PINS! Also, the tape holds vinyl to itself when sewing.  Makes life much easier.
electric knife- Use to cut your foam.  It makes smooth even cuts.
leather needles- These needles have a small blade to pierce the vinyl.  This helps avoid skipped stitches.
 upholsery needles and heavy thread- for  any hand sewing. (not pictured)

I found this marine grade vinyl at a local (but enormous) fabric store, however, I kicked myself later for not buying it from a local wholesale upholstery center- who kindly sold me foam.

I like to use wax paper because I have it in my drawer and is cheap.  Make sure to create a 1/2 inch seam allowance around each pattern piece.

For the stripe, I folded the pattern piece in half, then half again.

I then cut the pieces and made sure to add 1/2 inch seam allowance along both interior sides.

if possible, set your machine to leave your needle down.  Also, set the machine to a slow speed if you can.

After assembly, but before topstitching, put sewn pieces onto seat inside out.  Mark an discrepancies in fit, but be conservative.  You will be tugging and stapling the vinyl later to ensure a tight fit.

I am sure that I broke a million rules here, but I did not open the seam before topstitching.  I felt that would put too much strain on the thread. (Use 100% polyester thread.  It will not deteriorate due to weathering the same as cotton or a cotton blend.) Instead I folded the seam allowance toward the grey stripe and topstitched with a long stitch.  This was by far the hardest part.  The fabric was REALLY heavy and the machine did not pull it evenly.  I had to gently pull from the back and push from the front to keep the topstitching as even as possible.

On the seat, I turned the allowances toward the main piece and then topstitched.

  On pieces that can not be stapled, hand sew seam in an inconspicuous place.


I hope you find these tips and tricks useful.  Good luck on all your wild creations!

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