Thursday, May 3, 2012

A simple tutorial for a simple sofa or armchair

This is not an 'artisan' quality sofa but it's really simple and quick to make.  It's great for a kid's house because it'll stand up to being handled.  It's also fairly easy to pull it apart and recover by adding another layer of fabric cover over the top if you want to change the look.  Throw a few cushions, books, clothes (maybe your dollhouse inhabitants aren't as tidy as they could be!) on it and it's humble origins won't even be noticed. 

It's the pattern I used for the 1:12 red sofa in the little girls' house (below) and the 1:16 off white linen one in the 1920s house (second photo below) as well as the 1:16 brown check armchair (bottom photo).  This armchair started out covered in the same off white linen as the sofa but when I needed a more masculine look for the study I pulled it apart and recovered it. 

You can see that the off white sofa has a bit more padding - you can play around quite a lot with the final look by adjusting the amount of padding you use.

You could also change the look by altering the height of the back and squaring it off at the corners. Also it's flexible enough to bend the top of the back over to create bit of a 'rolled' look as well as adjusting the way the arms turn back - or not.

Changing the feet will also change the look, on all of these I've used round beads or pins with large coloured heads (map pins for example) but for a more modern look you can cut square feet from scrap wood and colour them to suit using paint, stain or marker pens. 

Step-by-step DIY

The squares on this grid (my cutting mat) are 1 cm - draw up a grid on paper, you should then be able to draw your own basic shape copying the dimensions of this outline. (You can see that the back of this fabric cover isn't entirely straight and the shape of each end doesn't exactly match either - not one of my better sewing days but because this was for the kids' house I didn't redo it and the faults aren't noticeable in the finished product.)

You can shorten or lengthen the back to make it longer if you want a big 3-seater or shorten it for an armchair.

Cut 2 shapes from fabric for the back and sides cover and 1 of cardstock to provide some rigidity and 2* of thin foam. The cardstock and foam is cut to this size but remember to add seam allowance when you cut out the cover - including at the bottom for turning in!!

*If you want more padding in the edge at the top of the back and arms add an extra 1 cm to the edges on 1 piece of foam and before inserting into the cover fold this excess over to the back of the cardstock and glue into place.

On the cardstock insert lightly score the fold lines for the arms to bend forward and then fold to create a crease. That will make it much easier to wrap it around the seat block later on. Lay the card onto the foam and cut two foam pieces the same sizes (*or make one a little bigger on the as referred to above). You can also use other padding, quilt wadding for example. If you want extra padding on the front of the back and sides only take it to the top of the seat or it will be too bulky to wrap the back and sides around the seat block.

Make a 'sandwich' of all the layers, pulling the cover over tightly. It needs to be a very snug fit to get a good look in the finished piece. Slip stitch the bottom closed.

To construct the seat you can use a base of balsa or foamcore board. In this case I used two layers of foamcore to get sufficient height. Top with foam or wadding. 

To cover the seat block you just wrap it up like a parcel gluing it around the sides, overlap a little under the bottom.  I usually run my iron over the bottom edges where they fold under, for a nice clean line. (If you've used foamcore for the base be careful of the heat setting on your iron - I don't know if it would be inclined to melt if the iron is too hot.)

Put glue on the sides and back of the seat block, wrap the completed back and sides piece around it tightly and secure with a wide rubber band while the glue dries.  All you have to do now is add the feet and your sofa (or armchair) is complete!  (You can also add braid tim around the bottom if it's an older era sofa.)

Have fun with it!!


This pattern is not my own design, it's from The New Dolls' House Do-It-Yourself Book by Venus and Martin Dodge.  This is the first dollhouse 'how-to' book I bought way back in the 80s. I really love this book because all the patterns are simple and the instructions easy to follow. I used it for all the furniture in my 1920s 1:16 scale house. You can see all the posts for that project here.

The first edition of this book was all in 1:16 scale  but the second edition (published 1993) has patterns for houses, furniture and accessories in 1:12 and 1:16 scale.  It would be easy to adapt the 1:12 patterns for 1:24 by simply photocopying at 50%. 


Lucille said...

Hi Norma! I happen to have that book. It's a fantastic book. It's a treasure trove, isn't it, though. Whatever pattern they give for 1/12 scale, they also give for 1/16 scale. By the way, I purchased that book from Amazon a few days ago. The one called Doll's House Needlecrafts. I am eagerly awaiting it.

Plushpussycat said...

Hi Norma! Thank you for the great tutorial! I've heard that making stuffed furniture isn't that difficult, but I haven't tried it yet myself. ;-) Nice to see the step-by-step instructions and photos of finished products--nice work! :-) Jennifer

Margaret said...

That doesn't look too difficult I think I may give it a go, yours turned out so well Norma, thank you for sharing your step-x-steps.

Margaret said...

Norma, Wondering if I will see you at the Fair, I am hoping to get there early on Saturday. Any of the others going? I don't seem to have your email address, lost on the old Mac and old email address I think. My new email is

cockerina said...

Hello Norma, thanks for the tutorial, the images can guess that seems pretty simple to do, very funny!
but please, you can put the translator on your blog? I have difficulty understanding your language, (I am ashamed), and understand every single word becomes stressful for me ... forgive me!
kisses from Italy!

mijbil said...

Thank you so much! :)

carmen said...

gracias por el tutorial!

Begoña said...

Hola Norma, muchísimas gracias por el tutorial, los sofás te han quedado preciosos.Lo voy a guardar porque es muy útil.

Cote said...

Muchas gracias por el tutorial!!

Eliana said...

Thanks for showing the step by step to make the sofa. ;)

Fabiola said...

Thanks for this beautiful and useful tutorial.
Your sofa and armchair are wonderful.
Bye Faby

Maria Ireland said...

Thank you for the great tutorial. Yours look wonderful.
Hugs Maria

PAKY said...

Thank you very much for sharing this tutorial, I like the result! A Big hug!

Lady Jane said...

I will have to try this. It looks easier than the sofa I did. and it looks super also. Thanks for the tute....

malu2 said...

Muchas gracías Norma!!
Me sera de gran utilidad!!
Besos de las Malu´s.

cockerina said...

Norma WOW, thanks for the translator! now it is much easier for me to follow instructions ... is really quite simple, as you guessed from the pictures, but reading the words is great!

Lucille said...

Norma, so sorry, I forgot to say thank you for the tutorial. It's so clear. Very well explained. You make it look so easy!

Ascension said...

Muchas gracias por compartir, a ti te ha quedado precioso.
besitos ascension

Irene said...

An excellent tutorial with lots of good pics.

Your cutting mat is very clean and new looking compared to mine!

Jollie said...

Thanks for sharing this wonderful tutorial Norma! :-)

Hugs Jollie

Unknown said...

Gostei do tutorial,obrigada e saiba que vou tentar fazer este sofá para a minha mine casa de boneca.