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Old 05-27-2010, 07:16 AM   #1
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1995 30' Limited
Ashland , Missouri
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Upholstering questions

Thanks in advance for any suggestions we receive here. I have skimmed over the upholstery forum, but still wonder about some issues. We are bringing home our new-to-us '78 Argosy Minuet today, and she's needing fresh flooring as well as upholstery for the gaucho and dinette. 1) Since the sitting pieces must also function as mattresses, I'm confused about foam density and thickness. It makes sense that sitting (day-pressure focused) requires firmer (denser?) foam than the mattress (night-pressure dispersed), but how do you reconcile the density issue when one cushion has two different purposes? Also, we sleep with memory foam toppers in our home and '95 AS. I have sciatic issues. How do you suggest I meet foam/cushion needs for this redo? Is JoAn's foam on special as satisfactory as other foam sources? Is there a difference in price/source-brand or am I ok with best price? 2) Okay...upholstering and fabric. I see that cushions in these older trailers seem to be flat slabs, no button tufting, tucking, etc. When I see pics of redo's, lovely as they are, I notice the fabric rarely looks tightly fitted, but shows tension pulls across the surface, or "dents" where sitting happens. Is there a way to cover these "slabs" so that the look is tight and fitted and stays that way? I'm wavering between having a local upholsterer do the work or doing it myself (unskilled, but do simple straightline sewing and quilt-piecing.) 3) What kind of fabric is recommended since this surface will be used both day and night? I know I don't want simple cotton or rough texture. I know it must be something that will show no dirt or wear. (We're camping!) Will a lowloft chenille be both "softly" comfortable as well as durable or what would be better? I'll be checking the "Toto" source for samples, but don't even know what to look for. Thanks for help! ~G

1995 Airstream Classic Limited 30' ~ Gypsy
1978 Argosy Minuet, 6.0~Minnie/GPZWGN
Chev Silverado 2500HD Duramax/Allison, 4X4, Crew Cab
WBCCI #5013 AIR #2908
Go, Mizzou...Tigers on the prowl!
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Old 05-27-2010, 08:26 AM   #2
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1967 22' Safari
1960 Caravel
Edmonds , Washington
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For our Safari goucho, we went to a local foam/upholstery shop and let them know that the foam would be used for both sitting and sleeping - they recommended a slightly softer foam than they would use for just sitting. On top of that, we glued a couple of inches of memory foam, then reupholstered. It makes a pretty comfy bed - at night, we put a small down comforter over the cushions prior to adding the sheets, which helps with the seams between cushions.

In our Caravel, we have a dedicated bed, so only had to purchase foam for the dinette. For this project, I told the foam shop that the seats needed to be comfortable for sitting, but I didn't care how comfy for sleeping since anyone using the dinette as a bed would probably be a guest (and we wouldn't want to encourage them to stay too long!) Foam is not cheap, but we figured we'd rather pay up front and not have to revisit this project again in the near future!

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Old 05-27-2010, 08:40 AM   #3
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1989 29' Excella
Lorain County , Ohio
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the KISS method

For our Minuet beds, Larry and I got the denser 5 in. foam at Joann's with our coupons 40% off. Then we covered them, making sure that the gaucho kept the hinge so that they would not slide apart during mattress use. We found them comfortable for Larry. He likes a firm mattress. I add a memory foam topper to mine. I made a special carry sack for it and it travels in the van when we are on the road. Sleeps nice!
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Old 05-27-2010, 11:01 AM   #4
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1956 22' Flying Cloud
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we recently reupholstered ours, and re-used the old foam which was very firm, and added 5" of memory foam on top of it (found on craigslist CHEAP!) with 3/4 or 1" of batting to hide the edges. havent slept on it yet though.
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Old 05-27-2010, 01:26 PM   #5
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Tight Upholstery

Yes, I see tons of redo's that clearly show every butt print. There are two basic tricks to doing excellent upholstery.
  1. put a muslin "sleeve" over the foam, then make the upholstery and zip it on over that. (Even Airstream doesn't do this on the Safari or International... Don't know about the classic... If you're using a fabric backed faux leather, you can omit the sleeve.). The benefit of doing this are that the upholstery doesn't shift around as much after you've sat in it. The back of many upholstery fabrics can be rubberized to prevent stretching - and that creates a lot of friction between the foam and the back of the fabric. The muslin is smooth and once you stand up, the fabric slides back into it's original place more easily. Foam will last longer when it isn't exposed to friction.
  2. To get a tight fit, commercial shops use something very like a space bag to suck the air out of the foam, slide it into the sleeve or upholstery which fits as tight as a sausage casing, then the air is let back into the bag and the bag is pulled back out.
You can use an ordinary garbage bag and your awning tool (not kidding) to put on a tight sleeve. Put the cushion in the bag, twist the top of the bag around the nozzle of your vacuum several times, then turn on the vacuum and suck out the air. Pull out the nozzle while twisting the bag top tightly, and tie the bag shut. Tape the awning tool's small hook to the bottom edge of the bag, slide the cushion into the muslin sleeve (which should only have one seam open just wide enough to allow the deflated cushion to be inserted), then rip the bag open and pull it out by yanking the awning tool. If a small piece of the bag gets left inside, it's not a problem if it doesn't cause a bump. You can fish for pieces with the awning tool, but keep the hook facing the fabric so that it doesn't tear the foam.)

Without an industrial sewing machine, it will probably be necessary to sew the sleeve's last seam by hand. Try it on your machine if you want to, but if you do it by hand, consider using dental floss or blue jean thread for this - as tight as the sleeve will be, regular thread may not hold. When putting the sleeved cushion into the upholstery, repeat the technique, but DO use zippers on the upholstered cushions so you can remove them to have them cleaned.

It is possible to wrestle foam into a very tight cover without using the deflation trick, but the bigger the piece of foam, the harder it will be to do. One additional nice thing about using the muslin sleeve.... you can actually use it as a pattern to determine if you're upholstery will BE tightly fitted. Muslin is cheap! If you make a sleeve that is sloppy loose, then you can take it back off, resew the seams tighter until you've got that "skin" tightness. Use your "stuffed" cushions as the pattern for cutting your upholstery. Lay the upholstery fabric over the cushion, use chalk to mark the seams, add on the 5/8" seam allowance (a bit more generous if you're using cording in the seams) and cut.

Good upholstery fabric is EXPENSIVE! Practicing with something you've bought on clearance on your smallest cushion can be a really good idea. If you're not experienced, check your local vocational high school, fabric center or sewing machine sales center that sells high end machines and industrial machines. They will often offer very economical training courses and videos.

(Or just get lazy and hire someone.... but see their work FIRST.)

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Old 05-27-2010, 04:28 PM   #6
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Paula's tips sound great, and I'm going to refer back to her post before doing our next upholstery job.

We've done 2 projects in the past few years and were satisfied with our amateur results. The first was a couch/single bed in the Airstream. We purchased new foam, 4" firm high quality for the seats, and custom cut (slightly softer) wedges for back cushions. We cut our fabric using the cut foam as a pattern and added only enough for seam allowances. The bottom cushions were boxed and full length zippers were used on each piece. We wrapped each foam piece completely with dacron wrap (glued directly to the foam) before adding the covers. The additional thickness of the dacron made the cushions nice and tight. The material has remained tight after a year of use (5 1/2 months in the trailer). For sleeping we sometimes use a 1" thick memory foam topper that is stored in a roll below the hanging clothes in the closet.

The second project, 2 couches for our sun porch, was just completed. We used the original foam that was glued to plywood. We also wrapped these cushions with dacron before applying the fabric and used staples to attach the upholstery to the plywood. It was a strenuous job stretching the fabric tight enough to make it look good, and make sure you have a good stapler. Again, we are satisfied, and you could do it also. I'm attaching a photo.

A thought on fabric, I do regret that we used plain cotton fabric for the Airstream cushions. The fabric has started to fade already, and we will use better upholstery fabric next time. You can find reasonably priced material online, Modern Fabrics, and Modern Fabric :: Cool Fabrics For Less :: Retro Fabric :: Modern Upholstery Fabric, and Fabric Fabric, Discount Fabric, Upholstery Fabric, Drapery Fabric, Fabric Remnants, wholesale fabric, fabrics, fabricguru,, Waverly, P. Kaufmann, Schumacher, Robert Allen, Bloomcraft, Laura Ashley, Kravet, Greeff. are possibilities.

Good luck, you can do it,
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Old 05-28-2010, 09:12 AM   #7
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Ashland , Missouri
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Great replies, thanks to each of you! My job is cut out for me, judging from all you say, whether making my foam and fabric choices or selecting someone to do the work for me or working up the guts to cut into this project myself. Our little Minuet is out in the turn around now, looking cute as one of our hen's creamy fresh laid eggs Inside, lots to do...thanks again. Paula, Bob, Lou, Mel...I'll be putting your tips to work soon. ~G
1995 Airstream Classic Limited 30' ~ Gypsy
1978 Argosy Minuet, 6.0~Minnie/GPZWGN
Chev Silverado 2500HD Duramax/Allison, 4X4, Crew Cab
WBCCI #5013 AIR #2908
Go, Mizzou...Tigers on the prowl!
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Old 05-28-2010, 05:26 PM   #8
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Have you given an air mattress any thought? Just blow it up to the firmness you want, sleep on it. Pack it away during the day.
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Old 06-04-2010, 11:47 PM   #9
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We went the lazy route for our goucho. We selected a high quality aviation grade (fire retardant) upholstery and had a local auto professional install it. He added a 1.5 inches of memory foam to the existing and put the two in a muslin envelop. We use the goucho as our primary bed.

In the bed mode - we pull out our stored/rolled-up memory foam behind the goucho and make the bed with it on top. I've got a bad low-back and have NO worries at all. Its as comfortable as the one in my bedroom at home!

Hope this helps out...

Art - W0ABX
High Desert Country of the Rockies
'85 Sovereign 25'er

WBCCI: 2197; AIR #: 36503; TAC #: NM-5

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