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DanTwoLakes 06-12-2007 04:32 PM

Truck Seat Upholstery Tutorial
As advertised, here is the start of my tutorial on the 79 Ford truck bench seat. Here's the first installment.

DanTwoLakes 06-12-2007 04:39 PM

taking the seat apart
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First of all, obviously, after separating the top back from the bottom seat, is to take off the old seat cover to make our patterns from. This is a simple job with a truck seat. This seat has two wires in listings top and bottom that are attached with hog rings to the metal frame, and two short pieces of plastic "J" channel sewed to the sides and hooked over two of the vertical supports. All we have to do is take out all the hog rings and pull the "J" channel off the frame. I like to use a side cutter to take the hog rings out. If they are not connected to the frame you can just cut them out.

DanTwoLakes 06-12-2007 04:46 PM

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Now that the seat cover is off, we need to take it apart to make cutting patterns. The first thing to do is remove the wires from the listings. You can see that I put a piece of tape on one so I put it back in the right place. Before taking anything apart, I use a magic marker to locate seams and where parts should be attached to one another when we're sewing. The "C", if you hadn't already figured it out, stands for center. I also either locate existing witness marks or notches, or make my own. I use two tools to take things apart, a small, very sharp pair of scissors, and a partially dull single edged razor blade. I use a razor blade that is not totally sharp to prevent cutting the fabric (and myself) accidentally. I start with the scissors and once I have a few inches open, I switch to the razor blade. I lay the blade flat on the fabric and only cut the thread sideways. I usually hold down one end under the foot of the sewing machine, it makes a good clamp. We really got lucky with this's sewn together with a chain stitch, so all we have to do is get it started and pull on the right piece of thread and it will just come undone all the way around.

DanTwoLakes 06-12-2007 05:07 PM

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Elapsed time on the previous part of the process is about 1/2 hour. I'm sure you all could do it in about that amount of time.

The next step is to make cardboard cutting patterns. In the first picture, you can see how far I took the seat apart. I only went a little over half way to the center of the seat. This way I have the other half to look at if I forget how to sew the pieces back together. When I do bucket seats, I leave one of the seats together on the frame for the same reason. The whole seat back only has 4 cardboard patterns. Top band, side band, side insert band and front band above the insert. The front band above the insert presented a problem. I wanted to remove the sew foam from the back of it, but it was glued on so tight I couldn't peal it off. I ended up using my foam saw and sliced the foam away like you filet a fish. The two long patterns are only half patterns which I'll flip end for end when laying out on the fabric. The rest of the pattern simply consists of measurements. That includes the center insert, the insert welts, the two inserts to the left and right of the center, the perimeter welt, the center welt,the top wire listing , and the bottom pull strip with a pocket for the wire. I take the vinyl pieces and soak them in hot water to clean them off and soften them up, and then flatten them with a steam iron from the back side. After I iron them long enough to almost make them dry, I put them face up under a piece of plywood and weight it down. It only takes a short while for them to dry, and they are usually very flat. Then I trace them onto chipboard. That's all for today. Tomorrow , we'll start cutting fabric. By the way, total elapsed time so far is about 1 1/2 hours. I'm sure you guys will be a little slower than me at making the patterns, so expect to take probably 1/2 hour longer than that.

DanTwoLakes 06-13-2007 10:49 AM

cutting from patterns
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Thanks guys.

The next step is to cut out the fabric. I like to start with the pieces that will not have sew foam under them, like the bands and welts, to get them out of the way, and then cut the fabric for the face of the seat back. There is no reason to do either job first, I just like to do it this way. Picture #1 shows the complete pattern for the seat back. The 4 cardboard patterns have all the info on them that I need. The two long patterns are half patterns that need to be flipped end for end. Can anybody see the error I made in marking? The top corner of the side band is marked "A", and it should have been "B". This would not have been a big deal, but it's good to catch it now. My point is that I've been doing this over 30 years, and I still make mistakes, lots of them. Catching them before they cause any damage is the key.

DanTwoLakes 06-13-2007 11:07 AM

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The very first thing to do when you cut any fabric is to square up the edge. The first picture shows my framing square with my 60" ruler. Never assume that the edge of a new roll of fabric is square, it almost never is. This is not important for these first few pieces, but as soon as we start cutting rectangles, it becomes very important. Simply trace the pieces in question, making sure to transfer your witness marks to the fabric, and cut them out. I like to use a Fisher R80SL Silver ink pen to mark on leather , ultraleather, and vinyl. The reason being, I can trace the pattern with the fabric right side up. If I goof something up, this ink washes right off with mild cleaner or Lexol leather cleaner on leather. I can even write instructions or put arrows on the fabric that will be easily removed later. On fabric, I like to use yellow tailor's chalk. Both of those are personal choices, you can mark your fabric with whatever you like. The key thing to remember is to keep all the parts going in the right direction for the piece in question. In other words, a vertical piece needs to be kept vertical, and a horizontal piece needs to be kept horizontal, with up going to the top of the roll of fabric. If you look at the welts (I cut welts 1 1/2" wide, and sew them with 4/32" welt cord which makes a slightly smaller welt.) all of them are cut horizontal, and all of them have a small angled notch in the upper right hand corner. I do this with all rectangular pieces that could be sewn in upside down. This is not so important with vinyl, but is extremely important with fabric. If you sew a piece of fabric in upside down, you have ruined the seat cover. When you do this with vinyl, you keep the stretch going in the same direction for all the pieces. Most vinyl has a two way stretch, sometimes side to side, and sometimes top to bottom on the roll. If you cut a piece in the wrong direction, you can have problems sewing the pieces together. One piece stretches more than the other making it almost impossible to keep witness marks together.

DanTwoLakes 06-13-2007 11:19 AM

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The exception to using the framing square is evident in a couple of these pictures. You can plainly see that when I put the framing square on the fabric, I'm not following the weave of the fabric. If I cut the fabric using a ruler, it would look like the devil. Whenever there is a definite weave with horizontal lines, vertical lines, or both in the fabric, that's what you should follow. Ignore the ruler and cut by the weave of the fabric. The first picture shows the fabric blanks that will be used for the inserts on both the seat back and the bottom seat, and all are notched on the top right corner. I will need to keep the notches towards the top of the seat back, and going towards the rear of the seat bottom. After I glue the fabric blanks to the sew foam, I will put an arrow on the back to indicate which end should be up.

DanTwoLakes 06-13-2007 11:33 AM

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NOTE: This seat was done with 1/2" sew foam. I rarely use 1/2" foam any more. The seats that come in late model cars are almost always sewn with 1/4" sew foam, which is far easier to work with and sew.

The last thing I'm going to be able to do today is cut the vinyl blanks and cut the sew foam blanks. The sew foam I like to use is 1/2" thick. Some people like to use 1/4" sew foam, which might be a good idea for your first project. Sewing 1/4" thick pieces together is a lot easier than sewing 1/2" pieces together. I like the thicker look of the 1/2" foam. When I say "blank" I mean a rectangular piece of fabric or vinyl which is bigger than the actual pattern, which will be glued to a piece of sew foam of the same size as the fabric. After gluing to the sew foam, the actual pattern is then traced onto the fabric and sewn down to the sew foam. The sew foam I like has a woven scrim backing glued to it, whose purpose is to hold the stitching without cutting the foam. They make other cloth backed foams. Some has a non-woven backing called remay, some has a velcro backing, and some has channels already set up in the foam. The last two foams are very pricey, as you might expect. That's all I have time for today. Tomorrow we start to sew. This whole process took me 1 hour. You can expect to take probably 1/2 hour more.

DanTwoLakes 06-15-2007 02:05 PM

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O.K. The next step is sewing the padded pieces. We take the fabric blanks and glue them to the sew foam blanks. I use K-Spray foam glue and a Critter glue sprayer. I like to use blue glue so I know exactly where I've sprayed it on the white foam. I fold back the fabric half way and spray the glue on either the back of the fabric or the foam side of the sew foam. Then I fold that down smoothing it as I go and then do the same thing to the other side.

DanTwoLakes 06-15-2007 02:08 PM

5 Attachment(s)
After all the blanks have been glued together, it's time to trace the cardboard patterns onto the vinyl, and measure, mark, and sew the stitch lines in the fabric inserts. I traced around the cardboard patterns with the Fisher silver ink pen, and drew the stitch lines on the fabric inserts with yellow tailor's chalk. I sew the center stitch line first and then sew the each line in order moving from the center to the outside of the blank. The pictures show the silver lines and also where I put witness marks and wrote instructions on the vinyl. Remember, this ink cleans right off easily so it's O.K. to do that. The first picture of the fabric insert shows the chalk lines still on the fabric, and the second shows it after I blew the excess chalk off with my air nozzle.

DanTwoLakes 06-15-2007 02:21 PM

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NOTE: I don't cut parts bigger than the pattern any more. I edge the foam and fabric pieces with an industrial serger. If you don't have access to a serger, follow the instructions below.

The next step is to sew around the lines on the blanks. I sew as close to the line as I can, just inside the line. After going around once, I sew another stitch line 1/4" inside of that. If I line up the groove between the part of the welt foot that is attached to the needle bar and the right side of the outside foot, that works pretty well for getting close to the line. For the second line, I line up that right side of the outside part of the foot in the groove the first stitch line made. This makes it easy to follow. As you can see, I marked the top of all the pieces so nothing gets sewed in upside down. The center piece needed to finish at 11". When you sew the fabric or vinyl down to the foam, it shrinks slightly. I marked the center section at 11 3/16", and after sewing the perimeter, it is exactly the right size. If you are going to sew vertical lines, make sure you make your blanks wider to allow for this shrinkage. The center picture shows how all your pieces should look around the outside edge after you trim off the excess foam and fabric. I cut as close to the outside of the stitch line as I can with a scissors, angling the scissors slightly to the outside.

DanTwoLakes 06-15-2007 02:37 PM

5 Attachment(s)
The next step is to sew all the parts of the front of the seat back together into one unit. Sew the pieces below the top front band together one at a time starting with the piece on the left, and continuing sewing the pieces together until you're done. Then sew the welt to the top of that unit, and then sew the top front band to the welt. Now you have the whole front assembly complete. It still needs a pull strip with a pocket for a wire at the bottom, and the side and top bands. I had a piece of light canvas the right color to go with the color scheme, so I used that for the pullstrip. Picture one shows one of the reasons I sew the extra stitch line inside of the outside stitch line. I can put the right side of the welt foot on that stitch line and follow it, producing a perfect 1/2" wide seam. That extra stitch line also makes sewing the parts together easier. The second picture shows how I hold the welt down as I sew it in. I compress the foam with my fingers, and let up my fingers as the piece passes through the machine. The last picture shows me folding open the seam I'm crossing to make it flatter as I sew the welt on over it. This part of the project took me 1 hour. I would expect it to take you guys a lot longer than that, probably 1 1/2 hours. That's all for today. Tomorrow we put the outside bands on and finish sewing the seat back.

horvath 06-15-2007 10:10 PM

Excellent step-by-step instructions, Dan! This is a great tutorial!

PS - Why are you adding the welt? I thought you don't like using them -- might you eliminate the welt and just use a regular seam there?

DanTwoLakes 06-16-2007 06:07 AM

Thanks, Alan. I do hate welts, but I'm trying to include as much information as I can about upholstering a seat. I'm trying to do this seat as closely as I can to the original. The next section of the tutorial will be Dusty's tuck and roll 50's style seat and I'm going to use welts with that too because that was how all the seats looked in the 50's. The last version of the seat will have no welting.

horvath 06-16-2007 06:11 AM

Cool. LOL! I like the fact that the final one *kills* the welts. It's cool to see how you install them in an application but, like you, I don't care for them either -- and, especially on outside seams, I think French seams look best.

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