How to repair a torn seam on vinyl or leather upholstery?

Ask yourself, has the thread and stitching come undone? Or has the leather, vinyl or fabric torn along the seam, and the stitching remains intact?

The former is corrected with a simple sewing technique. The latter is a trickier repair that involves subpatching and may just re-tear depending on its severity.

Learn how to re-stitch a torn seam here.

Learn how to subpatch and repair torn upholstery here.

Re-stitch a Seam

All you need is a curved needle, heavy-duty upholstery thread, scissors, needle-nose pliers, and perhaps a thimble. Upholstery thread is critical, as regular thread will break in the cinching process. Use a ladder stitch (also called invisible or blind stitch) to repair the seam.

  1. Single thread the needle with a knot on one end. Do not double thread in case you have to remove a few stitches.
  2. Insert your needle into the center of the torn seam and come up through a stitch hole where the original seam and thread remain intact. You may need pliers with stiff, thick leather.
  3. If there are loose threads, secure them by tying them to the knotted end of your new thread.
  4. Jump your needle across the seam and dive directly into the hole opposite the one you just came through. You may need a thimble to push the needle through. You can also use pliers to pull it through, but take care not to break your needle.
  5. Once through, guide your needle parallel along the seam and up through the adjacent hole.
  6. Jump across the seam again and dive into the next hole. Leave your thread and stitches loose. You’ll cinch them at the end.
  7. Repeat steps 5 – 6 until the seam is closed. Do a few stitches beyond the end of the tear to ensure the original stitching doesn’t continue to pull out.
    Stop when your needle and thread have just come up through a stitch hole.
  8. Gently cinch the thread from the starting point. It may take a couple passes to completely tighten it such that the thread is not visible.
  9. Make a knot in your thread near your freshly stitched seam. If necessary, tie any other loose threads with it.
  10. Re-thread the needle and insert in the center of the seam, between the two panels, to hide the knot. Come up at least 1-2″ down the seam. Pull taught and cut the thread, so the cut is not close to the knot and also hidden.

Patching Along a Seam

If the leather, vinyl or fabric upholstery is torn, but the stitching is intact, it requires a denim or fabric patch, flexible fabric glue, scissors, tweezers, a palette knife or similar tool for larger tears or a big needle or toothpick for smaller tears, a wooden block or weight, and optional hair dryer. Keep alcohol and rags handy for cleaning up any excess glue.

  1. Trim away any ragged edges on the vinyl, leather or fabric.
  2. Cut a patch that is larger than the tear. Round the corners, as this will prevent buckling.
  3. Use tweezers to insert the patch underneath the torn upholstery. Take time to center it under the tear, so excess patch is on either side. Ensure the patch is not wrinkled or buckled and is totally smooth. Then pull the patch as close to the original stitching as possible so that it sits over the small seam allowance.
  4. Use your tool of choice to apply a flexible fabric glue to the seam allowance that is now underneath the patch. Spread the glue thinly and evenly, taking care to keep it off the substrate foam or batting.
  5. Adhere the patch to the seam allowance, and use a weight for firm, even pressure. A hair dryer can be used to speed dry time of the glue. Ensure the patch is totally anchored to the seam allowance before proceeding.
  6. Then apply a thin, even layer of glue to the top of the patch.
  7. Carefully press the leather, vinyl or fabric to the patch, taking care to marry the edges of the seam together as best you can, and apply even, firm pressure with your weight.
  8. Torn leather or vinyl can then be repaired with a thin bead of filler using the process beginning at minute 3:14 here, if desired. Take care to keep filler out of the stitching to avoid a patched look. Color will be needed to complete the repair.

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