Whilst we were making the pop top we did take the time to make up some patterns for the front seats and cut out the material but that was as far as we got. Having not done any form of upholstery before trying to figure out the best way of doing things was pretty hard. Google is pretty good, but even after finding some good videos online there were some details that they just glossed over. In the end the covers just got left and no more was done.
A while back I invested in a couple of upholstery books to help me get my head around the right way to do things. Reading through the book the whole sequence of how to put the covers together became a lot clearer and so as I had a bit of time spare after servicing the bus I decided to get stuck in. I'll rite this up as a bit of an instructional for anyone else thinking of doing the same.
When we made the patterns we simply traced around them with butchers paper and added on 1/2" for seam allowance before cutting them out. We also made sure that the patterns were symmetrical by either folding them in half and trimming them to suit or using the same pattern for left and right parts. Where necessary we added extra on to cover tucks and folds. Transfer the pattern onto the rear (non pattern side) of your material by tracing around it with a marker.
The next step was making piping. You can either buy the proper piping cord from a haberdashery or use a small soft rope. We did both, more out of necessity than by choice as we ran out of the proper stuff and substituted what we had on hand. To make the piping we cut 30mm strips and folded it around the cord before stitching it close in to the cord. A point to mote here is that you can get a proper piping foot for most sewing machines, I'm sure that this makes the whole experience a breeze. Unfortunately the machine that I have does not have a piping foot available for it, but even so it was not a hard exercise. Whilst we are on the subject of machines, I bought our machine a year or so back specifically for doing upholstery with. It's a Pfaff industrial machine that has a 'walking foot' this is quite literally a foot that presses down on the material and feeds it into the machine, this makes sewing heavy material like canvas and leather a breeze and is really a must have if you're serious about doing your own upholstery. A close second is something like an old Singer machine, whilst they don't have a walking foot setup they are very robust and can be used with heavy upholstery thread. I also had one of these but the walking foot machine is like 1000% better and 10,000% easier to use. Anyhow's, I digress, back to the piping...
If you're familiar with dress making or sewing you probably know all about bias. This is where instead of making things like piping by cutting strips in line with the weave of the material you cut it at 45 degrees. The reason for this is that when it comes to bending it around corners the piping will bend more easily. Well we didn't bother with that, it all seemed like far too much work so we simply cut strips off of the end of the roll of material and decided to 'wing it'. As it happens, sewing canvas around corners has a certain difficulty to it regardless of such things, but it's not impossible to do. In fact with a little patience it really wasn't too difficult to do at all. That said I wouldn't have wanted to have done this on a normal machine. We cut darts in the piping in some places to ease it around the corners which might seem like cheating but this is exactly what the upholstery dude did in my book. What's good for the goose is good for the gander ;)
A tip when joining strips to make up your piping is instead of joining it across the strip, rotate one of the strips 90 degrees and stitch it diagonally across, after cutting off the excess material when you open the join the stitching will be diagonally across the strip, this helps prevent the material bunching up and making a bulbous joint.
Stitching the seperate parts together is just a case of lining up the patterns, good sides together, with the piping on the inside and running a seam through all the parts. Start from the middle (measure and mark both pieces) and work outwards, then when you reach the end, flip it over and sew the other half. Once finished turn it all outside in and there you have it. Also make sure that you have enough piping to complete the seam, it pays to double check this before actually sewing. Also the bottom seat pads on the bay originally had wire through them which allowed them to be tightened over the seat base. I found it easier to stitch the wire in as I went. I just used fencing wire.
So here's the fruits of our labours...
A kind of before and after shot. You can see the state of the old covers. Pretty shot.
The rock and roll seat / bed.
And installed in the bus...
The kids seem to like it.
Credits - all photos courtesy of @MelleMel