Has anyone restitched split seams in their seats? - Alfa Romeo Bulletin Board & Forums
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post #1 of 15 (permalink) Old 01-26-2018, 08:22 AM Thread Starter
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Has anyone restitched split seams in their seats?

I'm very tempted to pull the covers off my back seats and start restitching the split seams. The original leather covers are actually in fine shape, but the thread is gradually giving up the ghost. I mean, if my wife can sit and hand-sew whatnots while watching Downton Abbey, why couldn't I do the same while watching Peaky Blinders? <clarkson>How hard could it possibly be?</clarkson> The thread is simply disintegrating, so the original holes in the leather are all intact. I should just be able to use some cotton upholstery thread and go to town with a basic over-under stitch, right?

Am I biting off more than I can chew? Worse comes to worst I can take it to the upholstery shop - just thought I'd save myself some money while learning a new skill.

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post #2 of 15 (permalink) Old 01-26-2018, 08:47 AM
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I've never restitched an alfa seat, but I have done many 70s Fiats with their notoriously rotten cotton thread. I have found that round waxed dental floss and a fairly large dull pointed embroidery needle works best. Just line up the original holes and pull it through. Needle nose pliers help when going through multiple layers like the edging. Reusing the old holes prevents it from puckering.



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post #3 of 15 (permalink) Old 01-26-2018, 09:40 AM
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As long as the THREAD only rots, and fabric is good, they can be repaired. Cotton thread will deteriorate, synthetic may outlast the fabric. My upholsterer re-stitches the entire failed seam, not just the part that has rotted.


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post #4 of 15 (permalink) Old 01-26-2018, 09:42 AM Thread Starter
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My plan was to rip the entire seam and just totally redo them all. I'll google around for the best thread option. I like the dental floss idea. Any additional yeas or nays on that?

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post #5 of 15 (permalink) Old 01-26-2018, 10:35 AM
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Upholstery thread is heavier than normal sewing thread. A leather sailmakers palm is also useful.

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post #6 of 15 (permalink) Old 01-26-2018, 04:59 PM
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Check out some you tube videos. Very do-able.
Using an upholstery awl will give you some more stitching options.
I did it with black cloth GTV6 rear seats BEFORE I saw how much easier the awl would have made things. With the cloth, it was difficult to see the holes and to get the tension just right to avoid puckering. I did mess up a few lines. I will do better next time, but will still probably hand over restitching the front seats to a pro.
Leather should be easier to deal with on those counts. I did a portion of a leather couch, also using dental floss, and it worked well. Very slippery stuff, the floss, which both helps and hinders, and very white.
The cloth was backed with calico, which also held the spring steel securing wires which pull the low spots back to the frame, and a good portion of that had rotted too, which added to the job. Not sure if leather will be similar.
Also look up/learn how to tie slip knots, which you use on the strings which draw the spring steel bars and covers back to the frame. I have seen people use cable ties there, tho.
Look forward to hearing how you get on.
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post #7 of 15 (permalink) Old 01-27-2018, 09:50 AM
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I know nothing about such sewing. What I do know is that the later model gtv6 Recaros had some sort of complicated "french stitch" that was also mirrored in the rear seats. That is part of why the Recaros are so much more expensive to restore. So if you're dealing with Recaros, something to consider.

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post #8 of 15 (permalink) Old 01-27-2018, 10:50 AM Thread Starter
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Mine is an Ď82 and the stitching looks pretty simple. Got the cover off. The backing fabric is in bad shape. The bits that hold the metal rods and are tied to the frame. Might need a plan to address that. But I got a stitching awl and some (very dark) blue synthetic waxed sinew, which the guy recommended for this application (like dental floss but heavier and tougher). I want to treat the leather first to soften it up a bit. I have some Lexie conditioner but some of the Porsche guys claim coconut oil does a better job for stiff leather. Slather it on, warm it up, let it sit for a day, then clean with standard leather cleanser. Iíll test on an inconspicuous bit first.


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post #9 of 15 (permalink) Old 01-27-2018, 03:23 PM Thread Starter
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Has anyone restitched split seams in their seats?

Well, not as difficult as I feared, by my god is it tedious work! Finished one half of the backrests in a couple of hours. The awl makes the job much easier and produces stronger results. I might go with the less involved over under stitch using a plain upholstery needle to rejoin the upper vinyl material.
The only problem Iíve had is the vinyl piping, which was disintegrating as I tried to stitch it in. Ended up abandoning it. Not a big fan of piping anyway, originality be damned.
Anyway, itís going alright! The puckering is more the result of it not laying flat.


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post #10 of 15 (permalink) Old 01-27-2018, 03:31 PM
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Yes, tedious is a good description...
Nicely done.
How did you go with the disintegrated backing and wire holders?
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post #11 of 15 (permalink) Old 01-27-2018, 03:35 PM Thread Starter
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The backing is shot. I might try using old t-shirts cut to fit and some 3M spray adhesive. Not sure if itís that necessary though? Iím also abandoning the fabric holders. The wires are actually stitched to the backing in two places so Iíll just rely on some of this synthetic sinew to hold them taut and in place then zip-tie to the frame. Weíll see how that goes!


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post #12 of 15 (permalink) Old 01-27-2018, 03:51 PM
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The backing is shot. I might try using old t-shirts cut to fit and some 3M spray adhesive. Not sure if itís that necessary though? Iím also abandoning the fabric holders. The wires are actually stitched to the backing in two places so Iíll just rely on some of this synthetic sinew to hold them taut and in place then zip-tie to the frame. Weíll see how that goes!


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I've done a few cars where the backing was gone. It doesn't really seem to matter. I think the backing was more there to support the vinyl during the manufacturing process than anything else, although I can see where it might prevent some stretching.

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post #13 of 15 (permalink) Old 01-27-2018, 06:19 PM
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The calico backing is also used to sandwich @6mm foam to provide some bulk to the fabric and padding for the sewn-in ribs. With my fabric covers, the spring steel wires passed thru horizontal 'tubes' in sewn in to the calico, ( just like you see on the upper side of roof lining), to pull the cover evenly back towards the frame. If you assess that you can do it more simply, well and good.
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post #14 of 15 (permalink) Old 01-27-2018, 07:35 PM
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Nicely done. I used a hand awl to stitch the edging back on the convertible top of a 1985 VW Cabriolet. There were 5 layers of vinyl to go through! It was so difficult I skipped every other hole and it still came out looking pretty good, once I got the rhythm down.

On my Berlina I just ordered new covers, redoing all the seams would be much too time consuming.

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post #15 of 15 (permalink) Old 01-29-2018, 06:26 AM Thread Starter
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Didnít get to work on sewing the covers yesterday - my wife has the flu so I had the kids by myself all day. It was fun though!
However I did work on treating the leather. Iím not sure if it was the coconut oil or the Lexol, or the combination of both, but the cover looks and feels much nicer. The faded color darkened up quite a bit and the leather is far more supple. Iím continuing to rub in more Lexol every day or so as it seems to be continuing to improve the leather.
For anyone interested, I just fished out a few ounces of solid purified organic coconut oil (Costco) then smeared it on with a towel. After a few hours it had solidified so I rubbed it down with bare hands. I did this several times throughout the day then cleaned it thoroughly with Lexol cleaner. Iíd cleaned them previously but after the oil the rag was coming up filthy once again, so I feel the oil was penetrating the leather and releasing gunk. Then the Lexol conditioner.
Anyway, progress reports as I have em!
I would recommend this job to anyone wanting to safe a couple hundred bucks!



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