Replacing a sofa can be a very expensive proposition. Fortunately, sofas can endure plenty of wear and tear. If your sofa has a tear in the fabric, you may not be sure how to repair it unobtrusively or without damaging it further, short of using a slip cover. But it is possible, and fixing these tears is also a smart way to add new life to a vintage sofa.
Assess the damage to the fabric. If the tear is thin and no fabric is missing, the repair should be fairly simple to do. However, if the tear is substantial and fabric is missing from the damaged area, you will need to repair it with a patch. This will make the hole in the fabric look more noticeable.
Remove the fabric from the sofa where possible. If the tear is on a cushion with a zippered closure, slide out the cushion and turn the material inside out. If the tear is on the fabric attached to the sofa, removing it might not be an option.
Sew the tear closed. If you are able to remove the fabric from the cushion, turn the cushion inside out and sew the tear from the inside of the material. If removing the fabric is not an option, start the needle underneath the tear, crossing over to the opposite side of the fabric. Continue to close the gap or sew the patch so that the knot closing the tear is fixed underneath. Instead of sewing, you could also glue or add an iron-on repair patch over the tear.
Glue the tear back together with a patch kit in a coordinating color. For thicker material, such as vinyl or leather, a patch kit that is glued in place is a better option than sewing. Puncturing holes with a needle and thread can further exacerbate damage to this material.
Create a patch for the fabric. If you cannot find material that exactly matches your sofa, patching the tear can be more trouble than it's worth. Often a patch can be more noticeable and unsightly than the existing damage to the fabric. If possible, take fabric from an inconspicuous part of the sofa, such as the back of the dust ruffle or areas covered by cushions. Or you can use ribbon to create a contrasting detail over the tear and over the surface of the sofa.