Chair Upholstery

I’ve wanted to reupholster a chair for a long time.  Although I have no prior experience, after watching it being done over and over on TV, I felt I had learned the basics of how to get it done.

In 1996 on TLC, I  would watch a show called Furniture to Go (Which previously was Furniture on the Mend & then after Men in Tool Belts) hosted by Ed Feldman and Joe L’Erario.  It was one of my favorite shows and way before all these home repair-do-it-yourself shows on cable these days.  The guys would start out the show with a classic comedy skit or reenactment, and all throughout the show there would be tons of puns and jokes that you had to have a quick-whit to catch.   Sometimes the projects would be a wood furniture refinishing or reupholstering.   I’ve always been fascinated by this type of stuff, and would love to be able to do that kind of stuff on my own. 

21 years later………..  Joe and Ed have gotten together again (on YouTube) to share their tips and quick fixes and I finally dove in and did my own project!

I bought an old chair from an estate sale with the intention of re-covering it.










This was the hardest part of the project.  The seat was screwed into the chair and I didn’t realize that for a long time as I struggled to try and remove it.  Then there were the hundreds of staples I had to remove.  First I had to begin to carefully remove the original fabric, which I would then use as a pattern to cut out pieces of the new fabric I had selected.   


After getting the fabric removed I did a good cleaning and polishing of the chair frame. 

 It was at this point, when trying to lift the chair onto my work table, I had banged it into the edge of the table and popped a hole into the woven arm (#@!$%#%$&!!!).  Well it is my first project and mistakes were going to happen.  I continued on with other parts and would deal with this later. 

The back rest had buttons, so since I don’t have a mechanical way to cover/create buttons, I had to make a decision to discard them or try to somehow convert them to my pattern.  First I decided it would be too difficult to do and added some extra padding to cover the indentations from the buttons.  As part of the learning process, I first upholstered the back part and then the first.  So when I decided to go ahead and use the buttons, I couldn’t pop them through the fabric and I had to start over again. 

Here is a close up of the old and new covered buttons (buttons, but they have a brad-backing).  I cut a small square of material and wrapped it around the button and began to sew the back side as tight as I could.

To start, place the material face down on the table, and lay the cardboard-cushioned back on top.  Pull the material over the edge and place a staple in the middle.  Then pull material to make sure it’s smooth and tight as you put more staples across the top.  Now you can flip the piece around and do the same to the bottom and the sides.  It was like wrapping present, making sure all the edges were creased and even. 

This is the finished back rest with buttons and a first look at the material I chose. 

Next I worked on the seat. I also added and/or replaced the cushioning as necessary.  

I generously cut the material larger than I needed it to be. 

Always start with a staple in the middle first and then keep pulling taught and smoothing the material around the project. 

While working with the material, I had to make several release cuts in order to make sure that all of the material was smooth since this had more rounded edges than the back.

After everything is stapled into place, trim off the excess fabric. 


Now that the main pieces were covered, I attached the back to the wood with staples

Then I had to deal with the arms.  I decided there was no way for me to fix it, so I would have to cover both the inside and outside arms.  I took some poster board to make a pattern.  For the inside arms, I then transferred it on to a heavy cardboard (tv box) and hot glued the material to the cardboard and then stapled it to the arms. 

The outside arms were done the same way except I used the poster board and nothing heavier, that was hot glued to the chair

Now was the time to affix all the remaining pieces to the chair and add the chord (gimp) to cover the staples.   I used hot glue again around the back and down the sides. 

It took me 5 days to finish (I only worked on it an hour or two a day).  I know I didn’t do it exactly the way I was supposed to, I’m happy with the final product. 

Here’s the finished product !

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