June 29, 2011

chair reupholstery tutorial: part 1 (prep and cushions)

Oh, this has been a long time coming! After I started taking pictures of my chair reupholstery tutorial Jenny from Little Green Notebook posted her own set of reupholstery tricks last week. I love everything Jenny does so when I saw this I felt a little defeated. However once I started reading it I noticed that her chair is very different from mine - meaning that my tutorial is very different from hers. If you have a chair that has fabric covering it entirely then this is your kind of tutorial. Jenica's tutorial is best for a chair that has fabric covering the back and seat only (more like what I did here but hers is way cooler).

Let me preface this by saying that I am in NO WAY professional (not even very good) at reupholstering furniture. In fact, it would probably be better that I didn't do it myself because the results never end up perfect. However, if you're like me and on a tight budget then here is how I do things. My amazing mother taught me to be frugal, learn to work with what you have and try to do things yourself whenever possible. She has a positive can-do spirit and she taught herself how to reupholster. She has reupholstered many chairs over the years (usually ones she found for $5 at Good Will) and I have many fond memories of my mom teaching me all she knows on the subject. If you don't have a mom as amazing in this area as mine, then Jenica recommended this book for reupholstering basics. Though I've never read it, it might be worth looking into if you're serious about doing something like this and don't know where to start.
As for tools I don't have anything fancy. I bought this Stanley staple gun from Home Depot for around $30 as well as a pack of 1,000 staples. I have an Osborne staple remover which I think is the best (sorry I don't have a US online source - I got mine at Mesa Sales in Arizona) and some sharp Fiskar sewing scissors. As for a sewing machine I have a very basic Singer that does just fine for the things I'm capable of (i.e. not much). Someday I would love to hone my sewing skills to justify buying a Bernina 830 like my mom's but since they start around $700 on eBay, I'm not holding my breath.

Anyway, I started the whole process with the cushions. The seat and back cushions have a zipper so that they can be removed and cleaned (though my fabric selection isn't washing machine friendly).

Step 1: Select your fabric. I chose something relatively inexpensive, which I think is really important. Most chairs my size (a standard club chair) require at least 6 yards and since I'm not professional, I need to account for a few mistakes. I also bought a few yards of striped fabric for my welting cord for piping. I used this awesome YouTube tutorial on how to make continuous bias and made about 5 yards of piping (which ended up being way more than I needed).
Step 2: Remove cushion covers and use as a pattern. Trace onto butcher paper and use it as a pattern to cut out all the pieces for your seat and bottom cushions.
Step 3: When you cut out the fabric be sure to account for a 5/8" seam allowance. Also remember to cut the sides of the cushion as well.
Step 4: Sew your piping/trim along both edges of the top and bottom of the cushions.
Step 5: Pin the side pieces together (right sides together) and sew on.
Step 6: Flip over and pin the other side. Sew on the top of the cushion.
Step 7: Zippers are tricky but they're certainly not as hard as I thought they were. The back side of the cushion (where the zipper will be) needs to be a couple of inches wider than the other sides because you need to cut it in half (horizontally). Once in half, line up the fabric with the zipper.
Step 8: Sew the zipper onto each piece and add the zipper pull. Now you can sew this back piece onto the rest of your cushion.

Next I'll show you how to begin reupholstering the rest of the chair.


  1. Oh WOW!!! I didn't know you recovered it. It looks great ~ I love the color. And that baby girl posing on it....too cute =)

  2. I've done this to several pieces - yours is going to be awesome!


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