Reupholstering a Chair

I’ve never reupholstered anything.  The last time I sewed something was when I reattached a rogue button onto a fall jacket.  But I had a chair sitting in my basement for the last 6 months and Justin was threatening to toss it.

So I finally tackled this project, not knowing what the heck I was doing, and managed to do it with out picking up a needle and thread.  I did what I do best and I figured it out through trial and error.  It’s not perfect, but it’s almost exactly what I had imagined.

And, since we all know I love a bargain, this chair was saved for less than $30.  It does help that I got the chair for free.

I saved this chair from the trash back in August.  It was a wedding gift to my grandparents back in 1950-something, and while we were moving my grandmother out of her house and into her apartment, she had set this aside in the trash pile.  The chair frame itself seemed to be in great condition.  The arms and legs were solid – the fabric and padding just needed a little a whole lotta love.

I could feel Justin’s stare as I loaded the chair into the car.  The man lacks vision people.  Okay, so it was really ugly.  The seat was torn and had been taped back together (my grandma fixes everything with duct tape), but I knew I could make it beautiful.

As a very first reupholster project, I’m not going to lie, this was difficult.  I probably should have chosen a seat cushion to cover first.  But I had this chair, and it was free.  So, if I messed it up, it wouldn’t be a total loss since it had been destined for the dump anyway.

I’m not going to bore you with a full tutorial, I’m just going to break it down in a few steps.  If you want to reupholster a chair correctly, go check out a blog where the writer knows what they’re doing.  I try to keep my tutorials clean and therefore left out all the frustration and cursing that occurred during this process.

To start the project, I first removed all the different fabric pieces so I could use them as a template in cutting out the new fabric.  This chair has 6 different pieces of fabric.  I highlighted them for you below.

That plan quickly failed when I spent 3 hours trying to remove the fabric.  Nothing came off in full pieces.  As I touched it the fill released into fine dust particles and the fabric fell to shreds.  I almost threw in the towel and threw this to the curb.  Justin was finally starting to cheer me on (when I announced I was going to throw this out).

I didn’t want my time to be completely wasted, so instead I chose to cover the existing fabric.  Not wasting any more time on removing the fabric, I got to work sanding down and refinishing the wooden arms and legs.

I re-stained the woodwork in Minwax Ebony (since it’s what I had on hand).

I added a 2″ foam core to the seat back since I knew I couldn’t recreate that folded fabric look.  This would provide either a smooth back or an option to tuft the back.  Either way, it saved me work and the size of foam I got at Hobby Lobby fit the back perfect.  I didn’t even have to trim it.

Since I was only going to recover the existing fabric, I wrapped the chair in batting to provide a softer chair and hold the foam in place.  The batting is from Joanne’s and came in a twin bed size (it’s made for quilting).  I folded the batting in half and cut two square pieces (one for the seat and one for the back).  I stretched it tight, cut around the arms and legs and stapled it into place.

Then trimmed the excess.  I did not apply batting to the backside of the chair.  If I added tufting later I would have to remove it, and batting on the back seemed unnecessary anyway.

It wasn’t until I added the batting that Justin was finally convinced that it could be beautiful.

I knew I wanted a linen fabric (trying to reupholster with a print was a bit too ambitious), and after pricing everything out, linen cost about $15/yard and I needed at least 3 yards (maybe more to accommodate for mistakes).  It turns out that a canvas drop cloth looks very similar to linen…and is so much cheaper.  Like $10 (or less) for 3 yards.  And since I knew I would be making mistakes, I liked the idea of only a $10 mistake.

*While shopping around for a drop cloth, I found that the drop cloth at Lowe’s is a more consistent material.  The ones at Home Depot have colored fibers running through it – not what I wanted for my project.  The prices are about the same.  I ended up getting the largest drop cloth I could find.  It was $32, and would provide enough fabric for several projects I had in mind.  Including this reupholstering project.

I washed the drop cloth twice to soften up the fibers and preshrink the fabric.

The original chair had 6 pieces of fabric.  I decided to make the seat one piece and the back two pieces because that just seemed easier.  I cut two squares from the washed drop cloth.  Then I laid the fabric across the seat and began to stretch and staple until it looked good.  I had to make a few cuts where the arms and legs were, so I cut the fabric and folded down the cut edge.  It’s certainly not perfect.  There’s one spot where I cut a bit too much.  But other than this, it turned out pretty awesome.  No sewing required.

I would like to add upholstery tacks or glue down the edges to keep the folded edges secure.  I’m still thinking this over.  I also haven’t placed the final piece of fabric on the back since I’m still contemplating tufting it.

Cost breakdown (I already had some of the stuff on hand):

Sandpaper – $0
Stain – $0
Foam Brushes & Rags – $0
Staple Gun and Staples – $0
Batting – $13 (after using my 50% off coupon at Joanne’s)
Foam Back – $3 (after using a 40% off coupon at HL)
Drop Cloth – $7 (I only used 1/5 of the drop cloth to reupholster the chair)

The chair fits perfectly next to the  mantle in the dining room.  This is my new favorite corner in the house.

Source List:
Pillow – HomeGoods
Garden Stool – HomeGoods and refinished here
Sheepskin Rug – Local leather shop
Mirror – Family antique passed down
Egg Print – Free from
Mantle – Created here
Candle holder – made by Jan Barboglio (this was a Christmas gift)
Tortise Shell – Nate Berkus collection at Target
Artichoke looking thing – HomeGoods
I’m pretty impressed with the results.  What do you think? The drop cloth gave me the exact look I was going for and it didn’t break the bank.  The only drawback is stain resistance.  I plan to spray this with scotchguard to help protect the fabric.
Mostly protection from muddy paws.  From at least these 4 muddy paws.
 Thanks for reading!!
Linking up this week with the Inspire Me Please Linky Party #6 and the Simply Create Link Party.  Thank you for visiting!  If you haven’t seen the other projects yet take a minute to browse the link party.

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