Advanced Tutorial: How to Reupholster a Chair in 5 Steps

Reupholstered Chair (before and after)Reupholstering any piece of furniture, let alone a complex wingback chair, is not for the faint of heart. It takes a decent amount of hard work, familiarity with sewing and using power tools, an eye for detail and a precise hand. Although this particular project took several weeks to finish, the result was well worth it all. Now, there is a lot involved in reupholstering a sturdy piece of furniture on your own, so below is a loose set of steps. Also, consider the following tips before undertaking such a project, or for you ambitious DIY-ers, keep them in mind throughout the project.

Difficulty: moderate-hard

Necessary Tools and Supplies:

  1. Fabric (this project took about 6 yards)
  2. Sewing machine and thread
  3. Pliers and/or flathead (for prying up staples)
  4. Scissors
  5. Fabric marker
  6. Staple gun
  7. Nailer
  8. Screwdriver

Reupholster Your Chair in 5 Steps:

1. Prep Work: First things first, you have to take off the chair legs (unscrew with a screwdriver). Then you must begin taking staples out of all the fabric. This may seem simple (I certainly thought it would be), but be prepared for a lot of prying — having the right tools really makes a difference here. I used a pair of pliers and a flathead screwdriver for popping out the staples.

Now, be sure as you take each piece of fabric off that you label which part of the chair it came from so you don’t mix them all up. Then once all the upholstery has been removed from your chair, you can start tracing and marking the old fabric pieces onto the new fabric, again being sure to mark which piece goes where.

2. Sew Back Together: Next, you have to sew together your new fabric pieces (based on which of the old pieces were sewn together…be sure you make note of this too). Again, this was a process, and it took really careful detail, being sure to cut and sew very close to the original fabric.

This chair had piping as well, so I also had to sew the piping and then sew each between the two respective pieces they went between. The cushion cover was crucial in this step because I had to make sure it fit correctly. And keep in mind, it is much easier to make a piece smaller than to try and make it bigger.

3. Assemble It All: After the upholstery is sewn and categorized by where it goes, you can begin placing each piece onto the chair form. My suggestion is to begin placing each piece in the same order with which you removed each piece. So, the first piece I took off on the old chair was the bottom side panels, so I put those back on first, then worked my way up. Again, this will be as complicated or as simple as the original chair, ottoman, couch, etc. that you choose. I also chose to add tufts, so this was something I made sure to place before stapling anything down.

4. Secure Down with Staples: After each panel is in place, you can begin stapling them in an organized order. For this chair, the back panel and the bottom panel were the last to go on. Keep in mind, you want the fabric secured well, not too tight, but also not too loose. If worse comes to worse, you can always take staples out and re-do them. However, this would be arduous and counterproductive, so be sure the fabric is placed well before pulling the trigger.

5. Final Touches: The last step is to put your legs back on the bottom and the cushion back in the seat. Then, as long as everything looks clean and crisp, you’re done!

Resources and Help:

This was definitely the down-and-dirty version of reupholstering, not as specific as a post explicitly for reupholstering a wingback chair. That said, if you would like a resource for step-by-step pictures and nitty-gritty details, check out this blog post. It helped me a lot. Really once you start though, it all starts making sense. If you have any questions about how to reupholster, the tools to use, renting tools, specifics on my process, etc. please comment below or email me (heidi@runyoncompanies.com) Happy reupholstering!

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