How to Reupholster an Arm Chair or Two – DIY

Cottage Craft, Cottage Craft DIY Tutorial, Cottage Craft Sewing - Textile, DIY

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My daughter has these two chairs she purchased at a yard sale! They’re marvelous chairs, but they’re in dire need of new upholstery…she began the work on these chairs then gave up…when I stopped by to pick up the dresser and nightstands to refinish for her baby nursery…I also picked up these chairs and reupholstered them for her…I am thrilled not only that she loves them, but they’re also cozy places now to cuddle with our grandbaby! Here’s how to Reupholster an Arm Chair or Two!

how to reupholster an arm chair

How to Reupholster an Arm Chair

The Before

Every story has a beginning…and here’s the beginning to the story of the two side chairs. These chairs are solid wood frame and are heavy! That’s really good when considering purchasing used furniture – especially chairs. If you like a chair, but it is not sturdy, solid or stable…you’re better off moving on. You can deconstruct the chair and reinforce any connection or joint…I would only do it if I LOVED the chair!

Deconstructing the Chair

My daughter began the work – she attached the fabric of her choice to the back of the front of the chair…then she thought it was too much for her! I loved the neutral color of the fabric she selected, but felt it needed more weight. I found beautiful fabric at Hobby Lobby and was able to coordinate the trip as well.

First Step – remove ALL fabric on the back and the sides of the chair

After removing the fabric – I reviewed the condition of the batting. I decided to replace it all. Underneath the batting on the back of the arms and the back of the chair there was cardboard moulded to the frame. On one chair they were in decent condition. If you find the cardboard support in bad condition you can recreate it with a similar weight in cardboard (not corrugated). You’ll need to wet it to mould it to the frame; allow it to dry then proceed with the batting.

Second Step: Replacing the Fabric

The back of the chair will need to be exposed for this next step.

With the back exposed, I began to lay pieces of fabric over the section I would begin with. The first place I begin with is the back of the front of the chair. I used chalk to mark the fabric before cutting. Allow enough fabric on the sides and the bottom to wrap around to be secured from the back with staples.

Once the back was secure, I laid the fabric over the side and marked where it would need to be cut with chalk. Take your time with this. Smooth the fabric and ensure you have enough to wrap around the edges to secure from the back. Also make sure there’s enough fabric to wrap around the front of the arm. Once you’re sure you have enough. Cut the fabric and secure with staples along the edge and along the back of the frame.

Third Step: The Seat below the Cushion

I measured the fabric needed for the front of the seat. I also had extra fabric for the back. You’ll need to carefully notch the fabric so that it will go underneath the sides and wrap around the side of the arm. Once I had the fabric set – I sewed the back fabric to the front fabric mimicking the edge of the original (see image above). To ensure this fabric is formed to the fabric on the seat I used spray adhesive for fabric then I stapled along the front edge and through the back pushing the fabric under the front-back and under the arms.

Fourth Step – Replace the batting, cardboard form and fabric on the back of the chair

Once you’ve completed the front of the chair you can move to the back of the chair to finish the reupholstering. Secure the cardboard and the batting with staples. Then measure out the fabric to the shape of the back. You may need an extra set of hands to hold the fabric as you’re measuring and marking with the chalk. Cut the fabric then secure with staples.

The Cushion

I removed the old fabric from the cushion and thankfully it was in great shape. I removed the zipper to reuse for the new fabric. Separating the fabric at the seam allows you to have a pattern to follow to replace the cushion fabric.  I used the old fabric as a template for the new. I sewed the pieces together with piping and then replaced the zipper.

Finishing with Trim:

 The trim covers the areas where the fabric has been stapled. I used high temperature hot glue to secure the trim any where there was staples or a seam (except for the seat below the cushion).

The Refinished Chairs!

My daughter now has these chairs back at her home. One is in this guest bedroom.

The other is in their Master Bedroom.

Hints, Tips and What I Learned

  1. The right tools make a difference! The most time consuming part was removing the fabric, the batting and the cardboard from the chair. There were so many staples! I purchased a staple remover that’s geared toward this task. It made ALL  the difference! Also having a good staple gun and staples make a difference – one that is comfortable and gets your staples in those awkward corners!
  2. Measure Twice Cut Once! I thought I’d measured the fabric well for the second chair – and for some reason I had more trouble with that one! I didn’t and had to recut the fabric – purchase more! I ended up using just shy of 7 yards for the both of the chairs – including fabric for the cushions! That’s why I encourage a second set of hands!
  3. Take Your Time This is a really pretty easy project, but you do need to take your time – watch your measurements and marking. Timewise, the first chair took about a couple days. I watched/listened to three movies (well Dearest nearby did!) for the first. The second, I did on my own. The second ended up being in the worst shape as far as the back was concerned – the cardboard – so that process took some more time.
  4. Select the right fabric – I really love the fabric  I selected because it had weight and texture. The nubby weave allowed me to cut straight lines easier too! This upholstery fabric will give good support and wear well.
  5. Make Sure You Have all Your Supplies and Tools at Hand – I live at least 30 minutes from all good shopping – so when I ran out – I ended up making it a shopping day combining all of my errands.

The Supplies You’ll Need:

  • Enough upholstery fabric – measure your chair, the cushion and add about one or two more yards
  • Batting for back and back sides – I used batting that you’d normally use for quilting. You can use cotton batting – you just want something that will give you the cushion you wish. I also doubled the batting for added heft.
  • Extra cardboard – firm cardboard that is thin – not corrugated – you only need this if the cardboard is worn. I love reusing it if I can!
  • Staple gun and staples for upholstery work
  • Trim and Piping for Cushions – measure first and make sure you have enough to completely cover edges and cushions.
  • Zipper – If you’re not reusing the one already on the cushion.
  • Thread to match fabric – extra fabric for seat – I used cotton duck fabric – since I was recovering the seat. I wanted sturdy fabric.
  • Hot Glue Gun and Hot Glue – to secure trim ***Be VERY, VERY careful with hot glue!***
  • Staple Remover for Upholstery Staples – this was so well worth purchasing! It’s hard to remove staples from wood frames and this tool made it easier!
  • Chalk or fabric marking pen for marking fabric before cutting fabric
  • Good scissors

That’s it! The most important thing to remember is to start by removing the fabric from the back so that you can secure the fabric from the front. Carefully notch the fabric where it has to be tucked or wrapped around or under. Take your time! If you try this and have more questions or need more clarity – let me know! I’d love to help! I’d also love to see your finished product too! 

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how to reupholster chairs before and after


Reupholster a Side Chair

More Furniture Reupholster/Recover Projects:

updating dining room by painting and reupholstering chairs at A Delightsome Life

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