Upholstering a Plush Chair–Guest Post from Design Intervention

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I’m Amy from Design Intervention and I am super excited to be here today!
Design Intervention
I’m a very blessed wife to the most handsome soldier in the world, and mom to the two most wonderful children in the world!  I home school both our kiddos and in my spare time, I love to re-upholster and slipcover furniture.  Handsome Hubby just recently returned from a nearly year-long deployment in Afghanistan.  While he was gone, I kept track of all the deployment projects I completed while trying to make the time fly by.  I completed exactly#200 projects!  You can see every single one of them on my blog.
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Handsome Hubby returning from Afghanistan!!
Today I’m going to share a basic chair re-upholstery tutorial.  This chair is very representative of the size, shape and technique of most basic chairs.  It’s actually quite easy to re-upholster.  So many people tell me they are scared to death to re-upholster something.  My best advice…. just give it a try.  Start with something you really don’t care about – – a chair from a garage sale, second hand store or one that someone has given you.  If you start with a piece that you are not emotionally attached to, you will feel more free to make mistakes and we all know that we learn from our mistakes!  Don’t start with Grandma’s antique chair that has been passed down for generations!!
I asked Handsome Hubby for some help on this project – – he summed up the entire tutorial in two sentences:
1.  Rip off the old fabricIMG_6355
2. Staple on the new fabric!
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He’s so helpful!  I’ll try to go into more details than that!!
Some important things to remember before you get started on your re-upholstery project:
1.  Make sure you have enough fabric.  There is nothing worse than getting to the end of your project and realizing that you are short by a yard of fabric!  Use a chart like this Yardage Chart to estimate how much fabric you will need.  *I always like to add at least 1 yard to the estimate to be on the safe side.  I like to use fabric from all different sources.  For this particular project, I used the curtains from my son’s last room.  Handsome Hubby calls them Prison Stripes!  I had two full sets (4 panels) which was more than enough fabric.  They were made from a canvas like material, so they were a great weight for re-upholstery!
2.  Take pictures as you go.  It is so important when you are first learning how to re-upholster that you take pictures as you take the chair apart.  Then, when you are putting everything back together, you can refer back to your pictures to see how things go back together.
3.  Use caution.  I know it sounds silly, but be careful as you work on your chair!  Handsome Hubby can attest to this fact!  He worked on taking the fabric off this chair and he has the battle wounds to prove it!  There are going to be tons of staples sticking out everywhere and you can easily cut yourself on them.
4.  Don’t stress.  There is no mistake so big that it cannot be fixed!  It may take a little more time and it may take more fabric, but the only way to learn it to try it and to enjoy the process.  I promise, it is much easier than it looks!!
To begin our project, the first step is to remove the old fabric.
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Grab your pliers, staple remover, flathead screwdriver, and scissors.
Check out this tutorial on more information about removing the old fabric.
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After all the old fabric is off, you should be down to the bones of the chair.  Depending on the condition of the batting on your chair, you may be able to use the old batting, or you may have to add new batting.  I had to add some new batting to my chair.  In some spots, it was just too yucky.  I also added batting around the bottom edges of the chair since I knew I was not going to put a skirt back on the chair.  Anywhere that you are going to have fabric wrapping around the frame, you will want to make sure there is a good layer of batting, otherwise the frame is going to rip through the fabric and you will have done all that work in vain!  To add new batting, all you have to do is lay the batting over the areas you need it to cover and put a few staples through it into the frame.
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Now it’s time to start the “makeover!”  I like to start by doing my cushions.  Cushions are fairly easy to do, but they take a good amount of concentration and a chunk of time.  I find that if I leave the cushions to the end of my upholstery project, that I am super excited to see the finished product, so I don’t concentrate as well and I don’t pay as much attention to detail as I need to.  Because of that, I have found that it is best for me to start with the cushions.
I decided before I started this chair that I wanted a separate back cushion.  The old chair had an attached “cushion” for the back.  It is super easy to change the chair from having an attached to separate cushion.  All I had to do was take the dimensions of the old attached cushion and make a separate cushion.  For directions on making your cushions (how to measure, cut, attach cording, sew and insert a zipper) go to this tutorial.
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Next it’s time to start attaching fabric to the frame of our chair.  You are going to do this in the opposite order that you took the fabric off.  If the first piece you took off was the back (and it should have been) the very last piece you are going to put on is the back.  On this chair, I needed to put the bottom (under the seat cushion) and front of the chair on first.
Start by laying out the fabric across the front of your chair and wrapping it around the corners and the top of the seat.  You are going to want approximately 1” of extra fabric right in front of the arms of your chair (this fabric will later be folded over the top of the front of your arm fabric).  Once you have the fabric laid out, mark (with chalk) where the arms hit this fabric.  This is where you are going to attach a separate fabric to go between the arms and under the seat.  I usually use a heavy duck cloth for this because it is going to sit right on top of your springs and be a buffer between your cushion and the springs.
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Sew the two pieces of fabric together, then lay it over your chair again this time right side down so that you can fold your fabric up at the corners forming a triangle on each corner where the fabric wraps around the corner of the chair.
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Mark the line parallel with the chair with chalk and also pin this line.  Make sure to mark where to start and stop sewing this line.
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Remove your fabric and sew this line.
After sewing the line and removing your pins, turn your fabric right side out and lay it back on your chair.  This time, tuck the sides, and back into the gaps between the bottom and sides of your chair.  Staple the front chair fabric to the bottom of the frame.  You will also put some staples (just enough to pull the side tight, but you will still need to be able to work with the fabric) on the outside of the chair behind the line of your arms (make an imaginary line down the side of the chair where the arms attach and make a mental not to staple behind this line – – it will later be covered by the side fabric). Don’t staple the anything else just yet, just make sure it is a good tight fit at this point in time.
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Next it’s time to do the arms.  Probably one of the most difficult parts of the job, but once you get them done, it is easy sailing through the rest of the chair!  Start by marking off the shape of the front of your arm by laying your fabric, right side out, on top of the chair and tracing the outside curve of the arm with chalk.  Don’t forget to mark both arms. **Originally this chair had a separate piece in the center of the arm.  I decided I wanted a clean line going around my arm, so I put extra batting on the front face of the arm and created a cleaner simpler line.
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Next you are going to attach cording to the front arm fabric.  Simply follow the line that you drew and sew the cording on.  Check out these tutorials for more information on how to make your cording or  flat flange edge cording  and this one for more information on chair arms.
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Now it’s time to attach the arm fabric.  I knew I wanted to match up the navy stripe around the top of the arm, so all I had to do was attach my fabric with the navy stripes matched up to the cording.  You are going to start with your fabric about 1” under the curve of the arm (make sure you have enough overlap that you will be able to staple the fabric under the arm of the chair all the way along the edge)
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You will stop sewing at the point where the arm meets the inside bottom of the chair.  Make sure you have about 6-8” of unattached fabric (this will be stapled to the inside frame).  After you have sewn your arms, it is time to attach them.  Slide the fabric over the arm of the chair, smoothing batting and fabric as you go.  Once you have a good fit, go ahead and staple under the arms.
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Now you are going to attach the arm fabric THEN the bottom seat fabric.  These will both be stapled to the inside frame of your chair.  You want to attach the arm fabric first, then the seat because you want the fabric to “overlap” under the arm of the chair so that there isn’t a big gap between the two.  Just pull your fabric so it is taught and staple it along the inside of your frame.
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Next we are left with the front of the arms.  The front arm fabric will lay underneath the front facing/seat fabric.
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Fold over the excess seat fabric to make a clean line over the top of the arm fabric and staple it tight on the side and under the base of the chair.
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Alright!  You have just completed the hardest part of the chair!  From now on, it is easy sailing!!
Next we are going to finish out the side of our chair.  Following the curve of your chair, attach your cording, then your curve ease edging, then your fabric.  To understand what all this means, follow this tutorial.
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Now we have the front of the back of the chair to do – – as my daughter says, “easy peasy lemon squeezy!”  Simply lay out the fabric over the front of the back making sure you have 6-8” extra on the bottom  and sides and 2-3” extra on the top.  Tuck the bottom fabric through the gap between the back and the seat of your chair and staple this to your frame (make sure you have already attached the seat fabric to the back of your frame).  Next, pull the top of your back fabric taut and staple this along the top of the back edge.  Tuck the sides of the front back fabric through the gap on the sides between the back and sides of chair.  Pull it taut and staple to the inside side frame of the chair.
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Finally on to our last step!  We are going to attach the back of our chair.  I like to do this with  curve ease – – it makes the job so much easier and I love the clean lined look of cording and curve ease.  It really gives the chair a custom professional look.  Attach the cording, lining it up perfectly with the side edges of the chair, then staple on the curve ease.  Carefully attach the fabric with the curve ease.  All you should be left with now is the bottom edge of your fabric.  Wrap this around the bottom edge of  your chair and staple along the bottom of the frame.
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I like to finish out the bottom of my chairs by stapling cording around the entire bottom edge – – again it gives it a custom, professional look.  Lastly, don’t forget to reattach the dust cover to the bottom.
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Since I decided not to put the skirt back on my chair, I wanted to change out the feet.  The old ones were just plain, meant to be hidden feet.  Changing out the feet is so easily done and has such a huge impact!!  I just went on ebay and searched for furniture replacement feet.   These ones were $3/each plus $9 shipping for all four of them.
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Funny how prison stripes brought out a new beauty in this chair!  Thanks for sticking with me through a long post.   Go ahead, don’t be afraid, give re-upholstery a try!!
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17 COMMENTS

  1. So impressive! I have a similar chair waiting to be reupholstered for my son’s nursery. Hmmm…do I feel up for tackling the project myself?

  2. You did just an awesome job on this chair, Amy! It looks so smart in its new stripes, which you matched up PERFECTLY! Now I’m wondering… Is this chair a keeper or are you selling it?

  3. Great job! It looks so good!
    I love to re-upholster chairs. I think it is actually easier than slipcovering, do you?
    I love the stripes on your chair.
    Congrats on having your hubby home again.
    Tell him I said, “Thank you” for his service and his sacrifice.
    God bless your family.
    Traci

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