Friday, July 1, 2011

How to Re-upholster a Chair When You Have No Idea What You are Doing


As promised, here are the details on the chair.  First I should remind you that I have never done this sort of thing before and the chair is not perfect.  My hope is that you can either learn from my mistakes or get up the nerve to try this yourselves.  My advice is to begin with a chair that is free or at least inexpensive and use cheap fabric.  In this case, my chair was free and the fabric was a $10 drop cloth.  The only other expense included was a few glue sticks and piping from Joanns.


When I first started this project, my hopes were to convert the chair into a tufted back chair.  After careful consideration, I decided the best thing to do this time around was to recover the chair as is.  However, by the time I made this decision, the old chair pieces were on their way to the dump.  Always keep the old fabric pieces to use as patterns.  Up to this point, I read several books about upholstery until I was cross eyed.  Can you say boring?  I googled channel back chairs and came up with very little.  So I decided to just make a move.


 The first step was to cover the seat.  Nothing like instant gratification to get your mojo going.  At this point I wondered why I didn't paint first. 
 The corners were folded and stapled as close to the leg as possible.  Once this was done, I trimmed the fabric as closely as possible to the staples.  This will all be covered by the double welt cording later.


This next part is where I wanted to take my toys and go home.   The channel back detail had me stumped and because I had thrown away the old pieces, I wasn't sure where to go from here.  Finally I decided to try treating it like dress making.  I laid the fabric on the chair and pinned the tucks in place following the existing channels in the chair.  Hindsight - I would have made them wider to allow for more padding.  Next time.  After the pins were in place I carefully stitched along those lines creating the channels.  Now this piece was ready to be stapled to the chair.  There is an opening between the bottom of the back and the back of the seat.  I just stuff the extra fabric into that opening and stapled it to the bottom of the chair to secure it.  Are you with me?


This next step is really not the way to upholster the back, but by the time I realized that I didn't have the tacking strip that I needed, I decided to come up with a plan b.

Now for the back.  I held up the fabric to the back of the chair and cut the amount that it would take to cover it - a big square.  I stapled about five staples on the center top first, then the center bottom, then the center sides.  I find that you get a tighter fit if you work your way from the center points first.  After the center points were secure, I began working my way outward all the way around.  Once finished stapling, I trimmed the excess fabric.  Does this make sense?


Here is the back all stapled and ready for cording.




Technically the back should look like this if you use the tacking strip and single cording, but I was in crisis mode and just trudged forward.




The final step was applying the cording to cover the uglies.  Go here for the cording tutorial.


Here is the final chair.  Do you see the one over to the left?  It's next :)



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44 comments :

  1. I'm so impressed. I tried upholstering a chair once and it was the most heinous experience ever.

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  2. Looks awesome!! You did a great job :)

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  3. It came out gorgeous!! Give yourself a pat on the back for that one!! I haven't upholstered a chair like that yet but you give me inspiration!
    Have a great 4th!
    Jeri

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  4. i am also totally impressed, but not sure i am ready to tackle a project like this one. it's on my bucket list. so i better have a long life ahead of me since i plan to out this one off! ;)
    and love the title!!!

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  5. The upholstery police will be giving you a big "HIGH FIVE".

    You figured out that channel back like a true pro.

    It's stunning.

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  6. Love it!!! And it doesn't look too terribly difficult.....or at least you made it look simple:)

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  7. Oh Rene......it's completely transformed. I can't believe you are not an expert reupholsterer - the end result looks so professional! My mother and I reupholstered a couch once upon a time and it was quite the undertaking. I wish I had known how to make welting back then to hide some less-than-perfect edges! Your chair looks fantastic!!

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  8. It looks fabulous to me. I think you did a wonderful job. Hugs, Marty

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  9. wow I am really impressed!!! looks amazing. You have inspired me to try mine. :)

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  10. You did a great job, Rene!
    Have a happy 4th.
    Teresa
    xoxo

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  11. I keep saying to myself....FREE! Except for the drop cloth. And I am terribly impressed.....gotta find a free chair to practice on.....

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  12. I have serious chair envy. Nice job!
    Love the photo of the finished project with the "ugly cousin' chair nudging it's way in to the pic. i think it has chair envy too!

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  13. I admire you, Rene, for figuring it all out as you went along and not giving up! It turned out beautifully! I made the mistake of tossing my old fabric pieces in the trash and should have kept them to measure my new fabric. Now I know! Wishing you and your family a Happy 4th!

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  14. Awesome job!
    ~Pam
    pamspaintparlor.typepad.com

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  15. Wow Rene, I am impressed. The chair looks great. Thanks for the tutorial - I would love to tackle reupholstering a chair someday.

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  16. You did a great job Rene. fabulous makeover!

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  17. I am so impressed. A daunting project to be sure but it sounds like you have a bit of sewing experience so you are definitely a leg up on me. Still, I am inspired and may give this a whirl one of these days
    Pam

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  18. Beautiful.....What a professional!! :-)

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  19. Hi Rene,

    First, I love the title of this post. Second, you are one brave lady. The results are stunning. I wish I could work up the nerve to do this to my living room chair! I don't sew, do you think that I could hire a professional to do the double welt cording?
    Camille

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  20. You are a braver girl than
    me, my friend! Great job.
    xx Suzanne

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  21. I'm a dive in head first kind of a girl, too. Your chair looks fantastic! Definitely not how you're supposed to do a chair back, but you can't argue with the gorgeous result. Looks amazing! Thanks for sharing.

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  22. KUDOS TO YOU! I think you are so brave... a little crazy ... but so brave! I love how you just jumped right into this project. And the result is very beautiful indeed! Was the dropcloth easy to work with? I have thought about making chairpads for my kitchen chairs, and I was thinking of dropcloths!
    Wonderful job and really great instructions!
    Yvonne

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  23. Wow Rene, I am so impressed. I don't know if I would have had your stick to it attitude! What a great job. Can't wait to see the next project.

    Take care,
    Lori
    www.lorimayinteriors.com/blog

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  24. Thanks everybody! Camille, I'm sure you could find someone to make the cording, but it really was easy to do. Mine isn't perfect and tight like I would like, but for the first attempt, it is ok. Yvonne, yes, drop cloth is very easy to work with. I have heard of breaking needles, etc. but mine didn't. I hope this helps.

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  25. I am so impressed. I have just finished recovering chairs that go with my kitchen table. I'm doing a post on this this week (once they are all back together!). You have made this process look much easier than I had thought. I might have to tackle a nicer chair next!

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  26. What a transformation! I am far too nervous to tackle such a large project.

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  27. Awesome! You are brave! I am at the cover-the-uglies stage of my know-nothing cheap chair redo. I still think I'm going to get time soon to finish this thing!

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  28. I am so impressed and encouraged as I have a similar chair that is begging to be re upholstered. In fact, it's half undressed and I got completely overwhelmed and distracted and seeing what you did gives me hope!

    Lovely!!

    I also love that you used a drop cloth as the fabric - well done.

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  29. I'm impressed - you did a great job, for a first timer. Before long, you'll be hanging the "open" sign on the front door! ;)
    Dropping by from Met Monday. I'll hope you'll come see the nursery I helped create for my first grandchild.

    Allison
    Atticmag

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  30. awesome first attempt and great advice all the way around. I've never tried anything like that but who knows? thanks for sharing :)

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  31. WOW! I never would have guessed you had never done that before! Amazing job - the chair is so pretty! I need to learn how to do this next - I am a bit scared though. A before and after shot side ny side for your chair would ba amazing! Excellent job!

    Stacey of Embracing Change

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  32. Great work! The finished product is lovely!

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  33. I am your fan for life. This was a hard chair to cover and it came out great. I'm not sure I would have the patience! You are quite the trouble-shooter too. I'm going now to check out your post on the double welt cording. I'm a happy new follower. Oh...found your link at Met Monday.

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  34. Upholstery is difficult and often frustrating. I have taken classes and still struggle. You are brave to tackle a chair with a channel back as your first undertaking. You persevered and improvised to get the job done. Good for you!

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  35. Well done! Looks great. It must have been a very hard thing to do but the chair turned out lovely.

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  36. My two living room chairs are completely upholstered, including the arms that are shredded to pieces with cording and stuffing coming out. I cover that fact with throws. Every day I look at them and try to pump myself up for an attempt at recovering. I can't decide, though, if I want to attempt a slipcover that can come off and be washed, or the easier, staple it all on way. Yours turned out great. The drop cloth is a great idea and I've considered using one of those for at least the trial run. No one wants to screw up $40 dollar a yard fabric!!!
    Thanks for sharing the process!

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  37. I have a similar chair. The channels freaked me out which is why I paid someone to do it for me! You did great!

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  38. It looks amazing! I have a similar shaped chair I had finished professionally. I brought the upholster my fabric and he only charged me for the work. It saved me some money, but also he didn't have the fabric I wanted. Seeing your tutorial makes me want to try another chair I have which is so much easier. Thanks so much!

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  39. A channel back chair is the most difficult one I ever worked on. Great job. It looks super cute.

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  40. Looks amazing. The only thing i'm wondering is what material to use to make the chair extra fluffy. I have a simular chair but most of the stuffing is gone.

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  41. Thank you for sharing your project. I have two antique fan-back chairs (see how inexperienced?... just now learning they are "channel-back") that need reupholstering. A professional re-do will run $500 with nice fabric, so I am off to the hardware store for some natural fiber cloth to attempt something close to your inspiration. Thanks from DC.

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