HomeDIY CraftHow to Reupholster a Chair From Start to Finish

How to Reupholster a Chair From Start to Finish

Knowing how to reupholster a chair allows you to start a rewarding DIY project that can breathe new life into worn and old furniture. When you reupholster a chair, you change the fabric covering, which updates the look and feel of the chair and adds a personal touch.

Chair reupholstered before and after

This guide will walk you through every step of the process, from gathering materials to attaching new upholstery. Once you’ve mastered this technique, you can apply it to other chairs to transform old and outdated pieces into unique and stylish additions to your home.

How to reupholster a chair: step by step

There are several steps involved in recreating a wood frame chair with corded ends. It is important to go through each step with care and attention to detail to achieve the best results.

Step 1: Gather the Materials

Before you begin the reupholstery process, gather all your materials so they are within reach as you work.

  • New upholstery fabric
  • Piping/Cording (You can reuse old cording)
  • main gun
  • Upholstery staples
  • Pliers
  • Rubber hose
  • screwdriver
  • drill
  • Fabric scissors
  • Sewing machine (if you make your own piping)
  • Upholstery thread

Step 2: Remove the old upholstery

Remove old upholstery

You will need to strip the old upholstery before replacing it with new fabric. You will need to take the chair apart to be able to remove the old fabric. As you take the chair apart, take pictures of each step so you know how to put the chair back together in the end.

Locate those tacks, staples or nails before removing the old upholstery. Place the pilers carefully under the nails or tacks and remove gently without damaging the fabric. A rubber mallet and a screwdriver may be needed to loosen staples or nails before pulling them out with pliers.

When removing the fabric, take pictures of each step so you can identify where you need to place each piece of new fabric. If you remove permanent hardware, such as screws that go back into the chair frame, store these items in a safe place and label them so you can identify them and put them back in place when you reassemble the chair. Set the fabric aside after removing it from the cording.

Step 3: Cut the new fabric piece

Cut new fabric pieces

You can cut new fabric pieces using old upholstery or just using the cushion as a template. Use the old fabric as a template for cutting new fabric pieces when you can’t use the chair form. Lay out the new fabric and place the pieces of old fabric on top. Cut carefully around the borders of the old pieces.

For detachable cushions, you can place the cushions directly on the new fabric and cut the pieces out of them. For pieces of fabric that you will be attaching with staples, such as seat and back cushion fabric, leave a few inches beyond the edge of the cushion so you can easily wrap the fabric around the cushion.

It is important that, with each method, you pay attention to the direction and pattern of the new fabric. Be sure to align the fabric correctly both vertically and horizontally.

Step 4: Cut and sew the corded end

Cord cutting and sewing

If you’re going to sew the edge of your cord, cut strips of fabric at a 45-degree angle to the grain to make your own bias tape. The strips should be at least 2-3 inches wide and 4 inches longer than the cord. Fold each side of the cord and place it in the center of the strip. Using a zipper foot, secure the cord to the strip using a large bast stitch. Trim excess fabric from raw edges, leaving seam allowance as in previous cording.

Step 5: Restore the back of the backrest

Restore the seat back

Restoring the seat backrest involves several steps. First, you will restore the back of the back rest. Align the rest to the back of the new fabric. Next, staple the center piece of the new fabric parallel to the wooden frame. Work carefully, working along each side, staples attached. Next, pull it taut, but don’t stretch the fabric as you work. Do not connect the corners yet. Start in the middle of the opposite side and work to staple along the edge until you reach the corner. Pull each corner towards the middle and attach with a staple.

Trim any excess fabric from the back of the backrest. Note any screw holes that the fabric covers, and be sure to remove them. This will allow you to reassemble the chair more easily. Place your cording along the back edge of the backrest. Staple it around the back until you meet the other end of the cord. As they meet, overlap them slightly and fold the long side towards the center of the board. Cut the excess cord.

Step 6: Sew the front and sides of the backrest fabric

Sew the front and sides of the backrest fabric

Place the fabric right side out for the front of the backrest. Lay the cording up and along the edges of the fabric, lining up the raw edges together. Start sewing the cording about 1 inch from the end of the cording. Be slow and careful as you sew the cording to the fabric face.

Take the piece of fabric cut for the side of the backrest cushion. Place the front piece with the raw edge of the cord and the raw edge of the side fabric. With right sides together and cording in between, begin sewing the pieces together. As you reach the beginning again, carefully pin. Stop sewing around the perimeter and sew the side edges together. Once that’s done, continue stitching around the perimeter until it’s complete.

Step 7: Cover the front and sides of the backrest

Chair reupholstered before and after

Place the newly sewn backrest fabric in front of the backrest. The fabric should fit snugly. Staple the fabric to the front of the backrest. Attach each opposite side in the middle and staple along each side. Go to the other side leaving the corners unattached. Once you have stapled each side, secure the corners.

Step 8: Cover the seat cushion

Chair reupholstered before and after

Following the same steps as sewing the backrest, sew the seat cushion cover. First, take the fabric for the cushion top and attach a cording strip by lining up the raw edges and sewing. Next, attach a piece of side fabric that matches the width of the cushion. Sew it to the front fabric, lining up the raw edges and cord in between. Then, place the entire top and sides on top of the seat cushion. Staple this cover in place.

Step 9: Attach the cord to the bottom of the seat cushion

Chair reupholstered before and after

At the bottom edge of the seat cushion, you can attach a cord to give the cushion a more finished look. Leaving 1 inch intact, take the cord and begin stapling around the bottom edge. Carefully staple the cord around the edge of the cushion until you reach your starting point. Overlap the ends of the cord, fold and staple towards the middle

Add a vinyl strip to cover the raw end of the cord. This strip keeps the cord ends from fraying and also cleans up the look of the chair bottom.

Step 10: Reassemble and inspect the chair

Reassemble the chair and inspect

Assemble your chair pieces and hardware. Reattach the piece with a screwdriver or drill. Inspect the chairs and upholstery. Remove any hanging pieces of thread or fabric that affect the look of the chair.


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