Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Upholstered Chair Tutorial

Here is the promised step by step for the upholstered chair!
I hope it is easy to follow and inspires you to try it.

My first piece of advice is to start out with something small.  A chair or a bench that is inexpensive and simple would work well for this.  Also, visit your library or book store and pick up an upholstery book which will typically cover various styles of furniture and may provide specific help for your project.

Getting started....
1. Take apart upholstery.
Remove the cushions, then the trim (cording, nailhead or fringe), and then the chair backing. There will be a few layers of fabric, backing and batting. Hold on to them as the fabric will be needed to make a pattern template and you may reuse the batting or foam to save money. If you are using a new piece of foam, lay the old one on it, trace it with a marker and cut it out with a serrated knife.

Creating a new foam seat cushion
-Try to remove fabric without ripping it so you can use it for a pattern.
-Take pictures as you disassemble the chair to help you put it back together.
-Label EVERYTHING.  This is a very important step.  I wrote directly on the old fabric so that I would remember where it went and how it was attached to the chair.

2. Remove staples and tacks.
 I found needle nose pliers, a flat head screw driver and a small hammer useful for this.  Of course, trade upholsterers use specially designed tools with great success and efficiency. I chose to be resourceful and used what I could find around the house.

Webbing after tightening it.
-If there is webbing and it's in good shape, leave it on. If it's loose remove it and replace it after you have repaired everything else.
-There is a tool for tightening the webbing if you choose to replace it. You may want to read up on it before you do it.  The upper portion of mine was fine so I left it and taped it off while painting the chair. The bottom portion I removed and replaced after I painted the chair. I replaced it without the tool by tacking it with a hammer and upholstery nails.

3. Choosing Fabric. 
Here is the fun part! I am like a kid in a candy shop when I'm in a good fabric store.  I settled on two prints in Joel Dewberry's Ginseng Collection by factoring in the following criteria:

Joel Dewberry Ginseng Fabrics

a) Scale:  You can break the rules and have fun with large scale patterns for a bold look, but for smaller pieces of furniture (like mine) you'll want to make sure the print fits across the area that's being upholstered.
-I found using a scattered print made my work easier since I didn't have to line up the pattern on the cushions.

b) Weight: For pieces that may need to be wiped down often (dining chairs), consider outdoor fabrics since they are easy to clean and will last longer. Frequently used furniture will need an upholstery weight fabric to stand up to the use it will get. Small, occasional chairs, or furniture used in formal rooms can handle a lighter, finer fabric. Often (ask at your fabric store) you can pre-treat your fabric to increase its resistance to stains and wear.

c) Style:  Consider the look you're going for, where the furniture will be used and what you are upholstering.  Fabric is the perfect way to add color, texture and pattern to a room.
 -Try contrasting your fabric with your furniture; a simple chair can handle a busier print; a modern, graphic fabric on a traditional couch is unexpected and fresh; a solid fabric with a nice texture may be perfect against detailed woodwork.

d)Budget:  The size of your furniture and the amount you're willing to spend will help with choosing a fabric.  I'm always going through remnant sections at fabric stores as they are often the right amount for smaller pieces of furniture (and 60-70% off makes me smile).
-If you're only doing something small this is a good way to "splurge" without spending a lot.  My chair took about 2 -1/2 yards of fabric and I still have a good amount left over.
-Often "decorator or upholstery" fabric is wider than normal and so you will have more to work with. 
-Look for coupons: I used 40% and 50% off  coupons at Hancocks and Joann Fabrics for many of my supplies.  Check online and in flyers for discounts and sales, or sign up for store mailing lists and they'll send coupons to you.

e)Taste:  Make sure you LOVE it-Choose something that reflects your personality, style and decor!

4. Fabric Prep:
Wash (depending on your fabric), dry and iron your fabric before starting

5. Create a pattern. 
I used newspaper for this.  Lay your cushions on the paper, adding 1/2 inch on all sides for seam allowance, trace and cut out.  Lay your patterns on the fabric, pin in place, then cut out (use pinking shears to reduce fraying).

Creating a cushion pattern.

Fabric cut from cushion pattern
-Make sure the pattern is laid so that the fabric print will be facing the right direction when you are finished sewing everything together. For example, I wanted the flowers on my fabric to move up on the chair, so I had to cut accordingly.
-Use the salvage edge as a guide for positioning your pattern on the fabric.
Cut the number of pieces needed.  For the cushions I cut 2 (top and bottom).

6.Cut and make cording. 
For a great tutorial on how to do this without using as much fabric, visit this site.  I followed it (easy!) and it saved a lot of time and fabric.

Sewing yards and yards of cording!
*Notice pins heads are towards me while sewing so I can pull them out.

7. Sewing cushions with cording. 
Once everything is cut, label and organize your pieces of fabric to make the rest easier.  Lay one piece (top)of the cushion fabric right (or "pretty) side up.  Place the cording on top, around the edges with the raw (cut) edge facing the raw edge of the cushion fabric. 

Cording pinned and ready for sewing. Raw edge facing raw edge. Corners clipped to lay flat.

Pin in place with the pins parallel to the cording (so you can sew close to the cording). 
-As noted in the photo, make sure the pin heads are going to be facing you while you sew. It makes it easier to pull them out as you go (believe me!!).
-Pin cording so the ends meet at the back of the cushion where it's less visible.
-Where the cording ends meet, tuck one inside the other while sewing it to your cushion fabric.
-Around the corners you can clip the fabric to make it easier to work with and so your corners will lay flat.
Attach your cording or zipper foot and sew the cording to the fabric making your stitches as close to the cording as possible.
Repeat this step for the other piece (bottom) of cushion fabric. 
Pin the side panel of cushion fabric to the first piece (top) of cushion fabric, wrong sides together. Sew to attach it(again, as close to the cording as you can).

Sewing cushion pieces together, wrong sides together.

Pin your bottom piece to to other edge of your side piece (already sewn to the top piece), wrong sides together and pin in place.  Sew together leaving the back edge open so you can insert your cushion.  Turn right side out and insert pillow. 
-I used a thicker cushion then the original one and covered it with batting. Spray adhesive works well to make the batting stick to the cushion. This gave the seat a nicer form and helped fill out the seat.
Use an invisible seam to close the back edge.
Repeat this for the other cushion if there is one.
For covered buttons I purchased them from the fabric store.  They come as a kit with instructions for covering them.  Sew them on to your pillow by measuring and marking where to place them.  Use a large needle and strong thread (usually nylon or fishing wire).  You can watch a YouTube video for a demonstration on this.  I did and found it helpful.

8. Chair Backing. 
For the fabric that is directly attached to your chair you will need to use the pieces you removed when taking the upholstery apart as a pattern for cutting new pieces. Pin them to your fabric and cut them out.
Use a piece of tacking strip (it's a narrow piece of cardboard material, sold in a roll at fabric stores) along any edges that won't have trim glued on.  It gives a nice, clean and straight finished edge.  I only had to use it along the bottom edges of my chair.

Tacking strip cut to length of fabric backing.

For the tacking strip, cut a piece the length of the fabric and then lay it on top of the wrong side of the fabric near the edge. Fold the fabric over and press.

Tacking strip with fabric folded over and pressed.
Attach it to the chair with staples, set the batting in place and pull the fabric over it.  Staple the along the sides and top. 
Stapling tacking strip and fabric to the chair.

Tacking strip and fabric stapled(along the bottom edge), batting positioned and fabric ready to be folded up and stapled into place.

Folding fabric up over batting. 

Stapled sides and top edge.

Cording in contrasting fabric being glued around edges.
Finished Product!

I hope you found this helpful.  If you need me to clarify any steps or would like more details, email me and I'd be happy to help! Happy sewing!
22 comments on "Upholstered Chair Tutorial"
  1. Awsome post. How much time did you put into it?

  2. Thanks Shelley,
    I spent most of one day cutting and sewing. A good couple of hours putting it back together. Of course it took time to find/purchase supplies and I had the hubby paint it. Hopefully the next project won't take as long since I was able to learn alot working on it.

  3. This is a great tutorial! I may need to use it as I picked up a cute but needs help chair at a garage sale. Thanks for documenting it for us all to use!

  4. beautiful work! great fabric choice! :)

  5. Great post! I'll be needing this for 6 dining room chairs I bought cheap! Thanks!

  6. that chair is amazing! i'm not sure what's greater: your craftiness or your color/design choice. just beautiful!

  7. Saw your chair on Little Green Notebook - it is amazing. Great job and thanks for the instructions.

  8. I saw your chair on Little Green Notebook; it's so pretty! Love projects like this.

  9. Great tutorial! Your chair turned out fantastic. I love redoing, reupholstering, etc. Such great satisfaction, isn't it?

  10. Fantastic!! I'm about to tackle a similar project so THANKS for an amazing tutorial!

  11. This makes me want to recover our chair right now! I recovered it years ago not so good with not so good fabric and it's really showing it's age. Love your choices! The chair is beautiful!

  12. This looks amazing - great fabrics! I need some serious inspiration. I have an 8 room Barbie house from the early 80's that needs to be overhauled in the next 4 days!

  13. This chair is adorable and chic. I love the fabrics.

  14. Great tutorial! Thank you so much for posting it! I've been looking for something like this!!

  15. Thanks for all the kind comments-For any of my readers using this tutorial for their own projects, feel free to email me if you need any clarification of the instructions, I'd love to be a help!

  16. I have wanted to have a chair and a couch upholstered for several years. I'm glad I took the time to read this tutorial. Now that I have an idea of how to do the upholstering, I'm very excited to get busy and try it out. Thanks so much for the post. I will be referring to it often, when I get started. Of course, I'll start with the chair. Again, thanks so much for the tutorial.

  17. If you have an old electric knife, that's much better for cutting foam(just don't use it for food every again!) I cut foam for my handbell tables that way.

  18. that was well done dont know if i can do that might try.

  19. The only question I have is, isn't there another way to attach the cording at the end, other than gluing it? Seems like that would create a problem if you decide to re-cover it sometime in the future again.

    1. Not sure. Although most pieces I've pulled apart were originally glued, so it seems to be the standard. You can still remove the cording even if it's glued if you want to replace it later. Hope that helps.

    2. A nice blog always comes with new and good information and while reading I have feel that this blog is really have all those quality

  20. I enjoyed reading your work. I'll come back for more

    Keep up the good work :) from, Home Buys Plus


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