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How to Reupholster a Chair Upcycle Chair Projects

Updated on November 19, 2013

How to re-vamp a tired looking Occasional Chair

So you want to reupholster an old occasional chair to fit in with your color scheme of your newly decorated living space? I always wanted to recover chairs and was not sure if it would be easy difficult or not worth the bother. I had always spotted old and worn furniture and though what beautiful features they would make, If only I knew how to upholster a chair.

I was at a local car boot sale and saw 2 small chairs, which would look lovely in my living room, but the color was horrendous.

The little occasional chairs were in desperate need of a makeover. And were crying out for some TLC.

So armed with material I bought to match my color scheme, a staple gun, and some serious looking Fabric scissors.

I decided to make over these chairs.

All photos on this page unless otherwise specified belong to And should not be used without specific written permission from owner

Recover a Chair Before and After - Planning your work

It actually takes a professional re-upholsterer two to three days to strip down and rebuild a fully padded chair. This is why re-covering and re-upholstary is so expensive.

You will need some good space to work in where you can also leave the project for a few days without it getting iin the way of day to day living.

It is easier to work with your chair at a good level from the ground where you can easily move around it. We Used my craft table, but woodworking trestles will be fine too.

Preparing your chair.

We decided to cover completely over the old material, after we gave it a good wash down with fabric cleaner it really was in good condition.

If you are taking all the old fabric off this is indeed a more complex job.

Bias and Grain of Fabric
Bias and Grain of Fabric

The Grain of the material and how to get your tension right

How to find the Grain of fabirc and the tension

GrainThe grain must always be square on the frame or seat. with the warp threads running perpendicular to the floor at the center of the relevant section

Easiest way to find the grain is to pull a thread! (obviously one near the end of your material or a waste piece. .

Tension / Tautness is essential on each section. Keeping the same tension around will also help shape your chair too.

Each piece of added material must be pulled as smooth as possible.(without OVER pulling)

An easy test to whether you have pulled it tight enough is to run the palm of your hand over the surface - there should be no wrinkles.

Top Tip: Always pull the fabric with the grain, if you pull on the bias it will stretch the fabric.

Cutting the material:

Always cut too big, (then we can trim to shape, you will be surprised at how much extra give you need for movement when stapling the fabric into position.

To fit the fabric around upright sections, and get neat folds:

Fold the material and all the "extra" material neatly fold and tuck, under the main fold. This creates a beautiful finish.

Materials needed for a simple Chair upholstery Project

The choice of fabric these days is amazing, by clicking on the featured fabric you will be taken to amazon where I find the BEST prices for fabric to use online,

Always use sharp scissors, the fabric will be delicate, so you want nice sharp edges and no catches or pulls as you cut into the fabric.

I use pins to secure the fabric with large colored pin heads, this ensures I can see and remove them once I am finished. Every home should have a staple gun, I love it, from furniture to tidying wires, as always Adults should keep these out of childs reach.

Singer 8-1/2-Inch Fabric Scissors with Comfort Grip
Singer 8-1/2-Inch Fabric Scissors with Comfort Grip

Working with any fabric or material you must have good fabric scissors

Stanley TR45K Light Duty Staple Gun Kit
Stanley TR45K Light Duty Staple Gun Kit

Heavy Duty Staple Gun a must for every household

Wrights 881428 Flower Head Multicolor Pins, 75-Pack
Wrights 881428 Flower Head Multicolor Pins, 75-Pack

These are needed for pinning your material in place, and the large pin heads make excellent markers so as not to lose them


Order of Work for Re-upholstering a traditional Chair - Start with the Back of The Chair

Generally the best way to start is to complete the seat first. Then the back followed by the wings if any.

Our chair had a round underneath so this was fantastic as all the ends could be hidden and tucked in .

Although covering a chair like this may seem complicated its actually more time consuming than difficult.

The most likely mistakes in re-upholstering are:

Incorrect alignment of the grain

Incomplete pulling of the sections over the stuffed areas to make the cover smooth and taut.

and inaccurate cutting around upright parts (like our chairs Back - make sure you have plenty of spare material around these areas)

You May Need Some Help - Sometimes you need an extra pair of hands too

how to recover a chair
how to recover a chair

I will admit there are little fiddly bits to really keep you on your toes, so having an extra pair of hands around is useful.

Finishing off Your Chair Underneath - just as important a the bits you can see

Of course not many will see the underneath but finishing this part correctly IS important.

Lots of staples are required around the bottom of your work to make sure that the material is flush to the chair. So It will not wrinkle or move.

Evenly space the staples, this also eliminates the risk of the material tearing.

And creates a good even tension Around.

Creating Neat Finishes To Your Chair - Finishing the Back of your Chair.

how to recover a chair
how to recover a chair

The last part of the project is fiddly, and is tucking in and making sure all your creases and tension is correct. Before you commit to the final fixing.

I used large headed colour pins (so I could easily find them too) to secure all the excess material.

I also found I could cut away some of the excess material inside some of the folds, this just made the cover neater and smoother)

Ta-Dah The Finished Covered Chair

recover a chair
recover a chair

We are very happy at how this chair turned out.

Design your own fabric

I had to share this site with you. Over at you can upload your image and get it printed onto your choice of fabric

Beautiful Fabric and Material for all your Re Upholstary Projects - I love the beautiful high quaity selection availabe online

You can search for any colour and type of fabric right here. And get started on your own Chair Make over Projects.

We love hearing what our readers have to say, Do let us know you dropped by

Have you ever wanted to Reupholster an old chair? Or are you Motivated to try it now? - Have you successfully recovered many chairs? And can give some more tips

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    • Linda BookLady profile image

      Linda Jo Martin 3 years ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA

      I really love the fabric - it looks very elegant.

    • LisaAuch1 profile image

      Lisa Auch 3 years ago from Scotland

      I do love how my chairs turned out Linda

    • Linda BookLady profile image

      Linda Jo Martin 3 years ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA

      Beautiful chair covering job! You make it look easy.

    • katiecolette profile image

      katiecolette 4 years ago

      Nicely done, Lisa! I have a couple chairs that could use a makeover. I will think about it :)

    • profile image

      sherioz 4 years ago

      That was quite the project. It's a little more than I usually take on. I'm impressed.

    • lesliesinclair profile image

      lesliesinclair 4 years ago

      You sure know your pretty-chair-upholstering techniques. Looks marvelous. I once did a hide-a-bed and some chair seats - that's it.

    • msmith1386 profile image

      msmith1386 4 years ago

      Thank you for the great detail in your pictures! This kind of thing seems to give new life to old furniture which is great for someone like me on a shoestring budget!

    • tophatpro profile image

      tophatpro 4 years ago

      I bought a set of dinning chairs that have marks on them with the intention of cleaning them up. Unfortunately, they are a suede like material and are too damaged to clean. I am in the process of trying to cover them and this has really helped me to just that. Thank you.

    • GregoryMoore profile image

      Gregory Moore 4 years ago from Louisville, KY

      I've never done a chair, but have redone couch cushions. It is a great way to breathe new life back into your old furniture!

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 4 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      This is great information. Thanks so much. We have a wrought iron table with 4 chairs that have been covered numerous times. Most of time it was just kind of make shift so it is nice to know exactly how it is supposed to be done.

    • profile image

      greytdogz 4 years ago

      I always thought it would be too difficult but you make it seem easy.

    • RaintreeAnnie profile image

      RaintreeAnnie 4 years ago from UK

      It really does make such a difference recovering a chair doesn't it! I think its a really useful skill to have. Pinned to my Home Decor board.

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 4 years ago

      I am fascinated by upholstering too, so I had to see what you did. Great job - pinned onto my home beautification board.