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How To Mock-ReUpholster A Wing-back Chair

Updated on October 12, 2011

Is It Worth It?

We all have at least one piece of furniture lying around the house that we just don't like for one reason for another. It could be that the style is out-dated, maybe it's too large for your space, or perhaps it is in general dis-repair. If you're lucky, perhaps you've got a piece of furniture that just needs a face-lift.

If you have a piece of furniture that happens to be in pretty good condition, but just happens to be ugly: you're in luck. There is a way to update your furniture and really change the entire aesthetic of your home without breaking the bank. It's a technique called Mock ReUpholster, and pretty much anybody can do it. All you need are a few tools, and some patience and you can breathe new life into an eyesore-old piece of furniture!

Choosing The Chair

full shot of the chair before I reupholstered it
full shot of the chair before I reupholstered it
damaged arm rest (right)
damaged arm rest (right)
damaged arm rest (left)
damaged arm rest (left)

Damage Control and Necessary Materials

Depending on the type of damage your existing piece of furniture has, you can easily determine whether or not your piece is a good candidate for a mock reupholster (or if it is best left for the side of the road). My particular chair was a good choice. Over-all, the largest problems this chair had was some damage on the arm rests. The under-side of the chair was still in good condition. So, armed with some patience I decided to undertake the task of giving this chair a make-over.

A wing-back chair is a staple design which never goes out of style. Other, more difficult styles of furniture will require much more time and energy.

To begin, you will need a few tools:

  • a sewing machine
  • an electric staple gun
  • staples (for the staple gun)
  • pinking shears
  • fabric scissors
  • needle and thread
  • pencil and piece of paper
  • a colored piece of chalk (for fabric)
  • a tape measure (for fabric)
  • a neutral-colored burlap (or other extremely-densely fibered fabric) to provide a barrier
  • a nice, sturdy fabric (preferably cotton) for final re-upholstering
  • a color-coordinated chord (to make the trim)


After you've assembled all your required materials, you can begin doing the preliminary work on the chair. I began by taking a needle and thread sewing the damaged arm rests back into partial re-repair. By taking the needle and thread, and sewing it in a criss-cross fashion back and forth, and pulling the stuffing back into place, you can ensure that once you start piecing together the burlap over-top the damage, that the burlap will be able to do it's job properly -- that job being to protect your stuffing and upholstering fabrics from taking on any further damage. It is essential that you hand-sew and damage done to the chair back AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE before you apply the burlap.

another look at damage
another look at damage
making a 'pattern' with the burlap
making a 'pattern' with the burlap
making a 'pattern' with the burlap (cont.)
making a 'pattern' with the burlap (cont.)

Making the Foundation

As you start to make a 'pattern' of the chair out of burlap, your electric staple gun comes in handy. Being VERY VERY VERY CAREFUL make a seam around each section, by folding the burlap underneath itself and stapling it into the wooden frame of the chair is several locations on the border making sure it is VERY TAUGHT. BE SURE NOT TO STAPLE YOUR FINGERS AND WEAR SAFETY GLASSES!!!!!!!!! I repeat: USE EXTREME CAUTION!!

Continue building a foundation over the old fabric in sections until you have completely re-covered the chair in burlap.

It Should Look Something Like This When You're Done

the chair, completely re-covered in burlap
the chair, completely re-covered in burlap

Measuring Your Chair and Making A Pattern

Now that your chair is completely re-covered in burlap, you're ready to start making a pattern. Using your tape measure, measure every dimension of your chair and record your measurements. These will prove to be VITAL later on. Once you've measured your chair, you're ready to start cutting some fabric.

Now, if you don't have any sewing experience, this part can be pretty tricky. The key to using fabric (especially if it's a patterned fabric, like the one I chose) is to make sure that your design is all facing the same direction. It can look pretty hodge-podge to have a pattern on a chair that's facing all different directions, so PLAN AHEAD. Measure out the fabric portions for the LARGEST PARTS of the chair first; for example, the back of the chair. When you start cutting, (unless you've bought extra fabric) make sure you cut it in the most economical fashion, and by that I mean, start at the bottom right or left corner on the utmost edge of the fabric, so that you have plenty of fabric later on to use on the rest of your chair.

REMEMBER: do the big parts first and save the smaller ones for last.

my measurements and pattern page
my measurements and pattern page
laying out the fabric, and cutting the pattern
laying out the fabric, and cutting the pattern

Cutting The Pattern

When cutting your patter, use your pinking shears. Pinking shears are a special type of fabric scissor which cuts the line of the fabric is a "zig-zag" type edge and helps prevent the fabric from unraveling. Also, when cutting, add about a half-inch to 3/4-inch extension on all perimeters to allow for folding over in the application process (much in the same way as you did with the burlap) to provide a pretty seam on the edges. Once your fabric is cut, you're ready to start applying the fabric.

applying your pre-measured and pre-cut fabric in sections
applying your pre-measured and pre-cut fabric in sections
covering the back
covering the back
the finished chair, except for the seat cushion
the finished chair, except for the seat cushion

Making the Seat Cushion

The good part about making the seat cushion re-cover is that, in most cases, the seat cushion has a zipper on the back which makes it removable and also provides a ready-made pattern for you to sew.

The bad part about making the seat cushion is that if you haven't ever sewn before, this is the biggest challenge in the whole project. When sewing your seat cushion, you have to sew the fabric inside out in order to make a pretty seam, plus, the angles can be tricky to deal with.

Get your fabric, cut your pattern, measure carefully and sew carefully, and before you know it, you'll have your cushion in-tact. The toughest part is checking and re-checking your work as you go. Do this, and you'll avoid wasting fabric by sewing certain piece together which don't belong together.

***If you've never sewn before, it might serve you well to grab a friend or relative who has and ask them to help do this last step for you. Sewing machines can be a little scary to new-comers. Don't worry -- look at all the other work you've done already!

TA-DA! The Completed Chair... Minus the Chording.

completed mock-reupholster with newly sewn seat cushion
completed mock-reupholster with newly sewn seat cushion


After all the work you've already done, and with your chair looking brand-new already, you might be taken to the idea of saying "UHH, I am DONE!" But don't stop yet! The real show stopper of the chair is the chording. Using a needle and thread (sturdy, sturdy color-coordinated thread, that is) begin hand-sewing the chording over the seams of the fabric. You'll know where they go. You will likely still be able to see the old ones on the chair.

Once you do that, you're done! Enjoy your new chair!

Sewn-On Chording

I don't know who enjoys the new chair more: me or my cat. :)
I don't know who enjoys the new chair more: me or my cat. :)


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    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 3 years ago from East Coast, United States

      What an awesome change! The chair looks so pretty. But you didn't tell us how to attach the fabric onto the burlap. Do you sew it on! I've got some chairs that are on their way to looking seedy and will need to do this in the near future.

    • Burlap Fabric profile image

      Burlap Fabric 5 years ago from Chicago

      I agree with bizzymom the chair looks amazing

    • bizzymom profile image

      bizzymom 5 years ago from New York

      The chair looks fantastic. I just bought a new sofa and the two chairs I have don't really match so I wanted to look into reupholstering them with a corresponding fabric. Your hub has inspired me to give it a try. Thanks!

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 6 years ago from America

      What a great job. I love your hub and you did such a good job on the chair. I gave you an up vote ...

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image

      Jill Spencer 6 years ago from United States

      I have two tatty wing-backs in the garage. Thanks for the tips!