I had been wanting to teach myself to reupholster a chair for a while when I found this chair at Habitat for Humanity’s Lawrenceville, GA Re-Store.
I liked the shape of the chair, which kind of reminded me of Chair-y from PeeWee’s Playhouse.
After spending several months in my basement, being abused by our cat, I decided to finally work on this chair. I re-upholstered it in sturdy indoor-outdoor fabric so we could use it as a sturdy yet comfortable chair in our beach house.
Materials and Tools
- Heavy duty staple remover and tack puller tool
- 9 yards of the base striped fabric
- 1.5 yards each a coordinating solid color fabric use for piping
- 1 yard of a coordinating solid color fabric to use for the hidden area under the seat cushion
- A few yards of cardboard Upholstery Tack Strip
- 4 24-inch Metal Upholstery Tack Strips (Available in several lengths. Length needed may vary by type of chair)
- Upholsterer’s tools, including a tack hammer and pliers
- A good staple gun; (I began the process using a manual staple gun, but quickly bought an electric version when I realized how hard it was to staple into the wooden posts and rails).
- Curved upholstery needle and heavy thread to sew in the seat cover
- 36” non-separating metal upholstery zipper
- Seam Ripper or surgical scalpel to use as a seam ripper
- Cord for piping
The first half of the process was to remove all of the old outer upholstery fabric and hardware from the chair.
Two things that I did during disassembly made reassembly much easier:
- As I removed the old materials, I tried to keep the fabric whole, with as few tears as possible, so I could use the old material as a pattern to cut the new fabric.
- I documented the details of the construction while I removed the old materials. I took tons of notes as I worked, and snapped photos as I worked, especially for areas that looked like they would require more complex work for the reupholstering. I noted the way each section of fabric overlapped the next, and used this information to document the order that the original upholstery pieces were applied in.
- I started by turning the chair upside-down and removing the old cardboard tack strips. Ideally, I would have removed the black fabric covering the bottom of the chair, but I wasn’t able to remove the biscuit feet, so I just removed the staples holding the fabric to the chair, and peeled back the fabric as far as possible to uncover the bottom edges of the paisley fabric.
- I removed all of the staples from the piping around the bottom edge, and then removed the staples holding the bottom edges of the paisley fabric the chair frame.
- Once all of the fabric edges were unattached from the bottom frame, I turned the chair and worked on removing the back panel. I began with the side edges of the back panel, where the fabric was turned over metal tack strips. To pull these strips from the frame, I used my tack puller tool to pry the strips off of the wood.
- I then pulled off the top edge of the back panel, where the fabric was wrapped around a cardboard tack strip which was stapled into the frame.
- Once the entire back panel was free, I carefully removed the side metal tack strips, all of the staples, and the top cardboard tack strip, and saved the fabric piece to use as a pattern for the new fabric.
- Next, I carefully removed the padding from the back panel and preserved (and labeled) it to use when I rebuilt the chair. I then removed all remaining cardboard strips and staples left after the padding removal.
- Then I carefully removed the webbing that was under the back panel, being careful not to tear the webbing fabric, along with the piping that was around the edges of the back panel. I preserved (and labeled) the webbing to reuse.
- Once all of the materials were removed from the back panel, I moved to the side panels (on the outside of the arms.) I removed each side panel the same way I removed the back panel – by first pulling the two vertical tack strips off the wooden frame with my Tack Puller, then pulling the top edge off by removing the staples and fabric wrapped around the top cardboard strip. I then carefully unwrapped the fabric from the tack strips and set aside (and labeled) each side panel fabric piece to use as a pattern for the new fabric.
- Next I removed the padding and webbing that were under the side fabric panels and preserved (and labeled) both to use in the rebuilt chair.
- This is how the chair looked with the side panel materials fully removed.
- Next, I removed the lower front apron that wrapped around a few inches on both sides and the piping that lined it.
- Then, I removed the fabric from the arms. This fabric was stapled at the bottom of the side panel area, so I removed those staples until I was able to pull the fabric free. As I was reaching down inside the chair side to remove this fabric, I found coins and other interesting things that the original owner lost there along the way. I then removed the padding panels from the arms and preserved and labelled them for reuse.
- Next, I removed the fabric covering the chair back. Including the staples that secured it to the lower frame, and the chair back padding, which I preserved and labelled for the re-build.
- The last piece of fabric to remove was the inner seat covering and upper front apron, padding, leaving the webbing underneath intact. These fabric pieces were sewn together, so after I removed them I used a seam ripper to remove the seams and marked them to show how to assemble the replacement fabric pieces.
- I then used a seam ripper to disassemble the separate seat cushion, including removing the back zipper. I preserved the fabric pieces to use as patterns for the new fabric, and the padding and foam core to reuse in the rebuild. I discarded the zipper since it was aged and would be replaced with a new zipper.
The first rebuild step was to make new piping for the chair, using the 1.5 yards of solid color fabric. I measured the combined length of all of the piping I removed from the chair, then used this measurement, plus a couple of yards, to determine how much piping I would need for the rebuild.
Using the measure from above, I started with cutting bias strips from the solid color fabric to cover the piping. Using this tutorial, I cut 1 ¾” wide bias strips from the entire piece of fabric, prepared according to the tutorial.
I wrapped the bias strip around the cording, matching raw edges, and used a zipper foot to baste a seam as close as possible to the cording.
Then, using the original fabric pieces removed from the chair as patterns, I cut new pieces from the new fabric, being careful to match any stripes, patterns, etc. Using notes and photos from the disassembly process, I reassembled the chair with the new pieces in reverse order from the disassembly process. I used a good staple gun to secure the new fabric to the wood and replaced the old tack strips with new ones.