Friday, October 5, 2012

Upholstery for beginners and bodgers

When I was very little my Mum did an upholstery course. The chair she reupholstered is still going strong at their house, I think she may have had it redone recently as it's not 70's brown velvet anymore but it certainly lasted a good 20 years. Ergo I have always fancied having a go.  
Whilst back in Winchester I enrolled for a course run at a local school.  I managed 3 weeks.  Let's just say it wasn't quite what I was expecting (boring, lots of standing about waiting for help).  Never the less my upholstery spirit has never been dampened!

The chair from the upholstery course came with us to the USA & I knew I wanted to cover it.  I decided to use the Amy Butler fabric used for the blinds in our old bedroom (see here) so I painstakingly unpicked them; feeling extremely virtuous with myself for being so thrifty.
Finished chair

 Doesn't it look great?! I am so pleased with the result, and it really was not too difficult. 
As you can see from the before picture the chair has great shape, just not so great green vinyl covering it.  
The first job was to fill the joins in the arm rests. I used caulk which I'm sure is not the best thing to use, but it did the job.  I then stained the arm rests and legs a slightly darker and more uniform colour.  My choice of stain was dictated by the size of pot, I believe the colour was ebony. 
I took the back off as this was attached using rounded headed upholstery pins  which I saved. I then used the original back as a guide to cut out a new piece.

Next the removal of the side covering, again I kept this as a template to cut out my fabric. It was also useful as a guide on how to affix the new piece.

I made the covered cord from a length of cord I already had. Just put on the zipper foot et voila!

I had made the decision to leave the original seat & back. Removing them would take it from a Saturday morning job to a weekend job, I'm no purist, who cares its not fully upholstered?!  The seat and back where two separate pieces of fabric which I attached using the staple gun.  You need to keep smoothing a gently pulling it to ensure the fabric is taut and flat.  I folded the corners, see pictures below, and tucked it into the back seam, securing with staples either side.

Attaching the side band of fabric required a little brain power to suss out the best method.   Having cut out the correct sized piece of fabric (measure from the one you removed) iron a small hem along one long edge. This edge will then butt up against the piping.  Then hold the piping in place (you may want staple it) then staple the band of fabric under the folded hem.  This is easiest if you flip the fabric over onto the chair (see below).  

Fold over the fabric, smooth down and staple underneath the chair.  Work round the chair from back to back.

Lastly I ironed a 1/2" hem around the back piece of fabric and stapled it to the  chair. You need to evenly space the staples and try to use as many staples as you have upholstery pins to cover them.  My bad; I was a bit trigger happy with the staple gun and didn't space them evenly, hence no back shot of the chair! It is against the wall so it doesn't really matter.

A couple of hours later, one upholstered chair. I learnt a life lesson here; I like to work things out for myself, why waste my money & time on courses?! 

What have you 'taught yourself' to do? Satisfying isn't it?


  1. That looks beautiful! Great job! I want to learn to upholster furniture, but it's so overwhelming, lol. I need to ease into it.

    1. Sorry for slow response Dani. I say go for it! Get a cheap chair & fabric and you have nothing to loose........! Good luck.