How to Reupholster A Chair

I wanted to try reupholstering a chair forever but was way too scared to do it. But my schedule cleared up – unemployment – just enough for me to make an attempt. ☺ Here’s how it went:

Step 1: Find a Chair

Doug had this little Ikea chair he didn’t really like and I thought it was a cute shape.

Step 2: Make a Pattern

I made a pattern out of an old white sheet, so I could write all over it and make notes. I pinned the sheets up to the chair and marked along the seams of the chair. I gave myself at least a 1 inch seam allowance to account for mistakes.

Step 3: Test the Pattern

Essentially, I made two chair covers: the practice/pattern and the final version. There’s probably an easier way to do this, but I wasn’t brave enough to start cutting into real fabric before I tested everything out.

Sew all the pieces together except the front piece of the arm. Once sewn, place it inside out on the chair and pin the front arm piece to the practice cover.

Note: When sewing the rounded edge of the front arm piece to the straight edge of the chair arm, sew with the straight edge on top. If you try to cater the straight edge to the rounded edge, it will get all weird and you’ll end up with pleats where you don’t want them. That principle applies to the rounded cushion pieces, too.

Step 4: Alter

Once everything is sewn together (including arm pieces), put your practice cover on the chair inside out. Pin any loose areas to make sure everything fits perfectly. Sew the corrections. Repeat as needed.

Step 5: Finalize Your Pattern

After everything fits just right, I took my pattern apart and recut my pattern with a ½ inch seam allowance from the final stitch lines.

Step 6: Cut Your Upholstery Fabric

Using your perfect pattern, pin and cut the pieces of your upholstery fabric.

Note: I found this really good Fabric place in Orem called Home Fabrics. It’s right next to Michael’s on University Parkway. They have tons of really cute upholstery fabric and none of it costs more than $13/yard.

Step 7: Sew Final Chair Cover

Sew your chair pieces together with a ½ seam allowance. Pin and Sew the front arm pieces to the rest of the chair cover using the same technique as the practice cover to ensure the fabric lays right.

To secure the back of my cushion, I used a long piece of Velcro instead of a zipper. I wasn’t about to try to be precise enough for a zipper. The Velcro was very forgiving, which worked out very well for me. ☺

Step 8: Staple

I used Doug’s staple gun for this part. If you have real upholstery tools and junk, use that, but staples worked well for me. It’s better to have two people for this step so one person can hold the fabric tight while the other staples.

First, I stapled around the inside of the chair where the cushion sits. Then we flipped the chair over to staple the fabric to the bottom of the chair. If your chair legs can be removed, do it. We were able to unscrew the chair’s legs and replace them after we finished stapling.

Step 9: Final Touches

On my chair, the very front of the chair is actually three separate pieces: two arm pieces and a rectangle piece covering the chair just underneath the cushion. The picture below shows the gap left between the two arm pieces.

So I just measured the width of the cushion base and added an inch for a ½ inch seam allowance on each side. Then I hemmed both sides and stapled the piece of fabric to the top and bottom of the chair.


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