Furnishings with good bones but bad covers can be easily updated with new fabric. This chair reupholstery project shows you basic techniques to give your furniture a fresh look.

By Jessica Bennett
Updated March 03, 2020
Read step by step instructions after the video.

Ripped, stained, or dated fabric can turn a favorite chair into a total eyesore. Luckily, as long as the bones of the furniture are in good shape, a bit of fabric and some staples can give an outdated or otherwise unsavory chair a whole new look. Whether you're updating an old favorite or refreshing a flea market find, reupholstering a chair is a DIY project that can make a big impact. Follow our step-by-step guide on how to reupholster a chair below.

Before you begin, there's one important thing to note: Because you are using the old upholstery chair seat as a guide for the new pattern pieces, you may want to complete Step 1 and remove all the old fabric before you shop for supplies. Measuring all the pieces and cord lengths will help you determine how much fabric you need. When in doubt, err on the side of too much.

  • Start to finish 1 day
  • Difficulty Kind of easy
  • Involves Upholstery, Sewing, Stapling, Cutting
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What you need

Tools
Materials
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How to do it

Step 1

Remove Old Fabric

Photograph the chair before you strip the original covering. Take overall and detail photos for reference when reupholstering the chair.

Disassemble the chair as needed and remove the upholstery pieces, taking care not to tear any of the old pieces of fabric (you will need them as patterns). Begin by removing the black cloth from the underside of the chair, and then loosen the pieces attached to the frame. Remove the pieces and mark each with its location on the chair with a marking pen. For example, label the pieces as outside back, right side back, left side back, inside back, seat, and seat sides. Mark "T" for top or "F" for front to indicate the direction of the piece on the chair. Note on each piece the location of welting and where pieces are sewn together. Save pieces of welting and tack strips to use as a measure for new pieces.

Editor's Tip

Editor's Tip

If staples or tacks are firmly attached, loosen them by placing the flat edge of a scraper or flat-head screwdriver under the fastener and tapping the handle gently with a hammer. Use scissors to separate fabric pieces at any seams.

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Step 2

Replace Batting

If worn or stained, remove old batting from chair back and seat. Check springs and webbing for damage and repair if necessary. Sand, prime, and paint the frame or legs if desired; let dry.

Cut a piece of 1/2-inch-thick batting to cover the chair back and seat, if needed. Cover the chair back first, stapling it down. To prevent visible indents from the staples, pull gently on the batting around each staple so the staple is inside the batting. Next, cover the seat with batting in the same way, folding neatly around the corners.

Step 3

Make New Pattern

Lay the original upholstery pieces wrong side up on the wrong side of the new fabric, watching for the grain, placement of the pattern or motifs, and direction of the pattern. Pin in place and cut around the pattern, leaving 2 to 3 inches of fabric beyond the stapled edges of the original pieces. This will give you fabric to grasp when stapling. (The original pieces were trimmed after they were stapled.) Repeat this process to cut out each fabric section. Transfer the markings for direction, welting, and seams onto the new pieces with chalk.

If preferred, combine the pieces into covers for the seat and back that can be applied all at once. Place the fabric sections together inside out and sew together, adjusting for curves as needed.

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Step 4

Attach Base Fabric

Place the new inside back, right-side back, and left-side back pieces on the chair in the appropriate locations, using the "T" markings and your photos as guides. Pin the pieces together, making any necessary adjustments to the fit; you may need to trim excess fabric to make it fit snugly. When you're pleased with the fit, pull fabric taut and staple in place on the apron of the chair seat. Use as many staples as necessary to secure the fabric and keep it smooth. Be sure you place staples on the chair back where they will be covered by the back panel. Trim excess fabric.

If using a cover, apply the new cover to the seat base and adjust as needed. Pull the fabric taut and staple to the frame where the old cover was previously attached, starting at the front edge and working toward the back. Tuck excess fabric under at the corners.

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Step 5

Make Welting

Using the old pieces as your guide, determine the length of the welting needed to go around seat apron at the top and bottom. Cut enough 2-inch-wide bias strips to equal that length, allowing a few extra inches. Join the strips with diagonal seams and trim the seam allowance to 1/2 inch. Fold the bias strip around the cord and use a zipper foot to sew in place. The welting will go around the bottom of the seat apron.

Step 6

Sew Welting

Pin the side panel to the seat fabric, making any necessary adjustments to the fit or pattern placement. Mark the position for the bottom welting. Remove the side fabric from the chair and sew the welting to the right side of the panel, at top and where marked near bottom, starting and ending at the back. For a finished edge, fold the end of the piping under before attaching.

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Jay Wilde
Jay Wilde
Step 7

Attach Sides

Holding the right side of panel up against the seat, staple the top welting in place around the seat. Add a tack strip around the panel top against the welting and staple in place. Fold the side panel down over the tack strip, pull tight, and staple in place to the underside of the chair with the bottom welting fitting snugly along the edge. Snip notches in the fabric underneath the seat as you smooth around corners. Tuck any excess fabric underneath using a flathead screwdriver.

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Step 8

Attach Back

Place back panel in position and fold the right side over the top of the chair back. Apply a tack strip to the top of the back rear and staple in place. Fold the panel back over the strip and pull tight toward the bottom of the chair back. Fold bottom edge under and staple to the underside of the chair back.

If using a cover for the back, slip it over the chair back. Pull the fabric tight and staple to the frame where previously attached. Tuck under raw edges where visible.

Reassemble the chair if needed. Trim any excess string or fabric.

Editor's Tip

Editor's Tip

Use fabric glue or decorative upholstery tacks to secure excess fabric to the back of the reupholstered chair.

Step 9

Finish Underside

Cut a piece of black breathable fabric for the underside of the chair using the old piece as your guide. Flip chair upside down, and staple fabric to the underside to conceal any springs or webbing and act as a dust cover. Make sure the fabric is tight against the welting and that it covers up all raw edges of the upholstery fabric. Turn right side up, and enjoy your newly reupholstered chair.

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