Monday, May 14, 2012

How to Reupholster Chairs and Recover Seat Cushions

I read this quote the other week: "Do something everyday that scares you," by  Eleanor Roosevelt.  I am quite sure she was not referring to reupholstering chairs seats and backs when she spoke those words nearly a century ago.  Nevertheless, her advice rang in my head and inspired me to face a year-long fear and (finally) recover the chairs to our three-in-one game table.

Three-in-One Table, Four Ugly Chairs:
About a year ago, my husband purchased a three-in-one table via an online classified web site.  He'd been eyeing this type of table for awhile and finally found one he could not pass up.  I agreed that it would be a great addition to the basement (I am all about multitasking furnishings).  The table even came with non-folding, sturdy chairs on casters.  Quite an upgrade from the folding card table/chairs we had used for years.  Once home, I helped carry the table to the basement and set it up.  That's when I got my first, good look at the chairs.  Or, more specifically, the fabric on the chairs:
Fabric that originally covered chairs
This fabric choice was really not the look I was going for in the basement.  Or in any room, for that matter.  Ever.  But, I felt hesitant to change it.  Why?  I have recovered dining chair cushions before.  And, I am no stranger to a staple gun.  However, this would be the first time I tackled a seat back  and I assumed it would involve some sewing (I barely sewed at the time).  As much as I did not care for the current fabric, I really did not want make the chairs look worse by initiating a change.  So, I ignored the chairs and hoped I would eventually accept the fabric.
The table worked great.  The chairs' fabric, not so much. 
After all, you cannot have everything, right?  We enjoyed the table and used it fairly often to play cards, shoot bumper pool, and assemble puzzles, etc.   But every time I entered the room, I was reminded of my dislike for that fabric.  For almost an entire year, I was scared to change it.  And then one day, I did something that scared me.

When The Time is Right:
I had been storing some remnant, upholstery-weight fabric in my craft room, originally purchased to recover outdated throw pillows.  For some reason, I decided the time was right to use this fabric.  As I walked around the house looking for a room/couch/chair in need of a pillow, I came upon the dreaded chairs.  Draping the remnant fabric over one of the chairs, I realized it actually looked pretty good with the wood finish and other furnishings in the room.  I used a screwdriver to remove the chair back and was very pleasantly surprised to see I would not need to sew after all - staples were all that held the fabric in place.  I knew then that the time was finally right to recover those chairs.
So I stopped in the fabric store later that morning.  There, I found nearly whole bolt of the same fabric in the clearance bin.  I bought four and a half yards of fabric, picked up some extra staples and headed home.

Materials needed to recover chair cushions
  • Fabric
  • Staple Gun and Staples
    * 3/8 or 1/4 staples are sufficient for most fabric weights.  You will need lots!
  • Scissors
  • Measuring Tape
  • Screwdriver
Tips and Hints:
There are many, many blogs and videos that explain how to recover a chair cushion.  I referred to quite a few.  Some of my favorites include Wiki How:  How to reupholster a Dining Chair Seat and Upholster!  What I will add here are a few tips and hints that helped me with my project:
  • Fabric Choice:
    Be sure the fabric is proper weight for the intended use.  Home Decor or Upholstery-weight is the sturdiest fabric.  I am a fan of the outdoor canvas, fade- and stain-resistant fabric (especially with kids).  Though, you can always treat your specific fabric with a stain- and water-repellent before use. When in doubt, ask someone at the fabric store.  
  • Yardage: Fabric is sold in widths varying from 36-inches to 54-inches. I referred to the Apartment Therapy Yardage Guide and determined I needed 4 yards home decor fabric in total for my project.  This equated to one width of home decor fabric to cover the seat and back for each chair.  I bought 1/2 yard extra, though.  And was glad I did - by the time I got to the last chair, I did not have enough to do the seat back.  The extra half yard of fabric saved the day.  
  •  Using Staples:  If you are removing old fabric, a flat head screwdriver or needle-nose pliers work best to remove staples.  Fold the edges of the new fabric and pull taut before securing with staples to give a clean, professional look.  The directions on the blog, FireHow, offer easy-to-follow diagrams for the recommended order in which to staple.  And, finally, be aware of the screw holes - try not to block them with fabric or staples.   
Fold the fabric edge in before stapling for clean, professional look.
  • Finishing Fabric:  My chairs had a piece of light-weight, black fabric covering the raw edges on the bottom side.  I reused this fabric to give a more polished look.   
Finishing fabric on underside of completed chair.

Fear Conquered; Seats Recovered:
I am SO glad I did something that day that scared me and initiated this project.  It only took about six hours from start to finish and cost under $40.00.  Not scary at all!
Ready for some cards.  Euchre, anyone?

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