Nasty little chair makeover...before and after....PART II

(If you just want to see the "Before and After" just scroll to the bottom!)

Okay, so the frame is stripped, primed and painted....(see part 1 of this makeover here)

Now comes the fun part! Finishing it up with the fabric!

Before we start reupholstering, this chair had to have a little "reconstruction."

This chair had a "spring seat."  Some will have wood seats.  Those are a little easier, even if you have to cut a new piece of plywood.  But this one had springs and the twine holding them upright and in position had busted.  And one of the nails holding the brace had popped out.  So I had to reattach the brace and then restring the springs.  Not a biggy, but something you definitely want to get right or the seat will be all wonky. 

I used plain ole' twine to restring the springs and I removed the old nails and put in screws.  Just personal preference and besides, if the string broke at any time, it would be a lot easier to remove the screws and start over than pry out nails. 

If your chair has springs and they are in bad shape or you just don't want to mess with them, they are easy to remove. You can measure and cut a piece of plywood to put down in the base of the chair. Then screw the plywood on the frame of the chair and proceed with new foam and batting.

After fixing the springs, I covered them with a scrap fabric I have in my stockpile (I buy sturdy fabric at garage sales just for this purpose) and stapled it to the top of the seat frame. You can also use muslin or burlap. This fabric holds the springs in place and provides a base for the foam. Again, this is not something you would mess with if you have or add a wood seat base. 

Next, you want to measure and cut your new foam. I used 2" foam.

TIP: A few years ago I read a little tip about using an electric bread knife to cut foam.  I happened to stumble across one for $1 at a garage sale. For years I have used a utility knife and scissors to cut my foam. Man oh man....I can not tell you how easy it is to cut foam with a bread is like cutting butter and your cut is as straight as a factory awesomeness!  Why I didn't try this sooner is beyond me...typical "old school" stubborness. Live and learn!

After I cut the foam for the seat, I covered the foam with the scrap fabric and stapled it to the frame as well. Again, just to hold the foam in place and give it a smooth structure.

TIP: Many people try to reupholster using a manual or electric stapler.  Forget it. I don't care how hard you try, a plain staple gun (manual OR electric) is NOT going to work.  Old wood is just too hard for the staples to set well and you will spend half your time hammering the staples in...provided your hand doesn't fall off first. I STRONGLY recommend getting a small compressor and pneumatic staple gun. You won't regret it! It is one of items I highly recommend in my "Every Woman's Tool Box." Perfect for this kind of project!

The back of this chair is rather simple, but it needed new webbing and support. You can buy burlap upholstery strapping specifically for this type of project, but since I had some scraps of burlap on hand, I made some straps...I just folded it, ironed it and then stapled it place. Just make sure it is taunt.  Then I covered the entire back with the scrap fabric to give it a little more support....

Then I covered the back of the chair and the seat and frame of the chair with quilt batting. I use plain ole' quilt batting you can buy at the hobby or fabric store. Just staple the batting to the underside of the frame.

I picked up several rolls of batting after Christmas for 90% off...80 cents each! It doesn't have the "loft" of quilt batting but it works great on places where you want more structure than loft, like on the back of this chair. 

Now comes the fun part...actually covering the chair!

Before I began applying the fabric, I made sure I had the piping I wanted to use ready to go. I provided a little tutorial on how to make piping here but you may be able to find a better tutorial online. Use the one that you understand! I HIGHLY recommend using prepackaged bias tape rather than trying to make it out of the fabric you are using. Mainly because you have to cut your strips of fabric "on the bias" which means at a 45 degree angle across the width of the fabric...that takes a lot of work and a lot of fabric. Bias tape comes in a ton of colors! In this case I am using black pipping with a black and beige damask...nice contrast and super easy to make. You can also buy premade piping or trim, but honestly it is a tad expensive. 

Speaking of fabric.  You don't have to use upholstery fabric but you want to make sure you use a very sturdy fabric.  In order for an upholstery job to look "professional" you will be stretching it very tight and stapling it and if you use a light-weight fabric it can easily tear. The least expensive is duck can find it at Hobby Lobby or most fabric stores.  It is the lightest weight fabric I would use. I have also used drop cloth fabric and it works pretty well!

I usually start with the back of my chair...only because in my opinion it is the hardest and I want to get the most frustrating part over first. Just my preference! 

There are a few areas that are a little tricky.  One is the is a little "picture tutorial" on how I deal with this....

To cover the "gap" created by cutting around the arms, I inserted a little "filler" piece.  I just folded down and iron the side adjacent to the arm, put a little fabric glue on the back, and stuck it on the chair and stapled. Then I wrapped the front fabric around the sides and stapled it to the back. 

I wrapped a double welt trim with fabric glue on the back around the arm and over the fabric where I cut it...and then stapled it to the back to secure it. Here is a great tutorial on how to make this welting. You will notice that the tutorial shows how to make it out of the upholstery fabric. Again, I recommend plain ole' bias tape! If you can sew a straight stitch, you can make this. If you can't, you can purchase it at the fabric or craft store! You won't need a lot for this type of project.

This may seem like a tricky thing to do....patience.  Take your time and THINK. And if you stripped the original upholstery and took lots of pictures (like I told you to!) you will have a great reference on how it was originally constructed. It really isn't as hard as it seems! The most important tip I can give at this point (other than be patient and work slowly) is make sure you keep your fabric pulled tight before you staple! 

Cover the front first and staple it to the back of the chair. After you have covered the front of the chair, you can add your piping by stapling it to the back of the chair, circling the entire edge. 

You may have noticed that this chair has a really pretty curve. There is NO substitution for PLY GRIP.  In order to upholster a chair, you have to have it. And you don't need a lot....just enough to go along the top of the chair because it is the only place you will use it.  I can tell you craft stores do not carry ply grip. When I reupholstered my wing back I stopped in an upholstery shop and bought about 5-6' for around $1 a foot. When I decided to get serious and do a few more projects I ordered a large roll online from DIY Upholstery SupplyI got 100 feet for $14.00, plus shipping.  This site is a great resource for all things upholstery! 

In this picture you can see how I stapled the trim around the edge.  Then I stapled a little batting at the edge of the trim.  Then I applied the ply grip.

This stuff "bites" so be careful. It comes with little holes in it so that you can use upholstery nails, but I just use my pneumatic stapler and staple it on, making sure that the edge of the ply grip is pushed tight against the piping. You only apply it along the top of the chair and about 1-2" down the side. It is very flexible and very easily follows the "lines" of the chair...whether it is curved or straight!


I attached the back fabric along the BOTTOM first. I used upholstery cardboard tack strip to get a nice crisp line. Then I stretched the fabric to the top and shoved it into the ply grip with a putty knife.  Start in the middle and work you way to the edges...keep the fabric pulled tight as you work it into the ply grip. 

After you have the fabric pushed down into the ply grip, make sure there is no fabric ABOVE the depth of the grip...if there is, just trim it off.  Then take a hammer or rubber mallet and tap the ply grip shut. I would STRONGLY suggest putting a piece of scrap fabric between the hammer and the chair as you tap it shut. 

As I mentioned earlier, lighter weight fabrics can pose a few problems when used as upholstery.  Duck cloth does fairly well with the stress of the tugging and pulling and stapling...but occasionally even it might have a little "tear." I had this happen on the edge of this chair back. A tiny bit of the ply poked through. The only thing I could do (besides start over and that wasn't happening) was dab it with a little upholstery glue to keep it from tearing any more...and then I used a black sharpie to "hide" the little problem. (Again, I AM NOT A PROFESSIONAL!)

Before using ply grip, I strongly recommend spending a little time online googling as many tutorials as you can on how to apply it. You may be totally confused by my instructions...but completely understand another! It really isn't that difficult and seriously makes a huge difference!

"Professional upholsters" use metal tacking strip to fold over the outside edges on the back...not me. I just fold them over and use fabric glue. Probably not the smartest thing to do, but for me it is the easiest...and it holds! 

After the top is done, I tackle the seat.  In my opinion it is a tad easier. Just lay the fabric on the seat and make sure you have enough all the way around to staple it to the underside of the seat frame. You will have to cut slits on the corners to work around frame, but again, patience...take your time. And keep your fabric pulled tight before you staple. When working with a seat, whether it is a project like this or a simple dining room seat, it is always best to attach your fabric on all four sides FIRST...just put 2-3 staples in the middle of each side, and then start working your way towards the legs.

Also...PAY ATTENTION TO THE DIRECTION OF YOUR FABRIC!! Make sure it is all running in the right direction.  I used this damask on another project and discovered that I had applied it "upside down" on the seat. And one time I worked real hard to get a peacock smack dab in the middle of the seat of a chair...only to discover that it was upside down. Frustrating.  So check and double check before you start pounding in the staples! 

After my seat was completely covered, I edged the entire thing with trim...then I added a simple black fabric to the underside to hide all the innards. I use a cardboard edging on the front of the chair just to get a nice crisp line and then folded the fabric and stapled on the sides and back. 

Remember what we started with way back when....

And this is what we have today! Amazing....


Before and After....

This truly is a "trash to treasure!" Now you know why I wanted to rescue the poor little thing!