DIY upholstering a chair

DIY upholstering a chair

I recently wrote a post about spray-painting a French style desk in a nice wine color. I already had a vintage chair to go with the desk, except that the upholstery on the chair was faded, dirty, and TEAL colored. A really clashing combination, just an immediate eyesore. It was time for DIY upholstering again.

This is how the chair looked. Well, generally, because I forgot to take a picture prior to starting removing the old upholstery. But you get the gist! vintage chairIt was actually a very good candidate for DIY upholstering because I only needed to replace the seat and make a new pillow. Easy! After working for an hour or so with needle-nose pliers to remove staples holding the seat upholstery to the frame , it was ready to come off. I was happy to find that the batting was in great shape and needed no change. Even easier!

old upholstery removed

Now it was time to start cutting the new fabric (cotton canvas in burgundy color) using the old upholstery as a template.

using old upholstery as template


As you can see, I made a couple of inches allowance where the new fabric is going to be stapled to the frame. The front will be sewn, so I cut it with no allowance at all. using old cusion as templateThe new cushion didn’t need any allowance either – it was already built into the template.

Next, I cut the fabric on bias (at 45 degree angle) for piping.

cutting fabric on bias

I decided that I would use two types of piping – a single pipe for the back cushion, and a double pipe to cover staples on the seat. For sewing single piping, a zipper foot attachment is needed. It is usually included in any sewing machine accessory package. Once you have it, it is super easy to make a single piping:

single piping

zipper foot

single piping

One thing you need keep in mind when sewing is to stitch as close to the piping cord as possible to make the piping tight and neat.

When your piping is done, trim the raw edge to the width of allowance on your fabric plus the pipe width and pin it to the right side of the cushion piece, raw edge to raw edge so the pipe is inside. Start pinning your piping in the middle of the bottom side of the cushion so the point where the piping meets is less visible. On corners, cut three to four notches in the piping making sure not to cut through the stitching.

sewing piping

When you finished pinning the piping around, overlap the beginning and the end of the piping where they meet:

finishing piping

Stitch the piping to the cushion side using the zipper foot and making sure you stitch right over the first stitching. If you stitch closer to the edge, the piping stitching will show in the finished product. You really don’t want that to happen :). After that’s done, put the second piece of the cushion, right side to right side, so that the piping is inside. Pin it on the side where stitches can be seen because you will have to sew right over them again.

sewing cushion

Stitch the cushion together, corners and all, but leave an opening in the bottom wide enough to insert the batting. The opening needs to be hand sewn once the batting is in place. Then the cushion is ready.

cushion done

The same piping sewing technique applies to the front of the seat.

sewing seat

sewing seat

sewing seat

For making the double piping, I bought a special double piping cord and also a special foot attachment. The process is also fairly easy. First, I wrapped the fabric around one cord, stitched, trimmed the allowance close to the stitch line, and then wrapped the second cord and stitched in the middle again. Once more, I trimmed the edge close to the stitches so that it doesn’t show on the other side of the cord.

double piping cord

double piping

With all the sewing done, I moved onto stapling the new upholstery to the seat. I can’t emphasize enough how happy I am with my Ryobi Airstrike stapler! I had to staple the fabric into a crevice going all around the chair. I could not have possible managed it with a flat-nose stapler. Pulling tight and even, I stapled the new fabric to the frame starting at the front of the chair.

seat upholstering


Than I trimmed the excess fabric to about a quarter inch away from the staples, took a glue gun and glued the  double piping over the exposed edge.

Last thing to do was to fix the new back cushion in place using the buttons. I though about gluing the new fabric over the old one first, but then decided to simply paint them with the Marta Stewart’s Vintage Gold Paint I already bought for something else. It was not a fabric paint, but who cares – those were just buttons, they didn’t need to be soft! Also, gold buttons would be a really nice detail.


After the paint dried, I used my nice golden buttons to attach the cushion to the back of the chair:


upholstery buttons

buttons final

At that point, I was done!

finished chair

finished chair

The chair was promptly reunited with the desk, and I hope they live happily ever after!

desk and chair

Thanks for checking out my blog! If you have any questions, please feel free to use the comment feature!