This Is How To Upholster A Chair Step-By-Step

Out of the many ways you can facelift your indoor interiors is reupholstering your furniture. And, the best part about changing covers is that you don’t have to take on entire sofa sets – a chair here or there will do the trick. 

Turquoise vintage armchair

If you’re looking to upgrade the setting of your dining or sitting room, our DIY upholstering feature is definitely for you. We bring you not one but four ways to get some vitality back to your home decor, and that too, within a budget. What’s not to love about that? All you need to do is go through our step-by-step guide and get all the tips and tricks you need for a complete chair makeover

Planning before you start with your DIY project

As much as we’d like to kick off this article with reupholstery projects and tutorials – every DIY project requires a plan of action. If you’re all caught up with what a DIY venture will need and how to plan ahead – that’s half the battle won. 

As we stated earlier, we’re going to cover a total of four upholstery projects. Three of these will tackle different types of chairs, while the last one walks you through how to reupholster a chair seat

That means the one material all four projects have in common is upholstery fabric. Whether you’re looking to make an old chair look new again or add some vintage notes to your decor from pieces from flea markets or thrift stores, you’re going to need the right fabric.

Each project will have its own list of materials mentioned. Just make sure you go through and note down each list in advance and have all your tools gathered before tackling this project. 

How to upholster an armchair

Right, the first project we have for you will tell precisely how to go about upholstering an armchair – all on your lonesome. Excited? So are we. Let’s get started. 

List of materials

Then this is what you need to do:

Step 1

Start by removing the old upholstery fabric from your armchair. Take your time to understand how the old fabric has been put together. It’s also a good idea to take some pictures with your phone for reference later on. 

Remove the feet of your chair first. Then start removing the fabric – and do this step piece by piece. Generally, the bottom layer of the material will come off first, followed by the back of the armchair. 

You’ll also notice most of the fabric is being held together by tack strips or staples. Utilise the pliers to get rid of them. As you tackle the cover one layer at a time, it’ll be easier to understand which piece to remove next. Be sure to label each section of the fabric as you take it off.

Also, don’t throw away anything that comes out of the chair yet – be it cardboard, piping, or anything else. These pieces are part of the chair and will come in handy again.

Hands making new upholstery on old armchair

Step 2

Arrange all the fabric you’ve removed from the old armchair on your new one. Once you’ve achieved the layout, pin the pieces in place and cut your fabric. Then start putting the material on the chair again. Begin by attaching the last part you took off first. Refer back to the labels and photos you took to help you out. 

Attach the fabric pieces precisely the way they were laid out initially. If there are staples involved, use your right tool. If the layer was held together by strips, use the tacking strips. Some areas of fabric may require stitching, so be sure to have a needle and thread around. 

Step 3

It’s time to sew the cushion cover. Begin by putting the cushion cover together using the old cover as a guide. The first step of this process will require you to sew the piping. You can opt to leave it out, but it might take away from the look of your armchair. You can try to close the back of your cushion cover with zippers or velcro – whichever you prefer. 

Step 4

Repaint or polish the legs of the armchair before reattaching them. Once they’re dry, attach the legs to the armchair, and you’re done!

How to upholster a wingback chair

Looking out for a wingback chair guide? That’s what we have lined up next!

List of materials

  • Fabric of choice
  • Button Kit
  • Dust cover or cloth
  • Nailhead trim
  • 10cm thick foam (high density)
  • Piping
  • Tack strip (cardboard)
  • Screwdriver
  • Staple gun
  • Upholstery hammer
  • Upholstery needle and thread
  • Pencil, pen, scissors, measuring tape
  • Tack lifter
  • Electric knife

Then follow these steps:

Step 1

Start by removing the old upholstery and keeping the old fabric in one piece as it comes off. Doing this will help you make a template of sorts for your new cover.

Hand removes old upholstery

Lay out all the pieces on your new fabric, use them as a guide and cut out the new one accordingly. Remember to leave a little excess fabric at the edges just in case. Use the sewing machine to put the piece together in order. 

Step 2

It’s time to attach the fabric to the seating space. Once you’re working on the sides of the chair, it’s best to staple them first and then attach the foam by wrapping it around the corner and then staple along the top. Tuck any overlapping fabric in for a clean finish. 

Add piping to the armrests by pulling back the foam and then staple each layer. You’ll need to cut the cording to ensure you can wrap it around. 

Once the front and the cording have been stapled in place, lay the fabric of the armrest upside down. Then pin the material with the help of tack strips. Next, fold the foam back over and pull the fabric back in place at the side and the bottom

Step 3

Sew and staple the headrest (or headboard) in place and leave the bottom piece to overlap. Use tacking strips to get a nice clean line when you staple the fabric in place on the boards underneath the chair. Attach the side piece using tacking strips too. 

Use high-density foam for the back cushion. Shave off excess foam if you have to in order to fit it on the bottom, the sides, and the backboard. Once the foam is pinned, flip the fabric in place and staple with tack strips at the back

Step 4

To figure out button placement, you’ll have to find the centre of the front cushion by measuring it. Mark the centre with a pin and continue using the measuring tape to mark the rest of the places for the buttons to go. 

Once you’ve completed marking the button placement for a tufted look, attach the buttons using twine and an upholstery needle. Push the button in from the front to create the tufted look and add at least 4 knots per button to hold them in place. 

Step 5

Next, cover the chair’s back by stapling the cording in first, folding the edges and sewing them together. Pin the fabric on and add decorative nail heads if you prefer. Attach the fabric with tack strips at the back. 

Step 6

Reattach the legs on your chair and add any other details (such as nailhead trim) to the armrests

Step 7

Make a seat cushion using foam (high-density) by measuring the seating area and cut the foam to size. Once you’ve cut it according to the seating measurements, cover it with the fleece fabric. 

Use the old cushion cover as a template to create a new one. Use zippers or velcro to shut the cover close and place it on your armchair. Use the old cushion cover as a template to create a new one. 

Woman with scissors cutting fabric

How to upholster a dining room chair

Dining table and living room chairs can be made to look brand-new again without turning to upholsterers. Here’s how. 

List of materials

  • New upholstery cloth
  • Pliers
  • Pen
  • Scissors
  • Staple gun
  • Pins
  • Notepad and pencil (for notes)
  • Screwdriver (flat-head)
  • Sewing machine
  • Batting
  • Tacking strips
  • Piping
  • Chalk
  • Upholstery thread
  • Fabric glue
  • Nailhead trim
  • Fabric (breathable) for the chair’s underside

Then this is what you need to do:

Step 1

Take photos of the chair before you start removing the old covers for reference. Disassemble it if necessary, and begin removing the upholstery pieces. Begin by removing the fabric placed underneath the chair, and work your way up.

As you remove the pieces, mark and label them for reference when reupholstering. Use the pen to highlight where the pieces are sewn together or welted. Store any tacking strips for reuse

Step 2

Once the old covering is gone, observe the batting if it needs to be changed. If yes, remove the batting and check the chair’s webbing and springs for damage. Now’s the time to sand and prime the chair’s legs before moving on. 

Use the old batting as a guide to cut out a new layer. Cover the chair’s back with the batting first and staple it in place. Then proceed to cover the seat with the batting and tuck away the excess by folding the corners neatly. 

Hands upholster a dining room

Step 3

Arrange the new fabric on a flat surface, the wrong side facing up. Lay the original coverings on the material, mark the layout and cut around the guide, leaving 3 to 4cm at the edge. The excess cloth will help you hold on to the material when it’s time to staple it in place. 

Next, mark (with chalk) and cut out each section of the fabric from the new cloth. Pin the fabric sections (the ones sewn together) in place and stitch them together inside out. 

Step 4

Arrange the new right & left-side back, inside back pieces on the chair. Pin the cloth pieces to attach them while making any adjustments required. Once you have trimmed the excess cloth, pull the fabric to stretch it and staple it in place on the chair seat‘s apron

Apply the new cover to the seat’s base and staple it in place as the previous cover was. Start working from the front edge and work backwards. If there’s excess material, tuck it in under the corners

Step 5

Use the old covering’s dimensions to make the welting for the seat and sew it in place. Next, attach the sides of the chair by holding the right side of the panel upon the seat and staple the top welting around it. Attach a tacking strip against the welting at the top panel and fasten it in place. Fold the side panel and staple it to the underside of the chair – ensuring the bottom welting aligns with the edge. 

Step 6

Attach the back panel in place, and reassemble the chair if required. Finally, attach the breathable fabric to the underside of the chair (as a dust cover). Flip the chair upside down to get this part down properly. Ensure the material sits tightly against the welting and covers all the edges completely. Your reupholstered chair is ready.  

How to upholster a chair seat

Here’s what you’ll need to change the covers of your seat to have them looking like new pieces again. 

List of materials

  • Staple gun
  • Foam (high-density)
  • New fabric
  • Foam adhesive
  • Cardboard 
  • Electric knife
  • Scissors

And here are the steps:

Step 1

Step one involves removing the seat of your chair. Once you’ve removed the base, use the cardboard to create a template that’s around 0.65cm bigger on every side. If your chair is square, mark the front and the back to avoid confusion. 

Man upholstering chair using staple gun

Step 2

Use the template to cut out a corresponding piece from the high-density foam. Use the electric knife for a cleaner and smoother cut. Clean the base of the seat to remove any dust. Spray the top with foam adhesive and attach the foam to the base as per the adhesive’s instructions

Step 3

Allow the adhesive to dry. In the meanwhile, measure your base plus foam for the dimensions of the fabric cover. Leave a bit of room when cutting the fabric, as you can easily do away with the excess with a pair of scissors. 

Step 4

Cut out the fabric and arrange it right-side facing down on a flat surface. Place the seat base of your chair on the material, with the foam side touching the fabric. Make sure there are equal amounts of cloth on four sides before stapling the fabric in place. Ensure the fabric isn’t loose from any side by pulling it tight before you staple opposite sides. 

Step 5

Once you have placed staples on all four sides, take the scissors and cut the excess piece of fabric at the edges. Make sure you have about 5cm of material left on the edges to attach it in place for a clean finish. 

Step 6

With the excess material out of the way, pull gently on the fabric at the edges. Doing so will hold the material in place. Then join it all together with at least 3 to 4 staples. Keep turning over the base to check if the folds at the edge are uniform, and there’s no sign of staple pulls. If you feel the need, pull out the pins at the border and staple on again until you get the pleats right

Step 7

Reattach the seat base to the chair with the help of its screws

Gold chair with fabric

If you’ve made it all the way through four tutorials and are still with us – thank you so much! Excessive DIY reading can be exhausting, but the great thing about our article is that you can choose any one from the above guides and stick to it. Now that you know exactly what goes into changing the covers of a chair – we hope you’ll be working on yours in the near future!

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