Thursday, May 2, 2013

Simple Reupholstering Tips

I'm no good at real upholstery jobs. And by real I mean anything having to do with sewing. When something requires a stitch I either leave it alone, use iron-on hem tape, or take it to a professional (usually I leave it alone). BUT, there are simple jobs, like dining room chairs (without piping) that are really easy to do and I have a few tricks to help encourage you to try.
I replaced a screen door on our kitchen island with fabric. It's not a chair, but it's the same concept. Here's my first tip: Fabric is expensive, especially heavy, durable fabric, so I've found that using 100% cotton shower curtains are an inexpensive alternative. You can cover at least four dining chairs with one shower curtain. Just make sure it's not polyester- the extra stretch isn't good when you're trying to pull something taut. To redo a chair's upholstery, you'd just unscrew the chair pad from the base. You can rip off the old fabric, or if it isn't gross and it's neutral in color, you can just leave it on. Here's a picture of the screen door I popped out to replace. I've been using a manual stapler I bought off Amazon, although I'm sure you can find the same one at Home Depot. When you first start out, I find that it works best to pop a staple in the middle of every side. I lay the fabric out, then pull it up over the lip of the frame and staple on the back side- first putting one staple in each spot marked by the x on the picture.
Next, I pick one side and work out from the middle, as shown by the arrows. I go all the way over to the right, pulling tight with my thumb and finger on my left hand, while stapling with my right hand. Staples are pretty close together. When I get to the corners, I leave about a half inch, and address this later. 

 After doing one side (minus the corner), I jump across to the opposite side. This is where you're going to have to pull the hardest to make sure there are no wrinkles. Once I'm finished with that, I start again with the adjacent side, working my way from the middle to the edge. Now, when I'm finished with all the stapling on the sides, I pinch the corners up into a triangle, pull it over the lip, and staple it down. It feels a lot like wrapping a present, and should look pretty smooth. Sometimes I have to cut excess fabric so that the chair pad will lay flat against the base. The corners have a habit of being bulky. Don't be afraid to snip a bit off, just be sure you have enough left so you can pull it really tight. Like everything, practice makes perfect, but I assure you it's not as hard as it looks. If you have carpal-tunnel-hands like me, be sure to take multiple breaks or your wrists will be super sore the rest of the day.
Side story: My 2 yr.old daughter found my leftover paint from this project, and was sobbing hysterically that she just had to paint something (hysteria + a wet paint roller + toddler does not usually end well). I'd been meaning to paint this island anyway, so I let her have at it, and I'm really glad I did. I love the contrast of the color against the fabric and it breaks up the monotony of our maple cabinets. Here's the before and after:


  1. Love it! I've been looking for an island like that to refinish too!

    1. Thanks! It's was Tony's grandpa's, but I seriously think it's an old ikea island. Nothing special, but makes over well.

    2. Hi Jordan! i'm a friend of Rebecca K's she told me to look you up! I think we met at her house last summer! we have just moved back from a long time overseas.. Anyhoo--With our shoestring budget leftover from our house downpayment--i have just bought 4 very old dining room chairs(the foam makes a crunchy disintegrating sound if you even look at it) for our kitchen. 2 pairs each with very interesting backs-kinda looks like a harp. I am only midway---last week i spent sanding and finally smartening up and used a razor to strip off old paint.. (duh! it came off like cheap nail polish. that razor saved me hours of sanding time.) I am waiting to see what color we will paint the kitchen before reupholstering the chairs.. I can't wait to find the perfect fun bold pattern! THANK YOU for your tips of stapling the middle and possibly using a shower curtain.. I hope we can meet up again. you have inspired me!! Holly S.

    3. Hey Holly,
      Sounds like you got a great set...I'm sure they'll look awesome where you're finished! Let me know if I can help with anything else.



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