Monday, June 11, 2012

How to Re-Upholster an Arm Chair

Upholstering an arm chair?! Seemed like I was in over my head when I came up with this idea. The whole ride home from the flea market I thought to myself, can I really make this thing look better than it does? I told my husband this was a wise purchase and now it seemed I had so much to prove. Well guess what . . . upholstering really isn't as daunting as it seems! And I am here to help walk you through the steps that I found worked well!

What You Will Need:

- A Chair
- Fabric - and plenty of it (always buy extra to allow for mistakes)
- Fabric Shears
- Electric Sander
- Spray Paint or Stain
- A Staple Gun (one that runs on electricity)
- Staples
- Hot Glue Gun and Glue
- Needle and Thread

(You may also need upholstery nails but only if the ones you pull out of the chair are not salvageable).

Step 1:
Take off existing fabric. This can be a challenge based on how the chair is put together. Definitely do not cut holes. Find a seam and use a seam ripper or scissors to cut away the seam.

From there you can see how everything is put on. For the back of my chair there was a hidden seam along the bottom back . . . I was able to rip the seam and slowly pull up to discover that the back fabric was held on by hidden rows of upholstery nails on both sides and staples along the top. You will be as surprised as me to discover a lot of the upholstery is put on using cardboard strips!

Once I removed this entire back panel everything else on the chair back was done with staples. Grab some pliers and carefully remove all staples and possibly some nails used to anchor corners. Learn from my mistakes and WEAR WORK GLOVES! It will save you from needing to keep bandages near! :)  The seat of my chair was simple, all staples and nails. If the bottom fabric is good you can re-use it again, usually it is just a dark cotton fabric so it saved me from dipping into my stash, after all, no one sees the bottom of your chair.

All of my chair padding was in great shape with no stains . . . so I was able to move on!

Step 2:
Remove arms and legs if you can. I was able to remove the arms of my chair but the legs were all a part of the structure so I left these on. For the next few steps I simple took a fitted sheet and wedged it around all padding to keep it clean!

Step 3:
Painstakingly remove all paint or stain with a sander. I must give all the credit to my husband on this one. Thank goodness for his perfectionism and patience! He spent 2 afternoons sanding the chair since I was under the weather but did not want to fall behind in my projects.

Step 4:
Prime, paint and varnish (or pre-treat, stain, and protect)! I used a spray primer on my chair followed up by some spray paint in an off-white color. I then topped it off with a clear spray varnish.

Step 5:
Lay all old fabric pieces on top of your new fabric and use them as a pattern. Be sure to unfold and spread each piece out. You want to be sure to have the same cuts.

Step 6: 
Begin recovering your chair. I started with the back of the chair since it looked to be more complicated. Rebuild it opposite of how you disassembled. Be sure to stretch your pieces nice and taught so that you have no wrinkles or slack in your finished chair. Piece of advice: I would hot glue a piece before stapling to help keep things where I wanted! I also found hot glue to be super useful when going around the legs. It allowed me to fold the fabric to perfectly cover as I wanted.

Step 7: 
Re-attach all pieces . . . arms and legs. Be sure to pull fabric to cover gaps before tightening screws.

Step 8:
Use hidden stitches to sew any seams that are needed. I had to sew a seam along the back of my chair and at the front 2 corners of the seats to keep it looking nice and neat.

Step 9:
Spray your upholstery with some scotch gard and use a nice wax finish on wood pieces. Attach felt to the feet if you have hardwood floors and then find the perfect spot in your home for your new chair!

My new $20 flea market chair with a $16 face lift! 
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