Thursday, February 21, 2013

How to Reupholster a Wing Chair

*I was saving this one for later, but decided to enter Creating with the Stars, so.... bonus update!


-         Wing chair with unfortunate fabric choices
-         Approx. 5-6 yards of fabric to recover chair (may want to get 7 yards if using a pattern that needs matching)
-         Piping (if needed)
-         Fabric to cover piping
-         Lightweight cotton padding (used to cover the stuffing on the chair)
-         Staple gun
-         Staples to fit gun (not the kind on your desk- this calls for hardcore staple artillery)
-         Scissors
-         Strong thread (the kind sold for attaching buttons works great)
-         Curved needle (your best upholstery friend)
-         Pliers (to remove stubborn staples)
-         Hammer (to ‘encourage’ stubborn staples to lay flat)
-         Lightweight fabric backing (to use on bottom of chair as a dust barrier)
-         Masking tape to hold fabric in place for stitching & sizing pieces
-         Sewing machine (technically this can be done without it…but I don’t have that kind of time)
-         Optional: Sandpaper (if painting show wood)
-         Optional: Paint/Stain (if painting show wood)


Time Commitment:

 ~30-40 hours, depending on how many things go wrong… this took me a few weeks working off and on

CAUTION: If this is your first upholstery project, you will be in for a LOT of work. I love working in upholstery, but this is not a weekend project!

How to Make it Happen:

Step 1 - Examine patient

1) This is the poor chair before upholstery surgery. If you can find a chair with just cosmetic issues, the process is far simpler. In this case, the padding was pretty good and the frame was stable. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take on a chair with issues, but structural and padding issues can exponentially change the cost of the project.

Step 2 - Remove old fabric (be patient- this will take a while)

2) Remove all the old fabric, keeping track of the order of pieces coming off- they will be replaced in opposite order. Usually replacing fabric will go in this order: under-cushion section & front bottom, back & arms, sides, back, and replacing the dust barrier under the chair last. The cushion can be done at any time. Pliers come in handy for removing stubborn staples, and using them to lever out the staples works best. For really stubborn staples, just leave them there and cut out the fabric around them.

Note: The only fabric I keep is the under-cushion section and cushion pieces. These I make my pattern pieces from. All the rest I do by fitting the fabric into place and then cutting, but you can also use all the pieces to make a pattern if you wish.

Step 3 - Removing dated details

3) This chair had a wooden piece screwed to the bottom to give an additional detail in the front. I didn’t like how it would look with my new fabric, so I removed it.

Step 4 - Re-padding the chair

4) Since I’m recovering the chair in a linen fabric (which is only good for a chair you won’t be using daily- linen won’t hold up as well as regular upholstery fabric), and because stuffing has a tendency to work its way through fabric, I covered the chair with a light cotton padding. As you can see I only did half of the chair at a time so I could see how the other half went together.

Step 5 - Measure many times, cut once

5) Here is a fabric test, but you can see the padding pieces cut to size on the left side of the chair. Because I’m using a rather thin fabric to recover the chair, I stapled the padding down as I covered it with the fabric. Usually the padding would be stapled down and then covered with the fabric.

Step 6 - Refinish show wood (legs in this case) and start re-covering

 6) Using the under-cushion section as a pattern, I cut it out and sewed it into shape. Here it’s positioned on the chair and ready to be sewn into place using a curved needle. You may notice that the legs are now a different color. I sanded and restained them using a black stain & poly combination. Make sure to do this before you start adding your brand new fabric, or you might ruin your nice new fabric.

Step 7 - Arms & back of chair

 7) The under-cushion section is in place and the arms and back are being stapled into place. Remember to hold the fabric tightly when stapling, and keep steady pressure so that there aren’t weird bulges in the fabric. To save on fabric, sew scrap pieces to the sides and bottom of the back to use to hold it in place. Don’t worry too much if it doesn’t turn out perfectly- all upholstery has some minor flaws (even pros).

Step 8 - Rounding the legs

  8) This section is a tricky part- going around the legs. For this, cut the fabric until it almost reaches the joint between the chair and leg. Fold the fabric under at the leg and hold it tight as it passes over the leg. Staple the fabric on either side of the leg, leaving the actual leg part held in place by the tension of the fabric.

Step 9 - Starting on the wings (curves, the upholsterer's challenge)

 9) Working on the ‘wings’ of the wing chair. This was the hardest part for me because of the curves.

Step 10 - The other side of the wings

 10) This is a change from the original chair – I decided to stitch the outside of the wing into place, because the original metal pieces that held on the outside were damaged beyond repair when I took the chair apart. Using masking tape, I held the pieces in place and sewed them with a curved needle. Because I wasn’t using piping on the wing sections, I think it turned out pretty nice.

Step 11- The back (almost there now!)

11) For the back, I decided to use the same (cheaper) fabric that I used for the piping. Since no one’s really going to see it, I didn’t want to use my expensive linen. The top was stitched in place, and the nail strips (metal pieces with nails sticking out of them) were hammered into place to hold on the sides. To do this, fold the fabric into a thick edge and stick the nails through the fabric. Hammer the fabric (and nails) into place. At this point the bottom of the back can be nailed into place and the dust barrier stapled onto the bottom of the chair.

Step 12- The cushion fabric testing

 12) For the cushion, basically use the original as a pattern and re-create it. Here I’m doing some pattern tests to make sure the pattern matches. As you can see, the fronts of the arm rests have been reattached- usually they will have nails sticking out the back that can be hammered into the arms.

Step 13 - Admire your work (and collapse into it)
13) Sit in your chair and relax!


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