Day One -How to Dismantle a Vintage Chair and Use the Fabric as a Pattern
This post covers the first steps in how to reupholster a chair. My aim is to break it down into little steps and show lots of detail. Today’s post is for Day One.
Here are all Three Links to the Chair Project Including Today’s Post
I saw this oh so curvy little girl chair in a local thrift store. On my way over to snag it, another lady found it first and unfortunately for her hubby was tagging along and nixed it. Being kind I did hover for a couple of minutes before swooping in on it. The hubby got a smack on his shoulder for his troubles. Personally, I think he deserved it.
Where to Start?
Taking a close look at this chair what do you notice it will need other than the obvious new covering?
There are six buttons that will need to be put back in.
The chair has nails around the legs, that need to be saved.
It has piping around the seat, which unfortunately means the cushion top needs to be sewn. There are four darts on the top cushion corners as well.
The stuffing for the cushion will need to be replaced.
There are gorgeous curves on the back and bottom that need to be followed.
And beautiful french provincial legs that need to be refinished as well.
Material I Used
2 yards of fabric ( if I had 3, I would have added a skirt)
Button cover kit
Stuffing materials if you replace a cushion
Large and small needles
Camera for notes
Take Photo Notes
Prior to starting to blog I always took pictures when tearing something apart. I suggest you do that as well. They don’t need to be perfect but will be a wealth of informative notes for you when putting it back together. (If you’re a regular reader you know I have a terrible time to remember the before pictures on a paint project for the blog, but for an upholstery project its part of my regular process).
As you tear your piece apart you may find some surprising steps. The back of this chair did not have one staple show. Much less the large nails.
Originally the top of the chair was stapled first along the fold of the fabric. The two sides were put on with long metal strips that I saved, and then the bottom was stapled on the underside where you can’t see it. So that is exactly how I will put it back together.
Today I am only going to show you a portion of my photo notes. If in doubt I take a picture. Like how this back was folded.
Cutting the Fabric
As each piece of fabric is removed use it as a pattern for the replacement fabric. Cut the fabric and put aside along with any hardware. For upholstered pieces, you do not need to seal the edges of your fabric with a zigzag sewing stitch, but you do need to make sure your fabric is ironed very well.
The Back of the Chair
Cutting the front and the back of the chair is the easiest fabric to cut. If your chair has any covered buttons make sure to place them aside. This chair has seven buttons.
The Bottom of the Chair
First of all, remove all the staples from the underside of the chair. The upholstery for the bottom of the chair came off. The top is pretty self-explanatory, but the bottom is one hot ugly mess let me tell you.
Remove each section one at a time. Remembering this is the bottom of the chair use this as the pattern for the new fabric. My fabric has a definite top and bottom to it, so I made sure the top of the new fabric faced the bottom of the pattern.
Its a bit confusing to complete but keep your chair bottom together and do one piece at a time. I also pinned the pieces together with the pattern so everything stayed in place as I worked.
Here is the first piece of the fabric, removed and being cut. When cutting, make sure your fabric is straight, and that your pattern is orientated the way you want it to be. I will be very happy to have my photo notes while trying to put this back together and remembering what piece goes where and why.
Taking time to redo the notches.
Repeat this process all the way around as needed. Making sure as you work to keep the fabric the direction you need it on each piece, and pinning as you work to hold pieces together.
Once you have all your fabric cut, pin it all together leaving one portion open, and set aside. There are only notches on one section so it will be easy to tell where the back piece is and start there.
The Chair Seat Cushion
When you look at the cushion you can tell they created the piping and sewed it between two pieces of fabric to make a cushion. They then simply cut into the bottom piece that will be against the springs and inserted the cushion form.
There was no way, I was going to reuse the seat cushion of the original chair. By all means, I could have, but I just wasn’t sure enough of its history. So I quickly made a new simple insert.
Using leftover foam and the last of my polyester batting I layered them until they were 1 1/2 times as thick as the current cushion.
I stacked the old cushion on top of the new material and cut until they were the same size.
I then wrapped it in muslin and sewed along the edges.
When I insert it back into the new cushion cover I will make sure to turn the edges of the muslin under, trim and sew them in place.
Refinishing the Legs and Chair Back Supports
Murphy Law likes to hang around my house and likely yours as well. I know that if I upholster the chair first and then stain it I will drip stain somewhere on the shiny new fabric. So while the new fabric is not on the chair its best to stop and refinish the legs now.
Sand the legs and back, and apply either two coats of paint or stain. For this chair, I sanded the legs down and applied two coats of white pickling stain. Let it dry thoroughly before adding new fabric to the chair.
Cleaning, Replacing or Recovering the Chair Fibers
Whether your clean, replace or recover the existing chair covers depends on how damaged and dirty the under fibers are, and how hard they would be to replace. This chairs springs etc were in very good shape, so I had no work to do structurally. Yeah!
The chair fibers were actually pretty clean (likely because of the cushion top) but I wanted to start new and fresh so I sprayed them with a mixture of vinegar and Febreze and then covered it with a new layer of cotton quilt batting.
I simply threw a single layer of cotton quilt batting over the existing chair. Cut the fabric with four inches of a seam allowance, wrapped it around the chair, stapled it, and then cut the fabric close to the staples.
By the end of the first day, this is what I had. I think it already looks way nicer, it’s certainly cleaner.
I had to think about how I should post this and have decided to do it in three posts. The remaining two posts will go live over this week. The tutorial is as specific as I could make it so it’s much too long for one post. The alternative was to be less specific and maybe miss something that would help you do a chair on your own.
This is more than enough work for one day. Any more work on the chair for one day would have made me impatient and not given the chair the attention she deserves so I put the chair aside and returned to it another day.
I really hope you find this tutorial helpful for a DIY thrift store furniture makeover. Please comment and let me know if you would be willing to try this?