How to reupholster a chair

Reupholstery is a key skill which has seen a renewed interest during the coronavirus lockdown. It is possible for beginners to handle some small reupholstery projects, but there is a risk of messing up when more complicated or intricate jobs are approached. has compiled a guide to show you how to reupholster a chair.

How to reupholster a chair

Materials and tools needed:

  • Old chair
  • Paint stripper
  • Mask
  • Rubber gloves
  • Furniture wax or lime wax
  • Fabric
  • Tracing paper or pattern paper
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Upholstery tacks
  • Ribbon
  • Sewing machine
  • Embroidery thread
  • Textile or craft adhesive
  • Pins
  • Staple gun (optional).


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Step one: Choose a chair to reupholster and the fabric you wish to use

Each chair must be broached differently when reupholstering.

A dining room style chair is one of the easiest ways to make a big change with little effort.

Regarding how much fabric to buy, you should either use a tape to measure your furniture and get rough estimates for each panel or wait until you have removed the old fabric and get a better sense of how much you will need.

Crucially, it is advisable to buy more fabric than you think you need just in case more is required.

Step two: Remove the old fabric and batting

Before you begin pulling the fabric off, you should photograph the piece of furniture from all angles as this will come in useful when you are putting new fabric on the chair.

Remove the old fabric by turning the chair upside down and disassemble the chair as needed to remove the upholstery pieces.

You should be careful to avoid tearing any of these old pieces of fabric as you may need them as patterns.

As you remove pieces, you should mark each piece to ensure you know the location on the chair and be sure to note on each piece the location of welting and where the pieces are sewn together.

Upholstery batting is the fabric padding found between two layers of upholstery covering which is typically made from materials such as foam, cotton or polyester.

If the batting on your piece of furniture is worn or stained, you should remove it from the item, checking springs and webbing for damage and repair if necessary.

If needed, cut a piece or battling to cover the chair back and seat as needed, covering the chair back first and stapling it down.

To avoid showing visible indents from the staples, you can pull gently on the batting around each staple so the staple is inside the batting.

Next, cover the seat with batting, in the same way, folding neatly around the corners.


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Step three: Make a new pattern

Using tracing paper or pattern paper, make yourself a new pattern.

You should cut out your shapes from your selected material making sure to cut sufficient material.

There is no need to hem the fabric because any uneven edges will be hidden by the trim.

The next step is to replace the furniture cover by securing the fabric with upholstery tacks.

Step four: Trim the new pattern

You next need to trim your new material to the desired lengths making sure to centre the pattern on your seat before cutting.

Lay the original upholstery pieces wrong side up on the wrong side of the new fabric, watching for the grain, placement of the pattern or motifs, and direction of the pattern.

Pin the fabric in place and cut around the pattern, leaving two to three inches of fabric beyond the stapled edges of the original pieces which will allow you to have fabric when stapling.

Sew the fabric pieces together inside out to create the full seat cover, adjusting for curves as needed.

Step five: Fitting the new seat

Fitting the seat cover requires the fabric to be stretched tightly across the pad making certain that the corners are neat.

If the seat is removable then you must remove it first.

Next, you should pin the fabric in place on the underside and then the new seat can now be replaced.

You can use a staple gun to secure the new fabric if you wish as it can sometimes be easier to get a tighter, more professional finish if you staple rather than tack it.

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