How to put on the new fabric when reupholstering chairs

This week, our Jill of All Trades, Jill Washburn, continues the kitchen chair reupholstery project by showing us how to put the new fabric on the seats of the chairs. 

Jill starts with taking the old fabric that she took off the chairs last week and using it as her pattern to cut the new fabric for the chairs. Jill recommends ironing the old fabric piece, so that it will lay flat for you to making tracing easier. Jill also recommends cutting the new piece of fabric slightly larger than the old piece, so you can be sure you have plenty to work with. Jill says you can always trim the edges back later, after you’ve installed it on the chair. 

Once you have the fabric cut out, it’s time to make the piping. Again, Jill used the fabric for the previous piping on the chair as her pattern. Jill’s was a long 2 1/2”-wide strip of fabric. She then folded the fabric around some 3/8” filler cord (available at fabric stores) and sewed it together, using a zipper foot. Jill says that the goal is to get the stitching as close as possible to the edge of the filler cord.

Now, it’s time to put it all together. Jill starts with laying the fabric on top of the cushion, making sure that the print pattern is straight. Once that’s done, you can flip the whole thing over and start stapling the fabric to the bottom of the seat. Jill says that, normally, she would start with the straight sides of the seat, stapling in the center of one side first and then going across the seat to the opposite side, working her way towards the corners simultaneously. But, in this case, because the corners of the seat are curved, Jill says it really was easier to start in the corners and make sure those were done right before tackling the sides. 

Pulling the fabric taut, Jill put one staple in each corner. From there she carefully pulled and gathered the fabric to ease it around the corners, stapling as necessary to hold it all in place. Jill says to use as many staples as you need to hold the fabric in place. 

**PRO TIP #1** Jill says to check to make sure that you’re not stapling too close to the edge of the seat. If you do, the tips of the staples could poke through the fabric, damaging it over time, or cutting someone who’s sitting there.

**PRO TIP #2** Jill highly recommends using a power staple gun, especially if you’re doing multiple chairs, because this process requires a ton of stapling.

Jill did one corner and then the opposite corner diagonally across the seat. She then finished the other two corners in the same manner. Once all the corners were done, Jill then set about pulling the sides and stapling them tight. She says that you can pull the fabric tighter than you think and that pulling it taut is the key to a professional-looking finish. 

The next step is to put on the piping. Jill figured out where she wanted me piping to start, set it on the underside of the seat so that the cording was just off the edge of the chair, and then started stapling, making her way all the way around the edge of the seat. When she got to the end she overlapped the edges of the fabric, folding the top one over just a tiny bit and stapled that all into place.

At this point, the seat is basically done. You may want to trim back some of the edges of the fabric on the underside so that it all looks a little neater. Jill also chose to cover the bottom of the seat with some facing, so that it all looks more finished. They facing also helps protect the cut edges of the fabric so that they are less likely to fray. Jill used plain Tyvek. It is available at fabric stores. She traced around the seat and cut out the Tyvek. She then stapled it to the bottom of the seat and then trimmed back any access, so that it did not show beyond the edge of the piping.

Now, your seat is done! It’s time to install it on the chair. For Jill‘s chairs, it was an easy task of installing four screws. 

Jill says that she had never done any kind of upholstery before and was kind of intimidated at the thought of it, but this project turned out to be easier than she thought. She says that the process is pretty forgiving and that if you don’t feel it’s looking good, you can just pull out some of your staples and redo them.


If you’d like to see Jill take you through the process, you can click on the video player above.