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My step by step guide will show you how to reupholster a chair without sewing and a list of materials and equipment I used to update and modernize two old wingback chairs.
I did not have the budget to pay a professional upholsterer to recover my chairs so I decided to try a no sew chair upholstery tutorial and wow, they came out great! My two wingback chairs were covered in an old primitive fabric that I wanted to update with a fresh modern print. This was my first attempt at reupholstering a chair so needless to say, I am a beginner!
How to reupholster a chair – for beginners
Is it hard to reupholster a wingback chair?
Honestly, I found this no sew method simple and easy to follow. Our wingback chairs in the dining room were from an era way back when I loved the primitive design look. I have had these chairs for over 15 years and they were very expensive so parting with them was not an option. Over the years, my taste changed and I wanted to give these chairs a makeover using a pretty modern floral pattern.
Wingback chairs are very comfortable and offer a supportive back as well. They are perfect for captains chairs at a dining room table. They are a traditional style so the new modern fabric I picked out will help give them a new look.
I used my small air compressor and staple gun for this project.
I was not planning on sharing this upholstery video tutorial as the quality is horrible but so many of you have emailed over the course of the last few months asking for an upholstery tutorial so I decided I would try to edit the video as best as I could.
I decided to add clips of each section of the tutorial as we go.
This way, if you don’t understand my visual tutorial, simply click the clip beneath and you can see me in action.
FAQs about Reupholstering a Chair
Here is the wingback chair before I tackled the reupholstery project.
Many of these pictures were taken with my phone because I was recording the video while working on this project. I barely could figure out how to run the video never mind switching over to camera mode to take pictures.
The quality of the pictures are not the best. Many are even screen shots of the video.
How to reupholster a chair without removing old fabric
The materials needed for this upholstery tutorial are as follows:
- 8 yards of fabric
- Staple gun
- Construction staples (1/2 – 1″) or upholstery heavy duty staples
- Air compressor
I didn’t want to remove the old fabric so I decided to upholster over it. You do not need to remove the old fabric unless of course it’s soiled, smells or you simply want to remove it. This tutorial is a great alternative to a wingback chair cover which often times can look sloppy after someone sits in the chair, moving the fabric.
Step 1 – Drape Fabric Over Chair
Start by draping your fabric over your chair (leaving the old fabric on the chair) simply to get an idea of how your chair will look.
I am a visual person so I need to do this prior to starting any project. I started by cutting my fabric for the two inside pieces first. (see below)
This video is several years old and I’m warning you – it’s bad! I tried to update and clean it up but unfortunately, technology wasn’t advanced when this video was taken. Boy, I am dating myself!
Step 2 – Staple New Fabric To Chair
Once you have cut your fabric (leaving 3″ on either side) and tucked the fabric inside the creases (if applicable) you need to use your staple gun to secure the fabric inside the crease area.
I used a staple gun, construction staples (1/2 – 1″) and our air compressor.
They sell actual upholstery staples but they didn’t fit in my staple gun so I just used what I had.
Work in sections, completing the right and left side (wings) pieces.
Steps 3 and 4 – Cover Seat and Back
Once the wings of the chairs are covered, move on to the back and seat of the chair repeating the same process.
Step 5 – Cover the Front Facing Arms
The next step requires you cut your front facing arm pieces but cutting the front pieces and stapling to the chair.
Once you cut your front facing pieces (be sure to leave 3″ or so on either side, try to strategically staple where the staple will not show.
The staples will be hidden by the arm fabric but you still want to try and staple in the least conspicuous place.
Once you have your front facing piece cut and stapled, you need to cover the inside of the arm chair.
You will see that I covered the inside (tucked down far into the seat and out to the “outside end”).
I hid the staples up underneath the outside of the arm.
If you are not going to make piping (to cover the edges around the arm) you really need to make sure your seams (edge of fabric) are as close to perfect and tight as possible as shown above.
Piping would cover any gaps and definitely give the chair a more “finished” look.
How to Reupholster a Wingback Chair Video
The video above is a no sew method and will help you reupholster a chair without spending a lot of money and you will not need to hire a professional. Reupholstering the chair arms can be a little tricky but folding the fabric to create a seam and then stapling in place worked great for my upholstery project.
See video clip below:
How To Reupholster A Couch Without Sewing
You can see I stopped (stapled) at the outside end.
Step 6 – Cover the backside of chair
I decided to upholster the “outside” arm piece separately (see below). I suppose you could just do one long continuous piece of fabric but it didn’t look good to me and I wanted a clean seam line.
See below how I cut a long piece (rectangular shape) leaving enough fabric to fold inward so you get a clean edge showing on the outside.
Pull as tight as you can and staple each corner.
You do the same thing for the top side pieces. Be sure to pull tight and staple.
How to reupholster a chair with arms
Step 7 – Piping (or seams in my case)
The seams are where you will put your piping if you choose. The piping will also hide any staples that may be showing.
You can see below, I pulled the fabric around to the back of the chair leaving about 2 inches overlapping.
I trimmed off the excess fabric once it was pulled tight and stapled.
I originally intended on making piping but once I finished the chair, I kind of liked it with the “seamed” look. Because I used a powered staple gun, the staples barely show.
I won’t lie though, some do show but for sake of saving thousands of dollars, I’ll deal with a few staples. ha.
Next, cut your piece of fabric for the back side of the chair. You will see below the entire backside was done in one piece of fabric.
Leave about 1″ extra on each side when cutting because you will need to fold each side inward about an inch in order to get the clean seam line.
The final version photos below are compliments of Woman’s Day Magazine.
The wingback chair made it into the July issue of Woman’s Day Magazine along with the entire dining room makeover. I was pretty excited!
Here is a fun shot of the entire dining room shot by the Woman’s Day photographer.
I love how our chairs add so much bright and vivid color to the room. Reupholstering a chair with arms can be a little tricky but if you have the option of making the fold in a crease and then stapling, that is your best option for hiding the seam.
How much does it cost to reupholster a chair
Learning how to reupholster a chair can be tedious and a bit frustrating but I had the labor cost savings in mind so that motivated me to figure out how to make this re-upholstery project work. The average cost to reupholster both of these chairs reupholstered by a professional was upwards of $850 a chair!
The new dining room wingback chair is modern, sleek and adds a punch of color to the room. For my diy project, I used about 8 yards of fabric per chair. I think I really only needed about 7 yards though but ordered a bit extra just in case. The amount of upholstery fabric necessary will vary based on your chair size.
More Reupholstered Projects You Will Love
Never in a million years while I was reupholstering these wingback chairs did I think they would end up in a magazine.
It was well worth the pain of learning how to reupholster a chair to see our entire dining room and these wingback dining chairs in this past January’s issue of Woman’s Day Magazine.
What started as a hobby, Jessica’s blog now has millions of people visit yearly and while many of the projects and posts look and sound perfect, life hasn’t always been easy. Read Jessica’s story and how overcoming death, divorce and dementia was one of her biggest life lessons to date.