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Sewing and Reupholstering Basics


A very basic reupholstery project to consider would be covering or recovering a chair (stationary, rocker, office) or bench seat using fabric (or leather-like fabric) and eliminating piping or cording on the edges of the cushion. The upholstery fabric would essentially be wrapped tightly over a layer or more of any quilt-like batting that covers a dense foam core and stapled to the chair or bench bottom.

Materials needed:

Flat head screwdriver and pliers to remove existing staples (there will be many) on the underside of the chair or bench bottom. Sharp Scissors, tape measure, staple gun and staples will be needed.

Block of new medium-firm foam unless reusing the existing seat cushion. Consider however that an old foam cushion, depending on its composition, is prone to break down after many years of use (generally 10 years) before losing its original shape, springiness or starts to crumble. Foams are graded by weight, firmness and cell structure. Generally most foam material is inexpensive, light-weight and can provide adequate support. Foam may be cut to the desired shape of the chair or bench.

Quilt type batting to wrap around the foam and then around to the seat bottom. The batting layer, or multiple layers, helps to minimize repeated compression or abrasive action on the fabric that occurs from normal use and can extend the life of the fabric and foam. The batting layer should be firmly and smoothly wrapped over the foam and seat bottom before the final fabric wrap and stapled to the bottom to secure. An alternative method to secure the batting to the foam is to use a spray adhesive.

New upholstery fabric should be laundered or dry cleaned according to the manufacturer’s suggestion for cleaning before cutting and using it in the upholstery project to allow for any shrinkage. Polyester outdoor fabrics are stiffer than cotton upholstery fabric as they tend to be not as pliable when covering corners as a cotton or cotton blend type. Consider the weave of the fabric. If very textural it may abrade quicker than a smooth surface and pill after much wear. Still, choice of fabric is a personal design decision.

Note: A link to an excellent fabric upholstery guide to determine how much fabric yardage is needed for different furniture types follows this article.

Steps to consider:

1. Remove old seat bottom from the chair or bench. Use a flat head screwdriver and pliers to remove all the old staples from the underside. The old fabric may be useable as a template to cut the new fabric. Cut the new fabric somewhat larger than the old as the old fabric may have shrunk or through wear may have become misshapen. Measure the new fabric carefully before cutting. Zig-zag stitch all around the edges of the new fabric if it tends to fray.

2. Place foam on the chair bottom and wrap batting around both together firmly using one or more layers of quilt-type batting. Staple all together on chair or bench bottom after pulling taut. Spray adhesive may be used to secure batting to the foam instead of staples.

3. Center the cut upholstery fabric on the batting wrapped foam and seat bottom. Staple securely by tacking the fabric onto the seat bottom first on the centers of the underside edges after pulling the fabric taut.

4. Fold up the fabric at the corners and tack it to the bottom, easing any rippling of the fabric as smoothly as possible in order to neatly round the corners.

5. Finish stapling the fabric to the seat bottom by stapling alternating sides until the fabric is taut and smooth.

6. Secure the newly reupholstered seat bottom or bench cushion onto their frames.

Reupholstering a favorite chair seat, bentwood rocker, rolling office chair or window or bench seat requires the same methodical processes as to any sewing project. How much fabric yardage to buy? What kind of fabric is best to use? Sharp scissors are of course a necessity. Measure twice (or more) then cut applies as well to sewing projects as to reupholstery projects.

Attempting a new sewing or simple reupholstery project, then seeing it to completion, can be an enjoyable and satisfying accomplishment.

The Ultimate Furniture Reupholstery Guide from the Leather Hide Store

Sew happy, sew inspired.


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Content copyright © 2015 by Cheryl Ellex. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Cheryl Ellex. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Cheryl Ellex for details.

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