A favorite chair in the living room is a soft, comfy spot that makes you feel warm and welcomed. Unfortunately, over time the upholstery wears out, rips or tears. Some old upholster
ed chairs have a fabric covering that was beautiful -- in 1978 -- but, now... not so beautiful. As long as the frame of your chair is still in good and sturdy condition, your chair can be reupholstered. Reupholstering a chair yourself is much less expensive than buying a new chair or taking it to have it professionally recovered. If your chair is old, antique or a vintage find and is quite valuable, you may want to stick with professional reupholstering. If the chair has more of a sentimental value or just great lines, removing the upholstery and using the removed fabric as your guide and pattern to cut new material is a perfect project for you.
Reupholstering Made Easy
Turn the chair on its side or back so you can reach the bottom of the chair. The fabric on the bottom of the chair is known as cambric. Cambric is thin and rips easily, so you need to be careful when removing it to keep it in one piece.
Grip the staples with pliers and pull them out of the wood frame. If the nails hold the cambric to the bottom of the chair use a claw hammer or nail puller to take them out. Wear gloves when pulling the staples because the are quite sharp and pointy.
After all the nails or staples are removed, set the cambric on the side to be used as a pattern later.
Work the staples, nails or tacks out of the fabric that is held onto the chair frame. If the nails or tacks won't come out, cut around them with a sharp utility knife. If glue holds the fabric to the frame, wet a towel, place the towel over the glued fabric, turn an iron on and iron the wet towel. The steam from ironing the wet towel will loosen the glue hold. If the glue still has a firm hold on the fabric, add white vinegar to the water, saturate the towel and squeeze out the excess water. Lay the white vinegar and water soaked towel ove the material and place the iron on the towel. The vinegar will dissolve the glue and make it much easier to remove the upholstery.
Pull out the stuffing if you plan on replacing it. Most times, chair stuffing requires replacement because it has been mashed down for years.
Continue to move around the chair, loosening the fabric and taking it off the frame. The material will come off in pieces. The back is one piece, each of the sides are pieces and the arms are all separate pieces.
After you remove each piece, write down where it came from on the chair and pin it to the fabric.
Place a large piece of kraft paper on a worktable. Lay each of the pieces on top of the kraft paper, smooth it flat with your hand and iron it if necessary.
Trace around the removed upholstery onto the kraft paper. Write on the kraft paper which part of the chair the material came from. Repeat for each piece of fabric.
Cut the paper with scissors on the traced lines.
When reupholstering, you now have the exact size, shape and location of the new upholstery pieces.
Removing old upholstery and using it as a pattern makes reupholstering much easier and guarantees a good fit for the new fabric covering.