As an upholsterer for over 40 years I have often been asked by people how they can upholster their own dining room chairs. I tell them it is not really that difficult to do once they know the upholstery process of doing things.
I will now go through the process so you can follow the methods most upholsterers use.
Now there are many different kinds of dining room chairs on the market, but the techniques for recovering them follows the same stages.
First thing to do is decide what kind of material you want to use, there are plenty of shops around selling off cuts and end of rolls. This is a good place to start if you want to cut down on costs.
But a warning: make sure the fabric is upholstery material or you are just doing a lot of work for nothing. Using the wrong kind of fabric will mean you will be doing it all again in a year or so. Upholstery fabric has a stronger weave than what is call soft furnishing fabric which is only good for light usage not for putting on chairs.
If you are unsure you can always go to a local upholsterer and see what they have, you may pay a few dollars more but at least it will be proper upholstery fabric.
Secondly how much fabric do you need? This depends on how many chairs you have and how big they are. But a basic rule is you need about 3 metres- 3.5 yards of normal (plain) 54inch- 140cm wide fabric to do 4 dining chairs, seats and backs. If it is high back chairs you can add a couple more metres just to be on the safe side.
For this article I will assume your chairs are the standard kind with the screw off envelope backs and bordered seats. If not the methods explained here will still work but you will have to improvise a bit.
1. First thing to do is turn the chair upside down and unscrew the seats from the frame, now unscrew the back as well. The seats will be easy to unscrew but the back screws maybe hidden under a plug that has to be removed first.
2. Once you have them unscrewed start to take the old covers off, you can use a flat screw driver to remove the staples if you don’t have proper staple removing tools.
3. Now that you have the old cover off you can use them to make templates with. When using old covers as templates make sure you mark them where they sew together, a stroke with a pen on the top and the boarder around the seat will do as a mark. Mark at least three times front sides and back if you like. Do the same for the backs.
4. Now you can unpick the old stitching and separate the fabric. Once you unpick a seat or a back make sure you keep them together so you don’t lose any parts, roll them up together is the best way.
5. Once this is done you can roll-out your fabric on a table or even a hard floor. Place the old covers on the fabric and mark around them with some chalk, normal blackboard chalk will do. Just make sure the covers are nice and flat and don’t move when you mark around them.
6. Once you have them marked out cut around the chalk mark, stay to the outside of the chalk line when cutting. You can just cut one to try if you are unsure. Also don’t forget to mark the new covers so you know where your sewing marks are.
7. Now you can sew the new covers together just line up the sewing marks you put on earlier and sew around the fabric. Do just one first to see how they fit.
8. Once this is all done it is time to put them back on the frames. As most dining chairs have square seats or at least square front corners start by putting the cover on the corners. Once you have the cover on just make sure the corners are nice and square before stapling.
9. Now start by putting in a temporary staple in the corners trying to keep the border at the same height. Once this is done put a staple in the middle of the front back and sides, so you should have the four corners and the four sides with a staple in them. Now staple the sides, making sure you keep the cover even, then the back and then the front: leave the corners to last. Once you have secured the sides finish off the corners doing the front ones first. You should now have the seat all stapled back together; you can now put a bottom calico on if you like.
10. You then do the backs. Most backs are envelope backs so you only have a row of staples along the bottom of the back. Start by straining the sides first and stapling them. Then do the middle of the outside back and finishing one side then the other. Cut off any excess fabric, and then do the front of the back, do it the same way as the outside back. If you are in doubt just look how the original was done and follow it.
11. Now you are ready to screw them together and you now have some brand new covers on your chairs.
Just remember practice makes perfect, if you are still unsure there are some videos available online where you can see the whole procedure, this makes it much easier to learn how to upholster your own chairs.