January 3, 2011

DIY Torture (i.e. Reupholstering a Wingback Chair, Part 1)

End Result:
The Torturer (given to us by relatives; 20 year old chair + ottoman):

Victims of Torture: Me and my helpful, staple gun-wielding husband. I seriously can't express enough how much my husband saved my sanity and my hands from our clunky, non-electric staple gun.

Fabric: Bloomfield Sunflower from fabric.com. Originally $17/yard. I bought it for $8/yard on clearance. I can't find it for sale anymore, so it's probably been discontinued.

Inspiration: My sister-in-law Mindy, whose house is decoration perfection, had some furniture in this fabric and I loved it when I saw it. Chairs like this one from Pottery Barn also inspired the color choice.

The $700 price tag inspired the DIY upholstery idea.

Lifelines, or, where I found useful information before starting:
All Things Thrifty: posts like this and this. I just love this girl's resilience. She actually goes back for more upholstering again and again!
A Mormon Chic tutorial
This Sew, Mama, Sew tutorial was excellent for doing the seat cushion.
This YouTube video was good to see how the mysterious ply grip is used.
Little Green Notebook: This post showed me how beautiful wing chairs can be. This shows different yardage charts for upholstery. I love this blog. I'm pretty sure I could be best friends with the blog author if I met her.
Creative Maven: This detailed tutorial is better than mine is going to be.

There are special upholstery tools that people say you need, but I didn't want to buy any, so I just worked with what I had.
A staple gun is essential. We didn't have an electric one, but people say that's the way to go if you can.
They say to use a mallet, but I just used a hammer and covered it with a rag when necessary.
Staples: I used 3/8" most of the time, 1/2" occasionally, and 1/4" on the "front of arm pieces" that you'll see later.
A screw driver if you don't have a staple remover
Needle-nosed pliers for pulling out staples
Sewing machine

8.5 yards x 8 = $68 (I had about a yard and a half left over, so 7 yards would be a pretty accurate total for the chair and ottoman together.)
$10 in staples
$10 in foam
$3 in piping cord
= $91 total

For those of you who are interested in the torturous process, and may actually be planning to do something like this yourself sometime, read on. It may not be pure fun, but it IS totally doable. I knew nothing about upholstery before starting, but I just followed how the chair was done before, for the most part, and it turned out. It's not perfect, but I'm happy with it.

I'll put it in days, because that's how I kept track. Each day, unless otherwise indicated, was only about 2 hours of work since I had to wait for the little girl to be asleep before working on it. Also, these days aren't consecutive, unfortunately. I started 7 weeks ago.

Day 1
Examine chair closely, see how it looks with fabric on
Remove staples and old fabric (8+ hours)

Day 2
Finish removing staples and old fabric (6+ hours)
Day 3
Glue boards under ottoman for extra support (It had nothing under it but foam and fabric originally, so it sagged a lot in the middle.)
Spray paint legs of chair and ottoman: two coats of primer, two coats of black
Day 4
Lay out original pieces on top of new fabric
Cut out pieces
Day 5
Cut bias strips following this tutorial
Sew 17 yards of piping (Actually one of the easiest parts of this job. I bought a 1/4" cord and sewed the fabric over it using a zipper foot.)

Day 6
Sew piping onto cushion pieces, trying to stay in the right shape for the foam insert
Sew zipper (using this tutorial again)

Day 7
Sew cushion pieces together with piping between seams
Finish cushion 

Day 8
Sew piping onto ottoman piece
Sew ottoman pieces together
Cut foam for ottoman
Day 9
Put foam under ottoman batting
Staple fabric to ottoman, add piping
Finish ottoman 

 Almost halfway. . . . On to part 2!


  1. I have a chair to reupholster and I think you scared me off! This looks incredible but my sewing skills might not be up to the task.

    1. Not all upholstery projects take sewing. Some are just stapling, so don't be scared off! Also, I'm a sewing novice, so it's not that bad--only kinda bad ;).

  2. Do you remember how much piping you ended up using out of your 17 yards? Thanks!

    1. Just about all of it. I didn't do it in one continuous cord though. I measured the original piping pieces from the previous upholstery and used those as a guide, with a few inches added to each just in case.

    2. Lisa, one more thing: where did you buy the curve ease/ply grip? Thanks!

    3. I didn't buy any, I just reused the old one by poking a mechanical pencil tip through it to make the spikes come back out. But I found some here (http://www.diyupholsterysupply.com/PG1/ply-grip.html) and it's super cheap.


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