Reupholstering dining chairs

I’m going to apologise in advance here for a lack of good pictures. I had planned to take some and then got carried away and forgot to!

A couple of months back I decided I couldn’t bear our green chair any longer. They were (of course) second hand and although they’re quite simply the comfiest dining chairs I’ve ever sat on the green corded seats were looking very tired and definitely didn’t match our dining room. At some point I may refinish the wood itself but for now I’ve just done the seats.

For years I’ve had this lovely dog fabric in my collection and thought what lovely seat covers it could make. So it finally got it’s chance to shine.

My chairs do not have removable seats so it was never going to be as simple as removing them and stapling on the new fabric. I did a fair bit of googling and improvising but I’m pleased with the final result. So here’s a step by step process of what I did as I found limited information on how to do this on the web.

Here is one of my ugly green chairs (with a beautiful schnauzer photobombing).

Step 1:
Remove the trim. The trim covers up the staples holding on the old fabric and gives the chair a finished look. They’re usually just glued on. So I found a loose bit, cut it and peeled the rest off. This left the staples exposed.

Step 2 (optional):
Remove the old fabric.
I had next planned to remove the green fabric. However, I found that the staples were almost impossible to remove. I got a few out but there were loads on every chair and it was turning into a right faff. Perhaps if I had all the right tools I could have done it but as I’ve said, I’m on a tight budget and buying new tools was not a possibility. So I decided to skip this step.

Step 3:
Make a template for your new fabric.
I did this by simply finding an old piece of scrap fabric (in my case a pillowcase) sitting it on top of the chair and working out where I would need cuts in order for it to fit around the back. I made it larger than I would need around the edges so that I could trim to size after stapling. For a chair of this design I worked out a simple template that allowed me to tuck the fabric into the ‘corners’ where the posts for the back were.

Step 4:
Cut out the fabric for your chairs.
I actually took a photo of this step!
As you can see my template was very rough, it didn’t need to be precise as I was trimming it neatly once on the chair.

Step 5:
Secure the fabric.
I did this by placing my cut piece onto the chair, tucking the corners in securely and then going around the edge with a staple gun. You have to be really careful to ensure you pull the fabric taut at all times. I found it was easiest to do opposite sides at a time. Corners are a little fiddly. Here’s a photo of a corner on a finished chair. Basically, you pull the fabric from each side together at the corner then fold flat against one of the sides, trying to avoid loosening the fabric too much.

Step 7:
Cut the fabric to size.
At this point everything was secure but the fabric was longer than it needed to be and hanging down below my line of staples. So I just went around with a pair of scissors. You don’t want to cut too close to the staples in case the fabric pulls away from the staple but not so long you can’t cover both the staple and fabric edge with a trim. A few mm is fine. Just line it up with the wood of the chair!

After this point I’d achieved this – you can just about see how the edges are still messy where they’ve been cut to size:

Step 8:
Attach the trim.
In order to make my chair look beautiful and hide all those messy staples and badly cut fabric edges I needed a trim. I ordered some online from ebay for a few quid that matched my fabric and wasn’t too ornate. You want to check the width is right. I matched the width of trim on the old chairs pre-makeover. This is where I splashed out and bought a glue gun. If you do any sort of DIY I highly recommend a glue gun and staple gun in your collection. Mine were both very cheap.
To start the trim, put a dot of glue on the end of the trim and fold it over to make a nice neat edge or it will fray. Then glue this to the edge of the chair, covering the staples. With a glue gun you need to work quite quickly along the edge, gluing a few cm at a time. When you get to an end cut to size allowing for you to glue and fold over the edge again. You can see what I mean in the below photo – note the tidy edges.

And voila! You have a beautiful chair! I’m really pleased with mine, they’ve really transformed the room and I adore the fabric.