Sunday, January 22, 2012

Dining Chair Seat Recovering

Just finished a project that took much longer than I thought it would - putting new fabric on my dining room chairs.  Of course, every step was harder and took longer than I had expected.  But I'm happy with the results.

Six pretty chairs all finished!
Ugly old chairs.

UPDATE:  I've had many visitors to this post and decided I should post some succinct steps for recovering chairs.  
1. Remove chair seats from frame. They are probably screwed on at the bottom; you'll need power tools for this.  Number each seat and frame as you will want to put the same frame and seat together at the end.
2. Pull out all staples holding existing fabric on.  I used a hammer to tap a screwdriver positioned at the staple to get under and pry it up. I used pliers to pull out the loosened staples.  This is the most time-consuming step of the process.
3. Use the old fabric to make a pattern for the new seats. Draw the pattern on paper and cut it out.
4. You will need fabric, firm batting and a good dense foam.  The foam provides softness and the batting provides firmness.  Use the pattern you made to cut the fabric (be sure to consider direction and placement of any design in the fabric before cutting).  Cut the foam to the shape of the chair seat. Trace around the seat with a marker and cut out the foam. Cut the batting an inch or two larger all around than the foam (I just laid the foam on the batting and eyeballed it--it's not rocket science).
5. Assemble fabric, right side down, batting, foam and the chair seat.
6. Using a good staple gun, staple the fabric at the center of each of the four sides first, pulling it snugly tight but not mashing down the foam too much.  You may have to experiment with staple sizes. I used 1/8" staples.
7. Staple near each corner, pulling fabric snug as before.  Staple halfway between the middle and corner staple on all sides, also pulling snug as you go. Fabric should be secure enough now, you will need to do little pulling as you staple.  Use plenty of staples to finish going around the seat, perhaps an inch apart.
8.  Do corners last. Back corners are hidden by the chair frame, so not much fussing is needed with them.  For the front corners. try to pull the fabric snugly and smoothly to make a nice rounded corner.  It should have no pleats showing from the top.  Staple securely with several staples. This is the hardest part to get right.
9. Reattach seat to frame with screws.  Match up the same seats and frames you marked in step 1.

Sounds easy, but it is actually quite time-consuming.  But the result is worthwhile.

Here's a recap of my experience.

1.  I decided to first rip off one seat cover and make a pattern from the old fabric.  Getting the screws out to remove the seat was hard and I was puzzled that most of the chairs had only three screws instead of four.  Pulling out the staples was also tough.  I had to pry with a screwdriver and pull with pliers.  Took almost half an hour for one chair.  I didn't do the next five chairs until a week later, and I did find some efficiencies and got the time down to about 10 minutes per chair.  With the fabric off, drew a pattern on brown paper.

2.  I was going to buy new fabric, but then I remembered I had, stuck away in a drawer, some pieces of the fabric left over from when I had my couch recovered - about 20 years ago!  I pulled it out, it looked great.  In fact, holding it up next to my couch, I couldn't believe how little the couch has faded in that time.  Problem:  The were not big enough pieces to lay out all six chairs.  Solution A; Buy new fabric.  Solution B: Piece together from existing. I opted for Solution B figuring the only thing I lose is time if it doesn't work.  I cut six rectangles 17" wide by 23" long for the center pieces, and then 12 rectangles.  6" wide by 23" long.  Stitched them together creating a piece big enough for my pattern (had to learn to use my new sewing machine, which delayed me about an hour or so). I didn't worry about matching with the busy pattern on this fabric and I figured the seams would be nearly invisible on the chairs.  I was right.  Cut out six pieces.

Here are pieces of fabric on the matching couch.  There's the batting.
Stitching the pieces, twelves straight seams, no problem once I learned how to use my machine.
Now the pattern fit nicely on the pieced-together fabric.
3.  I bought new foam and batting as the old foam in these chairs was close to 30 years old and pretty sad shape.  The fabric store had the batting but no foam.  After some running around, I finally found some perfect size foam sheets at Smith's supermarket. I lay the seat board on the foam and drew around with a marker and then cut out six pieces using my old electric knife.  I took the time later to trim them a little more carefully to the board as I didn't want the foam to overhang the edges, but just the fabric and batting.  I laid a piece of foam on the batting and measured about an inch bigger all around and cut the first piece.  This was my pattern for the next five.

Cut the foam with my old electric knife.  That thing is finally good for something.
4.  Found the staple gun and practiced stapling until I found the right size staples.  Then assembled the pieces for one seat, fabric, batting, foam and board, and stapled the sides, tucked and gathered the corners and stapled them down securely.  I still needed to attach the seat, but I was ready to quit.  To get this far had taken most of my three-day weekend.  I was discouraged and didn't touch the project again for a week.

One seat finished though not yet attached.
5.  Things went better the next round.  I got the five seats off and patiently pulled staples while watching a documentary.  I decided the wood portions of the chairs needed some TLC, so I purchased some wood cleaner and restorative.  It was a warm day and I was able to do this work on the patio (the restorative is flammable).

6.  Finally, in an assembly line, I assembled and stapled the remaining five covers trying to perfect the corners--the toughest part.

7.  When removing the seats, I had carefully numbered each chair and seat so I could match them up again, assuming the screw holes might not be aligned if I switched them around. A power drill made screwing the seats to the chairs again the fastest work of all.

The cost of the project was about $12 for the foam and I think it was $10 for the batting.  The chairs now match my couch (not that I was striving for that), and I know this is good quality, durable fabric--I won't have to do this again for a long time, if ever.  Thank goodness.


troutbirder said...

Wow. That looks complicated. Way above my head... :)

Bekkieann said...

There are any number of ways I could have made the job simpler. I had visions of those home improvement shows where they remake an entire room in two days. But the truth is, I wanted a quality, lasting result and not just something slapped together. I don't regret taking the extra time to get it right.

Catfish Tales said...

That is JUST amazing, Becky!!! Truly brilliant - I could never do that in a million years. Now I'm simply in awe of you, your practical thrift and clever way of reusing carefully saved discards. Not only were you able to pull it off in such a clever fashion (saving $$$$, no less), but the new chair coverings look fantastic. What a marvel - a simple marvel - you are!

Bekkieann said...

Thank you, Shers, but you could do it as well. You far more talented and creative than I am. It's fun to deconstruct and then put it all together again.