a completed reupholstered a chair in the journey of reupholstering a chair. Wing back chair covered in an orange fabric

The Journey of Reupholstering a Chair

It sounds simple enough when a perfectly good wing chair arrives in need of a spruce up, a recover, and a fresh set of threads.

The thing is, when a customer says ‘it only needs new fabric’, us upholsterers smile a knowing smile; rarely is it just new fabric. A good upholsterer will always look at ways of improving a chair, whether it’s in for full re-upholstery or a recover. 

What really happens to ensure a chair lasts many more decades and is as good on the inside as it is on the outside is more than you might imagine. Let’s take a look at the journey of reupholstering a chair…

STEP 1: First Assessment

This well-worn wing chair came in looking ok, but experience tells me that’s not always the case when you start to strip off the old fabric. This chair was about 20 years old and while clearly loved it looked quite dated. 

the chair before being reupholstered

STEP 2: Closer Inspection

As always, you start by taking off the bottom cloth and you can start to see some clues of where this re-make is going. I could see the springs embedded into the foam with no barrier cloth in between. This breaks down the foam, as every time the chair is sat on, the springs agitate the foam, which in turn starts to break down and turn to dust. Therefore, the wear on the foam was too much.

spring base and foam at the base of a chair being reupholstered

A simple layer of heavy fabric or hessian between would have meant the foam would have been ok to re-use. On closer inspection, it’s the same situation throughout the chair – the back springs had no barrier, nor did the arms.

removal of the original fabric before reupholstering a chair

STEP 3: Laying the Foundations

All foam is removed, new stronger webbing is added to the arms, a hessian barrier is added on top of seat springs, back springs, as well as on top of the webs on the arms. The back foam and arm foam was ok to re-use as it was saved just in time. I always try and put as much of the existing stuffings back into the chair as possible, otherwise, I am adding to landfill.

re-using the back and arm foam when reupholstering a chair

“What really happens to ensure a chair lasts many more decades and is as good on its inside as it is on the outside, is more than you might imagine.”

STEP 4: Take a Seat

The seat foam was replaced. You can also see that no barrier was placed between the original top fabric and the foam and the same applies here – friction will break the foam down. So, a generous layer of polyester was added before the new fabric was attached.

applying new polyester to the arms when reupholstering a chair

STEP 5: Winging it

The wings were a bit funky as they didn’t quite meet the back, so webbing was added to make sure there wasn’t a noticeable dip if you ran your hand along the outside wings.

a detailed look of the wings when reupholstering a chair

STEP 6: Layer by Layer

Seat foam was removed, hessian was added as a barrier between springs, and new foam and polyester were added throughout the chair.

removing the seam foam when reupholstering a chair
hessian added to the reupholstered chair

STEP 7: Finally Fabric

So, finally… The fabric stage begins with the arms and arm facers.

adding polyester and fabric to the arms and arm facers when reupholstering a chair

STEP 8: All the Way

Then move onto the seat, back and the inside wings to complete the inside of the chair.

adding new fabric to  the seat, back and the inside wings when a reupholstering chair

STEP 9: Outside Edge

Then I move onto the outside where hessian and polyester are added throughout the outside too.

adding polyester and fabric to the back when reupholstering a chair
adding polyester to the wings when reupholstering a chair
adding hessian and polyester to the outside when reupholstering a chair

STEP 10: Closing Time

All sections of fabric are added and then I move on to the stage which I love the most – closing the chair by hand stitching (slip stitching) all the back sections to each other. Satisfying!

closing a reupholstered chair

STEP 11: Every Comfort

A new seat cushion cover is made.

STEP 12: Finishing Touches

At last, it’s time to add the bottom cloth – always the very last part of the process followed by a final good brush down.

adding a bottom cloth reupholstering a chair

I then photograph and call the customer to arrange collection, and we’re done!

a completed reupholstered a chair

Now you see a simple reupholstering of a chair is rarely as straightforward as you may imagine.

Drop me a line if you have a chair or other upholstery project you need help with by filling in the online contact form. You can also email me directly at sharon@vintiqueupholstery.com or call me on 07764 182 783.

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