Sunday, August 14, 2011

Tutorial: Re-covering dining room chairs

 Now that I can't think of what else to do to the nursery, I finally faced a project I meant to start several weeks ago - re-covering the dining room chairs.  Here's a rough tutorial if you're interested in trying this at home:

1.  Examine your chairs to see how to separate the seat from the chair.  On ours, there was a screw on either side connecting the seat to the rest of the chair.

2.  Separate the seat from the rest of the chair and measure it to determine how much fabric you'll need to buy.  (I did a rough estimate and bought 3 yards of upholstery fabric, which was more than enough to cover 6 chairs.)

3.  Choose a fabric to cover the chairs.  I decided I wanted something less itchy than the original herringbone wool and I also didn't want to spend a lot of money since I wasn't sure how good I'd be at re-covering the chairs.  I bought more of a japanese floral print that only cost $6.99/yard at IKEA that I had previously used to make a pillow cover.

4.  Use the old fabric as a pattern to make your new covers.  When I bought the fabric, I thought it would just be a matter of cutting out 6 pieces (1 per chair) and stapling them on.  Then I looked more closely at the chairs and realized the fabric had a seam and was made of 2 pieces of fabric - yikes!  Taking off the old fabric was tricky and it involved using a screwdriver and pliers to rip out at least 50 staples.  (Thanks to my husband for doing most of that work.)  I decided to take off just one cover to use as a template, rather than spend the time removing all of them.

5.  Use kraft paper to make a pattern using the old cover as your guide.  I gave myself roughly a 1/2 inch border to account for seams and the fact that I planned on putting the new covers over the old ones.  In addition to the pattern for the top, I needed to cut out a long strip of fabric for the sides of the cushion.  I decided it was easier to just measure the dimensions, rather than cutting out a pattern for that portion since it was basically a long rectangle. 

6.  Use your pattern to cut your fabric.  I was able to cut 3 chair tops across the width of the fabric and was also able to cut the long strips across the width as well.  I cut out one set and sewed it together to make sure my pattern was correct before cutting out the other 5 sets.  To speed this up, I folded the fabric over so I could cut 2 chair tops at a time.  I somehow lost count and ended up cutting an extra one.  I used pinking shears to cut the strips of fabric to prevent too much fraying, and used one strip as my template for the others.  (It's tedious measuring a 50 inch straight line!)

7.  If your cushion consists of multiple pieces of fabric, pin them together and then sew it together.  The trickiest part was sewing around the curved edges.

8.  Before you start stapling the fabric to the new cushion, make sure it is centered.  (I didn't do that with the first one, so my seam is a little lop-sided).  Alternate stapling the sides and do the corners last.  The staple gun I'd borrowed for the task wasn't powerful enough, but my husband suggested I just pound the staples flat using a hammer, which worked out.

9.  Re-attach the newly covered seats to the chair.  Before I could do this, I also needed to poke a hole in the new cover for the screws to fit through.  I just used a small pair of scissors and the screw to do this.
The newly covered chair looked almost as well-tailored a the old one, which was good enough for me!  Not bad for my first try.

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