Wingback Chair Re-Upholstery Project: Recovering the Chair




The chair is done!  

Wait, you say I can't just leave the cushion like that?  And I should probably paint the legs black?  But look at this Samurai chair actually being sold for actual money at a posh pop-up store in New York... 



Nightwood, NY
Well, maybe I wouldn't buy it.  At this point I feel like I'm at mile twenty in this project marathon - pretty exhausted with it, proud of what I've finished, but not excited that the most complicated sewing is still to come. 

Most of the reupholstery was time-consuming but straightforward.  I used the old fabric as a pattern to cut out new pieces, leaving extra fabric on the edges.  Then I started pulling the fabric tight and stapling, working in reverse of the order in which I removed the old fabric.  

If you are attempting this:  buy an electric staple gun.  It can be as cheap as $25, and if you are like me, it will save you hours of pulling out half embedded staples and re-stapling.  This jar is evidence of my many staple failures. 


I used an IKEA multi-purpose weight fabric, and while I am pretty happy with it, in a few places abrasion from metal hardware broke through the fabric.  I don’t expect this fabric to stand up to twenty years of use, but that’s fine because the fabric probably isn't plain enough to look good in twenty years anyway.  I used five or six yards (can't remember, sorry!), but wish I had a little extra.

I started this project without intending to share the reference snapshots, and other people before me have already written up great tutorials, so check out Molly at the Creative Maven if you’re looking for complete directions and more action photosHere are some pictures and comments about the two most difficult things about recovering the chair:  the parts that required sewing, and the areas that used special hardware.  

The front seat of the chair was easy enough, because it just needed two straight seams to make corners.  I laid the fabric over the area right side down, pinned the fabric into the corners I wanted, then checked the fit by turning it right side out. 

The stuffing sticks to everything!  Lucky me.
There is no wood under the light blue fabric to staple to, so I also tacked the grey fabric to the light blue fabric in the middle (basically sewing with big stitches) and added some fabric glue along the seam for extra security.  Not exactly professional, but it got the job done.  Once the glue was dry I could pull the fabric tight and staple underneath the chair.

The other area that required sewing was the inside chair wing and arm rest.  Attaching these to each other was challenging because it involves sewing a curved fabric to a straight fabric, and on my chair there was also welting in between.  Attach the welting to the straight fabric first, then pin the two pieces together and test the fit on your chair.  If you look at the three items that are supposed to be joined together, you can see the old fabric with a straight edge has a curve in it from where it was pulled around the wing frame, and that curve corresponds to the notch in the arm rest fabric. 

Armrest, welting, and inner wing fabric

The curves on the wings, and attaching the final piece of fabric to the back gave me some trouble.   These areas used upholstery hardware:  two pieces of 27” metal tack strip with vinyl cover for the back, and about ten feet of Ply Grip by the running foot for the outside of the wings.   It’s not a good idea to re-use the original metal parts that you remove from your chair because they will be bent out of shape.  I had a hard enough time getting a smooth line with the brand new hardware! 

Anybody have some tips for working with Ply Grip or tack strip?  I had a hard time getting a clean edge with the ply grip, and hammering in the tack strip (a metal strip with lots of spiky teeth) was hard to do in a straight line and while pulling the fabric taut.  

The cushion is coming soon!

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