Upcycling Upholstering Made Simple

I get a kick out of upcycling – taking something old and no longer useful, and turning it into something useful, and often, beautiful. Saves money, and also saves the pocket and environment in one fell swoop! 25-odd years ago, we had our old dining room chairs reupholstered and paid a sizeable amount of money akin to having bought an entire new cheap dining room set!

Fast forward a decade and a bit, and it was time for a new look. The chairs were looking old and tired and needed a little sass and zazz to bring them alive again. Enter the staple gun! Voila! Changed my life forever, and in no time at all, with some fabric samples I’d collected along the way, we had “new” old chairs! I was infinitely surprised by how little time and effort were required to avoid paying a king’s ransom to someone else to do the job.

Well, another decade and a bit have passed by, and those chairs were again looking like they’d partied too long and too hard (evidence of a few spills and whoopsie stains) and the wear and tear were evident it was time for another change. Rummaging through my fabric stash, I came across a sturdy piece of thick woven cotton fabric (think Bali, Mexico or Cuba) which our son had made a poncho with (one square, folded in half, and a circle cut out of the centre for the head and neck to fit through) and was no longer in use. The fabric was still in good nick, and when I folded it in four, it indicated it was slightly larger than the seats of the dining chairs, so I knew it was fit for the job.

Now let me break this down in easy-as steps……anyone can do it. All you need is the fabric, a good working space, some tools (see picture) and a fabric scissors. Simply push the seat out of it’s frame as shown below and place on working surface.

  1. Don’t be daunted, the most difficult part of all, is removing the old staples. For this job, I use a small flat screwdriver to prise the staples up. A pair of flat nose pliers are good for gripping the uplifted staple and pulling it out completely.

2. The next job is to uplift the fabric gusset which is stapled over the ends of the upholstery fabric to neaten off the piece. Either cut another piece of cotton fabric and fold over edges for a completely new gusset, or if they are in reasonable condition, simply reuse these to neaten up your new upholstery job. The picture below shows the gusset still on (I later took this up and reused it).

3. Cut out the new fabric, allowing 6-8cm extra to pull up and over the chair seat. Place chair seat onto fabric, bottom side showing up. Pull the fabric up and staple all the corners first. Trim excess fabric.

4. Pull the sides up around the seat and staple in position, taking care to fold the corners so that the fabric lies as smoothly as possible. You don’t want big bulky folds as this will stop your newly upholstered chair from fitting back into the seat frame.

5. Fit the old (or new) gusset onto the seat, ensuring all upholstery fabric edges are covered. Staple into position.

6. While my seat tops are new, the bottoms still look old as I’ve simply reused the old gussets. This is not a problem though, as they will not be seen. Job done! It really is that simple!! Time allocated to each seat was roughly 40 minutes (digging up old staples can be tricky!). 2 1/2 hours later, we have 4 new-looking dining room seats! And the fabric will always remind us of our son! Great memory-making chairs.

So this was what our chairs looked like before the upcycle…….

…….and this is what they look like now!

Hmmm, will have to make a great celebratory meal now for tonight……

Ciao, Jizzy

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