How to re-upholstery or re-cover a chair

By learning just a few basic upholstery techniques and methods you will be able to re-upholstery worn and faded pieces, or make your own pieces of upholstered furniture. The hardest part of any upholstery project is taking that first step... Once you have overcome that fear, upholstery is fun and offers you an easy and affordable way to update or create furniture to your own design.

When wanting to tackle any upholstery or re-upholstery project you are going to need a few tools and supplies.


Tack strip
Curved tack strip
Welting or cord
Sewing machine and supplies
Staple gun and staples






Many of today's upholstery tools and techniques are the same as those used 200 years ago, but with a few modern updates. Take a look as we demonstrate the step-by-step re-upholstery process by recovering a chair, then try it on your own chair, sofa, ottoman, or headboard.

The chair is stripped of its original fabric and the pieces saved and labelled. The old fabric pieces serve as the pattern for the new upholstery. They are laid right sides down on the new fabric and cut out. If needed, an additional layer of batting is stapled to the frame.

The newly cut pieces of fabric are pinned wrong sides out onto the chair. The pinned cover is removed and sewn together, with welting reinforcing the seams. The sewn cover is then put back on the chair. Pleats are often used to ease fabric around curves and for this you can use a curved strip or staples to hold the pleats in place.

To attach a back panel, tack strips are stuck through the wrong side of the fabric at both long edges, about 2 centimetres in. Tack strips are strips of flexible steel or plastic with small pins that hook into the fabric, before being hammered down to hold fabric in place. These strips are used to attach panels on the back and sides of upholstered furniture.

The tack strips are then flipped over to pull the back panel taut and make clean, straight edges. The tacks are hammered into the frame with a hammer that has a piece of batting secured around the head.

A piece of fabric is cut for the chair seat and place in position. The back edge of the cover is pulled through the opening between the seat and back and stapled to the underside of the frame. The seat cover is also pulled tight and tacked to the bottom of the chair frame on the front and sides.

A lined, box-pleated skirt with welting is sewn together on a sewing machine. If you prefer, leave out the box pleats, but these do add a nice effect. To assemble the skirt, layers are arranged on the chair, pinned in place, and sewn together at the top. The skirt is stapled to the frame on the wrong side of the fabric, just below the seam.