DIY 101- How to Recover a Chair Cushion

For me, this past week was all about prepping props for a show at Juilliard. Yesterday I finished the chair I was working on recovering and thought I would share some chair recovering basics with you.  (A word of warning – I only took a before and after photo so all the other photos are from other blogs who do similar projects).

What you need:

  1. A wood-framed cushioned chair of your choice
  2. New Fabric and Trim enough to cover the chair
  3. Staples and staple gun
  4. Hot glue gun
  5. Hammer
  6. Staple lifter or remover (get this from the hardware store they have better ones than Office Depot)
  7. needle nose pliers
  8. Batting (sold in most hobby stores)
  9. Fabric chalk or pencil


1)Turn the chair upside down and if you can remove the seat (and back if it is upholstered) of the chair from the frame. If you are planning on painting the chair this would be the time to do it – I won’t get into that now but there are plenty of other people online that can give you a rundown on what to do.

My Chair Before I changed the back (the seat was already done).

2)Start by using your staple lifter and pliers to remove the old fabric. Try not to rip through the fabric layers if possible. The old fabric can be used as a template for the new pattern.

3) If your seat batting is in bad condition go ahead and remove the old batting and replace with some new. If it’s fine just skip this step.

4) Lay your new fabric down on the ground face side down, place the old fabric on top of the new also face down and using your fabric chalk, trace around the edges of the old fabric to create your new piece. It’s best to add an extra inch around the edges to give yourself some wiggle room for mistakes.

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5) Center your fabric on the chair seat, make sure the lines you just made are where they should be and if everything looks good then go ahead and cut out the piece.

6) Place your fabric back over the seat and if you can, flip both over so that you are looking at the underside of the seat cushion. Pull one side of the fabric up over the edge of the seat and staple to the underside of the seat in the center of that side.

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7) Take the fabric on opposite side of the seat from the one you just stapled, pull this tight and staple down the new side.

8) Now repeat steps 6 and 8 on the 2 remaining sides. This process makes the fabric tighter and less likely to bunch.

9) Working from the center of each side, staple the fabric out towards the corners of each side. Leave about and inch of wiggle room at each corner. Keep rotating and pulling the fabric tight as you go.

Note: If you can’t detach the bottom of the chair (as in the photo below) just lay the fabric over the seat and staple to the edge of the wood frame. Work from side to side and center out as listed above.

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10) At the corner (this is the tricky part) you can fold the fabric a number of ways. I like to fold it like you do when stretching a canvas, with one triangular fold to the side (Directions on how to do that here). The most important thing is to keep the folds neat and relatively similar on all 4 corners.

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11) Trim down any excess fabric, turn the seat back over and re-attach to the chair frame

12) Take your trim and using a hot glue gun attach it by work your way around the chair. Go slowly and take your time – you want this to last a while so wait for each section to set before you move on to the next part. This is your chance to cover up any mistakes you made or unsightly staples.

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13) Sit back and enjoy your work. If you are doing the back of the chair as well just repeat steps 1-13. Good Luck!

My Finished Chair!

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