Saturday, November 12, 2011

Reupholstered Dining Chairs + Cording

First things first, I want to say "Thank You" to Lindsay at Better After for featuring my Radio Chest Revamp last week.  Check it out here and see her other great "Before & After" features for some quick inspiration!

And now, prepare yourself for a saga dating back to my childhood, as illustrated by chairs.

Once Upon a Time...

I grew up with an oak kitchen table and a set of six maple chairs upholstered in a dark blue fabric.  I remember doing everything in those chairs.  My brother and I built forts with them, did our homework, ate breakfast, lunch and dinner, and of course, spilled our breakfast, lunch, and dinner on them.

Those were our kitchen chairs until I was about 12, when my parents switched them out for a new set.  The maple chairs went into storage until one of the kids needed them.  Well, I was the first to move out and thus the chairs came to me.  I was so thankful.  They are great, solid chairs that can go with pretty much any decor and apparently survive anything since they're still whole after all our shenanigans.

We pulled them out of storage about 2 1/2 years ago now, and remember all that breakfast, lunch, and dinner?  It was still on the upholstery.  At that point I didn't know how to upholster, so I just put new fabric over the old and called it good.

That is how, about 10 months ago, our chairs looked like this:
Not bad, eh?  Yes, I loved the fabric and it was a great improvement.  But then we moved, and I realized that everything in our dining area was whitish-beige.  Hmmm....and the fabric I had covered them with wasn't holding up very well (note to self:  home decor fabric does not necessarily mean it will hold up as upholstery fabric!).  So I decided to recover these babies, this time the right way!

So this is how to do a basic dining room chair reupholstery with cording.  You know, that piping that goes around the edge of the chair and makes it look oh-so-professional.

Joe helped me, and between the two of us, we got it done in one day--even with some stapler jamming and other roadblocks.

STEP 1:  Detach seat from chair frame.
  For most dining chairs, this means flipping the chair over and taking out the screws that hold the seat on (usually there is one in each corner, 4 total).
STEP 2:  Remove old fabric and staples.
  Make sure you have some elbow grease, needle-nosed pliers, and a flat head screwdriver.  This part is my least favorite, but it makes for a much better end product.
Go, Joe!
And here, my lovely readers, you see...My Childhood.  Along with every grimy handprint that went with it...

Next, we took off the blue fabric.  Goodbye. 

STEP 3:  Recover the seat with your new fabric and a staple gun.  
Center your fabric, pull tight and staple on each edge, making sure to pull evenly  to make it smooth.  This was before my fabulous pneumatic staple gun appeared in my life, so we used and hand stapler.  They work fine for this application--but I'm not trading :)

**For more details on how to upholster a smooth seat, check out this post.  This seat already had its foam and batting in place, but that will show you how to approach stapling the fabric).

  At this point, you could simply reattach your seat and be done.  If you want that little extra detail though, keep reading.

STEP 4:  Sew your cording.  (I won't lie to you--this is the hardest part for me).

For this, you'll need:
a)  1 1/2" wide strip of your fabric, long enough to wrap all the way around your seat.  If you don't have the length you need in one piece, simply sew strips together until it's long enough (Make sure to give yourself a little extra).  
b) Cotton cording, found at any sewing store (I've also found it at Wal-Mart).  If you can't find it, you can just use a thick nylon cording, as well.  I'm a fan of improvising.  The cording should be the same length as the fabric strip.
c) A sewing machine.

Basically all you're going to do is wrap the cording in the fabric and stitch it, so you get a piece of cording with a "tail."  
This is where having an upholstery sewing machine comes in handy.  They have special feet and mechanisms that keeps your stitching as close to the cording as possible.  Since I'm assuming you, like me, do not have an upholstery sewing machine sitting in your basement, just use a narrow foot and get the stitching as close to the cording (without actually sewing on top of the cording) as possible.

When you're done, you should have a long strip of cording ready to be attached.  This is very very simple.

STEP 5:  Attach your cording.

All you do is staple the "tail" onto the underside of the seat along the edge so that the cording sticks out.  Find an inconspicuous spot, on the back or side, to begin and end your cording.  The best place is usually where one side of the back of your chair meets the cushion--the support for the back will hide the "joint" where the cord begins and ends.
When you have stapled the cording all the way around the edge, just curl the end of the cording in toward the inside of the seat to keep the raw edge from being exposed and fraying. 

 DO NOT do what we apparently did on our chairs, shown in the picture below.  We began and ended our cording on what looks like a front corner of the cushion.  So everyone can see the joint where they come together.  I'll have to do some investigating and see if we really did that...
STEP 5:  Reattach your cushion and celebrate, because you just reupholstered a chair!

After 10 months, this is now what our chairs still look like.  They're holding up great, and I still love the fun fabric.

I love cording...when it's finished...

These chairs still have a lot of life in them, and with a little fabric we made them fit our style.  

STEP 6:  Make Dinner and eat it on your new chairs!


  1. if you use the zipper foot and move the needle to the desired position that works too.

  2. That's a good point, clanc15 (otherwise known as MY MOM!!!) The zipper foot is what I used, I think. It made it easier than the other feet would have been! Great catch!


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