Soft seat­ing

If you couldn’t re­sist a worn-out old chair, but don’t know what to do with it, here are step-by-step in­struc­tions that will trans­form it into the room’s star fea­ture.


We show you step by step how to trans­form a worn-out chair into the star fea­ture of your room

Vic­to­rian chair

To make

1 The prepa­ra­tion may take some time and is not very pleas­ant, but it is worth the ef­fort to do it thor­oughly as the end re­sult will be more than sat­is­fy­ing. If the ex­ist­ing foam is still in good con­di­tion, you don’t need to re­move it. We kept the foam of the arm­rests and back­rest, but re­moved the seat foam that had sagged badly and was dam­aged. Re­move the old fab­ric, nails and sta­ples (use a sta­ple re­mover or screw­driver). 2 Re­place the old, slack leather bands or web­bing with new web­bing. Mea­sure 2cm from the out­side of the seat’s frame along the front and draw a guide­line from one arm­rest to the other arm­rest. Fold the first two web­bing bands around the back of the chair, pull taut to the front and sta­ple with the sta­ple gun onto the guide­line. Now at­tach the third and fourth web­bing bands, but this time

start­ing in the front at the guide­line. Sta­ple down and pull taut to the back at an an­gle, fold around the base at the back and sta­ple down. Now sta­ple the two last web­bing bands to one side of the chair (fold around the base of the chair), weave over and un­der the other web­bing bands to the other side and sta­ple down. Cut off the ex­cess web­bing.

Plac­ing the new foam on the seat

3 Place a piece of polypropy­lene on the seat. Mea­sure the sur­face area of the seat and add ap­prox­i­mately 15cm to the back. Sta­ple the polypropy­lene to the front along the guide­line, then cut slits in the back so that it can be pushed through the wooden frame. Sta­ple at the back and trim the ex­cess.

4 Now mea­sure the seat’s sur­face area for the foam seat.

GOOD IDEA It is best to first glue a smaller piece of foam (thin­ner than the seat foam) in the mid­dle of the seat for ex­tra firm­ness and to pre­vent the seat sag­ging later. Mea­sure a bor­der of 10cm in from the guide­line. Cut the smaller foam to fit this cir­cle and glue it down.

5 Mea­sure the width and length of your seat. Cut the foam in a block form ac­cord­ing to the mea­sure­ments. Place it on the seat to en­sure there are no gaps at the sides be­tween the foam, arm­rests and back­rest. Push the corners at the back of the foam in be­tween the back­rest and base so that the foam fits snugly against the back­rest. Fol­low the curve of the back­rest and draw a line on the foam. Re­move the cush­ion, draw the line slightly wider and cut the foam with a knife. Put the foam back onto the seat and push it snugly against the back. Cut it off in line with the chair front. Spray glue to the un­der­side of the foam, as well as the smaller foam and polypropy­lene, and glue down. TIP Wait about two min­utes for the glue to dry be­fore you glue down the large foam, to en­sure a stronger bond.

Cover the front with foam

6 Firstly, cover the wooden panel in the front with a strip of polypropy­lene. TIP Work from the top down­wards – first sta­ple the top edge of the polypropy­lene, so you can pull it down­wards un­til it is taut and then sta­ple it down.

7 Mea­sure and glue the new foam for the front of the chair. Fold the edges of the base and front to­gether by spray­ing glue on both and pinch­ing them with your thumb and in­dex fin­ger. For the corners at the arm­rests, fold in the foam un­der the arm­rest.

8 Glue the bat­ting onto the base and at the front.

Cover the base and front

9 Now take the mea­sure­ments for the uphol­stery fab­ric. TIP It is more dif­fi­cult to re­uphol­ster the chair with printed fab­ric as the pat­tern must be placed cor­rectly.

Mea­sure the front

10 For the height, mea­sure from the bot­tom edge of the base (fold in your mea­sur­ing tape ap­prox­i­mately 3cm

un­der the base of the chair) to the top edge of the front, where the pip­ing will be. Add 1cm seam al­lowances. To find the width, mea­sure from one arm­rest along the front to the other arm­rest. Add 1cm seam al­lowances.

Mea­sure the base

11 Mea­sure the length by fold­ing in your mea­sur­ing tape along the un­der­side of the chair at the back and bring­ing it to the front up to the pip­ing line. Add 1cm seam al­lowances. Mea­sure the width in the same way, from the un­der­side of the chair on one side up to the other side.

12 Now make a pat­tern for the seat: place a piece of lin­ing fab­ric onto the seat and draw a line with a pen all around the cir­cum­fer­ence of the base. Re­move the lin­ing, draw the lines to form a neat curve and cut out.

IM­POR­TANT Be­fore you mea­sure and cut the fab­ric, first de­cide where the cen­tre of your fab­ric will be. Re­mem­ber, your mo­tif on the seat must be re­peated on the front. You will see our bird in the cen­tre of the seat is re­peated in the cen­tre front. Use the lin­ing pat­tern to cen­tre your mo­tif. Add 1cm seam al­lowances. Cut your fab­ric ac­cord­ing to the mea­sure­ments for the height, length and width for the front, as well as the base. Over­lock the seams with an over­locker to pre­vent them fray­ing.

For the pip­ing

13 Mea­sure a length of cot­ton pip­ing cord ac­cord­ing to the width of the base. The thick­ness of the cord de­pends on the thick­ness of your pre­ferred pip­ing. Cut a fab­ric strip on the bias – it should be ap­prox­i­mately 3,5cm wide. Cut­ting it on the bias makes it eas­ier to stitch the fab­ric around the curves. Place your cord in the mid­dle of the fab­ric strip. Fold the fab­ric in half over the cord and stitch with a zipper foot. Stitch as close to the cord as pos­si­ble. Stitch the seam al­lowance of the pip­ing to the fab­ric of the front. Then stitch the fab­ric of the base to the front with the right sides fac­ing and the pip­ing sand­wiched in be­tween.

14 Cen­tre the fab­ric for the seat cover ac­cord­ing to the cen­tre of the chair, pull over the seat and push in the loose ends at the back be­tween the back­rest and base to keep it in place. Pull the front taut and sta­ple down fre­quently. Cut slits in the back of the cover where it pro­trudes from the back­rest, so that the loose ends of fab­ric can be pushed to the back through the gaps in be­tween the wooden frame. Push it through and sta­ple to the wood. TIP Make sure the pip­ing forms a straight line in the front – it must not run down­wards to­wards the sides. Pull through the loose ends of the pip­ing on each side and sta­ple down.

NOTE The loose ends of the pip­ing must lie over the fab­ric of the cover, there­fore this is the last part of the cover that must be turned through to the right side. If it lies un­der the fab­ric, it will pull down­wards when you sit on the chair.

Cover the arm­rest in­sides with new foam and fab­ric

15 Place pieces of foam onto the arm­rests. Sta­ple down on the out­side at a few points to keep it in place. Smooth out the foam on the in­sides of the arm­rests, bun­dle up ex­cess foam at the cor­ner and sta­ple down on the out­side. Push the foam through be­tween the base (seat) and arm­rests and sta­ple down at the un­der­side of the chair to the wood. Cut off the ex­cess foam at the out­sides to have foam only on the in­sides of the arm­rests.

16 Glue bat­ting onto the arm­rests, push the ex­cess through the gaps be­tween the arm­rests and base and cut off any ex­cess on the out­sides of the arm­rests. The arm­rests are ready to be cov­ered. TIP If the fab­ric has a nap, such as the vel­vet we chose, you must pre­pare the fab­ric care­fully be­fore you cut it.

Mea­sure the fab­ric for the arm­rests

17 To mea­sure the height of the arm­rests, fold the mea­sur­ing tape around the widest part of the arm­rest at the back where it meets the back­rest and mea­sure over the top up to the same point. To mea­sure the width, fold the mea­sur­ing tape from the back around the front part of the arm­rest and to the back again where the wooden part of the back­rest starts. 18 Now cut the fab­ric for the arm­rests. Be­fore you place the fab­ric onto the arm­rests, mark the cen­tre points of the two pieces of fab­ric by cut­ting a small slit into the mid­dle of the top and bot­tom ends. These slits must align with the mid­dle of the top and bot­tom ends of the arm­rests.

19 Place the fab­ric onto the arm­rests and sta­ple it down to hold it in po­si­tion. Pull the corners at the fronts of the arm­rests taut so that the fab­ric is smooth over the in­sides of the arm­rests. Pull taut to the back against the back­rest and sta­ple down. Cut V-shaped slits into the bot­tom end of the fab­ric so that the loose ends can be pushed past the wooden frame, and sta­ple it to the wooden base.

IM­POR­TANT When you push the fab­ric through the gaps, make sure that you push it un­der­neath the pip­ing, to pre­vent the pip­ing from mov­ing up­wards when you sit on the chair.

20 Make small pleats to bun­dle up the ex­cess fab­ric on the out­sides and sta­ple down. Now pull taut the fab­ric on the up­per side of the arm­rest, fold it over

the pleats you just made and sta­ple it down. Cut a slit for the back­rest and sta­ple the fab­ric down on the out­side of the arm­rest.

21 Fold the ex­cess fab­ric over against the back­rest to take on the shape of the lines where the arm­rest ends. Draw a line 2cm from this line. Cut 2cm deep slits all along the fab­ric fol­low­ing the curve of the back­rest. Spray glue on the in­side of the slits, wait two min­utes and glue down. While you wait, place the fab­ric on the other arm­rest.

Cover the in­side of the back­rest with foam

22 Turn the chair around so that the back faces you. Cut the foam in a block ac­cord­ing to the height and width mea­sure­ments of the back­rest. Push in the bot­tom end of the foam where the back­rest and base meet to hold it in po­si­tion and to cen­tre the foam. Spray the back, as well as the old foam on the back­rest, with glue and stick the foam down. Cut off the ex­cess foam with a knife. Push the ex­cess foam against the base through to the back. Draw a line with a pen from the in­ner cor­ner be­tween the base and back­rest up to the be­gin­ning of the arm­rest and cut the foam on this line. Add ap­prox­i­mately 2cm to the line and cut on the new line.

23 Fold the top edges of the foam in by spray­ing with glue, wait­ing two min­utes and then pinch­ing be­tween thumb and in­dex fin­ger to close.

Make the diamond shaped pat­tern (tuft­ing) on the back­rest

We kept the tra­di­tional diamond pat­tern, but changed the but­ton pat­tern slightly for a more mod­ern look. Re­fer to the di­a­grams along­side.

24 Mea­sure the height and width of the back­rest. Mea­sure the width over the widest part – for ex­am­ple, height = 80cm and width = 90cm. De­cide where to place the but­tons at the top and sides – for ex­am­ple, 10cm from the top edge, 20cm from each side edge and 20cm from the bot­tom edge. If you sub­tract the bor­der from the to­tal height and width, it gives you a 50cm

square (90 – (20+20) = 50; 80 – (10 + 20) = 50). The but­tons are at­tached within this square. Now de­cide on the num­ber of but­tons to be placed in the two up­per rows. For this chair it is seven. There are four but­tons in a col­umn. Now di­vide the width of your square by seven and round it off (50 ÷7 = 7). Di­vide the height by four (50 ÷ 4 = 12,5). Find the cen­tre of your square by di­vid­ing the width and height by two (50 ÷ 2 = 25; 50 ÷ 2 = 25). Draw a cross where the two lines meet. Now mea­sure 12,5cm from the hor­i­zon­tal line in the mid­dle up­wards to find the up­per hor­i­zon­tal line. Mea­sure 12,5cm down­wards to find the two lower hor­i­zon­tal lines. Draw the lines with a pen on the foam. Now you should have a grid with blocks in the mid­dle of your back­rest. Draw di­ag­o­nal lines be­tween the blocks to form the diamond shapes. Mark the points for the but­tons on the ends of the diamond shapes. 25 Now drill 2cm holes in the foam where the but­tons will be at­tached (there are 14 but­tons).

26 To cut the fab­ric for the but­tons, use a round shape of ap­prox­i­mately 3cm di­am­e­ter as a tem­plate for the but­tons. Cover the but­tons. TIP You can have your but­tons cov­ered at your near­est sewing or uphol­stery shop for about R1,50 per but­ton, depend­ing on the fab­ric and but­ton size.

27 Use spe­cial uphol­stery twine for at­tach­ing the but­tons – it is very strong and durable. Mea­sure half an arm’s length for each but­ton. Now fold each length of twine in half and thread it through the stem of the but­ton. In­sert the loose ends of the twine through the loop and pull up tightly.

Cover the in­side of the back­rest

28 Mea­sure the height of the back from the wooden frame at the top end of the back­rest to the un­der­side of the chair – push your mea­sur­ing tape through in be­tween the back­rest and the base. Mea­sure the width from one

side of the back­rest to the other side.

IM­POR­TANT Mea­sure the width around the widest part of the back­rest at the top so that your piece of fab­ric will cover the whole of the back­rest. 29 Mea­sure and cut the fab­ric. Drape it over the back­rest, with about 10cm hang­ing over the top edge. Cen­tre the piece of fab­ric and push it in the mid­dle be­tween the base and back­rest. Sta­ple the fab­ric to the back of the wooden frame, one sta­ple in the mid­dle and one at each cor­ner, to keep it in place.

30 Now at­tach the but­tons. Use an uphol­stery nee­dle to in­sert the first but­ton. Feel with your fin­gers where the hole is and push the but­ton stem through. Tie the but­ton thread at the back by wind­ing it around a small roll of fab­ric in the shape of a fig­ure 8 and then knot the loose ends to­gether.

NOTE To en­sure the nap lines run cor­rectly, fold the fab­ric along the di­ag­o­nal lines of each diamond shape.

31 When all the but­tons are at­tached, smooth the fab­ric out at the top corners of the back­rest. Bring the fab­ric to­gether at the back of the frame of the back­rest by fold­ing small pleats and sta­ple it down. When you reach the start of the arm­rests, cut a V shape in the fab­ric of the back­rest, fold the edges over the foam at the back and pull taut to­wards the back, while fold­ing in the fab­ric un­der­neath the cush­ion of the back­rest.

32 Now cut V shapes in the fab­ric against the base, push the fab­ric through and sta­ple along the un­der­side to the wood. At­tach the pip­ing by fold­ing it around the un­der­side of the base and sta­ple it along the edge of the wood. It must run in a straight line from the base up to the cor­ner of the arm­rest in front. TIP Cut slits in the loose side of the pip­ing fab­ric to fold around the curves of the back­rest with ease. When the sta­pling of the pip­ing is com­plete, sta­ple the loose end to the un­der­side of the base.

33 Now at­tach a curve grip. Mea­sure it to the length of the pip­ing and sta­ple down all along the pip­ing (sta­ple down on the flat sec­tion with the teeth fac­ing to the in­side). Ham­mer down.

Cover the back of the chair

34 Use a piece of lin­ing fab­ric to make a pat­tern for the back of the chair. Cut the lin­ing to more or less the cor­rect size and sta­ple down to keep in place. Pull taut and sta­ple down on the un­der­side. Use coloured black­board chalk to draw a line all along the pip­ing on the lin­ing. Re­move the lin­ing, add 3cm to the out­line of the lin­ing and draw the new out­line on the lin­ing. Fold the pat­tern in half to find the cen­tre and mark with a pen. Sta­ple polypropy­lene to the back of the chair, all along the in­side of the curve grip. Glue two lay­ers of bat­ting onto the polypropy­lene. Now cut the fab­ric.

NOTE Use the lin­ing pat­tern as a guide­line, but don’t cut the fab­ric ac­cord­ing to that, be­cause it won’t have a per­fect fit for the back of the chair be­cause of the curve. Use the outer out­line of the lin­ing you have marked with a pen to mea­sure out a square (for ex­am­ple, 1m wide and 1m long) on the fab­ric. Re­mem­ber to lay out the fab­ric with the nap straight.

35 When you have cut the fab­ric square, fold it in half and mark the cen­tre. Now cen­tre the fab­ric on the back of the chair and sta­ple it down in the mid­dle at the top edge.

36 Pull the fab­ric taut to the front on both sides and sta­ple down to keep in place. (Cut slits in the fab­ric to fit around the legs of the chair.) Cut the fab­ric to take on the shape of the back of the chair. Be­gin by cut­ting all along the pip­ing, mak­ing sure you leave an ex­tra 5mm fab­ric along­side the pip­ing to fold into the curve grip. Use a flat screw­driver to fold the fab­ric into the curve grip, then ham­mer the curve grip flat. Pull taut to­wards the un­der­side and sta­ple down.

37 Cover the un­der­side of the chair with a layer of polypropy­lene. Voilà, your French chair is now as good as new!

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