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
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!