Adventures in Upholstery

My maternal grandparents were "make do and mend" kind of Depression-era folks, and in addition to passing on their DIY fix-it spirit, they also passed on a beautiful set of 6 dining room chairs. Gram upholstered the seats some time in the early 60s so at this point those seats have made it through 3 kids, 4 grandkids, countless family holidays and almost 4 years with my roommates and me. Suffice it to say that they were in need of a wee facelift. 

THUS! I decided to learn how to reupholster my chairs. You can learn to do pretty much anything on the interwebs these days and it turns out upholstery is no exception. I found some great how-to videos and photo series and figured if Gram can do it, so can I.  


  • New fabric-- this took me a LONG time to find but I finally settled on a home-dec weight linen stripe purchased from District Fabrics in Fremont ($19.99/yd on sale). If you live in, near, or plan to visit Seattle you MUST go to District. It is the actual BEST. A note on yardage... estimate carefully and add more. I had to go back and buy more as I did not calculate properly for the stripe direction. You've been warned.
  • Batting-- If your chairs are old (like mine) and are planning to replace the cushion-y insides, you will also want new batting ($3.50/yd). I did a double layer so yardage will be approximately 2x your fabric yardage.
  • Foam-- When you go to buy the foam, remember to bring the seat of the chair with you. They will cut the foam to the same size as the seat while you are in store. Also be aware that the foam is probably the most expensive part ($.99/inch for 1" thickness), but oh so worth it on your cushioned tush.
  • Tools-- Depending on how the seat is fastened to the chair frame, you will need a screwdriver or wrench to remove it, something to help you remove the old staples (I used a flathead screwdriver and pliers) as well as a staple gun & staples (bought my staple gun for around $15). It goes without saying that a marking pen or pencil,  18" ruler as well as fabric scissors will also be needed.

I broke the process into small chunks in order to make the whole project more manageable. 

Part One-- Assemble materials

Unscrew from underneath to release the seat from the frame

Unscrew from underneath to release the seat from the frame

  • Disassemble one seat-- in order to make accurate yardage estimates and have the foam cut, you will need one seat free.
  • The first big task was purchasing and cutting out the fabric, batting and foam. 
  • Once I brought my treasures home, I laid out the batting on my cutting table and used the seat as a template to trace 1.5"-2" larger than the seat. I used this first piece of batting as my template to trace the rest.
  • Next, cut out the fabric. It is really important to press the fabric well before marking or cutting out your template. Folks often skip this step but I assure you it makes a huge difference to the final product. Take note of directional prints or nap when you lay out the seat and use your ruler to trace approximately 3" larger than the seat all the way around. 

Part Two-- One chair at a time

I elected to do one chair at a time rather than doing it assembly-line style for two reasons. One, we use these chairs every day so not having chairs for as long as this might take wouldn't cut it, and two, my small studio space becomes overwhelming with too much project at once. But you should do whatever will work for your life and your time frame.

Fabric, batting, foam and seat

Fabric, batting, foam and seat

  • Start with the chair you have already disassembled. Lay out the fabric (wrong side up, taking note of directional prints or nap), two layers of batting, the foam, and finally the seat (bottom facing up).

  • Pull the fabric tightly around the foam and batting to the back of the seat and put one staple centered on each side.
  • Work toward the corners, pulling the fabric snugly and stapling every inch or as often as needed. Leave 2"-3" open on each corner.


  • To finish the corners, I tucked one end toward the foam and folded the other like I was wrapping a present or making a bed. If you have rounded corners you'll want to pull tightly and staple in a curve along the edge. It is fortunate that no one will ever see the bottom of these chairs. If this is confusing (it is) there are several great videos showing the technique.
  • The last step is to reassemble the chair to the base, making sure the screws or bolts are set tightly. 

Budget Breakdown:

Fabric-- 2.5 yd at $19.99/yd        $49.97

Batting-- 2.25 yd at $3.49/yd      $7.85

Foam-- 45.0" at $0.99/in            $44.55

Staple gun/staples--                   $17.50

Total                                         $119.87 for 6 dining chairs

This budget breaks down to $20 per chair which I have to admit, is much cheaper and simpler than I expected. So there you have great looking chairs, for not too much money that can last you decades to come!


As always, I love seeing your DIY projects and welcome project suggestions! Keep me posted with what you're up to on social media with #BettyBetaTester