Last Friday I was all ready to travel to Guam on a Space-A flight, but unavoidable hotel and car rental issues stopped the impromptu trip in its tracks. Instead, I went home and stopped procrastinating on a long-overdue project: Recovering my Dining Room Chair Cushions!
I ‘salvaged’ these chairs from my grandfather’s steaming-hot attic in Houston, TX several years ago when we were cleaning out the house to put it up for sale. They belonged to my great-great-grandmother. The cushions are pretty uncomfortable, not to mention stained and utterly unattractive. But I loved the structure and lines of the chairs, and surprisingly they are still very sturdy, if a little on the small size in terms of scale.
To update these beauties, I unscrewed the chair seats and stripped off a few layers of old fabric, removed all the deteriorating batting, and pried off hundreds of upholstery nails (do NOT attempt without a Tetanus Shot!). You may need an assortment of tools for this step; I used fabric scissors, a rotary blade, a flathead screwdriver, pliers, and a hammer to remove the assorted upholstery nails. TIP: If the idea of inhaling decades of skin cells and dirt grosses you out – like it does me – wear a professional grade face mask… protective eyewear is not a bad idea either!
The wood seat forms were still in good shape (despite all the upholstery nail holes), and although I would prefer to start this project with a fresh seat form, paying for custom woodwork in Hawaii is cost-prohibitive on this project, and I do not own a router to DIY.
I used the existing seat form as a template to cut out my new fabric. For solid fabrics, trace your form on the backside of the fabric in an upholstery pen or pencil; for printed fabrics, like the one I chose, I opted to free-style my cuts on the front of the fabric so that I could more easily line up and center the fabric design. Cut the fabric a good three inches wider than the seat form on each side. To facilitate cutting, I used a rotary fabric blade and a cutting mat. TIP: For vintage pieces (read “handmade and not mass-produced”, I recommend using each seat form individually to cut out the fabric, batting and foam cushion; handmade items will vary ever-so-slightly in dimension.
Layout the batting on your work surface and cut it three inches wider on each side of the seat form as well. Used standard quilting batting that you can purchase at your local fabric store or Wal-Mart. Next, lay the seat form on top of the foam. I used 1″ foam. Trim the foam so that it is at least ¼” wider than the seat form on all sides. This makes for a more comfortable seat edge on your legs and thighs. To begin securing all the layers of the seat together, you can either dry stack each layer, or use a little spray adhesive between the layers. I did not use spray adhesive for this project. The batting is the bottom layer, then the foam cushion, and then the wood seat form. Pull the edge of the batting up and over the side of the cushion and seat form and using a staple gun, staple the batting onto the seat form starting from the middle of one side and working out to the edges. Staple one side of the seat at a time, and then do its opposite side next. Lastly, fold the batting into the edges for taught corners and staple down the excess. TIP: Use staples with pointed tips, not blunt tips; this makes it easier to get the staples all the way into the wood without resulting to hammering each staple down later.
Once all sides of the batting are stapled to the under side of the wood seat form, place the fabric face down on your work surface and then place the seat cushion on top with the stapled side up. Line up the fabric edges and/or pattern and follow the same process as with the batting, stapling from the middle of one side, working out to the edges, and then stapling the opposite side next. Fold in the corners for the desired look you want on your edges and staple down the excess fabric. For this project, I used oilcloth (aka laminated cotton), so my fabric did not easily bunch at the corners; I opted for making “hospital bed” corners to get a crisp, clean fold. Trim the fabric edges to within an inch of the staples to get a straight line, and then trim away the excess batting sticking out beyond the edge of the fabric cover.
Flip over your chair cushion and admire your work! This easy, DIY Chair Cushion Recovering project can be completed in an afternoon and is one of the first projects since my daughter’s birth that I have started and finished within 24 hours! Recovering simple chairs like these yourself really helps save money; leave the complicated re-upholstery jobs to the professionals and save your money for then!
The total costs for this project to recover four chair cushions were:
Oilcloth Fabric in Purple French Lace: purchased on ebay.com, 2 yards for $22.15 (inc. shipping)
Chair Cushion Foam: purchased at Wal-Mart, 2 packs of 2 for $7.94 each
Quilt Batting: purchased at Wal-Mart, 1 roll of 81″x96″ for $6.81
Tools: already owned all necessary tools
Total money spent: $45