I don’t think I’ve ever reupholstered the same kind of chair twice (except for these). I like to mix it up and challenge myself and doing the same thing over and over tends to bore me. Which is why I quit washing my hair and shaving my legs. Just kidding.
When I saw this little cantilevered babe at the thrift store, I knew I wanted to try to give it new life. It’s a Cesca style chair and totally swoon-worthy.
Here she is before:
When I got it home and flipped it over, it had a Chromcraft tag on it.
The seat fabric was sooooper gross and had to go. The cane back had a few flaws that could easily turn into giant ones with a little wear, so that had to be replaced as well.
I started off with the upholstery. I removed the fabric from the seat …
…as well as the two buttons…
…and then used a seam ripper to remove the sides of the seat fabric.
So, you might be thinking, “Dena, you could have saved a bunch of steps and just recovered and stapled over the original seat without having to sew a new cover.” I hear you… and you can argue that doing it that way looks fine. Right, it does look fine, but, to me, it also looks lazy and I would argue all day long that, with some minimal effort, you can make a chair look a thousand times better by sewing your seat fabric rather than wrapping and stapling. End rant, moving on.
This is so easy, y’all.
I started out by laying the two side pieces right side down on top of the new fabric, which was also right side down. Since the seam allowance on the old fabric was perma-folded in (and there was NO WAY I was going to touch this thing with my iron), I traced around the old piece of fabric with chalk, without leaving a seam allowance.
Then, I went back around the piece of fabric leaving a 1/4″ margin. I typically sew using 1/4″ margins, but if you are a newb and 1/2″ feels better to ya, go for it. Whatever you are comfortable with, just be consistent.
Drawing two lines gives you a cut line and a sew line. I marked the fabric to show which side would be facing the front of the chair.
I cut the fabric along the outside line and set aside to cut the main piece of fabric.
The main butt fabric had some weird seam in it. A pleat? I don’t even know what this is called to be able to Google it.
I ripped the seam open with a seam ripper to get a better idea of how to duplicate it.
Ultimately, I decided that I wasn’t going to duplicate it. I was using a patterned fabric and it really just looked like the only reason that thing was there was for reinforcement. So I went about it a different way.
I cut two strips of fabric and ironed the edges of each one towards the middle…
Then I used some super skinny iron-on fusible web made for bias tape and ironed it onto the back of the fabric strip and peeled off the paper backing.
I lined it up to match the seat fabric and ironed it on…
…using the previous seat fabric/seam lines to make sure I had them in the right spot.
Then I ran a stitch up and down each side of each fabric strip.
Once I had the strips on, I was ready to attach the sides of the seat fabric. I laid the side fabric on top of the butt fabric, right sides together and pinned in place.
I started sewing from the middle and around to the edges, following the sew line I had drawn earlier based on the old fabric.
When you have curvy pieces, if you clip the curved edges, it will help you maneuver around the corner without the fabric bubbling. As you turn the corner to stay on the “sew line”, keep the edges of your fabric lined up at all times.
This takes a little bit of finagling , but if you set your machine to stop with the needle in the down position, you can sew a couple stitches, re-adjust and continue and the needle will hold your fabric in place for you. Keep checking to make sure that the fabric underneath is wrinkle free. Pinkies out, ladies.
Since I started in the middle, when I got to the end of one curve, I turned around and sewed back along the line I had just sewn all the way to the other side. Make sure to back stitch at each end to keep big butts from busting the seams.
I know you like big butts.
Next I attached the new fabric to the seat, stapling underneath and pulling taut as I went. Then I grabbed a couple of recoverable buttons and placed them on the seat where their new home would be. This gave me an idea of where to cut the button fabric so I could match up the pattern.
After the button was covered, I used an upholstery needle and some waxed thread. Waxed thread is just regular thread with a wax coating, which makes it much stronger and more durable. Exactly what you wanna use for any kind of tufting. Ya know, for those big butts… and the seat-squirmers.
I also saved the previous button hardware. I have no idea what those things are called, but they are the little things that keep the button tufted. If you are doing some sort of double tufting project, this video is super helpful. So easy.
These are a simple single tuft. I cut a length of waxed thread, doubled it and threaded it through my recovered button.
Then I put the tail of the thread through the loop and pulled tight. Ready to go.
I threaded the upholstery needle with the thread and poked it through the seat cushion and through the hole in the bottom of the wood seat.
I put the little tuft-stopper on one piece of thread…
Tied a double knot and pulled it tight.
Then I replaced the paper dust cover that was originally on the seat.
I reattached the seat to the chair using the same screws it was wearing before and also attached a Marcel Breuer cane back that I ordered from eBay to replace the original.
Before and after:
The fabric is a medium weight canvas Auntie’s Attic Flower Canvas Orange by Robert Kaufman.
The frame has a nice patina that I just couldn’t bring myself to spray paint. I kept the fabric choice in line with the era of the chair and thought the frame would look best left alone.
If you spot a chair you love that’s had some funky butt-lovin’, don’t be afraid to try your hand at reupholstery. Seriously, it’s not super hard. I mean, don’t start with a wingback… but don’t doubt yourself either. Go for it!