Beginners Reupholstery

In light of the first day of school for so many tots and teens, and since I’ve been done with pencils and books for some time now, I thought it would be necessary and exciting to put together a little lesson. A lesson on a project I never expected to actually pull off.

One of the interesting things about living alone is…you’re really alone. So, heaven forbid you need to grab something that’s tucked up high, you’re missing an ingredient to a recipe, or you’re assembling some ridiculous piece of furniture – you most likely need to take a whack at it yourself. And if you fail? Try, try again.

Now, I’m extremely lucky to have had what feels like handfuls of friends who have been passing through my new apartment over the course of the week; whether it’s just to relax with a glass of red wine in the evening or sweat alongside me and a set of Ikea instructions, knee deep in screws and alien keys. I am certainly not as alone as I could be, but that being said, when it comes to a few things – this girl has to get used to fending for herself.

Here is my first (what I consider to be) rather courageous home furnishing undertaking – reupholstering cushions for my dining room table chairs. I was smitten with this set when I first saw it; it’s a tall, dark wood, pub-style table with raised, equally as gorgeous bar stools. The seat cushions, however, were a blinding suburban white – and I just didn’t feel like they were very “me”, or what I was going for with my overall décor. So (cue superhero music), I opted for what felt like an overnight trip out to Fabricland to see what they had (cue anxiety as I stand in a sea of thousands of fabrics). I wanted something grabbing but functional; something interesting enough to be noticed, but not so interesting that it stole the room’s thunder, and I had to keep my artwork subdued to avoid clashing.

The original cushion

I ended up going with this beautiful white and black damask print. The woman at the Fabricland, although trying to warn me off a potentially risky choice, accidentally described exactly what I was looking for in a print. She said the print “could either turn out really trendy or overly elegant, and at your age, I’m not sure that’s your style yet.” I appreciated the feedback, but that’s actually bang-on what I was looking to achieve. I wanted something elegant enough to pair with my classic furniture and perhaps a funky chandelier, but trendy enough that my apartment still looked young and feminine. Damask it was. So, step by step – here is the very simple but meticulous task of re-upholstering seat cushions to be tight, clean-looking and smooth.

* You will need scissors, measuring tape and a staple gun. I highly suggest you do this on the floor for space and to avoid scratching or stapling any surface (I learned this the hard way with a staple scratch on my new tabletop. Ugh).

1. For four chairs, I asked for 2 metres of fabric. The fabric I liked wasn’t on sale, so this cost me about $40 (if you can find sale fabric you like, you could end up paying less than $10).

What I chose to reupholster with!

2. Instead of measuring out half a metre for each cushion, I decided to fold the fabric in half, and then fold it again. Place your cushion on top of this and make sure you have enough to cover the chair and a little extra. Remove the cushion, cut one piece of fabric as a square to start and then slightly round the edges to avoid any big flaps when you pull the fabric around the corners of the cushion.

3. Start with one side, pull the fabric tight and staple it underneath the cushion along the edge. Just in case you ever want to re-upholster your cushions again, I would avoid going nuts with the staples. Once you have one side stapled, switch to stapling the exact parallel side (either do the two sides of the cushion first, or the front and the back of the cushion first). I say this because you might find you’ll accidentally have too much fabric if you’ve been stapling clockwise.

4. Don’t be concerned about what the underneath of your cushion looks like. Think back to your Christmas wrapping rationale as a kid – except remember that no one will actually ever see the bottom of these. You want a tightly pulled, fused to the cushion look. If you have a few folds or bumps in your fabric, don’t sweat it – it’s most likely only something you will notice. Or, if you’re really uncomfortable with the little flaws, just pull the piece that’s folded or bumped and toss in one more staple on the bottom.

5. Lastly, snip the excess fabric on the bottom just in case it decides to peak out or wiggle its way out the side.  Fasten your cushion to its seat, and there you are – beautiful new cushions that most likely no one else will have.  It’s amazing what you can do to personalize your home! 

I don’t know about you, but I don’t mind these kind of projects. It’s a fun activity on a Saturday afternoon, a simple method of changing a part of your home, and a wonderful way to start the (home furnishing) learning year…in a nutshell. What are some of the fun and not-so-difficult home furnishing crafts you have taken on?

Just call me Martha!


  1. Kaylee Pare says:

    They turned out amazing Jess..ahem Martha. So savvy you are! MIss ya girls xoxo

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