Tutorial on Upholstering a Bench or Chair Seat

I’ve written a little tutorial on upholstering a bench or chair seat with also a Youtube video at the end so you can use one or both if you are wanting to do some at some point too. As always when doing a DIY job there are a few things to consider before you start so hopefully this will be helpful.

The thing, I think that puts most people off doing a bit of upholstering is that it seems like it might be a tad fiddly and time consuming but you know what ? It is actually really simple and easy – and can save money by doing the job yourself. I don’t mean sofas or armchairs although there are lots of local courses teaching this too but if you’re looking to cover an old stool, dining chair seat or in my case a bench seat, then it is well worth putting aside a few hours and giving it a go. I promise !

What you will need.

Fabric of choice. Ideally thicker upholstery fabric to stand the test of time.

Fine sandpaper, primer and your chosen paint colour.

Staple gun, tape measure, pins, scissors, newspaper, pencil / fabric marker, screwdriver.

Things to consider.

You don’t alway have to have co-ordinating colours. You may want to of course. But I have chosen a paint and a fabric that are not an obvious choice together but actually work as a great contrast. The fabric is called Tropicana in Navy from the Tango range by Linwood. I love it and am a big fan of this collection, it’s  really vivid and striking. There are four colourways to choose from. They also have velvets and wallpaper. I’ve been a bit obsessed with using it on something for a while so this is quite an exciting project.

One thing to really consider is the width and length of the piece/s you are upholstering. If you are using a plain solid colour then all you need to think about is the width and whether it is wide enough to cover along with the seams needed. You will be able to use it width ways to length ways. If it has a pattern then does it work visually both ways or will it only work one way ? For example if it has animals or houses as a print, you won’t want them going sideways. They can only be upholstered facing upwards.

With this print here it works either way so as the bench is longer than one width of the fabric I am using it sideways and it works. You will see my do this in my Youtube video to clarify. I had some material left over so I made a few scatter cushions ( a tutorial for another day maybe ? )

Please do check whether your fabric of choice is fire retardant. Very important if it is for indoors.

Getting started.

Remove the seat from the base it is on. In this case it’s attached by hinges so I unscrewed them and then marked where they were so it made putting it back together again easier. If it’s a chair then you might be able to remove it without any tools.

With a tape measure work out the width and length of the seat ( always check twice ) and then you will also need at least 5 cm for extra on all sides for stapling under. Lay the fabric on the seat to make sure you have the pattern as you want it to be seen bearing in mind the seams on each end. It would be a shame to have a feature of the print left out or disappearing off to one side. Equally if you can get the print to look balanced then it will look better and not bother you for years on ( or maybe that’s just me being pedantic ! ) Cut out the amount required and save.

I may be stating the total obvious here but I will say it anyway as I have made the mistake myself in the past. Make sure you cover the floor area where you are working for the painting part. If you are using an oil based paint especially as it is near impossible to completely remove it if spilt. I have sheets but lots of newspaper is just as good.

For the bench it will need rubbing down with sandpaper and then some primer. Although you may decide not to prime over the original paint and just go straight in with your new colour, I do think it helps to use primer as the new paint sticks better, giving an overall better finish.

Once you’ve sanded the area and primed you can paint – maybe two coats if needed. Leave it to dry and set to work on the upholstering of the padded seat.

When you’ve measured out the fabric needed with a tape measure and marker or pencil you can cut it – remembering the 5 cm seams on every side. This means 2 folds of 2.5 cm to give a neat finish underneath and to avoid any fraying.

I’d recommend either asking someone to help you with this next bit as you will need to pull the fabric tightly before stapling it on – or as you will see in my tutorial you can do it all yourself with pins. It just takes a bit of smoothing out all over before pinning all around to hold it in place before you turn the seat over and staple. When it comes to all the corners there will be excess fabric in a ‘ V ‘ shape that you will need to cut away to enable you to fold the corners over before stapling. I recommend having a look at the video to see how I cut it. If you don’t remove them there will be too much bulk and the seat won’t sit properly on it’s base ? So once you’ve fastened each side down and the corners too you are done.

As mentioned earlier I also made a little Youtube for you to refer to. Any upholstering questions then leave me a comment and I will get back to you.

If you’d like to have a little look at all of Linwood’s lovely fabrics you can do so here.

Also, come and say hi on instagram.

The fabric was a gift. All opinions as ever are my own.

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