The Wingback Chair

I cannot explain this season of nesting. Normal nesting includes organizing, obsessive cleaning, readying the nursery but for me it has meant one thing: PROJECTS. As in, teach-yourself-to-upholster-things projects. I have no explanation as to why, but as it turns out, it can be done.  Since a few of my facebook buddies have asked how I managed such insanity I figured I would put it here, then post to facebook.  I do not recommend attempting this if you have a) never used a sewing machine, b) care what your nails look like, or c) are not a patient person. That said, here goes:

Materials Needed:

  • 6.5-7 Yards of Home Decor Fabric (I got mine from Chrysalis on clearance and they were amazingly helpful, my favorite place to go for fabric by far. Also, I recommend a forgiving print.  If I had used a geometric print or stripe on this chair the imperfections would be a lot more noticeable!)
  • Rubber Mallet
  • Flathead Screwdriver
  • Air compressor with staple gun (You MUST have this, I borrowed mine and would not have been able to finish the project without it, nothing else will staple into a wood frame.)
  • Needle nose pliers
  • Sewing machine
  • Snug fitting gloves
  • Sharpie for writing on the pieces of fabric removed, they become your pattern.
  • Iron
  • Masking Tape
  • Metal Teeth ( I could not find them at any craft stores, only online and they were pretty expensive. The Furniture Wizard, a local upholstery shop, sold some at cost to me even though that is not normally something they sell.  They thought I was nuts but took pity on the pregnant lady with toddler in tow.)
  • Small (clean) rubber hammer
  • Tack strip- can be purchased at Tallahassee Decorative Fabrics but I was able to reuse the original.
  • A helper (Trey was mine and I couldn’t have finished it without him, you really have to have two people to adjust the fabric correctly.)

Here’s What I Did:

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This was the chair to begin with. It was in my mom’s office and she didn’t need it anymore so it came to us. It was in great condition and a beautiful shape so I figured I could do something with it. I googled “reupholstering wingback chair.” Here are the links to videos/sites that I found helpful:

Most of these sites also include more helpful links, but it’s a good place to start.

The first thing to do is remove all fabric from the chair. This means turning it upside down and removing the bottom piece.

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Put on your gloves, take the screwdriver and the rubber mallet and pry up each staple. You may also have to use the pliers to pull out stubborn staples. It helps to twist them.  Removing the staples was by far the most difficult part of this project.

Once the bottom is removed, you can look to see the layers of fabric and which on to remove first. For my chair it was the lower bottom front. You want to remove the last piece of fabric to be attached and continue to carefully remove each piece like the layers of an onion. You don’t need to save the piping but you might be able to remove the cording to reuse for the new piping. I just pulled it out and taped it with masking tape noting where it goes. (“bottom”, “right/left wing”, “Back” etc). Make sure to take photos, and write down which way is up, what it is, and the order number in which you removed it. This will make putting it back together much easier.

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You can see the old metal teeth in this photo- they were totally destroyed when removed.

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I pulled back the batting to remove all of the fabric instead of removing it completely. The only piece of batting that had to be totally removed was the back.Image

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(Photo of the way the fabric was folded to reference when putting on the new fabric.)

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How the fabric attached through the wood frame. I ended up cutting the piece larger on the sides so that I could pull it through completely and staple to the frame on the outside rather than at an angle like the original.

Once all of the fabric is removed, iron out all of your pieces. Lay those pieces on the new fabric and trace them. Make sure the pattern is going in the same direction up the chair. Write on the masking tape their number, which was is up, and what they are (example: “right outside wing, 8, ^”). Tape the piece then cut it out, but keep the old pieces for reference. Then make the piping, the arms, and the cushion. I do not have photos of those steps but I just paid attention to the way they were assembled and used the originals as the pattern.  For the arms I pinned them together inside out on the reverse arm and sewed them together very slowly and almost on the piping. If you don’t get close enough the piping will be loose and look wrong. Maybe add a seam ripper to the list- I used that a lot!

What is described above took me about 20 days of working on it for about 2 hours a night. I am hoping it took longer because I was 35 weeks prego and was tired and just bending over felt like work. Maybe you will be able to do it much faster. I hope so!

Now it’s time to move the chair outside to staple on the fabric. Husby hooked up the stapler for me and we began stretching a stapling the fabric little by little in the order I took them off. Don’t forget about the piping either! I wish I had a photo of putting the metal teeth on but basically you just staple the non-tooth half right up to the piping in places where the metal teeth was originally. Carefully hook the fabric on to the metal teeth and only close it when it is all attached. Use the small rubber hammer for this. For my chair that included the outside of the wings, under the arms, and on the back. For the outer bottom half (right under the arm to the back of the chair) we staple the fabric at the top first, then stapled on the tack strip, then folded it down and attached the metal teeth and the back. The tack strip is just to ensure you have a neat fold, but it was very easy to install. Make sure to pull the fabric extremely tight. Hopefully the end result will be something like this:

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So there it is. Everything I know about reupholstering a wingback chair. Good luck! You can do it if you’re stubborn enough!

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