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How to reupholster an antique chair

How to reupholster an antique chair


You don’t have to be a sewing expert to learn how to reupholster an antique chair. Whether you’re jazzing up a family heirloom or giving an auction find a little TLC to sell on, upholstery can be rewarding in many ways.

This guide will give you the basics on how to reupholster an antique armchair, but these can easiy be applied to dining or rocking chairs. Many of the steps in this guide will also apply if you’re looking at how to reupholster an antique couch, although different chairs naturally require different techniques (read our guide to antique chairs to help identify a treasure).

The more projects you reupholster, the more you’ll learn through experimenting - but it can all be self-taught. Let’s get on with it, shall we?

How to reupholster an antique armchair

What you’ll need:
Antique chair
Your chosen fabric
Sewing machine or kit
Needle-nose pliers (or flat-head screwdriver)
Marking pen
Staple gun (optional)
Upholstery tacks
Embroidery thread
Fabric glue

How to do it:

Step one: Before you begin, thoroughly inspect the chair. Take photos of it from all angles, including closer detailed photos, so you can put it back together in the same fashion. Also, write down notes on how each piece is attached. Is it sewn? Tacked? Stapled? You’ll need to know this later.

Step two: Strip your chair by removing the upholstery pieces layer by layer. Try not to rip any of them as you’ll be using them as patterns. Most pieces will be attached by staples or tack strips which will come off easily with pliers (or a flat-head screwdriver). Label each piece you remove for your patterns, including how they were attached.

Step three: Time to make your new pattern. Lay out your new fabric and place the old fabric pieces (wrong side facing upwards) you removed on top of it. Pin the old pieces into place and cut around the pattern, leaving two to three inches of fabric around the original pieces. You can hold on to this while stapling. 

Step four: Finally, how to upholster an antique chair with your new patterns? The easiest way to put it all back together is in reverse order. Whatever piece you removed last should be the first piece you reupholster. Make sure you pay attention to the attachment methods used on the original piece. If it was stapled, staple the new pieces. If a tack strip was used on the antique, reattach it with a tack strip. If parts were sewn, do the same again. Using your photos and notes as guides, pin the new pieces to your chair and pull the fabric taut once you’re happy with the fit. You might need to trim the excess fabric to avoid ugly lumps, especially at the corners. Single-fold ‘hospital corners’ are the tidiest for this piece of reupholstery.

Step five: Once your fabric is in place and taut, staple pieces into place. You now have a beautiful piece of carefully restored furniture.

Once you know how to reupholster an antique armchair, you can move onto more complicated projects - from learning how to reupholster an antique chair with springs or bring an old couch back to life. There are so many opportunities to update old-world furniture, whether you’re selling them or reupholstering one to fit with your interior style. 

Take a look at our range of antique chairs and antique sofas and visit Hemswell Antiques Centres to have a proper trawl in a haven of treasures. With four sprawling centres filled with everything from the beautiful to the bizarre and a cosy tea shop, it’s the perfect day out for antique addicts. 


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