DIY Armchair Reupholstery Pt. 1

Updated: Mar 10

Armchairs can be very expensive. Especially if you want a good quality chair with custom fabric ($$$$). And paying for reupholstery can also be very costly. Here is how I reupholstered my Bassett Armchair on a budget!

This armchair has great bones and was well taken care of. I found it at my local Habitat for Humanity Restore and paid $149 for it, which is such a great deal! Once I brought the chair home, I started with my first step, which was to TAKE PHOTOS. Take photos of each side and corner. Up close and far away. These photos will be so helpful when you are putting on your new fabric!

And this is the chair that inspired my decision to reupholster!

After purchasing the chair, my new fabric, and my tools, I spent a total of $360 for this whole project!

Here is a list of my supplies:


-Pneumatic Staple Gun

-Staples (multiple sizes)

-Staple Puller

-Seam Ripper


-Thread to match new fabric

-Sewing Machine


When purchasing my fabric, I referred back to this chart, which helped me to determine how much yardage I would need. The fabric that I purchased was a retired Ballard Designs fabric that I found on an Etsy Shop. I made sure that it was an upholstery fabric (this is very important) and ordered slightly more fabric than the chart suggested.

I also ordered some new chair legs. I wanted a different look than the ones that came with the chair. Make sure to check the size of the bolt if you decide to purchase new legs. If the bolt size isn't the same as the previous legs, they will not fit. This is possible to fix by replacing the hanger bolts on the new legs.

I applied some clear wax to seal these!

PHASE 1 - Fabric/Staple Removal

After taking photos, you will begin to take apart your chair. This involves removing all of the staples and removing all of the fabric to save for later. You will use the fabric pieces as a template to cut your new fabric, so it is important to keep the pieces.

As you are removing your staples and fabric, it is SO IMPORTANT to continue taking photos. This will help you as you are placing your new fabric, and keep you from being confused (even if you think you won't be, you probably will). It also helps to label your pieces (and its orientation on the chair) as you set them aside. Some pieces will be attached with tack strips. save these to reuse as well!You can buy new batting, and decking fabric if you'd like. If they are in good shape, you can also save these to re-use. Be careful when removing the staples from the decking material, as it is easily ripped.

PICTURES, PICTURES, PICTURES of all pieces and angles. I can't express how helpful this step is!

***Every chair is different, so it is likely that these steps may vary for you. But the important thing to remember is that you are taking it apart and putting it back together. I know that sounds silly, but it is helpful! In my case, I had some material sandwiched between wood. In order to get the fabric out, I had to pry up the boards. I was able to do it successfully, and re-use the material.

Some of your pieces will be attached to material that is stapled into the frame of the chair. This needs to be removed as well. I did this carefully so that I could also re-use this fabric. Label these pieces so that you can attach them later to your new fabric pieces.

PHASE 2 - Replacing Fabric

Once all of the fabric is removed from the chair, you will begin cutting your new fabric by using your old pieces as a template. Some pieces will be attached to other pieces, or decking material. Use a seam ripper to cut these seams and pull every piece apart. But, make sure to take photos and label so that you know which ones go with each other, and where they attach. There is no need to iron your old fabric (even though it may be creased). You will use these creases to help pin and place your new fabric! You will now start working backward piece by piece.

I would recommend doing this step on a flat surface (not carpet like I did). Pin down your old fabric pieces onto your new fabric. If you have velvet or a patterned fabric, make sure to line up your pieces accordingly to the nap or the orientation of it. Begin cutting your fabric to match your template. Then, sew on any decking pieces that were attached to the previous fabric.

The front panel on my chair had two sections of fabric with some cording. While I was removing the fabric, I decided that I would rather have one large panel in the front (similar to the chair that inspired me).

At this point, I added extra length to my front fabric piece so that it would be one piece instead of two. I also cut one large piece of foam to replace the two pieces that were removed.

After cutting my new piece of fabric and attaching the old piece of decking material to it, I was ready to put it on my chair! If you cut your new fabric the exact way that the previous pieces were cut, then you should have no trouble fitting it right onto the chair.

I worked backwards by placing the decking material onto the chair and nailing back in between the boards that I pulled off. **I used side-cutters to cut down the old nails, and put in some new ones with my brad nailer.

I then stapled on my fresh piece of foam (I needed to replace the old pieces with one large piece). Once this was complete, I was able to pull down my velvet over the front of my chair and put staples into the bottom on the frame. Again, referring back to my photos to make sure that everything looked the way that it did before.

After stapling my fabric to the bottom of the chair frame, I pulled my decking material tightly through the back of the chair and stapled it to the wood where it was originally attached. YAY! First piece = done!

My next step was to attach the inside back. First, I needed to sew the pieces together. I started by pinning them with the front of the fabric touching. It helped me to pin the original pieces back together first and use it as a guide. Seeing the stitching holes on the old fabric helped me to find where I needed to sew on my new pieces (photos helped with that as well).

I sewed my pieces together using thread that matches my velvet. I also made sure to shorten my thread length (to about 1.4) while sewing my velvet pieces together, and double stitched at the beginning and end of each stitch line to make my seams extra strong.

This piece was now ready to be stapled! I fed the decking material down through the crack of the base and back of the chair. I then pulled my fabric to fit it snug around the chair and began stapling around the back of the frame. I started with the velvet along the top and sides, and then pull the decking material tightly to finish it off. I referred back to my original photos of the chair to make sure that I was tucking the fabric correctly on the back of the frame.

Make sure to keep in mind that your staples need to be as far away as possible from the outside edge of the chair so that they will not be visible once the chair is complete. You can always remove staples later on if this happens, but it can damage the fabric.

I then began to attach my inside arm pieces. These both had some decking material that needed to be sewn on. This part caused me some frustration, but I learned that my velvet did not have to fit the exact way that the previous fabric did. Each fabric creases and stretches in different ways. This was just about making it fit the best way that it could. I placed the fabric over the arms and pulled the bottom material through the frame. I then pushed the excess fabric through the frame to the back of the chair.

While maneuvering the fabric downward so that my cuts aligned with the corner of the arm frame, I pulled at the fabric and placed a staple at the base of the arm. I then worked my way up the arm, while folding in some creases to shape it around the curve. I continued to pull the fabric down tightly and stapled along the length of the arm, and then moving to staple the tightened fabric in the chair frame. And finally pulling the decking material tightly to staple in the side of the chair frame. I repeated this with the other arm, making sure that my creases on each arm matched each other.

In my case, I had to add a few creased while staple around the back side of the arm. These creases were not in the original fabric, but were necessary for me to add. This is why it is important to be open minded. Just do what works with your fabric!

My next step was to work on the outside arms. This is the piece that covers the side of the chair with the wood tack strip. I began by stapling my velvet and batting to the wood. I also added my additional metal tack strip back in on the end of the fabric.

This also took some patience. To make sure that there were no wrinkles on the outside, I had to pull the fabric tightly and staple. I used my short staples for this part so that they did not puncture through my fabric. Once this was complete, I used pliers to make sure that my tack nails were straightened and ready to be hammered into the chair frame.

The tack strip needs to be hammered in with a rubber mallet so that the fabric does not get damaged. While removing this piece in Phase 1, I noted how it was attached. There were not exterior staples. Only nails in the corner, and staples through the wood on the inside of the fabric. I used my photos to help guide me in my next steps.

This photo was after the wooden tack was hammered down in the corner. After this step, I reached my staple gun behind the batting/fabric to staple along the remainder of the wooden strip. I was then able to hammer is the small tack strip at the edge of the fabric (the edge piece hanging in the photo) and then proceed to pulling my fabric over the bottom edge of the chair to staple!

I repeated this for the other side, and then it was time to add on the outside back piece!

The original piece was stapled along the top of the chair (from the inside) with a small strip of cardboard. I re-used this cardboard strip and placed my staples along the top of the chair frame. I then pulled my fabric up over the chair and placed one staple to hold the fabric. This allowed for me to prepare the metal tack strips along the side.

I then pierced my metal tack nails through the fabric along the sides (facing outward). Once this was complete, I turned the strips inward so that they were ready to hammer in!

I was then able to staple on my dust cover and screw my new legs onto the chair!

Stay Tuned for Part 2 of this Tutorial which will explain how to sew the cushion covers.

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