Reupholster an Office Chair

2 Materials
2 Hours
This tutorial on how to reupholster an office chair may seem daunting at first, but if you follow my step-by-steps, you'll get great results too!

You may have seen the embarrassing state of my office - which I finally got organized during a one hour organization challenge. My office chair was in no better shape and when the tear in the seat looked like it was trying to run right out of the office, I knew it was time for a makeover. I relocated it to my craft studio to give it the Cinderella treatment.
I've never reupholstered an office chair before so this was uncharted territory for me. There's nothing more fun than a challenge and learning a new skill! I was interested to learn just how it had been professionally done at the factory so I could try to duplicate it the best I could.

For this project, you will need: sewing machine, serger, airgun with staples (both light and heavy weight), pin nailer with 1" pins, staple puller, eye protection and heavy gloves (to wear while stapling or nailing), upholstery weight fabric (find something heavy that will be durable), needle nose pliers thread, and some cord. I also used some brown packaging paper to make a pattern for the backrest and panel. You could use a regular staple gun but I find it too difficult to squeeze; having a compressor with a pneumatic stapler is a real hand-saver!

I broke the project down into 3 stages: the seat, the back panel and the backrest.

First, I turned the chair onto its side to explore how it all comes apart. Looking at all the levers was a bit daunting, but I noticed 4 large screws in the centre and removed them.
I thought the arms of the chair had to come off too, but it wasn't necessary at this stage. I removed one and left the other one on so I could prop it up to get some leverage (and a better picture) once it was in my work table.
Interestingly, there weren't too many staples holding the fabric on around the perimeter of the seat. All the work in gathering up the fabric was done by a black grosgrain ribbon tape with cord running through it. I decided I wanted to reuse the ribbon again; you have to be careful not to let the cord slip out of the slots as you remove the staples.
I removed all the staples using my upholstery staple puller; tie a knot at the ends of each cord before you remove the staples holding the cord. This will prevent the cord from accidentally slipping out - trust me on this, you don't want it to unravel or you will have to feed it back through the teeny tiny slots in the ribbon and that won't be fun! Luckily the manufacturer left enough of the cord to work with before cutting it or I would have had to replace it. I did a quick Google search and couldn't find anything comparable online so I don't have the faintest clue what it's called or where I might be able to buy it again (if anyone knows, please tell in the comments)!
To save the ribbon, I had to use a seam ripper to cut through both straight stitching and serger thread holding it to the fabric. It was a bit time consuming so I just cranked up the music and chilled while I was at it.

To break up the monotony, I would leave it every once in a while and then come back to it. When it was finally released from the fabric, I pick out all of the loose threads from both the ribbon and fabric and set the ribbon aside.
Now it's time to cut new fabric; I used the old fabric as my pattern. If you have a directional pattern as I did (shells), ensure that all your pattern pieces are placed on the fabric in the same direction.

I wanted the fat end of the shells pointing downward (as you'll see later in the finished chair). I folded the new fabric right side in, put the old fabric on top of it and pinned around the perimeter (my antique irons helped hold it down.

As I only discovered after I cut the fabric, the old fabric had stretched so it was now bigger than the length of the ribbon; I had to adjust and re-cut the fabric so the perimeter was the same size as ribbon. This part was a bit of trial and error.
After the fabric is cut, make sure to iron out all the creases - otherwise they'll always be there in your finished chair! Don't get lazy and skip this step.
Pin the cord around the perimeter and sew it on. Because I re-used the ribbon and it had already been gathered onto the seat cushion, you will have to straighten the area you are sewing so there are no gathers, then push the gathered section ahead into the area you just sewed so the next section is smooth. It sounds confusing but it will make sense once you get to this stage.
Once the ribbon is stitched, I also serged around the edges. Again you'll need to move the gathers around so you're stitching on ungathered fabric as you serge. Once that's done, you can pop the new cover onto the seat cushion.
You'll need to pull it tight as you go to get it evenly distributed.
Put on some eye goggles and gloves. Where the cords cross over, add staples in a zigzag fashion as shown below to hold them in place. I forgot to get a shot using the actual fabric (this is a before shot).
I used a pneumatic staple gun with my air compressor to place staples around the perimeter. You'll notice that I finally removed the other arm so I could maneuver the fabric around. I found it hard in some places to stretch the fabric over the sides so do your best to get it evenly distributed.
Turn it over and admire your work!
Unfortunately I've reached my picture limit, so you'll have to head over to our blog to catch the rest of the step-by-step instructions with detailed pictures.

And now the reveal:
The chair looks so great with all the red accents in my studio that it was hard to put it back where it belongs in the office upstairs!

This is the second in a series of 3 chairs I've done for my new craft studio. The first one was a drafting chair you'll find by clicking here. I'll have one more chair makeover coming in a future post so if you're interested in seeing that, be sure to follow us here on Hometalk or on Birdz of a Feather at the link below!

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Suggested materials:
  • Office chair   (pre-owned)
  • Fabric   (fabric store)
Birdz of a Feather
Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!
Frequently asked questions
Have a question about this project?
  1 question
  • SheilaFlorida SheilaFlorida on May 16, 2017
    I just have to re-upholster the part where my back rests against. What do you call that in your tutorial? It's a little unclear. Great job, looks terrific!

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