Reupholstering Cane Barrel Chairs
Remember these cane barrel chairs that I scored on Craigslist for $40, they are finally finished….yeaaahhhh!!! The process was labor intensive but fairly straightforward and I learned some valuable lessons about upholstery that I will share with you in this post, along with step by step instructions on how I did it.
If you missed phase 1, phase 2, or phase 3 check them out to see how I got to this point in the process. I purchased 3 yards of Dwell Studio Leda Peony Fabric in Aquatint which was enough to cover both of my chairs, however if you are using a different print, or this is your first attempt at upholstery, you may want to purchase extra just in case.
I would highly recommend this fabric because the print is very easy to work with and you can utilize every inch of fabric, unlike other prints with one large repeat that you need to center on your chair, wasting fabric in the process. So lesson #1 make sure you evaluate the print first before purchasing the fabric, prints with large repeats or stripes can be more difficult to work with and you may need to purchase more fabric to cover your chair which equals $$$$.
Step 1: Reupholstering the Seat Cushion
If the foam on your seat cushion is in good condition, re-use it. Unfortunately the foam on my chairs was in pretty bad condition and unusable so I had to purchase new 2 inch foam and batting.
Lesson # 2 pre-measure your seat cushion, so you exactly how much foam you will need cut at Joanne’s. Foam is VERY expensive, so you only want to purchase EXACTLY how much you will need for your chair.
Using the old seat foam as a template, trace and cut out the new foam.
This foam was added on top of the seat frame along with a layer of low loft batting.
Using the previous fabric that you saved from this step as a template, cut out the fabric for your seat cushion. Add a few extra inches to the outside of the template just to make sure you have enough fabric to pull and staple on the frame. Lesson #3 press all of your fabric with an iron prior to stapling it to your chair. I had to use steam to get out all the wrinkles in the fabric…take my word for it, DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP!
Center your fabric on top of you seat cushion and then turn it over, making sure that the fabric stays centered and straight before stapling it to the frame. When stapling, you want to pull your fabric and batting tight, but not too tight, making sure to be consistent with your tension when pulling the fabric. Lesson #3 turn over your cushion every few staples and make sure that you don’t have any ripples and the fabric looks smooth and neat.
Pull and staple the fabric leaving the front corners unstapled for tucking.
When you get to the front corners of the seat, tuck the extra flap of the material that was left unstapled underneath the side piece of fabric, concealing it and creating a clean line on the front of the seat.
Then create a neat fold/pleat out of the remaining material and pull it down and staple it under the chair. This is called a “tailored pleat” and you can watch how to do it here.
After you are finished stapling all the fabric, trim off the excess fabric and batting.
2. Front of Chair- Button Tufting and Stapling
First you are going to recover the buttons you saved in this step in your new fabric (I used scraps of left-over fabric from the seat).
Cut a circle a little larger than the diameter of the button. Using a hot glue gun, apply glue directly onto the face of your button and stick the fabric on. Then apply glue around the sides and bottom part of button (the side where the prongs attach) and working in small sections, secure your fabric around the sides and bottom part of button. Make sure the fabric is tight to the button and is securely glued on. Trim the excess fabric.
Using your needle-nose pliers, make sure to clamp the prongs of the button back together to make it easier for re-inserting into the chair.
Cut out the fabric for the back panel of the chair using the template you saved. Make sure to add a few extra inches of fabric to all sides for good measure. Iron the fabric to smooth out any wrinkles.
I applied two layers of low-loft batting to the back of the chair and laid the fabric on top of the batting, making sure the fabric is even and centered (I don’t have a photo of this).
The tufting was sewn into the back of these chairs, so I used the natural indentations/tufts and previous holes as a guide for placing the new buttons. Starting at the top of the chair (in rows) and working down, I used my fingers to feel where the holes were made in the back of the chair, and I inserted the button into that exact spot from the front.
Lesson #4 you may need to help the fabric along to achieve the nice folds that create the “diamond” pattern between the tufts. This video may help to clarify what I mean.
Once all the buttons have been added and tufting is complete, you are going to staple the fabric to the chair frame.
The picture below, shows numbers which represents the order in which I stapled the fabric to the frame, I don’t know if this is the correct order, this is just the way I did it. The fabric on the top of the chair was stapled to the top back part of the frame.
Make sure you are stapling the fabric into the channels along the sides, where you removed the staples during the stripping process.
Once all the fabric is secured to the frame, carefully trim off the excess fabric. I pulled the extra fabric taunt, which made it easier to trim.
3. Back of Chair-Tacking Strip and Welt Cording
Once the fabric is stapled to the front of the chair, you are going to apply single welt cord to the top-back of the chair. You can see how to make this by watching this video, I used my zipper foot for this which came with my sewing machine. Glue it to the top back of your chair using a hot glue gun. Lesson #5 do not use too much hot glue, use a thin even line otherwise it may glob out and be visible on your fabric.
Cut your back panel of fabric using the template you saved when you stripped your chair. This panel of fabric is going to be applied just under the single welt cording using tacking strip so that the staples are not visible. You will do this by draping your back panel of fabric over the top -front of your chair with the wrong side facing up.
This part is confusing, but basically you are stapling the wrong side of the fabric under the tacking strip so that when the fabric is then flipped back over, the right side of the fabric will be hanging down the back and no staples will be visible. The tacking strip should be stapled just under the welt cord. This video may help if you are confused about this part.
Flip the fabric over so that it is hanging down the back side of your chair. You can see how clean the line looks with the tacking strip!
Pull the fabric taunt and staple the fabric to the bottom underside of the chair, working your way around the sides of the chair. Once fabric is secure, trim the excess fabric.
Make two long strips of double welt cord using the old double welt cord as a template to determine the length you need. I purchased this double welt cord foot which made sewing a lot easier, just make sure that the foot you purchase will fit your sewing machine. I followed this tutorial on how to make it.
If you can thread a sewing machine and you can sew a straight line, then you can sew welt cording it is really not that difficult so don’t be intimidated. If I can do it, you can do it too!
Glue the welt cord along the side channels of the chair with a hot glue gun, making sure to work slow and steady, only applying just enough glue to secure the cording.
Lastly, re-attach the seat to the chair using the screws you saved and staple a new dust cover to the bottom of the chair frame to keep the dust bunnies out.
I am thrilled with the finished product! Not bad for my second upholstery project…but I couldn’t have done it without the help of Mr. Wilson!
Let me know what you think!
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