Monday, July 12, 2010

Tutorial: Upholstering a chair cushion

Good things come to those who wait--that's my story and I'm stickin' to it.  Here's that long-promised tutorial on reupholstering a chair cushion, including how to make your own welting.   It's really easy as pie-- if you can sew straight lines you can do this.  This is a pretty long tutorial, so I'm breaking it up into two parts-- gathering supplies and making welting and the sewing of the chair cushion.

You'll need the following:
Cording for making welting.  This is sold in varying sizes at most craft and fabric stores.  It looks like a long tube made out of braided unbleached cotton, and is sold by the yard and pre-packaged.  I find mine near the curtain hardware and upholstery trim at my Joann's.
Small gauge pins-- I like to use applique pins because my machine can go over them without gumming up the needle or breaking the pins.
Zipper foot for your sewing machine-- this is very useful in making and attaching the cording.
Rotary cutter, straight edge and self-healing mat:  while you can make it without these, these are such useful tools that I think anyone who sews at all should have them.  I bought all of mine one at a time using the 40% off coupons that all the major craft and hobby stores offer.
Foam and batting--I used what came with the chairs-- foam is expensive!  If you don't want to do this, you should bring your old foam to the store with you and have them trace and cut the new foam to fit for you-- they use electric knives that make it so much easier to cut it exactly.  Cut a piece of batting to fit the top of your foam and use a few dots of fabric glue to hold it in place.
Fabric-- you need enough to cover your cushion, allowing for the top and sides, plus extra for matching patterns and for creating the welting.   I strongly advise you to choose a fabric that has a pattern that doesn't need to be carefully matched.  NO STRIPES OR GEOMETRICS!  Unless you are a very experienced seamstress, you'll drive yourself nuts trying to match the patterns at the front seam, and if you don't match a graphic pattern, it will be very noticable and you probably won't be too happy with the end results.  I choose this large paisley with lots of other pattern in the background that didn't need to be matched.

Calculating Yardage
To determine how much fabric you need, measure your cushion from top to bottom and side to side.  Mine was 26" wide and 24" from top to bottom, meaning I could get two seat tops from my 60" fabric. Don't forget to allow at least 1 inch per side for seam allowances, although I think it's easier to allow 2" per side. 

You then need to measure the height of the front of the cushion from top to bottom, adding a few inches to allow you to pull the fabric down over the edge of the cushion bottom.  My foam and batting was 5" high, and the wooden chair frame was 1", so I calculated 8" just to be safe.  To go all the way around the chair I would need two lengths of fabric, for a total of 16". 

To make the welting, you will need to calculate the total number of inches around the top of the seat cushion-- for me that was 98".    My cushions had welting at the top and bottom, meaning I would need 196" of welting, plus a few inches extra for allowances, which comes out to about 5 1/2 yards.  My fabric was 60" wide, meaning I could get about 58" of welting out of each strip of fabric I cut.  To make enough welting, I would need 4 strips of fabric that were 2" by 60".   
To calculate your yardage, add up all your measurements
26 (seat tops) +32 (sides)+ 16 (welting)= 74"= roughly 2 1/4 yards.

Making Welting
This is where a rotary cutter is really handy-- just measure and cut 2" strips of fabric.  However, you can use a yardstick and a piece of chalk, too-- just measure down two inches on each side and mark, then use your yardstick to make a line connecting the two marks.  Cut. Sew your strips together, right sides together, and trim the seams closely.

You can pin  your cording in if you want to-- I don't.  I fold the strip in half and insert the cording into the pocket this creates, letting a bit of cording hang out the end. Attach your zipper foot on the left-hand bar, and insert the cording/fabric pocket so that the needle of the machine touches exactly the edge of the cording.  Sewing slowly and carefully, sew the cording into the fabric.  I stop every few inches and fold the fabric that is about to be fed into the machine, and go along the entire length fabric.  It's slow going, but not hard at all.

Stay tuned-- tomorrow we bring it all together and upholster the chair!

1 comment:

Courtney at Scattering Lupines said...

WOOHOOO!!!!! Can't wait for the rest! (Very good, clear explanations!)