Monday, 16 June 2014

the ugly duckling chair make-over # 3

In part one we chose the right fabric, in part two copied and drafted the sewing pattern, so now, in this third and last part we can have a look at how to complete the covering of the chair.

First of all, iron your chosen fabric and cut out all the pattern pieces. Make sure the straight grain is correct when you pin your pattern to the fabric, and don't forget to transfer your notches onto the fabric pieces - I usually snip the fabric a couple of millimeters deep as seen below.

The sewing involves some quick machining and some hand-sewing too - and a lot of pressing the seams. To achieve the best looking result, always iron your seams apart right after sewing them! Anyhow, on this chair I started by machine stitching the seat cover.

1.) The seat cover

After sewing together the little side seams and the centre back seam on the long side strip that goes around the seat I basted a tidy hem on top.Then I pinned it onto the main seat cover part and machine stitched it with a narrow edge to imitate the way the original upholstery is done on the seat. Can you see from the photo what I mean? Instead of a plain joining seam, it looks more like piping.

A heads-up: always expect some easing to be done when dealing with curved shapes; this means one of your joining edges is longer than the other, so you will have to evenly distribute the difference on the longer edge when pinning and sewing - this will give you the curved shape that's required. 

Next came a quick hand-sewing phase. I pulled the seat cover over the chair seat, secured it into place with a few pins. Then I turned the chair over and pinned a hem on the underside onto the original stapled edge underneath. Then I hand stitched a tidy hem right into the chair's original upholstery.

I used a wide whip stitch which is a fast hand stitch and quite strong too, but not impossible to unpick if needed. With this the seat was done, so I moved on to the back rest.

2.) The back rest

First I machined the top part of the centre back joining seam on the back cover piece (above the oval cutout). Then pinned the front cover piece onto the back cover piece - there was lots of ease to deal with here. Next, I machined part of the cover together, starting from the widest point on the lower side, going along all the way on top then going down to the widest point on the other side. This way I was left with a long opening so I could pull the cover over the backrest.

A tip when dealing with curved seams: clip your seam allowance to reduce the bulk so when you turn your seam the right way out, you will have a nice round shape. Without clipping the seam allowance, a curved seam won't behave right!

There was one more thing to handle with before I could hand stitch the back rest cover closed: the oval cutout, that went around the metal bit in the middle of the back rest.

For this I slightly unscrewed both screws, only slightly, so I could push the raw edges of the oval cut-out under the metal edge. I used a flat headed screwdriver to push the fabric with - it worked great! Once I was happy, I tightened the screws back.

Now the opening in the back rest cover could be closed by hand sewing all along the bottom, and halfway up on the centre back. I used a small whip stitch here, to keep the stitching as invisible as possible.

3.) Done!

Now the chair was ready! After tidying up the sewing mess, I made sure to spend some time admiring my work and a little bit myself for the effort as well :)

I can report that since I have completed this project, the seat cover has held up well, and all the work I put into it proved well worthwhile!

The good thing about how this chair got a new cover is, that the whole thing can be easily unpicked along the hand stitched edges and the cover taken off in minutes. The sewing pattern is now ready to use, so a new cover can be cut in a new fabric if this one starts looking battered or if the chair needs a yet another, newer look.

I hope you found it worthwhile to read along this longish project and hopefully you find it helpful if you decide to do a similar chair re-upholstery project!


  1. Far out woman! Is there anything you can't do?? You're amazing. :)

    1. thank you Louise! :) i'm sure i cannot make anything as nice and sensuous as your leather bound books! one day i must have one of your creations!

    2. I feel like I have very limited creative abilities when I see what you come up with! ;) Perhaps I ought to share some other things I can do (unlike handstands, cartwheels, etc) :) xx

  2. so clever! Looks brilliant and love the fabric :)

    1. thanks :) i'm glad i picked this fabric too, it's like it was made for it.

  3. You did SUCH a great job! Now I want to find an office chair to redo!

  4. You did such a professional job on this chair! Thanks for joining the History & Home link party, take care - Dawn @ We Call It


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