I’m back today with a step-by-step tutorial to show you how to upholster a dining chair with welt cord / piping trim and buttons. Of course, the buttons are optional.
As I mentioned yesterday, very often I see DIYers take on a reupholstery project, and leave off the welt cord. More times than not, I see this being done on dining chairs, where people take off the original chair cover with the welt cord, and replace it with a very simple wrap-and-staple chair cover. That always makes me a little sad to see, because I think that the welt cord / piping makes such a difference in the finished look of the chair. (Don’t get me wrong…a wrap-and-staple can be nice, too, and it’s definitely the most appropriate choice on some dining chairs.)
I completely understand that adding the welt cord can be a bit intimidating, and there’s nothing quite as simple as a wrap-and-staple dining chair cover. But hopefully I can show you that sewing a chair cover with a welt cord trim really isn’t that difficult!
Here’s how it’s done (and get ready for tons of pictures!!):
Tools & Supplies:
- Foam for chair cushions;
- Main fabric for cushions (approx. 1 yard per 2 chairs);
- Contrast fabric for welt cord/piping and buttons (approx. 1/2 yard per 2 chairs);
- Spray adhesive;
- Flat cover buttons;
- Welt cord;
- Polyester cord (the kind used on blinds and Roman shades);
- Bias ruler (optional…more details here);
- Electric knife;
- Staple gun and staples;
- Electric drill;
- Sewing machine.
First, use the adhesive of your choice, and apply it generously to the wood base of the chair seat. I always use the kind of spray adhesive that comes out as a web for more control. Always use this product outside, as the fumes are harmful.
For extra hold, you can also apply the adhesive to the foam, then place the wood onto the foam and let it dry until the adhesive forms a strong hold.
Then use an electric knife to trim off the extra foam. Don’t waste your time trying to cut foam any other way. This is the easiest and fastest way. In fact, I even bought an electric knife that I use specifically for upholstery projects.
Now place your chair seat, foam side down, onto the back side of your fabric and use a pencil to trace around the foam onto the fabric. Be sure to mark right at the edge of the foam. Don’t allow for any extra space here.
When you remove the chair seat, the outline should be clearly visible on your fabric. DO NOT CUT along this line!!
Measure out from this line the amount of your seam allowance. I always use a standard 5/8-inch seam, so I cut a strip of cardstock (actually from junk mail) to 5/8-inch wide, and used it to draw another line around the the original outline. Then cut along the outside line.
In addition to the main piece of fabric for the top of the chair seat, you will also need enough fabric-covered welt cord to go around the edge of the seat, plus a long strip of fabric, about 5 or 6 inches wide, long enough to go around the outside of the chair seat. If you don’t have one strip of fabric long enough to go all the way around, it’s okay to piece together two strips of fabric. There’s no need to sew them together. You can find my tutorial for making welt cord here.
Now it’s time to pin everything together!
I always start in a back corner of the seat in an area that will be covered by the chair back.
Do not start pinning at the very end of the welt cord or fabric strip. Leave a few inches of extra fabric strip and welt cord before you start pinning.
You will pin the fabrics with the right sides of the fabric together, and the welt cord sandwiched between the two fabrics.
When you get to the corners, it will be necessary to make relief cuts in the lip of the welt cord as shown below so that it will curve around the corner.
If you need to piece together strips of fabric to reach all the way around the edges of the chair seat, be sure to plan where the strips will join together carefully. I generally try to piece them together in an area where the chair frame or back will cover it. Just never, ever piece them together on the front of the chair seat!
When you reach the end of the strip of fabric, fold the strip back about two inches as shown here…
And then place the new strip on top of that, and continue pinning the new strip around the chair seat.
When you’ve pinned the welt cord all the way around, you’ll need to join the two ends together…
Start by trimming off the excess cord. Leave enough so that the end overlaps the beginning by about three or four inches.
Now open up the seam to expose the welt cord.
Fold the fabric back so that you won’t accidentally cut it.
Now trim off the cord so that the two ends meet.
Now fold the end of the fabric in to hide the raw cut edge of the fabric.
And wrap that extra fabric around the other cord. Be sure that the ends of the cords are meeting.
Then pin the cord in place.
When you’ve gone all the way around the chair with the fabric strip, you’ll join them together in the same way as shown above. Fold the original strip back two inches (remember I said to leave a few extra inches?)…
And then place then overlap the end of the last strip. Pin and then cut off any excess fabric strip that remains.
With everything pinned, it should look like this…
Now sew everything together using the zipper foot on your sewing machine. Sew as close to the welt cord as possible without sewing on top of it.
The corners are tricky, and may take some practice. I’ve been sewing for over twenty years, and even still, I sometimes get gathers or puckers in my corners, so if you’re new to sewing, don’t get discouraged. If that happens, simply pick out the seam in that one area and try again.
Here’s what mine looked like after everything was sewn together.
Next take the chair seat an cut a piece of batting large enough to cover the top and sides of the seat. I always use “high loft” batting for extra fluffiness.
Place the chair cover over the batting, and be sure that all of the extra fabric along the seams is facing the same direction towards the sides of the chair seat.
Now fold the fabric down over the sides of the seat.
Flip the chair seat over and trim off any excess batting along the edge of the wood. Be sure that you don’t cut the fabric!
Now using your staple gun, place one staple on each side. Be sure that the welt cord is lined up perfectly along the edges of the chair seat. Also, don’t pull the fabric too tight!! You want the seat to retain its “boxy” look. That’s what makes the welt cord look so good! If you pull the fabric too tight and round the edges of the seat foam, the cord won’t look good at all.
Continue to staple all around. Be sure to check the front after every couple of staples to be sure that the welt cord is lined up perfectly, and to be sure that you’re not pulling the fabric too tight.
When everything is stapled, your chair seat should look something like this…
Now of course, you can leave it like that. But I wanted to add buttons to my chair seat.
If you want to add buttons, you’ll need to cover some flat cover buttons with the fabric you used on your welt cord. I used 1 1/8-inch buttons on my chair.
Flip the chair seat over and mark where you want the buttons. Then use your drill to make the button holes. Be very sure that you only drill through the wood!
Use polyester cord to attach the buttons.
First, place the end of the cord through the eye of the button.
Now tie a double knot in the end of the cord.
Then tie a single knot around the eye of the button.
Pull it tight, and make sure that the single knot is resting right up against the double knot that you tied in the end of the cord. Trim off the excess cord.
Now thread the other end of the cord through the eye of your upholstery needle.
From the bottom of the chair, use a bamboo skewer to make a hole through the foam, batting, and fabric. Then use the skewer as a guide to thread the needle from the from the top of the chair to the bottom of the chair.
Secure the cord on the bottom of the chair seat by using a series of staples and a zig zag pattern with the cord. Be sure to hammer then staples in really well before letting go of the cord and trimming it.
With all of your buttons done, you’re ready to attach the seat to the chair frame!
So what do you think? Have you done this type of dining chair seat before? If not, does it look harder or easier than you had imagined? Will you give it a try, or stick with the wrap-and-staple?