How To Upholster A Dining Chair With Welt Cord & Buttons

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:

  1. Foam for chair cushions;
  2. Batting;
  3. Main fabric for cushions (approx. 1 yard per 2 chairs);
  4. Contrast fabric for welt cord/piping and buttons (approx. 1/2 yard per 2 chairs);
  5. Spray adhesive;
  6. Flat cover buttons;
  7. Welt cord;
  8. Polyester cord (the kind used on blinds and Roman shades);
  9. Scissors;
  10. Pencil;
  11. Bias ruler (optional…more details here);
  12. Electric knife;
  13. Staple gun and staples;
  14. Electric drill;
  15. Pins;
  16. 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?  🙂

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  1. Wow! That was really informative. I have never made cording and I really appreciate the whole tutorial. I have some old chairs that have caned seats that need to be redone, but I was thinking that instead of the caning, I would make solid seat and I’m think that your method might be the trick! Silly question…I’m constantly ironing when I sew…did you iron your fabric along the way as it doesn’t look like you did….so why?

    1. I usually don’t iron the fabric for an upholstery project since upholstering generally requires that the fabric be stretched and stapled, or sewn and then stretched tight over foam and batting. I find that the wrinkles generally disappear with all of that pulling and stretching. However, on window treatments or any other project where the fabric isn’t going to be pulled and stretched, I always iron the fabric. 🙂

  2. I probably would have been one of those people who got rid of the welting if I had ever encountered a seat cover with it. The handful of chair seats I’ve done didn’t have one to begin with (or at least when I got hold of them). Even with your great detailed instructions it looks involved but do-able. Filing away for the inevitable chair seats that need done in the future – maybe even if they don’t already have welt cord! 🙂

  3. I am wondering if you can do this to chairs which previously had no upholstery? As you can tell by my question, I’m a newbie to upholstery in general, but have a lovely bench and four chairs I’d love to try this with.

    1. Hi Susan~
      As long as the seat is fully exposed, then yes, you an upholster a chair that wasn’t previously upholstered. In other words, you wouldn’t want to try to upholster a chair that has a spindle back where all of the spindles are attached to the top of the seat along the back. Upholstering that would be quite a challenge, and I don’t think the result would look good at all. Hope that helps! 🙂

  4. Hmmmm,
    I’m wondering the whole time (I’ve ALSO been sewing for a looooong time, so know how to make welting or bias etc.,) how you attached the upholstered “cushion” to the chair.
    Thanks in advance.

  5. Never mind. I had assumed you put the upholstered “cushion” on top of a wood base. IOW, I thought the chairs were originally NOT upholstered, but when I finished reading the post about how you ORIGINALLY redid them, I realized my misunderstanding, and now I know that they were just attached the way most upholstered chairs are.

  6. Thank you! I was one of those people who didn’t understand how welting worked and so would have left it off. In fact, my hand-me-down dining room chairs are still wearing a very ugly pattern from the 70s because I knew they would look terrible without welting but thought it would be way too hard to do!

  7. Kristi, I’ve been looking for a tutorial where the welt cord is sewn into the seat cushion and finally found yours. I have been putting off redoing my chairs because of this. Though I had an idea of how to do it, it is very reassuring to see someone who has already done it and to see the pics. Yours was the only one I could find online. Thank you! Pinned your post and now I’m off to do mine. Wish me luck!

  8. Great tutorial! I’ll be attempting this in about a couple weeks on a vintage dining set with cane back chairs I just bought off of Craigslist. I wonder though… If I used a heavier fabric, could I get away without using the welting? Meaning I’d still cut the template, pin and sew the fabric as you did so the cushion would have the boxy look but just skip adding the welting. Any thoughts on that?

  9. I thought the previous post on continuous welt strip was the greatest but this post on covering chairs was such a time saver!! My chair bottoms were cut by my husbans and no two were the same measurement. I wanted to do welting but was worried about how it would turn out on the different chair bottoms. Well, I call this post the SELF CORRECTING way to cover a dining room chair bottom!!! My six chairs look sensational and you cannot see where the measurements were different because all the welting is properly fitting on each chair. I am a big fan and look forward to more such posts. By the way I was a huge career woman and never sewed or did DIY until I retired at 70 and found time on my hands. Your instructions were easy to follow even by such a novice as I.