SURPRISE! How to upholster a rocking chair.

Okay, so I haven’t been a very good blogger as of late.  I’m sorry, I apologize.  Part of it was due to a lack of projects, and also because I got a new job where I’m working more hours.  And because… WE’RE HAVING A BABY!  Ha!  That’s right, baby F will be coming mid-September of this year.  We are excited/nervous/can’t wait!  So having a baby led me to some projects, of course.  One of them was the dresser I bought a while back exactly for this purpose.  I wasn’t super jazzed about the way it all turned out (see using paint sprayer for the first time), but I’ll talk about that later.

Having a baby brings me to my $3 rocking chair.  About 4 years ago I found a rocking chair for $3 at a yardsale.  Was I looking for a rocking chair? Well no, I was looking for a queen sized bed, but I couldn’t pass up $3 for a seemingly decent looking chair.


Okay, so maybe other people would think it wasn’t that great, but I saw potential!  I knew that I would have to do some work on the springs, one was already broken.  I had been saving this for when I had a baby.  Once we found out we were having a boy, it was game on.  Because this chair isn’t just  a simple take the seat off and recover kind of chair, I wanted to use a fabric that was somewhat gender neutral.  For a girls room I was going to do purple/gray/turquoise (because who doesn’t love turquoise?!?!) So for Baby F’s room I am doing navy/gray/turquoise.  I only had a limited amount of time to find a fabric, and luckily I stumbled upon “the one.”


Hello lovely 60% off fabric from Joann’s.  This fabric is outdoor fabric which is a plus in my eyes because it’ll be poop and puke resistant… kind of.  So let me tell you about the awesome deal I got on this fabric, it was already 60% off, and I used a 20% off coupon in addition to that (yes you can do that apparently!)  So I got this $22 a yard fabric, 3 yards, for $26.  I was pretty excited… Anyways…  Before  I did all that, I had to refinish the wood parts of the chair and strip all the old stuff off.

The hard part about this chair was that I had no idea exactly how the upholstery was before.  I could kind of tell from where the tacks and stuff were that the fabric generally went in that area.  So I painted the areas I knew wouldn’t be covered in fabric.  I decided that I hated whomever put whatever coat of stuff on this thing because they did a terrible job and I couldn’t really get it out of the nooks and crannies without stripping, and I wasn’t stripping.  Haha.  I painted this the same way I paint everything, first step: Krud Kutter, magic in a bottle.


I then sanded, as best I could and repaired any damaged areas with wood glue.  Primed with Kilz spray primer, and painted with Rustoleum spray paint in flat white.  I did not want this piece to be distressed although it would have been a whole lot easier!  For more details on painting, see my other blog posts.

Now we get into the fun  nitty gritty of upholstery, from the ground up.  First of all, I will say that I couldn’t have done any of this without this blog post: How to upholster a chair. Her post was the closest I could find to the type of chair I had, and she actually provided really great details about upholstering from the ground up.  I used her post to get all the groundwork done, then I watched these video tutorials on youtube to do the actual fabric work.  The guy in the video owns an upholstery supply store (online) which actually is pretty reasonably priced.  I had considered getting someone to repair the broken spring for me but they had the replacement spring bars so cheap at that I just got them there, plus I knew I’d need some of the supplies they had there that I couldn’t find in a store anywhere around here.  You can get an entire spring bar on there for $6.99, can’t beat that!


I was super jazzed when all my supplies showed up (because I’m kind of impatient), However, the spring bars were a smidge too short, what I needed was in-between the sizes offered.  So I found somebody who could weld, and they took the old ends off my old springs and put them on the new springs.  I put that end at the back of the seat in case there was any roughness from them.   They make special nails for bar springs but given that they were $9.99 a pound and I only needed 8, I opted to use screws.  This served a dual purpose as I didn’t want to be hammering away on this ancient wood and I figured screws would do less damage.  Then comes the fun part, tying the springs!

It wasn’t too bad, once you figure out the knots.  Thanks Mr. F… haha.  Once I got that down I was unstoppable!  I also ordered the spring twine from diy upholstery.  And all these tutorials tell you to use an air powered staple gun.  Well, if you’re like me you may or may not have an air compressor and don’t feel like splurging for one just for one project.  I picked up an “upholstery” staple gun at Hobby Lobby for $9.99 and it worked just fine for me.  Probably a little harder on your hands, but it’s okay.  Any loose staples I just tapped in with a hammer.  You’re making progress now, you get to put your burlap down next.


I stapled it down then folded the edges over and stapled again.  I didn’t have any of the welting stuff for the where your legs go so I used some batting there for extra padding.  After you do the seat you’ll want to put the burlap webbing on the back (I purchased this from diy also).

Since there was only two pieces on there to begin with I figured this would be sufficient.  Now you can burlap the inside back of the chair.

Tadaaaaa!  Now you get to lay down your foam.  I used 2″ thick foam that I purchased from the hob lob.  I also used a sharp kitchen knife to cut with.  You’ll have to figure out the dimensions of your seat and go from there.  I applied the foam with spray adhesive.


After that, I applied the batting.  I’m assuming batting is the same as dacron?  All I know is I couldn’t find dacron so batting seemed close enough.  I got the thicker type of quilt batting.


Guess what???? Now you get to upholster the seat, woohoo!  I made sure I ironed out any creases before I put the fabric on.  The upholstery videos will really help you at this stage.  I made sure I had my pattern centered and I went from there.


I was so excited about how pretty it was looking (keep in mind it’s like 11pm at this point) and I got to the very last corner and I cut the fabric a smidge too much, cue utter disappointment.


Sighhh.  What’s a girl to do?  Not replace it, that’s for sure.  lol.  This added another time delay to my project until I could get to town and find something to fix this.  I ended up getting something similar to stitch-witchery but it already had the adhesive on it (no ironing). I stuck one side to a small scrap of fabric and fished it into this hole, then I applied the other side to the cut, getting it as closed up as possible.  I don’t have an after picture, but you get the idea.

After the seat, you’ll move on to the inside back.  This part was a bit tricky for me because I had the curve at the top.  I could tell this had never been exposed so I assumed fabric went on it one way or another.  I also used 2″ foam on the back.  This one was a lot harder than the seat.  I left myself a little gap at the top.


Then you’ll also cover this up with batting.  And watch more tutorials about how to apply the fabric, and then you get this:


The curve at the top was pretty tricky to get it to look right so I kind of had to staple, re-staple, cut, pull it this way and that to get it looking decent.  After that’s done, you get to move to the outside back.  You’ll need to burlap this as well.  I knew that the back would be my biggest pain the butt, and it didn’t disappoint.  I got the curved tack stuff (I’m sure it has a proper name…) from diy as well as the tack strips for the sides.  I decided not to use welting around the edges which may or may not have been a bad idea.  I should have also put my strip closer to the top because after I was done some of my staples from the front of the chair fabric were sticking out 😦 get ready to curse a lot during this part of the process.  You only have one curvey strip thing, it HAS to be perfect! He shows you how to do this in the videos as well.  Side note: I purchased my regulator from them as well.


I don’t have any pictures, but I did the batting then the fabric.  In his video he puts his tack strips over the welting to tack the fabric down, then folds over.  If you’re not using welting, don’t do that, I learned the hard way… after I already had like 10 holes punched through the fabric.  So what did I do?  After a string of curse words, I used my trusty fabric adhesive tape and cut a little square for each hole and applied it underneath.   Then I relocated my tack strip.  What worked best for me was to punch the fabric down with my tack strip right next to the wood on the chair, that way when I folded it under it was positioned just right for me to hammer it down.  After this, the rest is pretty much easy peasy.  Just don’t accidentally cut your fabric with the razor blade when you’re applying the black fabric stuff to the bottom of your chair… that adhesive tape was a life saver…

After all that, and some less than ideal situations, here’s how it turned out:


Not too shabby for a first-timer.  It’ll do the trick I think, just don’t look at the back too closely.  After all that, I finally got to sit in the chair for the first time… it’s comfy but doesn’t rock very well.  Isn’t that nice?  All told it probably cost me about $120 to do the chair.  If I can do it, so can you!  Just learn from my mistakes and you’ll do fine.


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