This chair was bought 30 years ago at an antiques fair, and, unfortunately, it has not aged well. Between the hard seat, worn-away upholstery and loose joints, the owners thought it was beyond retribution. And, it turns out, it was actually far worse than even they thought… Upon dismantling it, we discovered that the seat was filled with straw, the webbing had completely disintegrated, live woodworm was crawling through the frame, and then the chair completely fell to pieces – it seemed that the upholstery was the only thing holding it together! It truly was a journey in furniture restoration, and we’ve blogged about all the ups and downs (complete with pictures of rotting seat innards) at homemakermagazine.co.uk if you’d like to learn more about the carpentry process. So, the moral of this story is that even the most sorrowful items can be brought back from the brink, and we’re here to show you how.
Once the structure is sound (head online to learn how we fixed ours), you’ll need to create a new foam cushion. To do this, draw around the seat edge onto a piece of scrap paper, then use it as a template to cut the foam with a ruler and bread knife or a pair of scissors. Trim the sharp edges off the top to achieve a more rounded edge. A local haberdasher’s may be able to help you with this process. Next, cut wadding large enough to cover the foam pad and down to the lower edge of the seat frame; using wadding on top of the foam will help with the rounded finish, too. Place the foam pad on the chair, centre the wadding over the top and around onto the sides of the seat, then stretch and position a staple in the centre of each side.
Continue stretching and stapling down each of the sides. Keep checking the front of the seat to make sure that your stapling is forming even rounded edges. As the wadding stretches, try not to make any pleats or folds. Trim away the excess wadding.
Lay the template made for the foam pad onto the wrong side of your fabric, making sure that the centre of the template is running with the grain of the fabric, then pin in place. Measure out from the edge of the template by 15cm and make a pencil mark. Continue around the template, join the marks together, then cut out.
Place the cut fabric onto the seat, making sure that the middle of the fabric is running from the centre back of the chair to the centre front; anchor the fabric in these two places with a staple. To enable the fabric to wrap around the back corners of the chair, make cuts at 45 degree angles towards the back arms of the chair. Continue stretching and stapling down each of the sides and the front of the chair. Try not to make pleats or folds in the fabric; if you pull hard enough this is possible. Don’t worry if you staple in the wrong position, the staples are easily removed with a staple remover or a flat headed screwdriver and pliers.
Trim away the excess very close to the edge, along the front and corners. No fabric should be hanging below the edge of the chair frame. Cut lining to the same shape and dimensions as the seat frame, turn and press in around each edge. Place the lining on the base of the seat and staple in place. This piece of fabric is just to tidy the base, so you don’t need so many staples – just enough to hold the piece in place.
Finally, attach the trim around the base of the seat; this will cover the visible staples and make an attractive finish for the chair. We made ours from a strip of the top fabric with the sewing machine’s piping foot; two lengths of piping cord were encased in the strip, side by side. Attach by folding in one end and securing with a tack, then stick the rest in place with a glue gun, finishing with a tack on the opposite end.