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No Sew Chair Upholstery

DIY fabric home techniques upcycling

You don't need any specialist sewing skills in order to transform an old chair into a work of art, and we'll prove it! This straightforward upholstery project from Joanna Thornhill's Insta-Style for Your Living Space will show you how to breathe new life into your living room via this vibrant armchair, using what you've already got. Opt for bold colours and clashing patterns to inject some super-on-trend maximilism into your home. 


Insta-Style for Your Living Space

You will need:

Old chair

Sandpaper: fine, medium, or coarse, depending on the condition of the chair

White spirit and old cloth Paintbrush

Oil-based primer

High-gloss coloured paint

Thick, hard-wearing upholstery fabric

Fabric scissors

Fabric chalk


Staple gun

Fabric braid trim

Fabric glue

Sewing machine and matching thread (optional)

Safety pins


1. Remove the chair pad and set aside. Sand all the wooden parts of the chair, then clean thoroughly with an old cloth soaked in white spirit. Leave to dry.
2. Brush the chair with the oil-based primer. Let dry.
3. Brush on as many coats of the high-gloss coloured paint as you want until you are happy with the density of the colour and the sheen. Try to avoid getting any paint on the fabric parts of the seat, although since these will be re-covered anyway, the odd spot doesn't matter.
4. Roughly cut out sections from your fabric and loosely pin them over the existing padded fabric sections on the arms, base, and back of the chair, taking into consideration where the fabric's pattern will sit. Using the existing padded sections of the chair as templates, mark their outlines onto your fabric with fabric chalk to create your new templates. Remove from the chair and cut out.

Insta-Style for Your Living Space

5. Iron the panel pieces and pin them in place, then go around each one with a staple gun, attaching the fabric along the edge of the existing fabric, and pulling it taut as you go. For the arms, add extra staples underneath where the two seams join up. Continue until all the parts of the chair are covered.
6. Using some fabric glue, secure the fabric braid around every fabric edge, making snips in the braid, as needed, to help manoeuvre it into position around any tight corners. Press the braid down securely, concealing all the staples, until the glue has dried.

Insta-Style for Your Living Space
7. Finally, cover the chair pad. If you're a keen sewer, you may want to sew a fitted cover with a gusset; if not, you can easily cheat by using some safety pins, as follows. Cut a rectangle of fabric approximately two and a half times longer than the pad; the width should be the width of the pad and sides plus 6 in (15 cm). Lay your fabric face down on a table top and place the chair pad on top, in the centre. Fold the two longer lengths of fabric over the pad, one on top of the other, and pull taut, adding a line of safety pins along the top fabric edge to secure.

Insta-Style for Your Living Space
8. Take the first of the remaining short sides and fold it as if wrapping a present: caking the two corners and folding them in toward the chair pad. Lift the fabric up and over, keeping it taut, and fix it into place along the underside of the chair pad with another line of safety pins along the fabric's edge. Repeat on the other side. Once the fabric is secure, turn the chair pad the right way up and place back on the chair.

Insta-Style for Your Living Space


Renter’s Alternative:

Painting might be out if you don't own the chair yourself, but you can still create a customized Look. If you have some spare fabric and a free evening, give it a go:

  • Fix the fabric on using safety pins rather than a staple gun, then use double­-sided tape rather than glue to hold the fabric braid in place. Avoid doing this on anything of value in case of damage, and keep it to occasional rather than everyday chairs.
  • Make a loose fitted cover for the whole chair, tucking your fabric into place as you go. Use a curtain tieback at the base of the seat, with the tassel hanging down the outside back of the chair, to act almost in the same way as a belt on a loose dress, giving it shape.
  • Fabric (or a throw) needn't be the only option for covering your chair. Using an old, sturdy curtain could work just as well, or even some new canvas dustsheets (which you could dye to suit your room scheme), both of which can be sourced inexpensively.


This project is from Insta-Style for Your Living Space by Joanna Thornhill.

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