How to re-cover an armchair

Breathe new life into a tired old armchair with DIY upholstery

How to recover an armchair
How to recover an armchair step 1

This comfy old chair was purchased years ago for just £50 at a charity shop, but the fabric covering it was thin and it soon started to show signs of wear.

The chair was still sound underneath the ripped outer fabric, so rather than send it to landfill we decided to recover it using simple upholstery techniques that can be completed in just a few days at home. We now have a bespoke, luxurious chair for a fraction of the cost of buying new. When choosing your new fabric, make sure it is robust enough to use for upholstery.

You’ll need 

  • Armchair
  • Ataple remover
  • Seam ripper
  • Scissors
  • Material. We used 3m each of Alvar Velvet in the colours Teal and Charcoal, £20.50 per m, Clarke & Clarke
  • Dressmaker’s chalk 
  • Sewing machine and strong thread suitable for upholstery 
  • Staple gun and staples
  • Upholstery tacks 
  • Hammer

How to re-cover an armchair


Total time:

Step 1

Begin by turning the chair upside down and removing the legs, if possible. Next, remove the dust cover – the fabric that covers the bottom of the chair. If you can, keep it intact, using a staple remover to gently ease out the staples without ripping the fabric.

Step 2

Take a look at how the chair is constructed and carefully remove each fabric piece, keeping them intact and making a note of where each one went, and how it was attached to the fabric around it. Use a seam ripper to unpick stitches without damaging or ripping the edges.

Step 3

How to cover an armchair step 3

Lay out the fabric pieces that you have removed onto sheets of paper and draw around them, to create templates. Lay each of your templates out onto the new fabric and draw round them with chalk, then cut them out carefully. Using paper templates rather than the old fabric will stop any transfer of dust or other mess that might be ingrained in the old fabric onto the new.

Step 4

How to cover an armchair step 4

Some of our fabric pieces needed hemming and others needed sewing together before they could be attached to the chair. We used a double-folded hem on the pieces that needed finishing and stitched French seams along the joined pieces, to strengthen the joins and conceal the raw fabric edges.

Step 5

How to cover an armchair step 5

Begin to recover your chair. If the wadding or foam layers are damaged, now is the time to replace them. Ours were in good condition, so we just needed to reattach the new fabric over the top of them.

Start with the last piece you removed from the chair, easing it into place and using pins to check that it sits properly. Then carefully secure it into place with a staple gun. Continue to recover the main body of the chair.

Step 6

How to recover an armchair step 6

We decided to cut the sides and back pieces of our chair from a contrasting colour of velvet, and attached them last, as was dictated by the design of the chair. We pinned them into position and then hammered upholstery tacks (available in a variety of finishes – we used brass ones) around the edge of each fabric piece to further secure and decorate the design.

Step 7

Now the main body of the chair is finished, it’s time to recover the seat cushion. Make a paper template for the cushion as before, then lay the fabric out and use the template to cut two pieces.

Cut a strip to size to fit around the edge of the cushion, then stitch together, adding a zip to the back of the cushion to allow for easy removal.



Step 8

With everything else complete, turn the chair upside down and re-attach the dust cover, or cut and staple a new one into place if the original was too damaged. Screw in the legs, then stand the chair up and pop the cushion into position.


And take a seat – or step back and admire your handiwork…

For more upcycling advice and inspiration check out our DIY and craft sections