re Upholstery 101

I’ve gotten some questions from friends and readers about reupholstery.  Usually, if one person is asking, there are more in the crowd who have the same question, but for many reasons won’t voice it (I’m usually the latter person).  So I wanted to take a moment to answer some questions if you’re thinking about digging into a very fun way to start into furniture DIY.  Let me tell you, I am no expert.  But if you like what I’ve done, and I’m a step or two ahead of you, by all means, keep reading and I hope you gain some hints along the way. (Also, I have linked each photo with it’s original post, so if you want to see more on a particular project, just click on the photo).

Choosing your Project

First off, choose your first project wisely.  This is probably really obvious, but the whole goal in DIY and life really is to be able to eventually succeed.  That doesn’t mean perfect, but if you can look at your project and the finished product brings you joy, then that is a success.  You can build on the difficulty of your projects from there.  If  you have never done much with fabrics or furniture, a large chair or settee might be a bit over your head.  I think a great place to start is a dining room chair (or 3 or 4), or a simple ottoman.  These are hands down the easiest makeovers, but it makes such a huge difference!  The bottoms are screw on and off, so all the staple work is hidden underneath!

Coral Chair 2

Choosing your Fabric

This is really huge, and probably the questions I get most.  Where do I start looking?  First off, you need to determine the durability you want.  The trendiest fabrics, and often the fabric people are most drawn towards are a medium weight home décor fabric.  It’s heavier than your quilting cotton, but not as thick as upholstery fabric.  This is the fabric I use for making aprons and my curtains are this weight.  Most of the time it is suggested only for “light upholstery.”  The first arm chair I reupholstered was this weight.

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It worked, however, it is at a home where there is only one girl, not four boys.  If you want a piece to last more than a couple years, and it’s a piece that will get a lot of use, use a heavier weight upholstery fabric.

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My blue chair  and this vintage rocking chair pictured above are much heavier weight upholstery fabrics.  Another trend which I have used, is painter’s drop cloth for reupholstery.  This is again what I would consider medium weight.  It honestly isn’t the best.  It stretches, and has a tendency to tear when you’re stretching and stapling, but again, if it’s a small job, and you don’t mind re-doing it in a couple years, go for it!

french chair 1

Then the next question is always, where to buy it?  That I will preface with, I live in Alaska, so I mostly order online.  We have a small JoAnns about 15 minutes away, but their selection is tiny.  My favorite place to order online is  They have a huge selection, and I can browse by color or theme and types of fabric.  They also have the best descriptions the fabrics.  They describe the weight, what it’s good to be used for, and the colors (which is extremely helpful because they often differ from what you see on your computer screen).  If you are very particular, you can always order swatches for $1.75, which I do often.  But sometimes, by the description I can tell if it’s going to work or not. offers free shipping if you order $35 or more, except for Alaska and Hawaii.  However, I have found the shipping is still reasonable, especially because their fabrics are discounted.

I have also ordered from JoAnns.  Sometimes I can find fabrics there I can’t at  Their shipping is also reasonable, and sometimes free, depending on promotional offers they’re having.  If you are going to order from JoAnns, never pay full price!  They frequently mark their home décor fabric down to 40-50% so there is no need to break the bank.

ethan allen chair 1

If you ever are wondering what fabrics I have used or where to find them, I will gladly tell you.  Also, my Ruffles and Rifles Pinterest board “Furniture Restoration Ideas” usually has pins with the fabrics I have used.  There are a lot of fabrics on there I love that will not order, because the shipping to Alaska is astronomical.

Tools to Use

First off, I highly recommend a furniture staple remover.  You can use a flat head screw driver, however, I can tell you from using both, get the $10 staple remover from Amazon, it will be well worth your money.  Also, on you first job you may not want to invest in a power staple gun. And that’s fine.  Most dining room chairs you will be fine using a hand staple gun.  Your hand may hurt by the end, but it will work.  I now use a Porter Cable 5/8″ Upholstery Stapler, which is a small investment at $90, but so worth it if you are going to get into reupholstering!  Also, have a pair of needle nose pliers on hand to rip out those extra stubborn stables.

French Country Chair 3

Other Supplies

Other supplies you may or may not need depending on the condition of the piece you’re restoring is the foam.  When I took these bar stools apart the foam was completely disintegrating.  Luckily I found 1″ high density foam at a local thrift store for pennies.  Foam is expensive, so if you can’t find it at a thrift store, try JoAnns, again when you can get it for a significant discount.

bar stools 10

Also to get a professional look, you will need some batting.  I have bought and used a lot of types, but I think a poly at a medium loft works great.  Also, buy a spray adhesive (next to the glues at JoAnns or Michaels), which will be used to stabilize the foam, batting and upholstery as you work on your project.

bar stools 13

I hope I covered everything you will need to get started.  If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask.  I hope to have a tutorial up soon on basic reupholstering.

All opinions are 100% mine, I have received no compensation for anything I have said.  I just am sharing my experiences.

Thanks for stopping by!