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Recovering a Chair with Tony Totilo

Martha Stewart Living Television

It is relatively easy to re-cover a chair. With a few simple tools and techniques, you can give a favorite and well-worn piece of furniture an entirely new look.

Re-covering a Chair How-To
1. Use the end of a screwdriver to pry off the staples holding the old fabric and layers in place. Discard this material. You will want to use all new filling.

2. Use a web stretcher, hemp webbing, and a staple gun to web the seat frame in a basket weave pattern. Use the web stretcher to pull the webbing taut, and staple to the top part of the seat. (Hint: If staples don't go in all the way, hammer them down.) Some chairs have a solid seat, which does not need to be webbed.

3. Cut a piece of burlap to the same size as the frame. Put the burlap over the webbing on the top part of the seat and, starting in the center, fold burlap over and staple in place. This does not have to be taut. Fold over corners of burlap and staple again. Staple all around about 1 to 1 1/2 inches apart.

4. Cut a piece of 1-inch foam about 1/2 inch larger all around than the seat frame (Tony recommends using high-density polyurethane). Trace around the seat on the foam. Cut along the line with heavy-duty upholster shears. Apply foam cement to the foam and to the stapled side of the frame. Carefully position frame above the foam and drop it into place. The wood and foam will bond on contact.

5. Cut a piece of Dacron to same size as foam. Apply a small amount of foam cement to middle of foam piece and Dacron piece. Place Dacron on top of foam. The Dacron layer will give the finished chair a softer look.

6. Be sure to use fabric that will stand up to wear and tear (we used silk damask). Cut a piece of fabric that is 2 inches larger all around than the seat frame. If you are working with a pattern, be sure that the section you want is at the center of the square. Mark the front and back of fabric with white chalk (with an F and B). Mark the centers of the frame's top and bottom with hash mark. To make sure the pattern will be centered, fold the fabric in half vertically and use scissors to cut a notch at each folded edge. Lay the fabric facedown, and then place the seat frame, burlap side up, over the fabric. Line up the notches on your fabric with the hash marks you made on the frame. Fold fabric over back of frame and smooth it down with your hand going from underneath. Baste in place with a staple at the center of the fabric. Repeat for the front, and the sides. (Make sure that the fabric is lying correctly on the top of the seat.) Staple all around, checking as you go along that the pattern is positioned as you want it on the front. If necessary, remove staples, reposition fabric, and restaple.

7. Fold corners so that seams fall at the back of the seat. Once all the done, cut off the excess fabric.

8. The last step is to attach a cambric. When covering webbed slip seats, a cambric has the practical purpose of catching dust. But it is a nice finishing touch for any chair. Cut a piece of fabric that's the size of your frame; staple in place.