reupholstering the French chair | part 4 | selecting & cutting the fabric

by | Feb 22, 2015 | All Things Home, Tutorials, upholstery | 13 comments

Part four of the video tutorial series on reupholstering the French chairs is here.  If you missed parts 1-3, you can find them here…

Part 1 – stripping the chair

Part 2 – painting the frames

Part 3 – distressing & waxing the frames

Now that the frames are ready, it’s time to work with the fabric.  As I mentioned in the first video, we set aside the fabric we removed from the chair in order to use the pieces as a template.  I remember the first few pieces I upholstered, I chucked the fabric and started from scratch and that was definitely “the hard way.”  You make things so much easier on yourself if you keep the old fabric and use it to your advantage.

When it comes to selecting fabric to work with, the weight of the fabric is very important.  If the fabric is too thin, it might tear as you’re pulling it to get a tight fit.  It might also wear out faster.


In addition to the weight, test the fabric to see if there is any stretch to it.  If this is your first time upholstering, choosing a fabric with a little give will make things easier.  You don’t want it to be super stretchy, but it’s nice if it gives a little.

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  The pattern of the fabric is also important.  I would suggest working with either a solid colored fabric or one with an all-over busy print, so you don’t have to worry about lines being straight or patterns matching up.  I worked with a lot of solid fabric before I graduated to stripes and checks!

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As you may have noticed, my favorite fabric to work with is antique hemp.  It is a perfect weight, hard wearing and even though it’s light in color, it’s very forgiving when it comes to stains and dirt.


Antique hemp isn’t always easy to find, but you can purchase new hemp fabric.

As I say in the video, though, I always suggest working with an inexpensive fabric for your first few times, so you don’t stress about messing it up.

If you’re ready for the next step, you can find PART 5 HERE.


  1. Jan

    I have to hide my good scissors and then I forget where I hid them.

    I have a couple of questions.

    #1 Why did you lay out the pieces right in the center of the material? There seemed to be a lot of waste on each side.

    #2 Did you position the pieces so that the seem in your hemp sheet fell in the same place on each chair?

    #3 What do you do with all your scraps of fabric?

    • marian

      Yes, we did cut from the center, so the seams would like up in a more attractive way. I am going to use the scraps for smaller projects or piece them together for another upholstery job.

      • Linda Larson

        I found 2 French chairs with matching ottoman. Is 33” too wide about average? I plan to upholster. We are average size people and our house is 1939 cottage style with a nice size living room

  2. ellery

    Marian, I just wanted to let you know that the “hemp” fabric from the link you included was a blend of acrylic and polyester…not hemp at all…
    I included a different link that carries 100% Hemp textiles
    Hope that’s ok,

    • marian

      Thanks, Ellery! I just looked that up quickly, but I didn’t notice it wasn’t actually hemp! I have bought hemp fabric from hemp traders and it is nice stuff. 🙂

  3. Lesley

    Thanks for the helpful tips on reupholstery.

    Kriste – please tell me where you got your boots or what brand they are. They look so comfy perfect!

  4. Marilyn

    This video came at the perfect time! I am cutting out fabric this week, and I was going to leave at least an inch around the entire template. So glad I watched the video. Thanks for the info!

  5. Karin

    I think that you are very generous of spirit to share these videos with all if us! This is intimidating stuff and your videos make the process seem much more achievable. I can’t wait for the staple gun!

  6. Jo

    For novices, maybe you should mention that it’s actually wrong side of pattern to right side of fabric when lining up. Quilters, for example, are used to doing wrong sides together. I love the top down shots in the video. Very helpful in seeing what you are doing. I’d like to see more of that. One question, when looking for a chair like these, you say Craig’s List. What do you put in the search box? What are these chairs called. If you just put in chairs, well, you know millions come up. Thanks and thanks for the vids. They are so helpful, and I really want to find a chair and get to work.

    • Laurel

      I am not positive about the chairs in the video, but the two chairs with the blue strip upholstery in this post are called “Bergere Charis”. I bought two chairs that look exactly like those off of craigslist by searching for that, and for “french chairs” since not everyone knows the name.

  7. Rose

    I noticed you didn’t mention the direction of the grain in the fabric. I think this is an important point. Especially if you are using a fabric with pattern, you don’t want the pattern running left to right on the seat and then top to bottom on the backrest, which could happen if you are turning the pattern pieces to fit onto your fabric or just not paying attention to it. . And if you are using a solid fabric,some have a nap (like velvet) which if you don’t account for that in your cutting layout could lead to a real mess.

  8. Laurel

    I was wondering how much fabric it would take for 2 chairs like this? I bought two bergere chairs off of craigslist and i’ve seen different numbers for how many yards you need.

  9. Brenda

    Please tell me where or from whom I can purchase this blue buffalo check fabric. I just have to have it for my two chairs.


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Marian Parsons - Miss Mustard Seed

I’m Marian, aka Miss Mustard Seed, a wife, mother, paint enthusiast, lover of all things home and an entrepreneur, author, artist, designer, freelance writer & photographer.  READ MORE to learn more about me, my blog and my business…


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