reupholstery series | part 1 | stripping the upholstery

Marian ParsonsTutorials, upholstery26 Comments

Welcome to my new series on reupholstering a French-style chair!  I’ve been meaning to do one of these for a long while, but a lot goes into making a video and I was a little intimidated by the process.  Now that I’ve learned more about sound, editing, lighting, etc., I’m ready to go!  (Well, I still have more to learn, but I’ve definitely graduated from the poor lighting, kids screaming in the background and such.)

There are a lot of different furniture styles out there and some are more complicated than others.  In this series, we are going to start with one of the simplest styles of armchairs to upholster.  We’ll call it a French-style chair, but it doesn’t have to be this specific style.  The idea is to find a chair where the upholstery is done in panels.  You can find Victorian, Gustavian, Swedish and more styles with this same design.

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Also, unless you’ve made a slipcover or cushion covers before, it’s best to find a chair without a cushion, so it’s simple and straight forward.

For this series, I’m using this set of tapestry-upholstered chairs that I found on my local Craig’s List…


A few things to look for when shopping for good candidate to upholster are…

  • Make sure the frame is sturdy.  Unless you are, or know, a skilled woodworker, fixing chair frames can be pretty tricky.  They have to be structurally sound to be useful, so an extra screw or a squirt of glue usually won’t cut it.
  • Give it the “sniff test” to make sure the foam isn’t saturated with smoke or pet odors.  Those can be really hard to remove and foam is expensive (and more advanced) to replace.
  • Make sure the springs and foam are in good condition.  Sit on the chair and give it a good test.  Watch for sagging, springs poking through, “crunchy” or hard foam, etc.  Again, this is more complicated and expensive to replace and not good for a first-time upholstery project.

This video takes you through part one, which is stripping the existing upholstery from the chair…

We didn’t do closeups in this video, because it’s just removing staples and there really isn’t any trick or technique to it.  When we get to the upholstery, we’ll do lots of closeups, so you can really see what’s going on.  
If you prefer to have a tutorial in pictures on stripping upholstery, you can find that HERE.  
Up next, painting and finishing the chair frame.  You can find the video tutorial for part two HERE.  

reupholstery series | part 1 | stripping the upholstery

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26 Comments on “reupholstery series | part 1 | stripping the upholstery”

  1. I’m so excited to see this process from start to finish! Thanks you two for filming this! XO

  2. This is so informative and has come at the perfect time …
    thanks for putting this on…
    you ladies are delightful….

  3. Great video, lots of useful info. However I was wondering why you didn’t mention just using a pair of regular pliers? That works really well for me. Never tried the other tools before.

    1. I like the wire cutting pliers a lot better, because the fine edge can get underneath tight staples and nail heads. I find regular pliers or even needle-nose pliers to be more cumbersome.

  4. I’ve been a reader for years, and I’ve never minded the ads and whatnot through which you earn a living. Until now, that is.

    The banner ad along the bottom pops up multiple times and has to be clicked off in order for me to read the post., Again and again and again and again.

    Now there is a side bar ad that is actually running automatic video ads. I’m a bit fed up.

    1. There shouldn’t be any video ads with sound, but I know sometimes they get through my filters. Sorry about that! It’s always a fine line between maximizing income without ads taking over the site.

      1. Thank you for at least trying to filter some of them out. I’ll try not to be cranky about it. 🙂

    2. I agree Marie Claire. The bottom banner ad is most annoying having to click out of it all the time. I still love to read your posts though.

      Anyway back to this post. My daughter has two chairs that look exactly like these. We put them on Craig’s list for a while and then she discovered they were French style and we were giving them away. So I took them off. My daughter has recovered a couple of other pieces so I bet she can do this as well. I am so very glad for this information.I am forwarding this to her. Thank you. Looking forward to part two!

  5. Yaaaay! An upholstery tutorial! Please please keep them coming. I’ve tried to tackle a slipcover but it ended in dispair. I’m a beginning seamtress. I’m more of a frankenstitch girl. I ripped that slipcover apart probably five times before I gave up. However, I do think learning upholstery would be a better route for me. I’m only concerned how hard it would be to rip something apart. Its tough to get those retched staples out! Nevertheless, I’m eager to try!

  6. Fabulous. We need this series and so appreciate you gals. (watch the um’s…as it can be distracting)

  7. I love this tutorial and have two chairs just like this I’m going to reupholster with you– Thank you so much!! I had the persistent ads taking over the tutorial too.
    I need advice/dirstion on selecting uphostery (solid neutral) that is kid friendly and cleanable!! Ideas?? Recommendations??

  8. I’m so glad. I hope this series is helpful for you.

    As far as upholstery, check out the home decorating fabric section at your local fabric store. Almost all of them will be treated to resist spills and stains. Look for a fabric that’s a nice weight (not too thin) for upholstery.

    I’ll be using an antique hemp, which is very hardwearing and forgiving with a family.

  9. Looking forward to the video that will show the process of upholstering. I have a Victorian chair that I was wanting to have reupholstered, but it’s hard to find someone in my area who would do it professionally. So, I just might break down and do it myself, tufted back and all. 🙂

  10. Hi Marian thank you for the ‘how to ‘ I felt like I was with a couple of girlfriends just love your approach to everything crafty ❤️

  11. That’s my chair! (The picture of the single chair, that is.) I bought this chair at Luckett’s Spring Market, last year. It sits in my bedroom and is used for cozy conversations in the early morning and late in the evening. I love it! I can’t wait to see what you bring to the market, this year.

  12. You’ve really made those columns in your space work for you by using them to frame your video!!! And all the layers of things in the background add so much interest to your space now!

    I LOVE the video and your comments about all the details involved. Can’t wait to see the next one. Do you have a paint that mimics wood for when medium to dark unspeckled wood is desired?

  13. I am sitting on that exact chair as I type-floral pattern and all! I have been wanting to reupholster it for several years now! Yay to you for this series!!
    And,also, thanks to you I just began my Whole 30 journey today as well. It feels hard already, the figuring out what I can and cannot have, and I wished I was prepared to begin and follow along when you began for support, but I was so inspired by your honest recount of it all and I just want to feel better! So here I go!

  14. Thank you for mentioning safety glasses. I’m always shocked at the lack of safety equipment on many diy shows and blogs. Loved the video and can’t wait for the next! I’m about to take the plunge of reupholstering using my hoarded antique linen sheets!
    Lynn, way to go with Whole 30! It’s hard and scary and awful during the first week but once you get through it, you’ll be so proud of your accomplishment and amazed at how good you feel!!!

    1. Thanks Tracy! I haven’t eaten meat in quite a few years, and I’m not a sweets eater. I love my fruit and vegetables. I think the legumes and dairy (cheese especially) are going to be the hardest for me to give up. I love hummus and black beans and I do like cheese. But I am ready to do this, so thank you for the good wishes!

  15. I have removed the fabric from a chair that is very similar to these. When I try to reattach new fabric with an electric staple gun the staples won’t go through the wood. I’ve used two different length staples. Should i just glue it? Any suggestions?

    1. You’re stapler is not powerful enough is the staples aren’t going into the wood. For upholstery, you really need a pneumatic staple gun.

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