nailhead trim

Reupholstered Wood Side Chair | Nailhead trim

If its your first time at Flawed yet Functional, I’m working through my first upholstery project, a wood frame side chair. Today is the final stage, nailhead trim! Here are the first 5 steps to catch you up.

  1. Built the structural elements of the seat
  2. Padded the seat cushion
  3. Attached the top layer of upholstery
  4. Protected the bottom  of the chair with a dust cover
  5. Finished off the chair back with welting

I suspected that installing the nailhead trim would be tricky because I used flexible metal tack strips to attach the top layer of upholstery to the wood frame around the chair seat. The metal tack strips are under the edge of the fabric. I knew hammering a nail through the metal wouldn’t be easy, and maybe not possible at all.

During the research phase of this step, I came across this tutorial for how to make a jig out of cardboard to keep the nailheads evenly spaced when hammering them in. Genius! Or so I thought…

First I made the jig out of scrap cardboard following the tutorial’s instructions.

Nailhead Trim Cardboard Jig

Then I tried to nail the tacks in…things are already looking shaky…

Cardboard Jig for Nailhead Trim

Pull out the jig…

Cardboard Jig Result

Pinterest fail! Ha! That didn’t go as planned! It was super difficult to hammer the nailheads through the metal, especially when they are only held in place by flimsy cardboard. Also, it is hard to hold a nailhead with your fingers and hammer without the proper point-y hammer. My fingers can attest that this is difficult! (Now looking back at that tutorial, I remember she used needle-nose pliers. Ah! Genius!)

Back to the drawing board! How can I get these nailhead tacks hammered in, evenly spaced, and straight through wood AND metal? I pondered for a few days until the light bulb turned on: pre-drill holes for the tacks to go through! A drill bit can go through metal and wood right?

Energized and thrilled at my brilliance, I ran my idea past my hubby. He thought it would work, but he cautioned the bit might tear up the fabric on its way through. So I bought new bits so they would be as sharp as possible. A quick trip to Lowe’s and $3.08 later, I’m ready to rock this nailhead trim!

Nailhead trim toolsQuick note on drill bits, select a bit the same size or slightly smaller than the width of the tack shank so that there is a tight fit. I used a 1/16″ drill bit that can go through wood and metal. Insert the drill bit into the drill so less than the length of the tack is sticking out. The purpose of pre-drilling, is to start the hole so the tack can get through the metal and wood with proper spacing between tacks. The hole should be shorter than the tack shank so the remainder of the tack can be hammered securely into the wood frame of the chair.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way! Here’s a quick tutorial for how to attach nailhead trim through flexible metal tack strips.


  • 7/16″ nailhead tacks
  • Tape measure
  • 1/16″ drill bit for metal and wood drilling
  • Drill
  • Small hammer
  • Flathead screwdriver

Measure and Mark

Use a tape measure to make a line 1/4″ from the edge of the wood trim. If you are using a different size nailhead than I did, mark the line half the diameter of the nailhead away from the trim.

My nailheads are 7/16″ in diameter, the distance from edge to edge of the tack head. I was lazy and rounded this to 1/2″. Half of that length is 1/4″ which is the distance I drew my line from the edge of the wood frame so that the nailheads would rest right at the edge of the trim once nailed in.

Make hash marks where each tack should be inserted. The first one should be 1/4″ from the edge then mark every 1/2″ across the section. The end tacks will only be 1/4″ from the arm/leg/corner of the chair because the radius of the nailhead is 1/4″. When making the rest of the hash marks, they should be 1/2″ apart because there will be two halves of a nailhead between each tack shaft.

measure and mark pilot holes

Drill Pilot Holes

Use a drill to make a pilot hole at each hash mark. Make sure the drill bit is shorter than the shaft of the nailhead tack so that you don’t drill too far!

drill pilot holes

Insert Nailhead Tack into Pilot Hole

Using your fingers, push a tack into each pilot hole. Work only 2-3 tacks at a time for drilling the pilot hole and filling it. The fabric quickly disguises the pilot hole, so I found it best not to drill all the pilot holes at once.

nailhead in pilot hole

The tacks won’t look straight yet, but don’t worry, we’ll fix that in a minute.

Crooked Nailhead TrimHammer Completely and Straighten

Using a small hammer and screwdriver, hammer the nailhead tacks completely into the wood frame. Hammer them left/right or up/down as needed to tweak them into a straight line. The tacks are a bit forgiving and will bend. If a tack is way out of line, pull it out and drill another pilot hole. The tacks will only move about 1/8″ in any one direction.

Straight Nailhead Trim

While not perfectly straight, the end result is SO much better than when I tried to hammer through the metal tack strips!

The front of the chair does not have metal tack strips. The top layer of fabric was secured using cardboard. I continued with the same method, and it was a thousand times easier. The metal tack strip made my drill slip and slide, and it offered quite the resistance to the drill bit! The front of the chair was the last section I tackled, and it was smooth and easy!

straight nailhead trim

nailhead trim

Now I need a new home office where my desk faces out into the room because the front of the chair is clearly the best side of the chair!

Final Reveal

After 7 years of procrastinating, this dream to try upholstery on my own has come to completion! Let’s take a look at some before and afters, shall we? Scroll down to see the picture from when I first brought it home to completely refinishing the chair frame and upholstery! What a change! The wood is so much more yellow than I remembered.

Before Re-Upholstery


Now for an updated look at my home office area!

reupholstered desk chair with nailhead trim

There you have it, my rather unconventional way to install nailhead trim: measure and mark the insert points, use a drill to make pilot holes, insert tack and hammer in completely. I have not seen a drill pop up in the upholstery tutorials I’ve read/watched, but the result looks good enough to me! Like I said before, where there’s a will, there’s a way. Be creative! Ponder different ways to solve your problems with the tools and resources you have! Not only will you finish your project, but you will get a great amount of satisfaction from using your brain to problem solve.

It feels so good to finish a project! Particularly one that’s been hanging around for 7 years! What have you tackled lately that you finished? Did you let your project hang over your head for 7 years??

Nailhead Trim Tutorial



Sewn Welting

Reupholstered Wood Side Chair | Part 5 – Welting

Continuing on with my first re-upholstery project (See Part 1, 2, 3, and 4 here.), I finished the welting/cording around the chair back insert of the chair! I put off this project until almost the end because it intimidated me. Sewing the welting seemed like it would be tricky. The few tutorials I had watched told me otherwise, but I was scared nonetheless. Today I’m going to show you how I put on my big girl panties and just started. Creating gives me joy, and I can let fear of uncertainty take that joy. No more!

Joy and fulfillment in hobbies is something I’ve mentioned on social media a couple times, but I really believe you should do the things that bring you joy. Working on a hobby leads to a fulfilled life. Even if you can only squeeze in a few minutes here and there, do that thing that brings you joy. Read that book. Sew that skirt. Plant those flowers. Paint that wall. Bake the  cookies. Do those fun-filled things and enjoy them!

I’m kicking myself for how I felt about this step. It scared me. I’d never sewn welting before, and I was intimidated. Sigh. It was so easy. Like really, really easy. I didn’t even have to pin the fabric while sewing, and I’m a fairly beginning sewer so I use pins! The upholstery fabric is nice and grippy. It doesn’t slide around so sewing it was a dream. And attaching it to the chair back insert? A breeze. Why did I put this off for so long again? Oh right, I was scared and just didn’t try.

Here’s how I attached welting (aka piping or cording) around the chair back insert on my wood frame side chair.

Measure and Cut Strips

The fabric for welting needs to be cut along the bias or diagonally across the fabric. This leads to lots of waste which is hard for this cheapskate to take, but the end result of a professional finish is worth it! At this point, I’m also glad I bought 2 full yards of upholstery fabric. While I only needed 1 yard to cover the seat and back of the chair, I needed almost the entire remaining yard for the welting.

Using a straightedge, mark two inches in either side of the corner.

Mark Fabric for Welting

Then extend those two starting points to the other edge of the fabric. One, 2″ strip was not quite long enough to go all the way around the seat back insert so I cut another 2″ strip and sewed the two strips together.

Make a 2″ wide strip the perimeter of the chair back insert (the distance around the insert) + 8 inches. The extra 8″ is arbitrary, you could choose any amount, but you do want several inches extra, on both sides of the length of welting, to make the finish seam nice. I made mine 60″ long.

Cut Fabric Strips

Sew Cord into Strip

Fold the strip in half, inserting the welting cord into the fold of the fabric. Put the zipper foot on your sewing machine and sew the cord into the fold as close to the cord as possible.

Sewing Welting

I did not pin my fabric but just sewed slowly making sure my fabric stayed folded in half and the pressure foot tight against the cord.

Wait until you’ve finished sewing to cut the cord to length. There will be extra as you attach the welting to the chair, so a bit of cord hanging out is not a problem. I just left the pile of cord in my lap and fed it into the sleeve of the fabric as I sewed.

Sewn Welting

Staple Welting on to Back Insert

Using 3/8″ staples and a pneumatic staple gun, attach the welting to the edge of the chair back insert.


Beginning at the middle, bottom of the chair back insert, staple the beginning end of the welting to the chair. Place the first staple a couple inches back from the end of the welting cord. You will need extra room from both ends of the cord to wrap them together to finish the welting.

When stapling the welting, make sure the welting is flush with the side of the chair back insert and the staple is as close to the cord as possible. To accomplish a tight staple, face the chair back insert with cord side of the welting facing you. Put the nose of the staple gun over the cord and staple tight against the cord.

Pardon the blurry picture! Light was low the day I was working on this!

Staple Welting

Continue around the chair back insert, stapling securely as you go.

When you get to a corner, make a couple notches (triangle cutouts) in the excess fabric to allow the welting to bend more easily and not have extra fabric bulk up at the corner. I made my notches as I worked around the chair back insert.

Notch Corners Welting

When you get back to the beginning, you should have extra welting overlapping your starting point.

Welting Overlap

Use a seam ripper to open up sleeve of the fabric an inch or so beyond the intersection point of the welting. Lay the fabrics on top of one another. Line up the cords and trim to there is no overlap.

Cut Cording Welting

Trim the excess fabric from the outside fabric, leaving an inch beyond the intersection point. Fold the fabric over so that it will have a finished edge.

How to Make Welting Seam

Fold and hold the fabric tightly and secure with staples to finish attaching the welting.

Welting Seam


  1. This method of continuous welting around the chair back insert is made up by me. I’m not sure it is an actual upholstery method, but it seemed to make sense to me to create continuous welting around the chair back insert.
  2. I made a mistake and put this seam at the top of my chair back insert! Think through the starting point carefully before beginning to staple!

Trim Excess Fabric

Trim the excess fabric as close to the staples as possible. Use very sharp scissors for this step. My sewing scissors were not sharp enough. My husband sharped them as best he could, but I still was not able to trim the excess nicely. He was kind enough to do it for me. A stronger hand can cut better with my scissors apparently. I need to add a good pair of sewing scissors to my shopping list! Any recommendations?

Re-Attach Chair Back Insert

With the welting attached and trimmed, put the chair back insert back into the chair!

My insert has two prongs at the top of the insert that rest in divots in the top frame of the chair. The insert is held in place by three screws that go into the bottom of the frame and up into the chair insert.

Attaching Chair Back Insert

Step back and admire your work!

Finished WeltingCan you believe the step I stewed and sweated over for so long was really quite painless?! That just goes to show you, sometimes you just need to start. The worrying and fretting get you nowhere! And just maybe the project isn’t as hard as you think!

To attach welting to a chair back insert, first cut the strips of fabric and tightly sew the cord into the fabric. Then beginning at the middle bottom, staple the welting around the insert leaving a couple inches at the beginning and the end of the cord unattached. Finish off the welting with some folding and stapling. Then trim the excess fabric and put the chair back together!

Any other procrastinators/worriers out there? Do you delay the start of the project because you are unsure about how to do it? Any suggestions for sewing scissors? I really do need a new pair…

Attach Welting to Chair Back

Dust Cover on Chair

Reupholstered Wood Side Chair | Part 4 – Dust Cover

Upholstering my wood desk chair is going swimmingly, slowly, but trucking along nonetheless. The chair was taken apart prior to me documenting, but so far I’ve made the chair weight bearing, built the cushion, and attached the top piece of upholstery. Today, I’ll show you how to attach the dust cover on the bottom of the chair.

After attaching the top piece of upholstery fabric in Part 3 of this series, the chair looked like this. It looks finished, doesn’t it?

upholstered desk chairIt isn’t though, if you know where to look. See the burlap hanging down from the front frame  of the chair? That needs to be hidden behind a dust cover.

A dust cover is a thin, lightweight piece of fabric used to hide the under or backside of an upholstered piece of furniture. It hides structural pieces to give the bottom of the chair a finished look. The dust cover also protects the insides of the chair from dust.

I purchased my dust cover by the yard from Jo-Ann’s. At first, I picked up a pre-packaged dust cover from the upholstery section. It has 5 yards of fabric in it which is way more than I needed for this project. So I opted to purchase a different version from the bolts so I could purchase just the amount I needed. For this project, I purchased 2/3 of a yard, and it was just enough.

The dust cover fabric I purchased was grey. It is usually black. If I were purchasing it again, I would look elsewhere for black. The grey was so thin, it was see-through if not double layered. Perhaps it was supposed to be double layered? No one will see it so it doesn’t matter, but I would like the look of opaque black better.

Cut Dust Cover to Size of Chair Bottom

Just like with the other fabric parts, cut the dust fabric to roughly the size of the chair with a few inches on all sides. I planned to tuck in all the edges, so I didn’t bother with a very precise cut. After cutting the fabric, lay it on the chair to make sure it fits, trim as necessary.

Sizing Dust Cover Fabric

Tuck Edges Under and Staple

To make the edge look more clean and finished, tuck the extra fabric under towards the inside middle of the chair before stapling. Then following the same North-South-West-East pattern, secure one staple on each side. The reason for following this pattern is to keep the fabric centered on the chair. If you work around the chair, you will pull the fabric off center, possibly enough to not have any left to finish stapling at the end of the chair!

Always start at the top (north) then pull the fabric taut and staple at the bottom (south). Go to one side pulling the fabric gently, but not too tight, secure with a staple (west). Finish up by pulling the fabric taut on the other side (east).

I used short, 1/4″, staples to secure the dust cover. This layer is not structural and will not see every day use, so these short staples should be plenty to hold it in place.

Attaching Dust CoverContinue working around the chair in this pattern, always securing staples opposite each other, until the whole dust cover is secured.

Stapled Dust CoverTrim Around Edges of Legs

The dust cover fabric will be bulky at the corners, by the legs of the chair. Trim some of the overlapping fabric before securing the staples. I didn’t follow a specific method for this. Just trim any folded up fabric to thin out the layers and allow the dust cover to lay flat.

Dust Cover at LegSee how thin this dust cover fabric is? I didn’t expect it to be so see-through when I purchased it. In the end, it is the bottom of the chair, no one will see it. However, I like the finished look of an opaque layer though, and if I were doing it again, I’d buy black dust cover fabric.

Dust Cover on Chair

And now a chair with a finished dust cover! No more burlap hanging all jagged from the bottom of the chair! Even though the dust cover is a little visible from this angle, anyone standing up will not see any of it. The solid grey line looks more clean anyway than jagged burlap!

Chair with Finished Dust CoverAttaching the dust cover was probably the easiest, fastest step in finishing this chair. I think it took about 5 minutes, including cutting, stapling, and trimming the fabric. Following the North-South-West-East pattern is key to the fabric laying evenly without puckers or overstretching in any direction.

That’s one step closer to a finished chair! To see the rest of this upholstery project, click on the links below!

  • Part 1 – Structural Elements
  • Part 2 – Build the Cushion
  • Part 3 – Attaching Top Layer of Upholstery

Dust Cover How To

Upholstery Corner Fold

Reupholstered Wood Side Chair | Part 3 – Flexible Metal Tack Strips

Thank you for joining me on Part 3 of my first upholstery project. This is a beginner upholstery project, and I’ve learned a lot along the way! In Part 1, I made the seat weight bearing; in Part 2, I built up the chair cushion; and in Part 3, I am going to attach the top lay of upholstery, the decorative fabric, by using flexible metal tack strips. This was by far the most challenging piece thus far, but I’m happy to report, it turned out well! Flexible metal tack strips saved the day!

Part 2 left off with the seat of the chair stuffed and comfortable topped with a layer of muslin.

Finished Muslin Layer

“All” that is left to do it attach the decorative fabric. I purchased 2 yards of Pindler’s Campbell upholstery fabric in Aqua. Having no idea how much fabric I would need, I turned to Google to find general recommendations for upholstery yardage basic on chair type. Two yards is proving to be more than enough, but I’m still glad I didn’t scrimp. I ended up having to do the seat twice because I messed up, having extra turned out to be a great idea.

While I did read tons of tutorials and watched video after video about chair upholstery, not one of them was exactly the same type of chair that I have. In the end, my primary source for how to upholster this chair is my careful notes and pictures I took when deconstructing this chair.

Each step of the way has been fairy smooth, until this one. The original upholstery was leather. It was laid over the seat of the chair and tacked into place using upholstery tacks. The leather was cut just under the tacks on the sides and front of the chair. The tacks and most of the rough edge (which was really very straight!) were covered up by nail-head trim.

I’m using fabric, not leather, to cover the chair, and fears of being able to staple and cut the excess off in a straight line were confirmed. I couldn’t do it. On one side of the chair, I tried the same technique as the leather used: staple it then cut straight just under the staples. I either don’t have the right scissors or mine are not sharp enough (or both!). Cutting a straight line was impossible once the staples were in place.

On the back side of the chair, I tried to tuck under the fabric then staple, but the curve of the chair frame left me with excess fabric. I didn’t know what to do with it, so I tried making a pleat. It didn’t look too good. Hmmm…maybe I’ll give it one more try…

Final Upholstery Mistake 1

I gave once last go on the other side of the chair. I folded the fabric under once again and tried to staple it. But try as I might, I could not pull it straight without it buckling, having extra fabric and just not laying nice. Final Upholstery Mistake 1I started to get really frustrated then I realized I must either be using the wrong technique or the wrong tool. Back to Google to try to figure out how to make a nice clean edge! Through that searching, I discovered flexible metal tack strips. These beauties create a clean line tucking the fabric inside the mouth of the tack strip and hammering the tack strip closed. Thereby creating a tight, clean, staple-free edge. Genius!

Ordering this new part set me back about a week due to my lack of reading abilities. I ordered it from Amazon and accidentally selected no rush shipping. Doh! So instead of two day delivery, it took a week.

I watched a few videos on YouTube to learn how to use the tack strip (This one was very thorough.). After my crash course of learning how to use it, I dove right in.

First things first, tear off the first piece of fabric, being careful to remove any stray staples as well. Measure and cut a new piece of fabric. I was unable to reuse this piece because I had cut one section right below the staples. In order to use the flexible metal tack strips, I needed about an inch of overhang on each side of the chair.

Cut Fabric

Measure from the front edge of the frame to the back edge of the frame (22 inches for this chair).

Upholstery Measure for Top Layer

Measure from the left edge of the frame to the right edge ( 26 inches for this chair).

Upholstery Measure for Top LayerAdd 4 inches to each measurement to give two inches extra all the way around the chair. Then measure, mark, and cut the fabric. For this chair, I cut a rectangle 26″ by 30″.

The extra 2 inches was plenty. I probably didn’t need to leave that much, but it gave me plenty of extra to tug on. Most of the 2 inches gets cut off in the end.

Measure and Mark Fabric

Cut FabricLay the fabric over the seat of the chair to make sure there is excess fabric on all sides.

Lay Fabric on Chair

Staple Metal Tack Strip

The metal tack strip comes in a roll. Use one end of the roll and staple it to the chair. Hold the tack strip with the tab with the circle against the frame of the chair. Staple, putting one leg of the staple through the hole in the tack strip and the other leg outside the tab of the tack strip. Leave a quarter inch gap from the bottom of the tack strip to the edge of the frame, where you want the fabric to end.

Flexible Metal Tack StripCut off the tack strip using tin snips. I did not try to wrap this around the corner. I cut individual lengths for each section around the chair.

You can see my aim with the stapler wasn’t too good, so some of the tabs got two staples. I wanted it to be secure!

Flexible Metal Tack StripStaple one row of this flexible metal stripping all the way around the frame of the chair, except the front.

Staple Upholstery Chip Strip

With the wrong side of the fabric facing out, attach the fabric to the front of the chair using a few placeholder staples. These are staples that aren’t fully sunk into the wood frame. Their purpose is to hold the fabric in place while another step is performed. Make sure the fabric is centered left to right and enough excess to cover seat and all the way to the back frame of the chair.

tack front edge of fabric

Attach an upholstery chip strip against the top edge of the wood frame. Staple securely in place.

At this point, I did not want to go to the store to buy the proper chip strip, nor did I want to wait for a delivery by mail. So I did what any resourceful girl would do, I made my own. I cut strips off the cover of a standard spiral bound notebook and stapled them in place.

makeshift chip stripRemove the tacking staples and smooth up the fabric to admire your handiwork!

smooth upholstery edgeLook at that smooth, secure edge! I love it when things work out like I planned!

Make Relief Cuts

Make relief cuts in the fabric to allow the fabric to flow smoothly around the legs and arms of the chair. The best way I found was to make a “Y” mark with a fabric marker then cut with scissors.

Upholstery Relief CutsThe upper tips of the “Y” should be at the outside edges of the arm/leg. The tail of the “Y” needs to be on an angle toward the middle front of the chair. On my first piece of seat fabric, I made the “Y” relief cuts straight toward the middle of the chair. This left me without enough fabric on one side of the arm.

Make the relief cut for each arm and leg of the chair then tuck the inner part of the “Y” into the arm/leg of the chair and pull the excess fabric snugly around the sides of the arm/leg.

Upholstery Relief CutsAttach Fabric to Metal Tack Strips

Starting at the back of the chair, to make use of the front already being securely stapled, gently pull the fabric taut and tuck it around the top of the tack strip. Push the fabric into the teeth on the underside of the top of the tack strip while tapping the tack strips closed just a bit with a rubber mallet. Be careful not to cut yourself!

Fabric into Metal Tack StripTrim the outside/corner edges as needed. You will notice a lot of extra fabric there. I folded the fabric in to make a clean edge then trimmed as much of the overlapping fabric as I could so that the tack strip would be able to close around it.Tuck Fabric in Tack StripOnce the fabric is partially secure, trim the excess fabric along the bottom of the tack strip. This part scared me because I was afraid to trim too much and mess up, requiring me to cut a whole new piece for the seat. The flexible metal tack strips allow for a tight hold without much fabric overlap. So trim the fabric right at or above the tack strip that is stapled to the chair. This little bit of fabric will be hidden once the strip is fully hammered shut.

Trim Excess Fabric Tack Strip

Next, carefully tuck the fabric into the track strip while hammering it closed. Use a flathead screwdriver to push the fabric in while keeping your fingers free from the rubber mallet.

Take care at the outside corners/edges. I had to trim out extra fabric a few times. The outside edges aren’t the smoothest, but the final result is SO much better than my first attempt!

Look at that neatly tucked line!

Metal Tack Strips FinishedAttach remaining chair sections of the seat cover in the same manner:

  1. Tuck fabric around the tack strip into the top teeth
  2. Partially hammer tack strip closed while continuing to tuck
  3. Trim excess fabric right at or just above bottom of tack strip
  4. Carefully tuck in fabric while hammering all the way closed

Front Corners

Corners require special consideration in upholstery. If folded/stapled correctly, they look great. If not…they look like a DIY job. I read a couple of tutorials on how to handle corners, and I tried to put that knowledge all together to make this corner work. In the end, it isn’t a perfect result, but I’m accepting the result as this is my first upholstery project!

I had the chip strip stapled to the front of the chair and a tack strip on the side of the chair. My goal was to keep the front of the chair smooth and fold the fabric into the tack strip on the side. That’s confusing as I write it! Hopefully it will make sense with some pictures.

Pull fabric taut around the corner of the frame and secure with a staple. The staple should go on the side of the chair, not the front. Make sure the staple is as close to the metal tack strip as possible. The picture is deceiving. To get the staple very close, hold the stapler with the handle in the opposite direction. That way the staple gets lodged very close to the metal tack strips.

Corner by Metal Tack StripFold the fabric on the side down tucking the front fabric under the side fabric, like a present. The folded edge should cover the staple.

Upholstery Corner Fold

Then trim as much of the overlapping fabric from the front side of the chair as possible while maintaining the clean fold. Repeat tucking/trimming and hammering the tack strip in as you did with the other sides of the chair.

Finished Edge with Metal Tack StripFrom the front of the chair, that corner now looks like this:

Upholstery Corner FoldRepeat on the other side of the chair until the entire seat upholstery is attached.

upholstered desk chairupholstered desk chairIsn’t that a satisfying sight? The chair is 90% complete! I just made that % up, but it is almost done! At first glance, it might seem like it’s done but it still needs a dust cover, nail head trim, and piping around the back insert. It’s close, so very close!

In Part 3, I learned how to use flexible metal tacks to attach upholstery with a clean edge and not use staples. This also allowed me to work with the curve of the frame of the chair so that the fabric did not buckle or pleat as it did when I tried staples. The right tools make every job easier. If you find yourself frustrated in a project, take a step back and re-evaluate.

  • Is there another way to approach this step?
  • Would a different or new tool make this part come together easier?
  • Should I learn a new skill to make this project come to completetion better?

Frustration turns off your brain’s ability to rationally think through a problem. Taking a deep breath, a step back, and going back to the drawing board is a great way to get the project going again.

What are you working on these days? Do you enjoy DIY? Organizing? Spring cleaning? Reading about other people’s projects (I love that too!)?

Desk Chair Upholstery

Finished Muslin Layer

Reupholstered Wood Side Chair | Part 2 – Build the Cushion

Continuing on with my first upholstery project, today I am going to show you how to build the cushion of a wood framed side chair. Take careful notes and pictures when you disassembled your chair and follow those steps again to reassemble. I’ve found that each chair I research is put together a little differently. So if you try this, take lots of pictures! I did; however, I am having doubts about the method. I’ll share those as I go, but for now, let’s jump into adding some fluff to the chair!

Here’s a quick summary of Part 1: I started with just the wood frame of the seat, nothing else attached.

Reupholstered Side Chair StartBurlap was stapled to the underside of the frame. The frame was filled with high density foam and Dacron, then a tight weave of jute webbing was attached on the top of the frame. The chair ended up looking like this.

Jute Webbing Finished

The chair is now weight sustaining but far from comfortable! In this post, we’ll add burlap, an edge roll, horse hair, cotton, and Dacron to pad the chair then hold everything down with a layer of muslin.

Burlap Layer

First up is to cover the jute webbing with another taut layer of burlap. Staple this layer to the frame using 9/16″ staples because this layer will bear weight. Cut a layer of burlap roughly the size of the chair seat plus a few inches on each side. Lay it over the frame.

Burlap Layer Wood Side ChairUsing a pneumatic stapler, begin stapling the burlap to the frame. Start at the center back of the chair (north) then pull the burlap taut to the front of the chair and staple the front frame piece (south). The burlap should be taut between these two staples.

Then move to the left side of the chair (west). Pull the burlap straight but not so tight as to warp the shape of the burlap. Next go to the right side of the chair (east) and pull the burlap very taut and secure with a staple.

The burlap should now be attached with four staples: one north, one south, one west, and one east. The burlap is taut between those staples and fairly loose otherwise. Continue on in the same pattern (north, south, west, east) to pull taut the burlap between opposite staples. When finished, the burlap layer should look like this:

Stapled and Trimmed BurlapTrim off all but 2 inches of the burlap all the way around the chair. Fold the burlap over the staples (toward the middle of the chair) and staple again with 9/16″ staples.

Finished Burlap LayerA close-up:

Trimmed Burlap Close UpAttach Edge Roll

An edge roll is needed all the way around the edge of the wood frame. The edge roll holds  functional purpose: the underside of your knees don’t rest on a hard wood edge and an aesthetic purpose: it allows the exterior fabric to go smoothly from the top of the seat to the side where it is stapled to the side of the wood frame.

I chose to re-use original edge roll that was on the chair. It had one part that was a little frayed, but the rest of the parts were in good shape.

The edge roll should sit flush with the outside edge of the wood frame. It should be stapled securely, not wiggling. This is the first place where I didn’t do it quite right. I held my stapler wrong when securing the edge roll. Follow this tutorial to get the edge roll stapled in a more secure fashion (check out step 9).

Edge Roll PlacementYou can see in this close-up, my edge roll is not quite stapled close enough to the edge. This happened because I held my stapler with the nose into the roll with the handle of the stapler in the middle of the chair. The proper way would have been to have the stapler handle on the outside of the chair with the nose of the stapler over the edge roll toward the middle of the chair. This would have gotten the staples much closer to the roll resulting in a more secure finish.

Edge Roll and Burlap LayerHorse Hair

Next I put a layer of horse hair on top of the burlap and inside of the edge roll. I’ve read that using horse hair in upholstery is a lost art, and I hate “lost arts” so I re-used the horse hair from the original upholstery.

Layer of Horse Hair PaddingHow thick should this layer be? Since this horse hair is used, is it matted down? I don’t have an answer for you, so for reference sake, this horse hair layer is about 3 inches thick.

Horse Hair DepthTack Horse Hair

When I disassembled the chair, there were large stitched tacks holding the horse hair to the burlap beneath it. I’m assuming this is to keep the horse hair from shifting when sat on. I decided against using regular thread as I thought it wouldn’t be strong enough, and instead, I used wax thread (used for upholstery buttons). It is very thick and strong. The wax helps give the thread extra hold.

Tacking Supplies

Using an extra long upholstery needle, sew large stitches through the horse hair and into the burlap layer underneath. Sew one or two large stitches then tie the string in a not on the top side of the horse hair.

Tacking Horse HairThe tacks are not as evenly spaced as intended, but I had to lift up the horse hair to thread the needle through the burlap the back up through horse hair. This lifting and threading made for very uneven stitches. A curved upholstery needle would have been the right tool to use, but I chose to make do with what I had on hand.

Pad with Cotton and Dacron

With the horse hair secured, put on a layer of cotton and a layer of Dacron. (I don’t have pictures of the cotton.) Cut the Dacron roughly the size of the chair seat plus a few inches on all sides then lay it on the chair.

Lay Dacron

In order for the Dacron to lay smoothly around the legs and arms of the chair, you need to make some relief cuts.

Dacron Wood Side ChairThis is a vertical cut going into the center of the arm/leg to allow the Dacron to lay on either side of it.

Relief Cut Dacron

Make relief cuts for each arm and the back legs of the chair then tuck the Dacron around the horse hair.

If I was doing this over again, I would secure the Dacron with staples instead of tucking it, like in this tutorial. The next step, securing the top layer of muslin, was a little difficult since I didn’t staple down the Dacron. The Dacron kept popping out when I pulled the muslin taut.

Dacron Layer

Layer of Muslin

The last step to build the cushion of the chair is to staple down a layer of muslin over the entire seat. Cut the muslin to roughly the size of the chair seat plus several inches on either side.

I barely bought enough muslin, so the depth of the seat barely had any extra. I didn’t have to go out to buy another cut though. That’s a win!

Lay Muslin

Pull taut and staple the muslin in the same North/South/West/East pattern as the burlap layers.

North South Staples on MuslinEast Muslin Staples

Continue working around the chair until the muslin is smooth and taut.

Stapled MuslinTrim the muslin very close to the staples, all the way around the chair. When finished, this chair will have the wood frame on the sides, front, and back exposed. I was careful to not staple the muslin too close to the decorative edging. The top layer of upholstery will need to be secured right up against that trim, so I needed to leave room for those staples.

Finished Muslin LayerThe chair is now ready for the pretty stuff: the upholstery fabric and nail head trim!

To build the cushion of this wood framed side chair, I started with a firm, taut layer of burlap covering the jute webbing. An edge roll was secured all the way around the outer edge of the wood frame to improve comfort and aesthetics. On top of the burlap came a 3 inch thick layer of horse hair. It was secured with large tacks into the burlap layer. Next came a layer of plush cotton (not pictured), and finally, a layer of springy Dacron to finished off the cushion. Holding all the layers together is a layer of muslin, stapled securely into the sides of the frame, covering all the padding, edge roll, and burlap.

These steps to build the cushion came together surprisingly quick. Once again, I’m kicking myself for delaying this project so long! Up next is the final layer of upholstery and a row of nail head trim. I have a feeling I have my work cut out for me in this step!

Thoughts on putting this cushion together? Should there have been a layer of foam on top of the jute webbing? Did the horse hair replace the need for that? At the end of the day, the chair will be functional and comfortable, so I’m not overly worried. I do like to know the proper way to do things though. Do share if you know!

Build the Cushion Upholstery


Jute Webbing Finished

Reupholstered Wood Side Chair | Part 1 – Structural Elements

For anyone new to Flawed yet Functional, DIY and home projects are my happy place. It is therapeutic for me to paint a room. I get great satisfaction sewing a Roman shade for a window. Making wood beautiful with my own two hands is downright fun for me. It gives me great joy to make my home beautiful with my own elbow grease.

Doing and sharing these projects though are two very different things. It takes a lot of bravery to share home projects when I’m not a professional, an interior designer, or anything like that. I’m a reader and a life-long learner who likes to work with her hands. This post is me being brave. I’m not a trained in upholstery, but I like to learn to create beautiful things with my hands. I love Myquillyn’s tagline: It doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful. I couldn’t agree more. Let’s be brave together and re-upholster a chair!

Side Chair Before

Quite a few years ago, I purchased this wood side chair off Craigslist for the desk in my home office. The seat of the chair was ripped when I purchased it so the plan was to reupholster it at some point. Although I loved (and still do!) the mid-century modern lines of the chair, I wasn’t fond of the blond wood. After I removed all of the old upholstery, I gave it a couple coats of Minwax Special Walnut and a couple coats of polyurethane for durability.

Since I put this project off for years, I mean YEARS, and I’ve worked on this project in stages, I don’t have good photos of dismantling the chair and staining the frame.

The removal of the old upholstery and re-staining took place in early 2017, and then I let the cost of new foam for the seat allow me to procrastinate with finishing the chair. I’m really good at procrastination when I’m not feeling confident in a project. So there my chair sat for months and months while I “saved” to buy the foam and other materials for the seat of the chair.

I finally purchased the rest of the materials for the seat of the chair a couple weeks ago. The purchase only occurred because I happened to check the Jo-Ann’s coupons to find I had a 50% off one cut of fabric which included foam. Score! Guess how much it cost me? I should tell you I didn’t just buy foam. I bought the dust cover, burlap, burlap webbing, nail heads, AND the foam for $55. This chair has been sitting unfinished for over a year for just $55 (or over 7 years if you go back to the original purchase!).

I finished the chair back insert in the summer of 2017, and I failed to take any pictures to document it. So this is the starting point for finishing the chair seat. The seat of the chair only has the wooden frame, nothing else.

Reupholstered Side Chair StartI took pictures of how the chair was put together as I stripped off all the old upholstery. I followed the same pattern, method, and materials to build the new seat. I’m not an upholstery expert, so I don’t know if I’m doing this right, but I think it will turn out sturdy and comfortable. That is a good enough result for me for my first upholstery project!

Let’s jump into the project!

Trace the Shape of Chair onto the Foam

Before beginning to staple anything to the frame of the chair, get a pattern of the seat shape traced onto the foam. Lay the foam piece on the seat of the chair as snugly as possible without buckling the foam piece. Then trace around the inner side of the underside of the frame to mark the shape  to cut the foam.

Does that make sense? Kneel down and trace from the bottom of the chair. It is a little awkward, but it is a quick thing to do.

Reupholstered Side Chair Foam Fit

Cut the foam

Cut the outline you just traced using an electric knife or a serrated bread knife. Don’t try scissors or a flat knife, it will tear up the foam. If you have access to an electric knife, it will cut through the foam like butter. Please be careful not to cut yourself or your floor in the process!

Reupholstered Side Chair Cut Foam

Dry fit the foam

Before moving on to assembling the chair, put the foam into the frame of the chair to make sure it fits. Make additional adjustments as needed.

I kept my foam insert tight, but I did have a gap at the back of the chair. To fix this, I ended up cutting a thin piece of foam to fill in this gap before putting on the batting (see the Cut the Batting step below).

When I removed the original upholstery, there were large gaps between the foam and the seat frame, and these gaps were not filled with anything but air! So I don’t necessarily think every square inch of the frame needs to be filled with foam, but it seemed like the right thing to do, so I went for it.

Reupholstered Side Chair Dry Fit

Staple burlap to bottom of the chair

Now it’s time to start putting the chair back together. Start from the bottom up, except leaving the dust cover until the end just in case something needs to get removed.

Turn the chair “on its knees.” With the back facing you, tip it forward so the bottom is exposed. This makes the stapling of the burlap much easier. I used 9/16″ long staples (long!) because this layer is structural. It will partially hold the weight of the person sitting on the chair. I laid my roughly cut piece of burlap on the bottom of the chair then stapled in a north/south/east/west pattern to keep the burlap centered and taught. Continuing working around the chair bottom in this pattern (N/S/E/W) pulling the burlap taught as you go.

Chair Frame BeginReupholstered Side Chair Bottom BurlapI trimmed all the excess burlap, but an inch or so, around the chair bottom. Then I folded the burlap back over the staples (toward the middle of the chair) and stapled it again.

Reupholstered Side Chair Burlap FinishCut batting

To make a pattern for the batting, I simply laid my foam insert on top of the batting and used a permanent marker to trace around the foam leaving several inches clearance from the edge of the foam. I wanted to maintain the rough shape of the foam, but the extra inches were needed to tuck around the foam, between the foam and the frame of the seat of the chair.

Draw Batting Pattern

Put the foam into the chair and tuck the batting around it.

It is at this step I decided to fill in the small gap left between the back edge of the chair frame and the foam I originally cut. Based on how the chair was originally put together, I’m sure this gap was ok from a functional perspective, but I like everything to be as perfect as possible, so I filled this small gap with a scrap of foam.

Reupholstered Side Chair Foam + BattingAttach Jute Webbing

Next comes a tight weave of jute webbing. I attached this by securing the back side of the chair with four strips of webbing. Then I attached three strips of jute webbing to the left side of the chair. Then wove them together before fastening the opposite sides.

Jute Webbing WeaveThese next steps required both my husband and I. I did not buy the proper tool for this step nor enough jute webbing to be able to use the tool. My solution is as follows:

  1. Attach the back and left side of the chair webbing and weave the ends together. First staple 5 staggered staples into each strip ( _ – _ – _ ) then fold the end back over the staggered staples and secure it with three more staples ( _ _ _ ).
  2. Have your super strong husband pull each piece taught while you staple 5 staples into the finishing end of the strip.
  3. Staple again in a staggered pattern ( _ – _ – _ ).
  4. Repeat steps 2-3 until all jute webbing strips are taut and stapled to the chair.
  5. Fold over the ends of each strip and staple three more times ( _ _ _ ).
  6. Trim excess jute webbing.

Jute Webbing Trim

The finished webbing should look like this:

Jute Webbing FinishedThose jute strips are TIGHT. Both my husband and I sat on it, and it barely gives. Looking back at the old webbing when I stripped the chair, the webbing was loose and buckled. This should make the chair much more sturdy and comfortable!

Since I’m not an upholstery expert, more of a learn-as-I-go kind of girl, why is the foam in the middle of the seat frame? Does the jute webbing defeat its purpose entirely? I couldn’t find a tutorial of my exact type of chair so I really don’t know the proper way to approach this upholstery project. Thoughts?

I must confess that I cannot believe how quickly this portion of the chair came together. Why did I procrastinate this long? We’ve had this sturdy piece of furniture, that I really love, sitting useless, half-finished in our basement for so long! I’m so glad I took the plunge to finish it now! I can be brave, and you can too!

This completes the weight-bearing portions of the seat of the chair: burlap, foam, batting, and lastly the jute webbing. With a pneumatic stapler, this comes together very quickly! If I can do scary things you can too! Stop procrastinating and start doing!

Up next: the soft and comfy part of the chair!

What are you procrastinating on lately? What scares you about starting a project? Do you find those scary items are actually no big deal once you start to tackle the project?

Wood Frame Chair Upholstery