Upholstering 2 Chairs For My Living Room #16: Adding Fabric to the inside back

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by MarkTheFiddler posted 02-19-2014 01:43 AM 1093 reads 0 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 15: So this is woodworking??!! Part 16 of Upholstering 2 Chairs For My Living Room series Part 17: Outside Arms »


It’s time for a little catch-up. I added a blog about padding the inside back. It’s time to put some fabric on it.
In fact, you can just toss that fabric on the back and count that step as done! You’ll notice that I sewed a scrap onto the bottom of it. That little extra won’t be seen and it will give me something to grab a hold of.

You may as well mark the center of your back on the topside of the outside back.

Will you’re at it, mark center at the bottom where you’re going to pull the fabric through.
Yes – I did use purple chalk. The science behind the purple chalk is that, I didn’t want to use up my white chalk. ;)

Let’s look at the top again. Line up your center stripe with the chalk line and add a few staples. Don’t staple too high and don’t staple the under padding. Too high and the staples might be visible later. If you put a staple through the padding, you wont like yourself later.

Tuck the bottom fabric in and pull it relatively tight but don’t staple.
Use one hand to press on the back to compress the foam a little and smooth the fabric in a downward direction.

I used my dominant right hand to do the smoothing. My left hand was holding was catching the slack by lightly pulling on the fabric that was tucked under the backside. You can add a few staples right now because that left hand was holding your place and you can grab the stapler with your right hand and fire away.

So far, this is what we have.

Now you can pretty much staple the whole top to within about 4 inches of the end. Sorry about the awful lighting.

Uh oh – gotta go. More later.

-- Thanks for all the lessons!

6 comments so far

View lightweightladylefty's profile


3276 posts in 3946 days

#1 posted 02-19-2014 04:04 AM


I actually got all the pictures to open before my dial-up timed out so I saved this file. I plan to save your whole blog eventually when I’m at a WIFI hot spot so I can review things without relying on this unreliable dial-up!

Two drawers done; just 31 more to go on my shop cabinet. I should be able to start my upholstery some time around my 93rd birthday . . . if all goes well!


-- Jesus is the ONLY reason for ANY season.

View lanwater's profile


3111 posts in 3168 days

#2 posted 02-19-2014 04:06 AM

great work Mark. You definitely know your stuff.

Even the log line are lined up all the way.

-- Abbas, Castro Valley, CA

View MarkTheFiddler's profile


2068 posts in 2422 days

#3 posted 02-19-2014 01:57 PM

Howdy l/w,

It may take me another 2 years to finish this blog. I think we’ll both be set by then.


That’s funny! May I use that ‘line’?

-- Thanks for all the lessons!

View lanwater's profile


3111 posts in 3168 days

#4 posted 02-19-2014 04:26 PM


-- Abbas, Castro Valley, CA

View MarkTheFiddler's profile


2068 posts in 2422 days

#5 posted 02-20-2014 03:27 AM

Let’s see how far I can get this time.

I had to add a little bit of cotton to the back because those small lumps of foam would translate into the final appearance. I once before said put a layer of Dacron over the foam back. I stand by that recommendation and I don’t advise that you use this following trick. I put a strip of cotton on the sides of the back on both chairs. I ‘beveled’ the cotton on the side of the strip closest to the center by pulling bits off the underside.

If you haven’t done this before (and if your reading this you haven’t done it before) just put a layer of Dacron over the foam like I did with the chair arms. ;)

Now that I have thrown my disclaimer out there, you can start from here.
Without distorting my center stripe, I smoothed out the fabric from the center of the back to the side. That got rid of my loose fabric.

Now I want to staple the fabric to the side, I smoothed the fabric out from where my hand is -

- All the way to the edge. You can see most of my hand is right at the edge. The hand stopped but my thumb kept going. Basically – the hand smoothed out the surface then the thumb set me up to add a few staples.

Holding my hand just like that – I added staples in the gap between my thumb and forefinger. Here are the results.

I want to point out that I am going to use a cover-up to finish off that part. You have to know what the cover-up will cover before you add the staples. Make sense? If my staples were placed too close to the edge, the cover-up wouldn’t———- cover them up.

You may notice some puckers right about now. Ignore them, they wont be there in a minute.
Now I smoothed the fabric in an up ward direction (goodbye puckers) when I got to where I want to be, my hand stopped and my thumb went around the curve to once again set up for a few staples.

Well I added staple like before. But that smoothing action also set me up to create a tidy little pleat. Yep one quick fold and -

You can look at your pleats before stapling them. If you have to force your fabric into a pleat, take out a few staples and figure out where you went wrong. A forced pleat will come apart and just look like a wrinkle In the final product. A pleat that fell into place is a thing of beauty and deserving of a few staples.

Let’s get on a roll here.
Smooth, fold pleat, set with thumb:

Staple, then repeat until you get:

Ok – the top part looks marvelous but the bottom looks like Un-marvelous.

Nonetheless, it’s taking shape.

Times up. More on another day.

-- Thanks for all the lessons!

View MarkTheFiddler's profile


2068 posts in 2422 days

#6 posted 02-24-2014 06:58 PM

I have time to add a little more.

I want to work on tucking the sides in now. We need to make a very important cut. I’ll just take my last picture and slap an arrow on it.

The reason this cut is really important is because you have a lot of padding right here. You will have a tendency to slightly over cut. The beautiful stuffing will show! On a chair with a cushion – it’s not so much of an issue. If I didn’t have a cushion – REDO!

I suggest you get a good look at your target area before you cut. I pulled fabric and padding out of the way as much I could to try to catch a little daylight from the backside of the chair. It might help you see it better.

I need to make sure my cut will clear my target BUT leave enough fabric to cover the padding when it is fully expanded.

I may have scared you off – so let me come back now and say forewarned is forearmed. You can do this! Just be slow about it and sneak up to it the fit. Another thing to consider is that you are doing two sides. Center your fabric and do mirror cuts. You should be able to see some good results as you tuck the fabric in before you staple.

Here is my first cut.

It is not a beautiful chalk marked slice in the material but it is fairly straight back. You are aiming for a more or less 80 degree angle cut on the fabric to your chair frame obstruction. You also notice that I’m really far from the chair frame. I literally gave a few inches of play room.

I tucked it in and I got this.

I’m looking for a bunch of wadded up fabric to indicate that I didn’t cut enough. I can’t see any mess there. The cut is perfect! So I scared you. It wasn’t hard at all once you knew what to look out for.

Let’s tackle the hardest part of the back now.

YES – first comes the scare!!! ;)

We are trying to make a 2D fabric do a curve. It can surely be done but let’s take it slow again.

First I tucked the fabric in to just take a look at the inevitable puckering.

I added 2 green arrows to the same image so you can see the puckers clearly. No amount of stretching will make those better. We’ll have to make some cuts to “Relax” the fabric out of it’s 2D state.

Before I do that – Let me try to illustrate what you are going to do here. Imagine cutting a circle of wood on the band saw from a square. Also imagine that you can do the whole thing in once pass. You have a square piece of wood with a big round hole in it. Now imagine that we cut that square into 90 degree quarters. Just keep that quarter in your mind.

Now think about a gluing a square piece of paper to the surface of that corner. In my picture, the dotted line represents the wood we covered with the paper.

All that set up for this question that you already know the answer to. How do we wrap the paper over that rounded edge? We have to cut the paper. Let’s call this image paper cuts.

For paper, the more cuts the better the curve. The closer you can get your cuts to the wooden curve the better. The concept is the same for the most part. There is something I did in the “paper cuts” illustration that you’ll want to keep. My cuts went all the way out to the bottom corner where the vertices meet.

In upholstery – You want long pieces to tuck into the back and staple.

Paper doesn’t stretch or flex but fabric does. We need way fewer snips on the fabric and we don’t want to be any where near the curved edge. Let’s see:

Let’s get after some real fabric. Un-tuck it so you can work with it

Here are my first two snips.

I tucked the fabric back in and I got a lot fewer pucker issues:

I un-tucked the whole thing then tucked just an edge under the curve. It revealed the area I want to cut. Here it is:

Three cut’s should be plenty. I tucked the fabric all the way in again and got:

Very Nice! It lays perfect! ................. But – How does it look when I gently pull the fabric tight from the back side?
Uh oh! The puckers have returned.

I un-tucked then increased the depth of my snips by perhaps 1/2 inch. I’m still a good inch and a half from the actual edge of the curve. I re-tucked and pulled from the back gently:

Not too bad. I went ahead and snipped an extra quarter inch, tested then stapled:

Something important: You don’t have to keep working until you get it to be as smooth a finish as mine. For starters, The first time someone sits down – A pucker will develop. But if you can come close to it – then you are MILES better than the original upholsterers.

Alright – the rest is cake because you worked with the fabric and let it do it’s thing instead of forcing it to a shape. That’s the benefit of that tucking and un-tucking. You were “Dry Fitting” ;)

I’m going to go out on a limb and say you got it. But here are a few more places to staple.

Staple the side of the back in place. Just use gentle pull tension. I checked my cover-up to make sure my staples were not too close to the edges or if I was going to show any puckers.

Staple the fabric through the back slots on the sides. Still use about gentle to medium tension.

Now staple the rest of the bottom of the back in place. Medium tension should do it.

Next time we’ll upholster the OUTSIDE arms. You’re going to feel like an artist.

-- Thanks for all the lessons!

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics