Upholstering 2 Chairs For My Living Room #17: Outside Arms

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Blog entry by MarkTheFiddler posted 02-24-2014 10:04 PM 1288 reads 0 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 16: Adding Fabric to the inside back Part 17 of Upholstering 2 Chairs For My Living Room series no next part


We are now into the trimming stage of your upholstery.
I’m going to show you how to cover the outside arms. In My case – these are the easiest arms to do. I’ll pay the price for this easy part several times over with additional trim work. In Your Case – there may be more work to do. When I do the outside back, I’ll have some information that will apply to your outside arms.

Let’s take a look:

I added a long horizontal line to show you that I didn’t worry much about keeping a straight line when I added the inside arm. I just made sure my staples were not too high. Now – I need to straighten that out. No worries – you’ll do the same.

I also added some arrows to point to all my extra fabric from upholstering the inside arms. Just fold all that stuff back into the chair and add a few staples to secure it.

Now I get to do something I discussed when I was barely at the fabric cutting stage. I get to decide HOW to line up my stripes. The stripes are going to run all wrong because there is definite TOP and BOTTOM to this fabric. It occurs to me that I really COULD have done this when the fabric was on the cutting table. But no – I waited till I had to hang onto the fabric while upside down and waste time with experimental staples.

I shifted the fabric around for a few minutes then decided my thin gold stripes were perfect markers. I held it up so you could see. (By the way – I got a bit sideways – You’ll see)

The part I have to staple and match is at the top there. If you can imagine that there are staple holding it onto the arm, flip it up so the bottom now drapes over the top of the arm.

Match up your stripe and add a staple or 2. – Don’t place them too high up. Your final straight edge is NOT being decided right now so aim for UNDER where you think it will be.

Nice. Now let the fabric drape down and take a look.

Ummm….. I’m not liking that at all. I lined up my center of the chair point as you can see from the arrows. I really didn’t like that big miss on that purple stripe. I took out the staples, lined up the mauve, discovered the gold stripes were far better indicators. I tried again by lining up the gold stripes with reference to the purple stripe.

Much better! I added a few more staples.

Now we have come to the straight edge portion of our show. Our star is called tack strip. If you are upholstering a straight edge – and you probably will be upholstering a straight edge – you WILL buy a “Roll of Tack Strip”. I like that. It’s a Jedi mind trick. Let me do it again. You WILL buy a “Roll of Tack Strip”.

In event that my Mind tricks are not working on you and you elect to ignore me, all I can say is “I have a Baaadd Feeling about this.”

Cut off a hunk of the strip that is a little too long. Staple it to the front of the outside arm a little bit higher than your previous staples. Let’s say a quarter inch. Make sure you make excellent contact with the wood underneath.

Now stretch it to the very back of the arm and raise it a bit above those back staples. Staple away. Know start stapling from one end of the chair to the other. Just push that strip straight into the fabric as you staple. DON’T force it in an upward direction. Just keep it from dipping. I got a little crooked here, but not as much as you think you see ;)

If this was easy, you may thank me for showing you a thing or two about managing the bulk on the inside arms. If it was hard. Um – you’re probably looking for where I spoke about it. It may help to use 1/2 inch staples if it’s really difficult.

Speaking of bulk management, this chair has a skirt. I’m going to add a chalk line to the wood so I can see where it’s going.

Now I’ll add burlap. MOST manufacturers have left this out. Give yourself a leg up on the final tailoring. You WILL see a difference. (sorry – more mind tricks). Don’t staple it all the way up on the tack strip. Any where below the top edge of the tack strip and can catch a little wood is fine. Staple it just below that skirt line unless your burlap is really thin. Then you can staple it where you want it on the bottom side.

Alrighty then – I’m going to do something that I should not do. I’m adding a double thickness of laminate padding to the outside. You will hate me if you try carpet padding. You will love me if you use Dacron. The carpet padding will not take the shape of the out side arm when I pull that fabric over it. It will FORCE it’s own shape onto the outside arm.

Give yourself a break and choose the easier and much better tailored appearance of the Dacron. I was running low on Dacron and I have no use for the carpet padding. That’s my excuse.

Now let the fabric drape down once again.

You should see a nice even surface with a bit of substance under it.

I lifted up the fabric then trimmed off the excess just above my skirt line.

Let the fabric fall.

Staple the center and keep those line straight up and down.

Work your way to the front, stapling every few inches. You are going to pull the fabric down firmly and toward the front gently. Make sure the stripes don’t get distorted. They will usually start stretching toward the front if you pull too hard. Staple the fabric a few inches at a time as you work forward. Stop about three inches from the front.

You can work from the center to the back in the same way.

Ok – I’ll be back to finish this leg of the adventure.

-- Thanks for all the lessons!

5 comments so far

View lanwater's profile


3111 posts in 3138 days

#1 posted 02-24-2014 10:12 PM

Got it Mark.
tack strip is the key… But wait what does it do?

Is it to have more “beef” under the staple so the fabric does not tear with stress?

-- Abbas, Castro Valley, CA

View Joe Lyddon's profile

Joe Lyddon

10325 posts in 4256 days

#2 posted 02-24-2014 11:33 PM


-- Have Fun! Joe Lyddon - Alta Loma, CA USA - Home: ... My Small Gallery:"

View MarkTheFiddler's profile


2068 posts in 2392 days

#3 posted 02-25-2014 01:03 AM

Too much information for me to get it right the first time. I’m glad you asked for clarification. You can say its a holder if you like. It holds a crisp straight line at the top of that arm. Does that make sense? If not, I’ll think about a better way to present it.

-- Thanks for all the lessons!

View lanwater's profile


3111 posts in 3138 days

#4 posted 02-25-2014 02:45 AM

I got thrown off because I don’t see any nail on yours.
The pictures and video I saw had “nails” just like the carpet tack strip.

I got the idea. thanks!

-- Abbas, Castro Valley, CA

View MarkTheFiddler's profile


2068 posts in 2392 days

#5 posted 03-05-2014 12:47 AM

The rest of the outside arm is a breeze – That is – for this style of chair.

Add a few staples to the back of the outside arm near the top. Be careful not to pull too hard or you’ll misalign your fabric. Take a moment and let me know if you can see my goof.

If you can see a pucker where the inside arm wraps over and meets the outside arm, you got it in one. I had to VERY carefully remove that staple.

Work your way down the backside of the outside arm.

You can actually finish off that section if you like.
Now to the front side of the outside arm. Place a few staples on the top side. Remember to give yourself a little space for the cover-up.

You can continue to staple down to the bottom of that front section but leave about an inch unstapled because you need room to make a cut. Remember to think first and cut second. ;) You don’t have to cut all the way into the corner. It’s always a good idea to sneak up on the cuts if you’re not sure.

Fold the fabric and test your cut.

If it’s looking good – you can staple it down – if not you may need to cut a little deeper.

Your chair may have used tack strip instead of making this long fold. I’ll show how to use it when I discuss the outside back.

You’re done with the outside arm. Now go do the other one. :)

-- Thanks for all the lessons!

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