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Easy peasy (on the cheap) chair covers

June 18, 2010

Sometimes you’ve done something so long you forget when you didn’t know how. About 20 years ago we bought a dining room set (out of a yard estate sale for a whopping $150) and the chairs needed recovering. I had no idea how and now I don’t remember how I learned.

Fast forward 15 years, and about 5 years ago a friend of mine tried to cover her kitchen chair cushions and wasn’t terribly successful. So I ran over with my staple gun and we whipped them out in no time.

Just in case you don’t know how to do this, or know someone who wants to do this, and doesn’t know how – here it is:

New cushion covers on the cheap:

The house came furnished, including the sun porch and this is what I started with. Great in 1993 but I wanted a bit more warmth and color.

I started with a flat screwdriver and pliers, removing the old staples from the underside.

No matter how nasty, no matter how ugly, SAVE THE ORIGINAL cushion cover. You’ll need it as a pattern for the new one. I bought quilting fabric because the cotton content is higher grade and the seats will wear longer. The two covers were different sizes so I went with the larger of the two. It took maybe 1/3 of a yard of fabric to do both covers. At $8.50 a yard that’s C.H.E.A.P. Β I went with a red calico – red is almost always the right answer in my book of questions.

When I unwrapped the boards I saw they could use a bit more padding, so I added a layer of new batting to each. I had it on hand so I’m calling it free. See that thing in the upper right corner? An electric staple gun – highly recommended. We use ours all the time for all sorts of household jobs. Ask for it in your stocking or Easter basket or birthday package or just buy it for yourself, but get one! Also, working on a hard surface will make this process go better. I used the piano bench.

This step makes all the difference in the world in how the cushions turn out. Start by stapling one side, and then moving across from it and stapling the other, pulling each side nice and tight. If they’re not tight enough they’ll look wonky. Don’t worry if the fabric has creases in it on the underside – they won’t show.

Then turn the cushion 90 degrees and staple the other two sides, across from each other. You should now have a section stapled on each of four sides. We’re dealing with round but you know what I mean. Don’t worry over how much extra fabric is on each side – if it’s not even you can fix that.

Once you’ve got all four sides stapled, work your way around the cushion, stapling with reckless abandon. The more the better. I put two rows in, one above the other, in case staples decided to pop. I also stayed somewhat close to the edge as the extra fabric would be cut away and staples there would be in the way.

When you’re satisfied the fabric is well attached and looks good from the right side, take a rotary cutter (this will not be great for your blade BTW) and trim up the excess fabric to a messy level you can live with (it’s the underside so you don’t have to get real picky here.)

Turn over the cushions and admire your work. Try to remember what the old, ugly ones look like.

Stinkin’ cute – took all of an hour and under $5.00 to cover them both.

Note: I also spray painted the chairs themselves – they were white and I went with ‘hammered black’.

Miss Kitty should like having a new place to roost on the porch while we sip coffee, sweet tea or wine, depending on the hour of the day.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. Mary Huckaby permalink
    June 18, 2010 9:09 am


    Thanks for making it so simple for me! By the way, your cushions look great!!!


    • June 18, 2010 10:23 am

      Mary, an electric staple gun is about as far as I go with ‘power tools’ but they’re handy as all get out. I consider it mine, but hubby borrows it quite a bit πŸ™‚

  2. June 18, 2010 10:58 am

    Sometimes the most simple changes make the biggest difference. Love the new chairs. And I love that you are sharing with Miss Kitty.

  3. Billie Jo permalink
    June 18, 2010 12:56 pm

    Thank you so much for this. My husband and I are getting ready to redo our dining room chairs for a refreshed looked. I had somewhat of an idea how to do it but now I know for sure. Perfect timing!
    Billie Jo

    • June 19, 2010 12:29 am

      Billie Jo – so glad it’s of help to you. πŸ™‚

  4. June 18, 2010 1:37 pm

    So cute! I, too, think red is almost always the right color! I’ve always wanted an electric staple gun–I’ll just have to get myself one!!! (I love the word “wonky”, too! It’s just one of those words that makes me giggle inside!)

    Love and blessings,

  5. June 18, 2010 7:12 pm

    I LOVE keeping up with you on your blog…. It makes me lonesome for you. Such a cool idea and I have done this very thing awhile back! My most recent project is sewing pillows for my deck chairs to brighten them up a bit and use up some of this fabric I moved with me. We need to sit on each others deck and visit sometime soon!!!

  6. June 19, 2010 6:18 pm

    Great tutorial! I think I’ll go price electric staple guns. πŸ™‚

    Oh, and I love the chairs, and your choice of fabric.

    • June 19, 2010 9:42 pm

      Renna, go with the electric model if you can find it – they work so much better and aren’t that much difference in price.

  7. June 20, 2010 4:12 pm

    Looks great! Very cozy! And you know how I feel about red…Nice work, Mama! πŸ™‚

  8. Lisabeth permalink
    June 23, 2010 10:37 pm

    so cute! I taught myself how to do that many years ago with my dining rooms chairs. So surprised how easy it was and how fun to be able to change the color. I love the word ‘wonky’ too!!!
    miss you, LB

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