It’s hard to believe that just six short months ago, we met here for the first time and headed to the workshop to begin our upholstery journey together. We’ve tackled dining seats, coil springs and even bookshelves, so my gift to you this holiday season is the picture back. Because the outside back fabric only peeks through the frame of the chair, it looks like a framed picture. So if you have an old needlepoint, painting or a cross-stitched floral, this is the perfect place to show it off. We’re skipping straight to the back, so check out the other Upholstery Basics columns for upholstering your seat. — Amanda
Read the full how-to after the jump!
- razor blade or X-Acto knife
- staple remover
- air compressor
- 3/8″ staples
- measuring tape
- foam (super soft or low density)
- permanent marker
- carving knife
- white or yellow chalk
- straight edge/ruler
- spray adhesive
- jute webbing
- webbing stretcher
- 5/32″ welt cord
- sewing machine
- double welt cord foot
- high heat glue gun and glue sticks
- air blower attachment
Don’t forget to check out Upholstery Basics: Tool Time to learn more about the tools we’re using today.
1. Any time I get a chair with busted cane, I seize the opportunity to replace it with upholstery. Use an X-Acto knife or razor blade to cut the cane as short as possible. We don’t want the ends of the cane showing through the back of the chair.
2. After removing the cane, hold the foam against the frame and use a permanent marker to trace the shape of the back.
3. After you’ve traced the foam, use the carving knife to cut on the line. We’ll use the foam as a pattern to get the rest of the materials we need.
4. Cut one piece of burlap and two pieces of fabric that are 2 inches bigger than the foam piece on all sides. Then cut one piece of Dacron the same size as the foam.
5. Use spray adhesive to attach a second piece of Dacron to the front side of the foam (the side without the marker). Then trim the Dacron even with the edge of the foam.
6. Now that we have all our materials cut out, use the measuring tape to find the middle of the top and bottom and mark with chalk.
7. With a picture back, the first thing we’ll put on is the outside back. With the good side facing down, line up the middle of the fabric with the chalk mark and sub-staple it in place. Refer to step 10 from Dining Chair Do-Over for more about sub-stapling.
8. After sub-stapling the top, bottom, right and left sides, take a look at the back and double-check that the fabric is straight and the pattern is placed appropriately. “Appropriately” is up to you. A good rule of thumb is to center the pattern, but feel free to deviate from this if you’re feeling frisky.
9. When you’re happy with the fabric placement, begin removing the sub-staples and replace with permanent staples that go all the way in. The staples should be placed close together and as close to the finished wood as possible. Trim the excess fabric with a razor blade.
10. Place one layer of Dacron on top of the fabric (without attaching) and attach two to three strips of webbing for extra support. See steps 3–7 on Constructing Coil Seats — Part I.
11. After the webbing comes the burlap. Pull it taut and put staples close together all the way around. Then trim off the excess. In the past, we’ve folded the burlap over and stapled again, but since the space where we staple is so small, we’ll skip this step to minimize bulkiness.
12. Apply spray adhesive on the back of the foam and stick to the burlap.
13. Now it’s time for the inside back fabric. Determine how you’d like the pattern placed, then sub-staple. It’s easiest to keep the pattern straight if you start by stapling the middle of every side. Then pull the excess out in the corners. Once you have all these points secured, staple in between.
14. Just like the outside back fabric, move on to permanent staples once the fabric is sub-stapled in place. Then trim off the excess fabric.
15. Now that our picture backs are padded and upholstered, the only thing we’re missing is the decorative trim, so we’ll attach double welt cord to clean up the raw edges. Refer to steps 15–17 from Coil Seat Finale for sewing double welt cord. Open up the seam on one end of the double welt cord and cut out about an inch of cording. Be sure to cut both cords.
16. Glue the end back together with the hot glue gun.
17. Before we fold the end over and glue it down, we’ll trim off the corners so they don’t stick out the sides.
18. Once the end is neatly glued down, put a continuous line of glue on the back side of the double welt and press firmly on top of the staple line. Work in segments of 6 to 8 inches, so the glue doesn’t dry before you stick the cording.
19. Start and stop the cording in the middle bottom of the inside back.
20. Continue gluing until you’re a few inches from where you started. The regulator can be used to tuck in strings and glue that squishes out the sides.
21. Then cut off the cording about an inch beyond where we started.
22. Open up the cording and finish the end by repeating steps 15–17. The beginning and end of the double welt cord should meet at the bottom middle of the inside back.
- The easiest way to upholster a picture back is with the chair laying on its back.
- As you’re upholstering, frequently check to ensure no staples are poking through and showing from the back. When you come across a rogue staple, pull it out and touch up any imperfections in the wood before moving on.
- Remember, if you’re pregnant, have a buddy help with the spray adhesive.
While you’re home for the holidays, I bet you’ll look at those pieces at grandma or mom’s house a little more lovingly. “Wouldn’t that look great with that new Martin Lawrence Ballard fabric?” Or “I could see this in a plush magenta velvet!” Make your New Year’s resolution to rid yourself of ugly, impersonal furniture, and meet me back here in 2012 for how to do it!