101amanda brownDIYDIY 101diy projectsfurnitureoutdoorUpholstery Basics

Upholstery Basics: Camping Chair

by Amanda Brown

As Father’s Day quickly approaches, I’m reminded of my annual pilgrimage to the department store in search of that perfect gift for dad. But thirty-something years later, I’ve exhausted the “Best Dad Ever” boxers and accompanying mug, and I’m pretty sure he has two of every grill accessory made. This month on Upholstery Basics, we turn an inexpensive luggage rack into a catchall outdoor chair perfect for your next camping trip or Father’s Day gift.  — Amanda

Read the full how-to after the jump…


  • luggage rack
  • goggles
  • flat-head screwdriver
  • pliers
  • measuring tape
  • 2 yards of fabric (54″ wide)
  • white or yellow chalk
  • square
  • yardstick
  • scissors
  • zipper chain and pull
  • sewing machine and thread
  • non-stretch seat webbing
  • hand stapling plier or T-pins
  • (2) 2″ bolt, lock washer, and nut
  • drill and 3/16″ drill bit (optional)
  • galvanized wire rope (optional)
  • wire cutters (optional)
  • ferule and stop set to accompany rope (optional)


Photography: Mel Cole of Rollins Cole
Striped fabric: Silverstate Bella in TurquoiseThese outdoor fabrics are bleachable!
Green fabric: Silverstate Trax in Emerald
Luggage rack


1. Start by removing the metal attachments that hold the straps to the frame. Use a flat-head screwdriver and a pair of pliers to get under the head and continue lifting and prying until it pops off. These buggers are resilient, so don’t give up!

2. When the tops pop off, the back portion of the attachment falls into the frame of the luggage rack. Remove the rubber caps on the bottom of the legs to dump out the back portions.

3. The original luggage rack is a bit taller than comfortable seat height, so I widened the distance between the top bars to lower the height. Use heavy duty outdoor fabric for extra strength and stain resistance. These Sunbrella fabrics are bleachable! Draw and cut out your pieces using the diagram below.

4. With the zipper or single welt cord foot connected to the sewing machine, stitch the front pieces to either side of the zipper chain.

5. Then we’ll connect the right and left sides to the front and back sides. As you stitch the front to the right and left sides, be sure your zipper pull is attached to the chain and place a small piece of doubled-over fabric over the zipper to reinforce the ends.

6. Cut three strips of webbing long enough to reach from the front to the back of the seat with an extra 5″ on either end for attaching it to the inside of the loops. Stitch the webbing to the backside of the top fabric within 1/2″ of the cut edge. Stitch over the webbing a second time to reinforce the connections.

7. Hem the right and left sides of the loops by folding over 3/4″ of fabric twice and topstitching the hem closed. Hemmed, the finished width of the loops should be 17″.

8. Center the loop fabric over the front edge of the top (good sides facing) and use T-pins or a hand stapling plier to tack it in place.

9. As you sew, fold the webbing over the seam allowance and loop. Stitch over this edge a second time to reinforce the seam.

10. Fold the loop and webbing over to meet the sewn edge.

11. And stitch the loop closed twice.

12. Repeat steps 8-11 to attach the loop to the backside of the top.

13. Just like a boxed cushion, we’ll attach all four sides to the top and bottom of the bag. With good sides facing, align the top edges of the sides with the perimeter of the top piece. Use T-pins or a hand stapling plier to hold the fabric together as you sew around the edge.

One more side to go!

14. Repeat step 13 to attach the bottom piece, and turn the fabric right side out through the zipper.

15. To make the edges of the camping chair crisp, pinch off and topstitch 1/4″ of fabric along every seam. Start with the seams around the top and bottom faces. Then stitch the vertical seams between the sides. Pull through and double knot threads at the ends of stitches to keep them from coming out.

16. Now that the seat is complete, repeat step 1 to remove the metal cylinder holding the legs together. Save the small washers between the legs for later.

17. Thread one loop onto one of the legs…

17. And then the other.

18. Place the bolt through the outside leg and put the small washers from step 16 on the end of the bolt.

19. Place the end of the bolt through the other leg and put the lock washer and nut on the end. Tighten the nut on the bolt by holding the nut steady with the pliers while using the screwdriver to tighten the bolt.

It’s ok to test the chair out for yourself before gifting!

Camping Chair Tips

  • If your dad or the sitter is extra jolly, reinforce the frame by threading galvanized wire rope between the front and back legs (see supplies at the bottom of the Materials list). Drill holes from the front to the back of the legs near the bottom where the frame is perpendicular to the floor. Cut the rope to size with wire cutters, thread it through the holes, and tightly clamp stops to the ends with strong pliers. Here’s a great video with tips for drilling through steel.
  • To make this a durable fishing or boating chair, use vinyl instead of fabric for extra liquid resistance.
  • Use a canvas drop cloth to construct the seat and have kids and grandkids personalize it with permanent markers.

For more DIY upholstery and inspiration, visit the Upholstery Basics page or the Spruce website. Happy Father’s Day!

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  • I love this idea. It’s perfect for drizzly Oregon; it’ll prevent Soggy Bottom Syndrome when the ground is wet. Also, the zippered pouch is so handy. I think I’d fill it with some bonus goodies before gifting it to good ol’ Dad. Thanks!

  • This is so great! Love the fabric too. I want to make a set of these for the whole fam one day soon. ;)

  • Very clever – I had a couple of beach chairs whose webbing had worn through & couldn’t figure out how to sew fabric around the frame. Duh! Take it apart…wish I’d thought about that cause they were so nice & lightweight.

  • Gosh, this is such a great idea…and would be a great gift for anybody in your family who loves to camp…Think about the brother who loves fly fishing or even boating, maybe even the aunt who loves to watch her nieces and nephews run marathon but really just a place to sit and tuck in her knitting WIPS and snacks. It’s truly better to be a sewer than a knitter. I’d suspect you could pick up a luggage rack for a song or two at a garage sale.

  • I LOVE the idea of using a canvas drop cloth – a blank slate for decorating!! also, LOL at “extra jolly”! The denim pocket dress is perfectly summery too :)

  • I love her buttery gold ring. Caught my attention ;) it just twinkled so merrily throughout. Anyway, awesome idea.

  • Very nice!! I would love to do this to a folding patio chair….same tubing but with different areas to use. Wonder if I could do this under one without taking it apart….??? Hmmm. Well I’m sure saving your great tut for the near future!

    I had to move into a second story, no patio apartment with limited outdoor seating space so I go to the park with my dog and all my ‘stuff’ …. what a hassle! But if I could make this ‘stool/chair’ I could cut my load-juggling significantly. Thanks for the great diy! Now to begin the experiment. B-)

  • Love the project. The DIY instructions are clear and logical. Hint: For outdoor projects , I usually choose thread w/UV rating as it wears longer .

  • I seen a lot of DIY articles on household furniture, autos and boats but this is the very first on camping furniture. The pictures really made it all easy to follow. Great job and I think I will give it a try.

  • hi! just came back to your posts and realized there hasn’t been a new upholstery post in a couple months! are you still doing upholstery posts for d*s? i’ve really enjoyed them!