Friday, February 7, 2014

Rocking Chair Tutorial Part 1: Recover Seat

Before Christmas I shared my rocking chair makeover, and promised a tutorial later.  Well later is here.  I'm breaking it down into at least two parts; otherwise this post would be waaaay to long.  So today I am going to show you how I painted and recovered the seat, with a few tips along the way.  Many of you know how to recover a chair seat, but some don't so I will show the process in detail.

The first thing I did, was to flip the rocker over and use a long screwdriver to detach the seat from the chair. Then I used the screw driver to pry up the tacks holding the old dried out leather.  Most of them popped out very easily.  It's easier if you leave the original fabric on so you can use it as leverage to pry up the tacks or staples.  As you can see there are bits of leather and some tacks remaining, which is fine.  Just hammer in any tacks you can't get out.

After removing the old fabric and worn out padding, I layed the seat upside down on a piece of new batting.

Then I trimmed the batting, leaving enough to wrap around the back of the seat a few inches.  Using a staple gun I put one staple in the center of one edge.

The next staple goes directly opposite that one, pulling the batting taut.  Then put a staple in the center of each of the other sides.  This keeps everything straight, which is especially important when you staple the fabric on.  (My crew chief was standing over me, making sure I did it right).

Supervisors have it so easy... he wasn't going far.  Guess he thought I needed watching!

Next I stapled the corners.  I pulled the batting around at each corner and put a staple right at the center, then trimmed most of the batting away so it wouldn't be too bulky at the corners.  Just make sure you don't trim so much away that the edge of the seat is bare.  That would cause the fabric to wear against the edge of the wood.

Watch that you don't cover up the original holes to secure the seat back onto the chair.  ...don't ask how I know!

I trimmed, tucked and stapled each corner, then continued stapling along the edges until the batting was secure.  Then I laid the seat on my fabric and trimmed it, leaving enough to wrap around and turn under the raw edges about an inch. 

Just eyeballing it, I folded the edges of one side under.  

Then I put a staple in the middle of that side.  At this point I did not keep stapling.  Because I was going to add my number and the grain stripes, and because it would be difficult to line that up correctly on the chair before stenciling, I used a different technique.

First I wrapped the fabric around the seat and pulled it taut on the opposite side of the stapled side.
I held it in place and flipped the seat over to see if the grain of the fabric looked straight, then pulling it taut, I marked the fabric and the wood so I could line it all back up again later.  (Ignore my ugly fingers.  Anytime I press hard, my fingers turn wierd shades of pink and yellow.)

Next I taped my fabric down on the back of the seat to hold it in place temporarily.  

Flipping the seat back over, I first placed my number stencil which I made using contact paper with my Silhouette machine.  You could also trace and cut a number onto contact paper.  Once I had my number centered where I wanted it, I taped the narrow stripe with Frogtape.  Notice I don't have the big stripe taped yet, because the narrow stripes tape overlaps that area.

Once everything looked good, I pulled the tape off the back of the seat and flipped my fabric out so I could stencil it.  I might have been able to stencil it on the seat, but I wanted to make sure my tape and contact paper were pressed down really well, and that is hard to do on a soft surface.  It's also easier to stencil on a hard surface.

The supplies I used were Silhouette's fabric ink and a wedge shaped makeup sponge.  I love this ink because it's permanent and soft to the touch when dry.  You could also use fabric paint, or acrylic paint with a fabric medium mixed in.

Dipping the sponge into the ink (don't load it too much) I dabbed off onto a seperate area of the plate, then pounced the sponge onto my stencil.  Never drag it or paint could seep under the tape.  I was not going for full saturated color here.  I wanted it to look faded and worn.  If you want full coverage, use more ink or paint.  I also didn't bother taping all the way to the edge because it would be underneath the seat.  Just make sure you tape far enough to cover the edges.

Here you can see I am retaping for my large stripe.  I moved the tape over about 1/4 inch to the left, covering up my narrow stripe. Sorry for the blurry photo. I lost some photos on a corrupt thumb drive and this was the only shot of this that I could recover.

Here I have added another piece of tape to create my 1 inch stripe.  You can just see the narrow stripe under the tape on the right side.

Repeat the stenciling steps for the large stripe, making sure not to go over the outside edge of the tape. You can pull the end of the tape up to check it.

Here it is with the stenciling all done.  Now all that's left to do is to wrap it back around the seat and staple it in place.  Of course you need to wear fuzzy red socks while working on your project.

I am missing some pictures of this, but basically I followed the same pattern as the batting, working on opposite sides, and folding the edges under.  This is where those marks come in handy.  I lined them back up, turned under the fabric an inch and stapled.  I put one staple in the center of each side, pulling tightly, but not so tight as to pull the stencil out of whack.  I just kept flipping the seat over to check for alignment until I got my first four staples in (one on each side).

When I reached the corners I stapled one side all the way to the edge.  Then I stapled the adjacent side no closer than a couple inches from the corner.  Once again:  fuzzy picture warning!

Now I folded the fabric at the corner like this, trimming excess fabric as needed.  (Remember not to cover the screw holes)

Then I finished stapling that side, overlapping the first side, continuing around the seat until it was done.

Flipped back over, you see a perfectly aligned design. Cool beans!

Here it is set onto my rocking chair.  

I actually haven't screwed it back onto the chair.  It rests in a little recess so it doesn't shift around at all.  At some point I may screw it down, but I figured if I spill something on it, I can just take the seat to the laundry room to treat it.

Do you want to find out the finish I used on the rocker and how I applied the verse to the back?  Stop back in a few days for part 2 of Refinishing the Rocking Chair.

Rocking Chair Part 2: Painting and Stenciling the Chair

This post was featured at:

Crafty Allie

I've linked this post to these awesome parties:

Project Inspired at An Extraordinary Day
What's it Wednesday at Ivy and Elephants
Worthwhile Wednesdays at Crafty Allie
Blissful Whites Wednesdays at Time Washed


  1. When you first posted this chair, I remember feeling so inspired to make over my own rocking chair, but not having a clue where to start. I've been sketching up a design today that I'm pretty happy with. What's so funny is that I came back here to look at your chair again, and somehow I'd forgotten you did a grain sack design. But it must have stuck in the recesses of my mind, because I drew mine with a grain sack design too! Mine is all wood, no upholstery (thank goodness!!). But thank you for your inspiration! I'm not sure when I'll start it, but my design is 90% complete, and that's the hardest part. :)


  2. It looks gorgeous, but I guess it only looks so because you had the best furry helper!

  3. Hi Deborah,

    What an awesome project! I just love how you transformed your rocking chair. Please give a big hug to your supervisor. He obviously made sure the job got done!

  4. Hi Deborah, This is such a great project and it turned out so nice. Love your tutorial, pics and steps.
    Looking forward to part 2.
    Happy Sunday.

  5. Oooh, never thought to use a make up sponge... thats a great tip! Your chair is beautiful and fun! I will be back to see how you finished the chair! Julia

  6. Your rocker is gorgeous!!! What a wonderful make over!

  7. Such a pretty project and awesome fuzzy socks...I own the same pair! ;)

  8. You did a beautiful job on the seat, you even turned under the raw edges!

  9. I featured your rocking chair @ Worthwhile Wednesdays Blog Hop, come grab a badge and link up again!
    ~Allie @


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