Brooklyn based lifestyle blog by Lauren L Caron

DIY Upholstery: A French Chair with Double Welt Cording

CREATE, SPACES, VINTAGELauren Caron16 Comments

Last weekend I decided to recover the little French chair I purchased at Brimfield [I blogged about that trip here]. The fabric I wanted to cover the chair with was a lucky find from B&J fabrics, a black and white Ikat print. Other than exhibiting the lovely before and after photos I thought this would be a great opportunity to explain how easy it is to reupholster a fixed seat chair, including how to make double welt cording!

A quick heads up before we begin:  It would be wise to take a look at the current condition of any chair that is planned for recovery. If the seat is in rough shape ie. moldy or sagging then it should be replaced.  Which would include purchasing new foam and batting to re-shape the seat.  This is a step that I did not have to take but if it is necessary, I would suggest discussing this is with an experienced amateur or professional, because it may just be best to pay to have the chair repaired and recovered.


The tools necessary to upholster a chair from start to finish are:

  • A pair of fabric scissors or sheers
  • Measuring tape - preferably the flexible kind
  • An upholstery nail remover
  • Staple gun and staples or nail gun and nails - be safe please!
  • hot glue gun and extra glue sticks
  • sewing machine and thread
  • double welt cording feet are best, but a common zipper foot will work too

The very first thing to do before tearing the chair apart, is to measure the area that will be re-upholstered, so that you will know how much fabric to purchase.

  1. It is important to measure the widest part of the seat - front to back and left to right.
  2. Next you want to measure the side of the chair where the welt cording will be affixed.  Because the cording wraps around the entire base of the seat, you'll need to account for more fabric than expected.  Cording should be sewn along the bias, there is more stretch in the weave, it also helps the look of the pattern and how it meets with the seat upholstery. The bias runs diagonally along the pattern, please see the direction of the arrow below. I'll go more into cording in Part 2.
  3. In my case, I only needed about 2 yards of fabric - Please note: the measuring photos are from after I upholstered the chair, because I originally forgot to document this part. Oops!

railroad vs non-railroad fabric Photo credit: Plintz & Chintz

* Once the chair has been measured, you'll want to figure out how much yardage is needed. Most upholstery fabrics are 54 - 60"wide.  Patterns typically run vertically as it is unrolled from the roll. The other style of pattern application is where the fabric runs horizontally or perpendicularly along the roll. When choosing a fabric or figuring out the amount of yardage, you'll need to consider how the pattern is applied as it may affect the amount of yards you'll need to do your upholstery.

Now that you've figured out how much fabric you'll need for the project, you want to remove the current fabric.  Cording must be removed first, it is very easy to remove as it's typically only affixed by hot glue. Once the cording is removed, you'll have to take the fabric off, the first thing you'll notice depending on the age of the chair is that the fabric is either stapled or nailed onto the frame.  In my case, the fabric was mounted with upholstery nails.  I used the upholstery nail remover to take each nail out, making sure not to scratch or knock the gold leafed frame.

Once the old fabric is removed you can use the old pieces as a pattern guide as to how you will place your new fabric.  You can place both the seat and the cording on top of the new fabric and map out where your cuts will be.  Be careful to test that the pattern lines up with chair.  For example, I centered one of the shapes in the middle of the front of the seat. I also used the old welt cording to figure out how I could cut the new fabric  for the welt cording.

For the next few steps you will need the staple gun

Now for the best part of the project.  Place the fabric on top of the chair and began stapling in the back at the center.  From that point move outwards towards the sides of the chair, stapling either side of the center each time. This helps to keep the the patten secured.  Move onto each side from there, all the while pulling the fabric taught - but try avoid pulling it too tight.  Keep in mind the shape of the seat cushion, if you pull too tightly it will effect the cushion and possibly cause the fabric to tear later. However, if you do not pull the fabric tightly enough, it will loosen over time and all your hard work will have gone to waste.  Lastly, staple as closely to the wooden edge as possible, without stapling the finished wooden parts - anywhere between 1/8" and 3/8" from the edge is good.

Once the fabric is completely stapled on, cleanly cut the excess so that it does not overlap the finished wood. Next upholstery trim should be applied to create a finished border that will cover the unattractive staples. There are several kinds of trim available from nail heads to decorative tapes. I decided for my chair that the best finish would be with double welt cording. Double welt cording is the piping that borders the point at which the fabric and the wood meet on upholstered pieces of furniture.  The piping is doubled in thickness in order to cover any unsightly nails or staples.

To apply double welt cording the tool required is a hot glue gun and extra glue sticks

Double welt cording is actually much easier than one would expect.  To make it entirely easier, I suggest you use a double welt cording foot - that can be found through Ebay and remember to purchase whichever matches with the brand of your sewing machine.  If the plan is to not use such a foot, than the common zipper foot should work as well.

With the cording completed you can now finish the chair.  Luckily, the cording is easy to apply with hot glue over the staples.

Below is the chair finished!  I think it looks so great in the entryway, it's also very useful for putting on shoes or working at my desk. The next step is to wallpaper the room!