Thursday, May 24, 2012

DIY Woven Upholstery Tutorial on a French Chair

Remember when I upholstered this French chair with a woven painter's drop cloth?

I had loads of requests for a tutorial.  So if you want to take a sturdy old chair that you've found at an auction, thrift store or perhaps on the side of the road and turn it into something that's a thing of beauty then read on, my furniture lover friends. 

Let me warn you first though - don't do this as your first upholstery attempt!  I think that the first time you upholster a chair just use normal fabric and get a feel for the pulling, stapling and manhandling of fabric that is required.

Once you're up for the task of doing something a little more advanced then grab a new drop cloth and get ready.  All you need is:
  • a drop sheet that is about 3 times the area of the seat you are covering
  • an iron and fabric starch
  • A staple gun - I use a cheap electric staple gun that I bought for $20
  • Lots of staples
  • A hot melt glue gun and at least 8 glue sticks.
  • trim or gimp braid as required.
Strip off all the fabric and remove as many of the gazillions of rusty old staples you will no doubt find.  If there is a base cover that is still in reasonable condition, you can leave this in place.

If you are like me and love painted furniture then now is the time to lightly sand back, prime and paint your chair. Top coat either with a poly or wax.  For this chair I have done an antique glaze on top of the paint.

Wash your drop sheet to soften it. I always dry my drop sheets on the line to make sure they don't get too crumpled. You will still need to iron it but line drying will make it easier.

One your drop sheet is ready, rip strips that are around 11-12 cm wide.  Drop sheets rip very easily in one direction. Just make little cuts to start and then rip the rest of the way. Cut the length of the strips so that you can lie them over your chair and they are about 10cm longer on each end.  

Just make little cuts to start and then rip the rest of the way.

Iron the strips very well. I use a hot iron and fabric spray starch. Fold under each edge about 1 cm in and iron the fold.  You will need about 20 strips, possibly more.

Start by laying out some strips between the back of the chair coming forward. Lay them neatly with no gaps between the strips.   For the bits where the back joins on just shove the strips down the gap with a screw drive or knife. You will glue this in later. Don't worry about the very edges of the chair at this stage.

Staple the strips at the back of the chair - use where the old upholstery was as a guide. On the first chair I did the upholstery was stapled about an inch above the base of the chair. On this chair the upholstery covers the whole seat.

On the first chair I didn't worry about weaving a piece across the back but on this second chair I did. The chairs were a different shape and this chair had damage (old holes) in the backs of the top of the legs so I had to cover it there. Just work with the particular chair you are covering and see what needs to be done.

First chair - Upholstery just between the back supports
Second Chair - Upholstery wraps around back supports
This photo below is of the back and underneath of this chair. Later I will cover the base with a nice piece of fabric to cover all the ends.

Start weaving your strips. Don't worry about the edges at this stage. Weave tightly to ensure no gaps. Do not staple anything at this stage.

Keep working forward

When you get close to the front you will find it easier to staple the forward facing strips to the chair rather than having them floating. You will probably need to pull out some of these staples when weave the front piece in so just use one staple per strip.

The tricky parts of this upholstery is managing the corners, very front edge and side edges. You are going to have to cut your strips for these areas to fit and pull and weave to suit your particular chair.  Staple all the strips firmly as you go. 

With the glue gun, glue shut all the open weave pieces to stop little fingers pulling at the strips. I just ran the glue gun about 2 mm in each open hole (if that makes sense).  Also glue on your gimp braid or trim. For this second chair I haven't use any trim or braid as the upholstery is secured underneath the chair so there are no staples to hide. For the first chair I used folded over drop sheet as my trim.

I think photos will guide you more than words.

the first chair


and voilĂ ! Here is your finished chair.

Please feel free to ask any questions. I'm very happy to help out and advise if I can.


Sharing at
The Shabby Creek Cottage , DIY by Design , Primitive&Proper , Feathered Nest Fridays at French Country Cottage
Redoux Interiors Party , Furniture Friday at Decorating Insanity , Not Just a Housewife Miss Mustard Seed's Furniture Feature Friday , the Shabby Nest - Frugal Friday ; DIY Project Parade  Craftomanic Monday


  1. What a gorgeous job! This tutorial is so wonderful and full of easy to follow steps. Enjoy! Megan

    1. thanks Megan, I just edited it to add in the bit to glue shut the weave. so much for my tutorial writing skills!

  2. Replies
    1. thanks Cassie - It's a great look isn't. really takes drop sheet up a notch! have a lovely weekend, cheers Fiona

  3. Great job Fiona! Wonderful tutorial!

    1. thanks Monica. I've got another tutorial I'm writing for today's post - all about how to antique glaze. have a lovely weekend and thanks for stopping by.

  4. Looks gorgeous...I am wondering, while the strips are fiddly, that must help with shaping round the corners, saves trying to stretch and fold a piece of flat fabric (or sewing a corner the right shape). I haven't used drop sheets for any projects...I have seen lots online of course, but the only drop sheets I could find in NZ were more a thick white fabric, and really expensive, not the nice 'linen' look stuff you have used here. I think I have seen this sort in Bunnings for when I am ready for a drop sheet project :)

    I am having a day off painting today, getting ready for Miss Sophie's 8th Birthday party tomorrow, we have family coming up from Sydney for the weekend, really looking forward to it!

    Have a great weekend

    xx Karen

  5. That really looks great. So different--I haven't seen that before. TFS!

    1. thanks Sandy - took me ages to work out what TFS stands for. LOL. I'm so hip....

  6. This is beautiful & so unique!! Thanks for the awesome tutorial, too! I've saved it for a bit later after I try my luck at some basic stuff first! Blessings from your latest follower!

    1. Thanks so Kathy for commenting and following – I hope you enjoy the blog
      Good luck for your upholstery adventures. I’m happy to help you in any way I can
      Cheers Fiona

  7. Beautifully done, Fiona! I've never seen a chair seat like this before - and just love it! Thanks for the tutorial! :)

    xoxo laurie

  8. This looks absolutely lovely! Love the woven effect :)
    Visiting from DIY Project Parade

    1. hi Pearlie - thanks for visiting and commenting. would love you to follow along for more projects!
      all the best
      cheers Fiona

  9. This has got to be the most original use of a painter's drop cloth in furniture I have seen. LOVE IT! Featuring at my party today, thanks for sharing!

  10. Please explain why you didn't sew the strips to ensure they would unravel or use stitch witchery? I can't find my reading glasses so maybe I missed something with all the squinting I find necessary. LOL. Anyway thanks. I love the look!

    1. hi Valerie - drop sheet doesn't fray too much and because I have glued each edge together it's not as though the edges are exposed to any friction or pulling or little fingers. If you wanted to spend the time edging your material go right ahead. I was just confident that this won't unravel.
      cheers Fiona

  11. This is such a wonderful idea! You did a great job on the chairs and on explaining how to do it.

  12. Wow! How Fabulous! It's so unique...

  13. I use this same technique to make potholders, pillow covers, etc. from scraps of fabric. Love it on your chair.

  14. Hi Fiona!
    Awesome project!! I just moved to Australia and can't find drop sheets that are plain, they are either backed in plastic or have writing stamped on them. Can I ask where you sourced your drop sheets. Thanks so much! I love your blog!

  15. You just took a fine Victorian chair and completely ruined it in looks and value. Congratulations.

    1. seeing as I bought the chair for $5 at auction I don't really care!

  16. Haha! Good reply - you think it wouldn't have ended up on the rubbish heap if you hadn't rescued it yourself?

    Another great 'how to' Fiona, I'm thinking this is what I want for my diningroom chairs - guess I'll try just one before I set my heart on all!


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