About a year ago I was out estate saleing on my own and came across this great little Mission-style rocker sadly sitting in a garage. The wood was in decent shape, but the cushion was a bit lumpy, hole-ridden and in need of an update to be usable. I was able to talk the woman down in their original price from $40 or so down to $25. I’m not really one to haggle normally, but I let her know that it would be a bit of a reupholstery project to get it back to its glory days. I’m glad I did, because it became even more of a project then I initially thought I was taking on.
The Mission style rocker is made of a solid quarter-sawn oak. The wood is in fairly decent condition, so I am not planning on doing any work to the frame. The rocker has been sitting in my garage, in the line up of various projects I put off while I was in wedding planning mode last year and figuring out how to co-exist with our new pup Cooper. After a trip to Joann Fabrics the other week, I found a leather looking vinyl in their clearance section that I couldn’t pass up. It was about $6 for about 2 yards of the fabric. It was larger then I needed, but I took the whole lot since it was already cheap. It was also a safety precaution, since I haven’t worked with vinyl before.
A Missing Spring
I finally pulled the chair out of the garage now that I had my shiny new vinyl. Upon initial inspection since purchasing the chair, I came to realize the chair was missing a spring off of one of the spring bars on the underside of the frame. “Now what?” was my initial thought. Would I be able to find a spring to attach to the bar, or could I find all new spring bars to replace what I had? After some quick searching online, I came across a few different vendors that sold a whole spring bar. I wasn’t able to find a single spring, so I figured I could replace the whole bar easily enough. The next thing I needed to figure out was how long the bars actually were. Because they sit on the top side of the chair frame, I needed to first dismantle the current upholstery to see what I was working with. It was time to get started!
Below is a list of the tools and materials I used to complete this project:
- Tack remover
- Flat head screw-driver (the thinner the head the better)
- Tack hammer
- Air compressor
- Staple gun
- Cutting matt
- Roller fabric cutter
- Fabric scissors
- Electric knife
- 1 pack Tack nails
- 17 yards upholstery twine
- (3) 17.5″ spring bars
- 3/4 yard 2″ high density foam
- 3/8″ staples
- 1.5 yards cotton batting
- 1.5 yards duck cloth
- 1.5 yards upholstery vinyl of your choice
- 1 package .5″ bias tape to match or coordinate with chosen vinyl (3 yards)
- Decorative tacks (100)
Note: I did overbuy on some of the lengths needed for the project. I wanted to leave additional material in case of any issues. Depending on your chair size, you may need less than what is listed above.
STEP 1: Remove the Old Upholstery
I went ahead and started removing the existing upholstery, staples and tacks. The best tools to use are a tack lifter, a thin ended screwdriver and some pliers to pull those pesky staples once you get them lifted. You’ll need to wedge the tack lifter or screwdriver under the tack head or staple to pop it up. Once it’s up, you can sometimes pull it out by hand or you can use the pliers to get it out the rest of way. Avoid gouging the wood by using the fabric to your advantage. For decorative tacks, go between the tack and the fabric, rather then underneath the fabric, where you can scrape the surface of the wood. Inevitably, I always end up with a few minor dings, most of which will be covered by the new layer of vinyl, but I try to avoid it as much as possible to preserve the integrity of the chair. As far as the decorative tacks and nails go, if they come out cleanly, I like to save them to see if I can reuse them for the end of the project. I also used these tacks as a guide to purchase new tacks for the upholstery. Helpful tip: put one of each in a baggy and take it with you to the hardware store, so you can compare and find the best match to what you will need. Once the staples and tacks were out, I went ahead and I removed the old foam, batting and and hay-style padding. My chair also had round bars that were attached on the frame above where the spring bars attached. I went ahead and removed the bars as well, making sure to mark them so I knew which side they came from so I could easily put them back in place later.
STEP 2: Measure and Purchase the Spring Bars
Once I had all the material out, I could clearly see the top side of the spring bar. Mine came to 17.5″ inches long. Since I needed the 17.5″ size, I went with the bars found on the Van Dykes website. I wasn’t sure how the new bar would exactly compare to the old bars as far as height, (and springiness) so I decided to buy 3 new spring bars and completely replace the old bars.
STEP 3: Install the Spring Bars
After about a week, the new spring bars came in the mail. I had saved some of the old tacks and nails, so I went to our local store to find some additional tacks to install the new bars. I purchased some tacks similar to cut tacks you can find online, in a size similar to what had been used on the chair previously. After I got the tacks, I removed the old spring bars and put the new spring bars in place. I tried to shift the bars slightly, so I wouldn’t reuse an existing nail hole to ensure nails had a strong grip into the wood. Use a tack hammer to nail down the bars, so they are spaced relatively evenly across the frame. Next came the fun part: Hand tying the springs.
STEP 4: Hand Tying the Springs
The idea of hand tying springs, or dealing with springs in general was a bit outside of my comfort zone. I did a little research online and came across this great video tutorial by a master reupholsterer, Ken from Buckminster Upholstery that shows his technique for tying springs on a similar mission style rocker. You will need additional tacks and upholstery twine. I bought my twine at Fabric Depot, but it can be found online as well. At Fabric Depot I was able to buy this for .25 cents a yard. For my chair, the seat is about 18″x24″ wide, so as a guesstimate I went with about 17 yards of twine. This gave me some wiggle room, incase of mess-ups since it was my first time. You will need enough to go over your seat from front to back 6 times, over the seat from side to side 6 times, and once across the diagonals in both directions (6 strips total). You will need about 1.5 times the length for each run. So, with a 24″ deep chair, you’ll want around a 36″ inch piece of twine running from front to back. This gives you some room on the ends of each side of the twine where it attaches to the chair and enough to make all the knots on the springs (which use up more twine than you’d think). I learned that the hard way on my first run and had to cut a new, longer strand. For hand-tying, I totally suggest watching the tutorial. Ken shows the best place for putting your tacks to start your runs of twine, how to knot along the springs to make sure they stay aligned and what order to run your lines in. It was super helpful and well worth the watch. Once I had the springs tied and reinforced with staples, I went ahead and reattached the round wooden bars to each edge. I had broken the back bar in half when removing it, so I had to put in a few extra nails to keep the parts in place.
Reupholstery Next Steps
I have yet to start on the next part of the project, but I have gone ahead and purchased materials so I can move forward. To stray from Ken’s exact technique I am going to use a foam rather then going with the hay style padding on the seat. I purchased 3/4 of a yard of 4″ high density foam from Joann Fabric, with a 50% off coupon. I didn’t realize how expensive foam was, but it came to about $25 after the coupon. (NOTE: The 4″ foam I purchased was way too thick once I saw it actually on the chair. It ended up being so tall it covered some of the back frame and just wasn’t going to work. I had picked the foam based on how comfortable it felt when I sat on it. I literally laid it out in the store and sat on it. I figured the thicker the better when it came to foam. In hindsight, I hadn’t considered that the springs would add in comfort themselves, and I wouldn’t need as much foam. The foam will become part of a future project, and I’ll be going back to the store to figure out a new option.)
I also purchased a similar cotton batting from Ken’s video tutorial, also from Fabric Depot. This was purchased by the pound. I bought about a yard and a half which came out to about 2 lbs of batting, totaling around $10. Lastly I also bought a duck cloth that is mentioned in the tutorial. I tried to search for a relatively thick cloth at Fabric Depot but still at the lowest price I could. I found one for about $6 per yard in a cream color and purchased a yard and a half. Luckily Fabric Depot was also having a 30% off sale when I was there, so that helped save on materials. Now we’ll see if I purchased enough and the right materials!
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Check out the next steps in Reupholstering a Mission Rocker Part 2 to learn how I finished the reupholstery on my Mission-style rocker. Have you tried upholstering a similar chair? Let me know what you did or how your project turned out.