On my previous post, Reupholstering a Mission Rocker Par 1, I shared my estate sale find, a Mission-style rocker that was in dire need of new upholstery. In the first post I shared how I dismantled the old fabric, installed new spring bars and hand tied the new springs. With the new springs in place, I was now ready to jump into the next phases of my Mission Rocker Reupholstery: covering the springs, adding foam and batting, and finally reupholstering with new vinyl.
Step 1: Covering the Springs with Duck Cloth
Measure and Cut the Duck Cloth
As I mentioned in my last post, I purchased a yard and a half of a cream duck cloth to use over the springs for the mission rocker reupholstery. I started by using a fabric measuring tape to measure the width and depth of the chair seat from side to side, and added about two inches to each side. My measurements came to 24″x27″. I laid the duck cloth flat on the floor and took my measuring tape and measured out the 27″x24″ square. I like to measure each side in two places and mark on the fabric, that way I can draw a straight line between with a pencil. I used the pencil line for my cut line. To the cut the fabric, I used a pizza-cutter style fabric cutter. Make sure to put something under your fabric before you cut, so you don’t damage your surface. You can also use fabric scissors to make the cut. Once the fabric is cut, lay it over your chair seat, so you have approximately 2″ of overhang on all sides.
Attaching the Duck Cloth
With my air compressor stapler I started putting in about three stapes in the front middle of the chair on the top side of the seat frame spaced about 1.5″ apart. I then pulled the fabric taught and put three staples in the middle of the back side of the frame. Once I had those in place, I pulled it taught on the right, put in another three staples, and again on the left side. Next I started the corners. From the video tutorial I watched with Ken from Buckminster Upholstery, I learned that I needed to fold the corners over, and make a slit from the corner to where the fabric met up with the corner of the arm. Once I made the cut, I pulled the pieces taught and put a staple on either side of the frame around the arm post. I went ahead and did this around all four arms and then continued to pull the fabric taught and put more staples on the outer edges of each side, until there were placed equally around the whole seat.
Next, I folded the fabric over on it’s self and began doing another round of staples along the top frame, keeping the fabric folded inward in the chair. I did about a 1.5″ spacing between each staple again on front, back and sides. Once I had all the staples in, I went in and trimmed the excess fabric, leaving roughly 3/4″ on all sides.
Step 2: Trim Foam to Fit the Seat
Cutting to the Seat Size
After my initial foam mishap (I bought 4″ foam and then realized it was way to thick), I purchased a new 2″ thick high density foam. Again this was purchased from Joann Fabric. Luckily they had 50% off on foam that day, so that cut the price of the foam significantly. The 4″ foam will be repurposed for a future project.
I borrowed an electric knife from my mom. I’ve seen this used on various programs, and it’s what they used at the store to cut my foam. I measured my seat at it’s widest part, which was 22.5″ and the depth which was 18.5″. I did leave a little extra width on each side to give me some wiggle room. I’d rather start to large than too small. I measured, marked with a permanent pen and cut my foam to my dimensions, even though the width of the back of the chair is more narrow.
I can tell you, you will feel like a sculptor wielding the electric knife. It worked great and cut the foam like butter, well maybe more like dense bread. Once I had the initial seat square, I placed it on the chair to make sure it was fitting the depth and width properly. I had to squish it in place because the arms made it cut in on the corners.
Shaping the Foam to the Chair Frame
Once I got the cushion as close to in place as I could, I took my permanent marker, being careful not to mark the wood, and drew a line on the underside of the foam along the edge of the sides of the chair. This gave me a template I could use for cutting the sides of the foam to fit the tapering width of the chair. I then cut the foam along my new lines. Next, I put the foam back into the chair to make sure the cuts looked good. After that, I measured the width and depth of the arm bars that come out of the seat. I then drew marks on my foam to cut out the squares to go around the front and back arms and cut those out as well. I placed my foam back in the chair and made sure everything was fitting snugly in the seat. I even did a seat check to make sure it felt comfy as I sat in the chair.
Step 3: Add Batting
I bought a cotton batting as mentioned in my last post. The woman at Fabric Depot told me the cotton batting is a more traditional (older style) of batting used for upholstery. She mentioned it could tend to bunch over time, but I was trying to stay at least somewhat true to the video tutorial I watched online. The cotton batting is much more fragile than regular batting, and comes apart easily.
Measure the Seat, Cover and Trim
The batting was pretty simple. I measured the width and back of the seat with my fabric measuring tape, also including the sides. The first layer of batting should come down the edges of the seat, so it pads any sharp edges of the wood. With the batting cut, I placed it on over the foam, centered on the seat so I had approximately the same amount hanging over each side. From there, I was able to just rip the batting to fit it around each of the arms on front and back and then tucked it between the chair and the foam. I then just ripped off the excess around each side and tucked it in under the foam.
Measure the Seat again and Add a Second Layer
Once I had one layer on, I measured the seat again, this time only the depth and width of the seat, not including the sides. I trimmed the batting to that size (you can rip this type of batting easily with your hands) and placed it centered on the seat on top of the first piece. And Voila, batting complete.
Step 4: Covering with Duck Cloth – Round 2
With the foam and batting in place, I again measured the width and depth of the seat and sides to cut another piece of duck cloth to cover the foam and batting. You could theoretically jump straight to your final fabric, but this extra cover did make the seat feel more secure and made it easier to work with the vinyl without disturbing the batting. The vinyl was much more difficult to work with than the duck cloth, because of the thickness, so it was good to get the basic shape of the seat covered and secured firs
Secure the Duck Cloth
I cut the duck cloth and then repeated the process of securing it to the seat with staples. This time the duck cloth would be attached to the outer sides of the seat, rather than the top edge of the wood. I tried to come down slightly above the original staple line from the previous upholstery. Again, I put a few staples in the central front, then a few in the back, and each side, holding the fabric taught. For the corners, I folded each back on itself on the seat and cut from the corner of the fabric to the corner of the arm bar. Check out Ken’s video tutorial for the exact technique. I was then able to trim the excess fabric and tuck and staple the corners in place. Make sure to work from the middle to the outside edges of each side, so you reduce any bunching in your fabric. Once the fabric was secured to the frame, I trimmed all the excess below the staple line.
HELPFUL TIP — Try to get your staple line as straight as you can horizontally. This will help with the final product. Also make sure that it’s above original staple line, so you don’t come too far down with your fabric, covering more of the wood than you need to. Lastly, don’t pull your fabric too tight, or you will get pulling/bunching that could show in your final layer. I did this and then I had to remove staples to loosen it up again so the fabric would lay more smoothly.
Step 5: Covering with Vinyl
Measure the Seat…Again
The chair was looking great and the seat was SOOO comfortable. All I had to do now, was cover with my final layer, the leather-looking vinyl. I started by measuring the width and depth of my chair seat again. I measured from the bottom edge of the seat. This gave me LOTS of wiggle room to pull and stretch the fabric as needed. I had purchased extra vinyl for this purpose, so I figured I’d start with a large amount and could always trim as needed. My vinyl has a texture to it, so before I cut I also decided which direction I wanted the texture to run, so that I could cut it appropriately.
Cut Your Vinyl, Center on the Seat and Secure
I cut the vinyl using my roller fabric cutter. I then laid the vinyl over the seat, making sure it was centered on the seat front to back and side to side. Putting the first staple in was nerve racking. I’d already spent hours through all the steps, and I wanted to get it right. After the first staple on the front, I added one staple to the center back, pulling the vinyl taught. I then added one staple to the center of each side, pulling the vinyl taught each time. Inevitably, I realized I put the front staple way too low, and the side staples too high.
HELPFUL TIP — Make sure your staples in your vinyl sit just below your duck cloth line, or at the original staple line of the chair. Make sure that your staples are also as straight as possible horizontally. Mine weren’t, and I ended up having to remove staples, pull the fabric down and start over. I ended up with a visible staple mark showing below my vinyl. It makes me nuts, but what you can you do? I chalk it up to my first time upholstering something like this and now I’ll just know better the next time. I also ended up stapling my vinyl directly on top of my duck cloth line, which in hindsight wasn’t a good idea. When I was doing the finishing border I then had to contend with the duck cloth sticking out from under the vinyl and making sure my edging could cover everything.
Cut and Trim the Corners
Once I put a staple on each side, holding down the vinyl to the chair I folded over all of the corners, using the same technique as I did with the duck cloth to trim the corners. I started with the left back corner. I cut the fabric on the diagonal from the corner in toward the arm bar. I then folded it down around the arm and trimmed the excess fabric.
Fold and Secure the Corners
Once I had the fabric trimmed, I put in a few staples along the side, working toward the back corner. Once I was close, I worked the fabric (and I mean worked) to get a nice fold while trying to avoid any rippling and making sure I was hiding the raw edges and duck cloth. This part was pretty tough and I just had to keep working at it, pulling it and tucking it to get it to finally sit right enough to staple it down. Each corner went like this, working the fabric until I got it in the right place. I made my way around the complete chair, doing the front corners last.
Make Sure Your Lines are Straight
Once I had everything in place. I did have to go back and remove and redo some staples to make sure my lines were as straight as possible horizontally without putting holes in the visible vinyl or damaging the wood. I tried to make a little ruler guide to make sure I was getting them all straight across, but I found it hard to hold the ruler, pull the fabric taught and actually staple. This caused me needing to go back and fix.
Trim Excess Vinyl
Once I finally had it all in place and in a visual manner I could live with, I cut the vinyl all the way around the edges. I cut it very short, almost up to the staple.
Step 6: Adding the Seam Cover
Purchase a Seam Cover or Use Bias Tape
In the tutorial, Ken used some type of vinyl cover to go around the edges. I didn’t have luck finding anything like that in my searching, without having to buy a giant roll, but even then, I couldn’t be sure the color would match. What I ended up using was bias tape in a color similar to the vinyl color as a way to hide the seam and give the clean edge I was looking for. I considered trying to make a strip out of folded vinyl, but was worried about how much bulk that was going to add and how much time it was going to take to actually make, since I couldn’t find a good way to actually iron vinyl.
The bias tape worked great. I would have preferred something that was a vinyl or something that had a little more thickness, but the tacks cover it up pretty well and no one can tell it’s anything different unless they got up close.
Check that your Vinyl Edges are Straight using the Bias Tape
To start attaching my bias tape, I began by making sure all of the vinyl was trimmed straight. I held the bias tape over the seam to make sure it could cover all of the raw edges in a relatively straight line. This is where the straight staple line was really important. Mine was as straight as I could make it, but if I had considered this before attaching the vinyl to the frame, I would have tried to really make ever staple straight and in-line as I possible could.
Attaching the Bias Tape
I continued by tacking one edge of the bias tape on one side of the front of the chair seam with a brass decorative tack. I put the tack as close as I could get to the outside corner as I could. I decided to use 1 inch spacing for my tacks, to cover up more of the bias tape and hold it more securely in place because the material was thin. I made a measurement stick out of ridged card stock and cut notches at each inch mark. This gave me something to easily guide my spacing. Once I had the first tack in, I cut the bias tape to the length of the full edge and put a decorative tack in on the opposite end. Using my measurement stick, I worked my way toward the inside edge of the chair from both sides. In this way I was able to make any slight spacing adjustments near the center to make the spacing of the tacks relatively even across the entire front.
HELPFUL TIP — Use a pair of pliers to hold your tack in place and then use your tack hammer to nail it in place. To drive the tacks, I started off using my fingers, which made for a sore thumb and pointer finger after about 10 tacks. The tacks I used were also constantly bending or moving out of place if I didn’t hit them squarely on the head. I realized if I tacked the nail in as far as I could using the pliers to hold it in place, it reduced the bending issue and I could then drive the tack rest of the way in easily. Make sure your tack is centered within the bias tape line vertically, so your tacks look even horizontally along the tape line. I can tell you there was a lot of nailing, un-nailing and re-nailing those decorative tacks to make sure they looked straight and were covering all of the edges and staples. It was a serious pain, but seemed to get easier as I went along. The spacer I made was definitely helpful.
Mission Rocker Reupholstery Final Reveal
Finally, I had done it! I wouldn’t call it perfect, but I’d say it’s excellent for my first experience at mission rocker reupholstery and now I have this awesome looking chair for my home. It is so comfortable and I just love the look.
Questions or Comments?
Did you try a similar project? I’d love to year your experience and what worked or didn’t work for you.