How to re-upholster a 19th century Victorian wingback chair, DIY

How to re-upholster a 19th century Antique Victorian wingback chair

Dear Diary,

Last week I build an upholstered day-bed from scratch, (yes, it was a very labour intensive week 😉 )  and in the same room lives a beautiful antique chair, all dressed in glorious pink velvet.  It was surely fashionable back then, but to modernise and to suit our new refreshed country-style decor, the velvet had to go.  The chair serves as extra seating for a reading corner in a hobby room, had good bones and looks, but lacked the country-style touch the rest of the room now boasts.  So with no further ado, let me show you how to re-upholster a 19th century Antique Victorian wingback chair.  I chose this Yellow Lotus Jacquard fabric from Robert Allen Organic Vining tree to match the daybed fabric  (see that little cushion?  yep, that’s the bed fabric) from  Unfortunately it was the last piece they had, but there are many more like this on their website.

After I stripped the old pink velvet off, (totally forgot to take a before pic, sorry), I used the old cover as the pattern on my new blossom fabric.  Sewed the arms prior to starting and repaired any wonky bits.  (although it was in great overall condition).  It did need new hight density foam on the back and seats.  First cut your foam, and cut in where it is supposed to go through to the underside of the back and arms. Then follow with wadding and the same cut-ins apply here, stapling down on the underside of the arms and base of the back.

Now you can put the seat fabric on, making sure the fabric pattern is centered,(I have already sewed the piping that goes around the front bottom edge on) and staple just below the piping before you add a little wadding to this bottom strip for fullness and shape.  Again, make cut-ins into the fabric where the frame sits on the other side so that you can pull the fabric through without it getting stuck on the frame.  Make sure your cut-ins are not to deep, always be extra careful as you can always cut more, but you can’t save the fabric if it was cut to deep.

Now proceed by covering the arms in a layer of wadding.  For this chair, there wasn’t enough wood frame to staple the wadding down, so I just hand sewed the wadding in place. (middle photo below) and then the pre-made side arms can be pulled over the arms.  See how I have done the cut-ins?  In the front, a little into where it’s supposed to go under the arms to the base and way in the back I made a few clips in the fabric where the frame corresponds on the other side.  The far back bit of fabric gets pulled to the back of the frame.

Can you see in the photo below where the frame is, and how the fabric obviously can not go through and this is why it needs to be cut to go around the frame on the other side.

Ok, so now that you have done both arms, you will start the inside back, firstly with new high density 1 inch foam, and followed by the wadding.  This part gets pulled through to the back and stapled down on the vertical part of the frame.

Same principle applies for the fabric.  Cut-in, and pull back through the sides between the back and the wings, stapling down on the vertical wood frame at the back.  Remember to make sure the pattern is centred and enough left for going over the top and going under through to the back.

I get so in the vibe of the work I sometimes forget to take some photos!  Here I have already done the piping on the upper outside back, and stapled the back fabric (nicely centred) and added the studs.  To close the sides, I simply hand-sew it.  (there are different ways and equipment that can be used here, but this is the easiest, cheapest for DIY’ers)  See how I have lightly “pinned” the fabric down with the staple gun?  Simply angle it ever so slightly up and aim to get one leg of the staple further in than the other, making sure you don’t staple it right down so it can be easily removed once the sewing is done.  It just holds the fabric stiffly in place.  Use a bent needle with upholstery cotton to sew a blind stitch.

Below you can see what the sewed up seam looks like. Neat enough for me….

I used the same silver decorative strip studs as the upholstered daybed, so they would match and I think it works better with this light fabric than an antique brass ones would, especially for this room. A little strip on the back and on the bottom front finished the chair off beautifully.

Oh I just love those studs!  They are so easy to work with as every 4th one is a nail and makes for a lovely straight line.  (Something that would be very difficult for the average DIY’er to do with single studs)

Now close the bottom up and you are all done!  Ordinary cotton or just plain spun bond will suffice.

Voilla….. all new, revived and ready for another century…..(I hope! ha 🙂 )

Well, that was fun, now the chair has gone home to her dolly room as I call it, and I can finally share the room reveal next time!

I hope you enjoyed this post on how to re-upholster a 19th century Victorian wingback chair and inspired you to recover your loved chairs, be they hand me downs, inherited pieces or just a modern one needing an update.  Good luck and any questions, please ask!

Till next time,








Article by Teresa

Australian Interior Designer / Decorator & Photographer. I share my style, my creativity and love for all things decor.

This Article Has 2 Comments
  1. Elma says:

    Always intriguing to see how easy you make it look!! I have 2 two seaters with removable and washable covers that needs reupholstering!!! Hint, hint!!!

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