how to recover an armchair

The perfect spot for a daydream

February 26, 2013 · 31 comments

I recently added a little armchair to my workroom as I thought it would be nice to have somewhere comfy to sit while doing bits of hand finishing.

In reality it has actually ended up being more of a substitute dog bed than anything else because my cheeky little dog, Gatsby, tends to assume that any soft surface is there for his comfort!

I do sit in it occasionally, however, and have a good read of one of my pattern cutting books or dream up my next project.

Armchair reupholstered in new fabric

I bought the original chair from Ikea (catchily named Ektorp Jennylund) with the intention of re-covering it. I have already done this with two of the same armchairs in our lounge as it was the only affordable way to get a customised chair that I could come up with.

I picked the chair because it is quite delicate as armchairs go so doesn’t take up loads of space and it has a fully removable cover- I am no upholsterer!  It was also pretty bargainous being from Ikea!

I bought some lovely Clarke and Clarke fabric for my workroom chair from Fabrics Galore in Clapham near where I live in London as I luuuurved the pretty soft colours and was only £12- very reasonable for home décor fabric!

I actually think it is drape weight fabric rather than upholstery weight but the chair won’t be heavily used so I’m sure it’ll be tough enough to last a while.

To make the pattern I simply unpicked the Ikea cover and marked the back of the fabric with notches so I knew which piece joined to which. Then I used the fabric pieces as my pattern, laying them on top of my own fabric, pinning them and cutting them out.

I had pre-washed my fabric as I knew this cover was going to end up being washed  (err dog anyone?) and I didn’t want any post-construction shrinkage.

Re-cover-chair-pattern pieces

Gatsby helping cover armchair

After cutting out my pattern pieces I overlocked all my edges before stitching them together- trying to finish them afterwards was going to be way too fiddly as the chair  has piping in places and only a 1cm seam allowance.

I did lengthen the skirt pieces 6cm as the Ikea cover had the chair equivalent to ankle swingers going on for some reason!

I also carved a chunk off the back of the sponge seat cushion with a bread knife- yes a bread knife (the things I get up to) It actually worked like a charm!

I did this because for some reason these chairs have been designed with a seat cushion that overhangs?  I couldn’t really work out the benefit of this and it bugged me aesthetically.

recover armchair skirt

I bought quite chunky piping cord and cut bias strips of my fabric that were 4cm wide. I used my zipper foot to stitch my piping down so that I could get nice and close to the cord.

The construction of the chair was generally pretty straightforward, although I was definitely glad to have notes on the back of the original pieces once I got to the end of the day.

reupholster chair piping

Having completed my third one of these chair covers and remembering what a simple process it was I finally brave enough to unpick my favourite pair of jeans and use them as a pattern.

I had been meaning to do this for ages but I loved them so much it seemed a bit too painful! I’m super glad I did though as within a day I had recreated them in a lovely pale pink ready for the Spring. More about that in a future post.

Armchair recovered in new fabric

Have you ever unpicked something in order to recreate it? Would you do it again?

Thanks for reading!

Ami x

{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

Gail February 27, 2013 at 2:01 am

Oh your chair is so beautiful! Your sewing room looks like it’s lovely too :-) Can’t wait to see those pink jeans!
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Ami February 27, 2013 at 12:00 pm

Aw thanks Gail! :)
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Eleanor October 30, 2018 at 5:09 pm

Have just started to unpick the fabric and am already thinking I’ll never remember how that bit fits onto this one! How I wish there was a paper pattern and instructions.My daughter loves giraffes and I had the bright idea that I could just rustle up a giraffe cover. Somehow I don’t think it’s going to be that easy…. I used to dressage years ago and make my own curtains. I’ve even done a bit of upholstery,but I’m feeling a bit daunted with this.


Noelle February 27, 2013 at 10:47 am

My goodness, that’s so pretty it hurts! You did such an incredible job!
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Ami February 27, 2013 at 12:01 pm

Hehe! Thanks Noelle!:)
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Mainelydad February 27, 2013 at 11:10 am

What an excellent job! The fabric is beautiful and the dog is adorable.


Ami February 27, 2013 at 12:04 pm

Aw thanks- yep I was soo happy to find that fabric! Hehe- he is adorable and he knows it! xx
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Foamofdays February 27, 2013 at 11:19 am

Lovely chair and a cute dog! How do you manage to keep it so clean? I once bought a sofa from IKEA with a very pretty cover with roses on a white background, but soon realised that I have to cover it with something with more practical colour to protect it from muddy paws…


Ami February 27, 2013 at 12:38 pm

Aw thank you! Mmmm well it prob won’t look quite that clean for long! Downstairs I have to fold up a throw and tuck it in over the seat cushions so that I can wash it really often. I thought it’d be a bit safer upstairs in my workroom as he isn’t allowed up there when he’s grubby (well, in theory!)
Just popped over to your blog and your dog is BEAutiful!! Xx


foamofdays February 28, 2013 at 9:12 pm

Thank you! She’s cute but very naughty beagle :)
And thank you for recommending me a roller presser foot – I never knew about it before! Apparently it’s great for sewing slippery fabric! X
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Michelle February 27, 2013 at 2:33 pm

Great job! I’ve looked at the Ikea chairs for the same reason. I love that most of their furniture features removable covers, which are difficult to find normally. Making covers also allows for major changes without having to buy all new furniture too!
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Ami February 27, 2013 at 9:01 pm

Yep they do seem to be pretty rare don’t they! I’m not sure why as they are so much more practical!
And that is so true, it’s so nice to have a change but not normally justifiable! x
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Maggie February 27, 2013 at 6:14 pm

This is adorable! I have been wanting to recover a chair that sits in our bedroom, so this maybe the perfect solution rather than trying to create a new one from scratch! Well done :)
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Ami February 27, 2013 at 9:02 pm

Ah yep- definitely makes it an easier task! :)
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Ari February 28, 2013 at 12:09 am

That is absolutely beautiful. Great job….. Very encouraging too. Now I feel I can do the same. I recreated a top I once had. I did not unpick the seams though, I’m not that patient. I cut the seams on the line of stitching… Looking forward to seeing the jeans!


Ami March 1, 2013 at 12:47 pm

Aw thanks Ari! Oh I think I definitely would have done the same as you with a top- I only bothered to unpick because the chair cover was a bit out of my comfort zone! (furniture-eek!) I figured doing things the painstaking way in this instance may make my life easier in the long run!
Amazing jumpsuit by the way- well done with those zigzags! I am so the same about non matching patterns!!
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Andrea February 28, 2013 at 12:35 am

You say you are no upholsterer but the effort you went through and the fabulous end result say otherwise to me – your chair cover is dreamy! I’ve never unpicked anything but coincidentally I was just thinking this morning that I should do so with a favourite shirt that has seen its day. Looking forward to seeing those pink jeans.

P.S. Gatsby is adorable!
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Ami March 1, 2013 at 12:49 pm

Aw thanks Andrea! Yep it’s so nice to recreate something you know you love wearing! Xx
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WendyBee February 28, 2013 at 1:51 am

What a lovely chair! The lines and proportion are very endearing, and it wouldn’t have ocurred to me to re-cover it. You make it look so easy. And it doesn’t have a rumply ill-fitting homemade look. You are indeed quite talented! Oh, and the fabric? scrumptious!


WendyBee February 28, 2013 at 1:54 am

Oh, and forgot to add my admiration for dear Gatsby! Is he a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel? I’ll probably have one, one day. Right now I have a pair of (American) Cocker Spaniels, and the little girl is very tiny and has a wee little nose and great big eyes, and could almost pass for a large CKC. Gatsby is quite adorable, and I know he must be a perfect companion.
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Ami March 1, 2013 at 12:59 pm

Aw thank you so much Wendy!
I just popped over to your lovely blog and Tammy does look so much like a Cavalier!! Gatsby is the Cavalier equivalent to your other one- he is HUGE for his breed too! Twice the size as some Cavaliers! And you are so right- he is a such perfect little companion…spaniels are so happy the whole time aren’t they?
Glad to have found your blog and I will be following from now on :)
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Ginger March 6, 2013 at 5:15 pm

Holy crap, this is adorable! It looks so professional and awesome! Great job, girl!
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Shayne Jelavic March 26, 2013 at 6:39 am

Oh I love that photo of little Gatsby, how adorable! And the chair cover is wonderful!


amelialowden April 10, 2013 at 11:53 pm

Aw thank you- he is such a cutie! :)


becky April 3, 2013 at 3:35 pm

I have been working on a little chair and did the same thing to make the pattern. Super easy this way. Love the new chair!
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amelialowden April 10, 2013 at 10:59 pm

Thanks Becky! I love your blog- all your quilts are so lovely, I am in the process (very very gradually!) of finishing a quilt for the back of this chair but I keep putting it back in the box…you have inspired me to finish it off! :)


Danka April 25, 2013 at 8:42 pm

Hey, just found your blog from the Colette flickr group and love it already. So happy to have found another UK based sewing blogger. xx
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Ellen July 17, 2013 at 6:22 pm

So glad I found this post! I just ordered some fabric samples so I can sew slips for two of these chairs soon. Do you have any idea how much fabric you used per chair? Yours turned out beautifully!

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amelialowden July 17, 2013 at 6:57 pm

Thanks Ellen! Glad it’s helpful! They’re really lovely little chairs :) the cover uses just under 5 metres of fabric :)
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Ellen July 17, 2013 at 8:45 pm
Amanda August 23, 2013 at 3:00 pm

The chair looks amazing! I am currently trying to cover one for someone, but they requested that I not take a part their old cover. Do you by chance have the pattern to share?


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