Saving Money in Small Ways…

A Do-It-Yourself Job for Inept Household Taskers, Like Me

cherry dining chair

There is not really a long list of do-it-yourself tasks at which I show any skill.  Plumbing and electrical jobs, however small, I leave to those who know what they’re doing, but there are some little jobs around the house that I enjoy doing, however slowly, with the result that I save a little bit of money and can tell my friends, “Yes, I did that myself.”  One of those tasks is simple upholstery of chairs.  I’m not talking about complicated wing chairs, car seats, or sofas, but simple desk chair, or dining chair jobs for which a staple gun and scissors are all that is required.

The book that I believe is the best for instruction of beginners, like me, is SIMPLY UPHOLSTERY written by the editors of SUNSET BOOKS.  If you go to, you’ll see the book at under $10 and can read eleven reviews by other readers.  I like the book, because it gives easy steps to easy upholstery jobs and then some information on more complex challenges of more advanced upholstery tasks. 

19th century French chair

It’s surprising how a new piece of fabric on an old chair can change the character of a room through color and pattern.  It’s very easy to go on line to purchase fabric at good prices, and with a staple gun, you can finish a chair in no time.  I’ll include here some photos of chairs that I have done, but I’ll start with the most complicated challenge I tackled, which was a 19th Century French arm chair given to me by an old friend.  I chose a grey silk striped damask material and measured the surfaces I would be covering, bought the roll of material, and the nails and trim.  I cut the material for each surface, folded it under just an inch as I went along and used many dozens of small upholstery nails to attach the fabric to the wood.  I did this for the back, the arms and the seat, and then took the trim, which covers the nails, and sewed it on.  That’s the part that took the longest, but the result was a chair that looked very respectable, so that when friends found out I had done the job, they were wowed.  By the way, stripes are one of the most difficult patterns to use in upholstering, because they can shift easily if not placed properly from the beginning and tightened well.

silk upholstery

The other chairs I have done are simple, because only the seat had to be covered, and the material was folded under so that no nails or trim were necessary.  The seat part of the chair can easily be removed with a screw driver in most cases and covered by the fabric, folded under, tightened, and stapled as you go along (checking the position of the fabric design along the way too), and finally putting the seat back and tightening the screws.  I have used stabalized silk for all the upholstering I have done, mainly due to its strength and sheen.  Its being “stabalized” just means that for upholstery purposes, the silk has been adhered to a cotton backing, which makes it easier to work with and adds strength for long wear.  The 19th Century French chair I upholstered in 1987, and it has worn quite well.  The other chair photos here are from very simple jobs that required no complicated folding around corners.  Anyone can do that kind of upholstery, as long as you have a staple gun, because you fold, tighten and staple until you’ve gone all the way around the seat bottom.  Paying someone to do even that simple job can be rather expensive, but aside from the savings, It’s just fun to tell people that you did the work yourself.   JB

About John

About John John Bolinger was born and raised in Northwest Indiana, where he attended Ball State University and Purdue University, receiving his BS and MA from those schools. Then he taught English and French for thirty-five years at Morton High School in Hammond, Indiana before moving to Colorado, where he resided for ten years before moving to Florida. Besides COME SEPTEMBER, Journey of a High School Teacher, John's other books are ALL MY LAZY RIVERS, an Indiana Childhood, and COME ON, FLUFFY, THIS AIN'T NO BALLET, a Novel on Coming of Age, all available on as paperbacks and Kindle books. Alternately funny and touching, COME SEPTEMBER, conveys the story of every high school teacher’s struggle to enlighten both himself and his pupils, encountering along the way, battles with colleagues, administrators, and parents through a parade of characters that include a freshman boy for whom the faculty code name is “Spawn of Satan,” to a senior girl whose water breaks during a pop-quiz over THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS. Through social change and the relentless march of technology, the human element remains constant in the book’s personal, entertaining, and sympathetic portraits of faculty, students, parents, and others. The audience for this book will certainly include school teachers everywhere, teenagers, parents of teens, as well as anyone who appreciates that blend of humor and pathos with which the world of public education is drenched. The drive of the story is the narrator's struggle to become the best teacher he can be. The book is filled with advice for young teachers based upon experience of the writer, advice that will never be found in college methods classes. Another of John's recent books is Mum's the Word: Secrets of a Family. It is the story of his alcoholic father and the family's efforts to deal with or hide the fact. Though a serious treatment of the horrors of alcoholism, the book also entertains in its descriptions of the father during his best times and the humor of the family's attempts to create a façade for the outside world. All John's books are available as paperbacks and Kindle readers on Amazon, and also as paperbacks at Barnes & Noble. John's sixth book is, Growing Old in America: Notes from a Codger was released on June 15, 2014. John’s most recent book is a novel titled Resisting Gravity, A Ghost Story, published the summer of 2018 View all posts by John →
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