How to Cover an Armchair

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How to Cover an Armchair

Even with the best precautions, nearly every armchair becomes somewhat of an eyesore in time. The fabric may have stains, tears or simply be well-worn. Perhaps the armchair was a gift and, though the frame is still acceptable, the fabric clashes with the rest of the décor. Whatever the case may be, an inexpensive solution is to simply cover the armchair with new fabric. Even if a person has no former sewing or upholstery experience, the process of transforming the armchair is simple and easy to follow with the right tools and fabric.

Suitable products for covering an armchair can be found in department stores, specialty shops, and from online sellers. In the event that the armchair must be completely replaced, new items can be purchased from furniture stores and online marketplaces like eBay, which have a variety of listings for new and used items and are an excellent source to locate the fullest range of armchair types. Learn about the materials and best methods for covering an armchair in the following tips.

Supplies Needed to Cover an Armchair

Before considering the type of fabric and how it is to be applied, buyers should gather the following tools:

  • Upholstery fabric
  •  Several newspaper pages
  • A tape measure
  • A pencil or tailor's chalk
  • Fabric scissors
  • Pins
  • A sturdy, large needle with a large eye and sharp point
  • Strong upholstery thread (regular thread will not hold up as well to continual use)
  • Ribbons, press studs, or another finishing element to close the edges

All of these items can be found at any online or offline store that carries crafting supplies and fabric.

Measuring an Armchair

Before fabric is purchased, the armchair must be measured. Examine the shape first and make a simple sketch on paper. This is possible even for those who have no drawing expertise. Simply break down the shapes that make up the back of the chair, the front of the back, the seat and its front, the arms, and the shape of the arm fronts. It does not have to be exact. Measure each one of these parts and add the measurements to the appropriate shape in the drawing.

When measuring the shape of the arm fronts, use one of the newspaper pages to cover the arm. Trace the feel of the edges with a pencil then cut out the shape. Do not forget to measure the seat pad if the armchair has one.

Types of Armchair Fabrics

When it comes to choosing an appropriate fabric for an armchair, there are a few important considerations. Try to find something durable and long-lasting that matches the tone and style of the piece. Colour is also important in tying together a room. Be careful when selecting patterned fabrics, since it can make fitting the joining panels of the cover together harder and more time-consuming.

Fabric Durability

Consider who will be using the armchair. If pets or young children are present in the home, it may be best to choose a microfibre fabric or even leather, since these materials can withstand heavy use for longer periods of time. Patterns that are woven will hold up longer than printed patterns, as will high thread counts. The thread count listed on the fabric indicates the number of threads used per square inch, meaning that the fabric becomes denser the higher the thread count is.

Fabric Style

Be sure to choose a fabric that matches the style and character of the armchair's frame. If it is a traditional or vintage piece, for example, keep the patterns traditional or era-appropriate. Modern frames tend to allow more versatility. In addition, some fabrics will look more casual and others more formal. Choose a material that fits individual preference and the theme of the home.

Fabric Colour

Colour is often the most important choice when considering a new piece of furniture or re-covering an old one. Bold colours, for instance, tend to overwhelm small rooms while light-coloured fabrics will show every stain and mark, a concern with small children or pets. Current trends in colour are best avoided since trends come and go quickly.

Covering an Armchair

Once the armchair has been measured and the fabric purchased, it is time to begin the process of covering the armchair. This can be broken down into the following three easy steps:

Make a Pattern

Using the measurements from the armchair drawing, cut templates of each shape from the gathered newspaper pages. Turn the fabric upside down and lay each template on the back of the fabric. Try to arrange the templates so that as little material as possible is wasted. Once the templates are positioned, draw around each one with a pencil or tailor's chalk. It is best to give each template an extra two centimetres on the edges to allow for the seams. If the armchair has curved arm panels, however, five centimetres should be added to those templates for extra give. Remove the newspaper and cut out each piece with the fabric scissors.

Join the Pieces

Arrange all the pieces in the shape of the armchair. Use pins to hold the edges of the fabric pieces so that they can be sewn together. It usually works best to sew two sections together and to add to the framework one piece at a time. Starting with the back piece is often the easiest solution.

To begin joining all the fabric pieces, lay the first two on top of one another and pin along the pencil or chalk line. Thread the needle with upholstery thread and begin closing the chalked edge with a series of backstitches. This will give the fabric its two centimetre-allowance for the seams of the armchair.

If the armchair has rectangular arms, simply attach them in the same manner as the other pieces. If it has curved arms, however, the process is a little more involved. Starting at the outside of the front bottom corner, pin the edges together, curving around the front arm until there is no more fabric to use. Once this is done, the fabric arm should look like a 3D representation of the armchair's frame. Backstitch the arm, being careful to smooth any wrinkles that appear. Repeat on the other arm.

Join each arm, one at a time, to the other pieces already sewn together, starting at the "right" corner of the main piece. Stitch from the bottom or the side that will be closest to the floor. Be sure to stop every few stitches and measure the fabric against the armchair frame to ensure the the stitching will allow the material to fall where it should on the chair.

Test the New Armchair Cover

Slip the cover over the armchair. Look for baggy corners or any area with excess fabric and pin it inwards with a few backstitches. Be sure to sit on the armchair to make sure the adjustments did not make the cover too tight as it may eventually split.

Once the adjustments have been corrected, it is time to attach the last of the fabric. If the armchair has feet, either pin excess fabric to the bottom of the seat or stitch a hem so that the fabric forms a "skirt" that sweeps the floor. If ribbons were chosen as the edge finisher, attach them along the opening and closing area of each back edge. Professionals suggest attaching them at 15 cm intervals but feel free to use personal style and discretion here. If using press studs or other finishing attachments instead of ribbons, sew them into the edges at the same intervals.

Once that is done, the armchair cover should be finished and ready to enjoy.

How to Buy Armchairs on eBay

If making a new cover for an existing old armchair is out of the question and one must be purchased, furniture stores and online marketplaces such as eBay are excellent solutions to finding the ideal chair. eBay features both used and new items from a variety of private and commercial sellers. The easiest way to find what you need is to enter your search terms in the search box on the homepage. For example, to see listings for leather armchairs, type "leather armchair" into the search field. The listings will appear on the next page. If there are too many to comfortably look through, refine your search by clicking on any of the category options to narrow the number of listings.

Once you find what you are looking for, click on the item's image or name to view the full description, pictures, and shipping methods on the item's page. Compare the seller's description of the armchair with the provided pictures, especially if you have chosen to purchase a used item. You can also contact the seller with any additional questions.

You may want to reference the seller's full profile by clicking on his or her name to ensure that you and the seller make a good fit. On the seller’s profile page, you can view information about their eBay history, along with feedback left by other customers and then use this information to determine if the seller is reliable.


In time, armchairs are likely to gather stains, worn spots, and tears. Unfortunately, they can also be expensive to replace. Making a new cover for an old armchair is more budget-friendly and allows for more personal creativity. Begin by measuring each piece of the armchair and recording the measurements on a simple drawing of the furniture. Next, use the measurements to pick the right amount of fabric in the appropriate pattern and colour. There are many types of fabric to choose from so be sure to consider the use of the armchair, where it will be located, the décor of the room, and the style of the chair's frame as an accurate guide to the best material.

Always make templates of each piece of the armchair on newspaper. Trace the templates on the back of the fabric before cutting out each piece. Join all the pieces together with backstitches, then try the cover on the armchair to check its fit. Be sure to test the tightness of the cover by moving around normally in the chair. Make any necessary adjustments before finishing with ribbons or press studs at the seams.

Fabric and tools can be purchased from department stores, craft shops, and online auction sites like eBay. If one needs to buy a new armchair, furniture stores and online marketplaces offer a plethora of used and new choices from a variety of sellers.

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