This post will cover my latest venture and show you how to upholster cane-back chairs!
Upholstering the cane backs of my chairs, the last step of my dining set makeover, is here! If you’ve ever seen caning with a hole and thought there’s nothing you can do about it, I’ve got the solution for you!
Honestly, I’m kind of ambivalent about caning, don’t love it, don’t hate it. But there was a hole in the back of one of my chairs, and that bothered me. What bothered me more than the hole was the fact that my child kept messing with it and making it worse. So I had to do something. After much research, I concluded that I was not going to be able to patch or repair the caning. I settled on upholstering the backs of the chairs, and this is how I did it.
Before beginning, please check out the notes on the bottom as I have outlined some things that I learned along the way that I wish I had known before I began.
Here’s a list of the materials I used in my adventure to upholster cane-back chairs.
- 1/2-inch-thick inch batting
- 1/4-inch T50 staples
- Rotary mat
- Rotary tool
- Hot glue gun and glue sticks
- Sewing machine
- 5/32-inch cable/welting cord
The first step to upholster cane-back chairs is to cut the batting and fabric. They should be just larger than the back of the chair (see notes below). I made a template out of butcher paper by tracing around the back panel and used that to cut the fabric to size.
You should have two pieces of batting and two pieces of fabric for each chair, one for the front and one for the back. (Note: I actually used two pieces of batting for the back of each chair due to the depth of the insert on this side. So I had three pieces of batting for each chair, two for the back and one for the front.)
With the chair back on the floor, lay the batting and the fabric onto the back of the chair, making sure the fabric is wrinkle-free. Staple around the perimeter of the inlay with about a half-inch between staples.
Because the back of the chair had a deeper inlay, I folded the edges of the batting inward and tucked it into the inlay.
Trim the excess fabric and batting with scissors. Cut as close to the staples as possible. This will be important when you apply the trim.
To cover the staples, you will need to make double welting. It’s basically cording covered in a fabric of your choice that acts as a trim.
Double Welting Step 1
After ironing your fabric, fold the cut end of the fabric to meet the selvage edge. This diagonal is the true bias of the fabric. Cut the fold off and cut 3-inch strips along the bias.
Double Welting Step 2
Measure the amount of cording you will need and add about 6 inches (see notes below). You will need two lengths of cording for each panel.
Double Welting Step 3
Place one length of cording on the backside of a strip of fabric. Fold one side of the fabric over the cord toward the center. You will want to overlap the cord with about a half-inch of fabric. Pin in place. Leave at least one inch unstitched on each side of the cord (see notes below). Using a straight stitch, stitch down the center of the fabric along the edge of the cord.
Double Welting Step 4
Place the second length of cord along the stitch line next to the first cord. Be sure that the top and bottom of the second cord are even with the first. Fold the other side of the fabric strip over the second cord toward the center of the fabric. Be sure to pull the fabric tight, and pin in place. Still leaving at least an inch unstitched on each side of the cord, use a straight stitch to stitch down the center of the welting, between the two cords.
Double Welting Step 5
Trim the excess fabric off as close to the stitching as possible.
Starting at the center of the top of the chair back panel, hot glue the double welting around the perimeter, covering the staples and the raw edges of fabric. Stop once you reach an inch from the center on each side. You’ll have a 2-inch gap in the center that has not been glued yet.
Where the cords meet, you will want to have one end cut so that there is stitching to the end.
On the other side, you will create a tube of fabric for the first end to fit into. To do this, cut the welting cord so that it meets the first side of cording flush. Leave the fabric an inch longer than the welting cord. Fold the raw edge of the fabric under and tuck the sides under the the first side of cording (see photos). Secure this segment with hot glue to complete your trim.
The Finished Upholstered Cane-back Chair
Complete transformation and much more modern and cozy!
I was happy with how the first panel turned out, but I did learn a few things.
- When stapling, hold the stapler in the center of the chair facing the outside perimeter that you’re stapling. This will make sure that the stapler is level and allow the staples to seat well.
- Have a flathead screwdriver handy just in case you mess up a staple (which I totally did a few times).
- Take time to trim the fabric around the outside of the panel after stapling very well, especially the batting. This became very important when hot gluing the welting on. You want there to be very little distance between the edge of the fabric and the staples so that the welting does a nice job covering everything. I wasn’t so great about this on the first one, and you can see a couple staples at the top, but only if you’re really looking at the right angle
- The batting won’t be an issue on the back since I tucked it into the panel and only stapled the fabric. But the fuzzies that I missed when trimming the front were pretty obvious and I had to go back and trim them more with my rotary tool. So for the other front panels I’m thinking that I will have the batting lay just on the inside the staples.
- I recommend above that you cut the cording 6 inches longer than you need because, for some reason, it seems that once you’ve applied the fabric, the cording length shrinks. I measured out my cording and added 4 inches, but I found myself with no excess to finish the trim with and had to use a second piece and two joins. So i think the best method might be to create one long, continuous piece of welting to use on as many panels as possible and then to cut it after gluing each panel.
- Be sure not to put too much hot glue on or else it will leak out and could leave white residue (seems obvious, but I did get a little overzealous with the glue). Also, popsicle sticks are great tools to prevent burns when working with hot glue (Ask me how I know!).
Go Forth and Upholster!
Check out my other posts about this dining table set on my Upcycling page, and, as always head on over to my Facebook and Instagram for updates. I will hopefully be sharing the entire finished dining set soon! For more of the transformation, check out how I painted the dining set, resined the tabletop, and upholstered the chair cushions.
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