Upholstering this cute little stool was pretty easy. I had my upholsterer give me a tutorial on how to do it and within an hour I had a new stool! Let me show you how.
Let’s do this!
I started with a stool frame. He had this one lying around but you can find cute little stools at a flea market or Goodwill. First, strip off all of the existing upholstery, webbing, staples or nails leaving you with a clean frame. It you want to refinish your frame (strip and restain or paint it), now is the best time to do this. I decided, after-the-fact, that I wanted to paint mine black but, it would have been better to tackle this before I started the upholstery steps. I risked getting black paint on my newly upholstered stool!
Now you will add the webbing. I am guessing you don’t have any webbing lying around but you can easily find some on Amazon with a quick “furniture webbing” search. You can get the elastic latex type as I have on this stool (right pic) or you can use the jute type like this pic on the left.
Now with your stapler, you will add the webbing to the seat of the stool. You should use a heavy duty stapler, not your desk stapler. Something that looks like this:
Ideally, you will fold over the end of the webbing (so it won’t ravel) and staple it to the edge of the stool (not the top but the edge) so you will be stapling into the side of the seat frame. As shown in the above photo, do an overlapping weave of the webbing and staple the folded over ends to the edges so that your woven webbing is taut. Now, for best security of the seat upholstery, you can staple a layer of fabric or burlap on top of the webbing. This helps to give a firm solid base for your next layer.
You will cut a piece of foam that is ever so slightly larger than your seat top and staple it onto the seat top in a few spots. You only need a few staples for the foam layer as you are just using them to hold the foam in place so it doesn’t move around when you add the next layer.
Next, you will add a layer of batting (available from your local fabric store or online). Make sure to cut a piece large enough to not just cover the very top of the stool but to fully cover the entire part you will upholster with your fabric. You will want the batting layer to be pulled taut over the foam so that it’s tautness helps to smoosh down (official term! ha ha) and smooth out the sharp edges of the foam. A good way to do this is to staple one side completely and then pull it taut from the other side. You can begin to secure the batting on the other side, as you pull it taut, by working from the center towards each of the corners. Then you can do the same on the other two opposing sides. Make sure to maintain equivalent tautness as best you can as you put in your staples. If you pull too tightly in one section and less tightly in another area, you will end up with lumpy edges. And, don’t sweat it. If you goof it up, you can carefully remove a few of your staples and give it another shot.
At the corners, you will have excess batting. Try to keep things as tidy as possible with the goal of not having too much excess batting as this will show up as a lumpy spot once you get your fabric on top. As best you can, try to make a little mini pleat at the corner, and then put a few extra staples in to secure the pleat.
Then, once you are happy with your batting layer, take a sharp mat knife and trim the batting close to the staple line.
Now you will add your fabric. When you select your fabric, make sure to select something that is a nice upholstery weight type fabric—something that will withstand someone sitting on it. Maybe something the weight of canvas. But, not as heavy as the thick, nubby boucle fabric of a Chanel suit (too thick to work with on your first project). By comparison, imagine using fabric that is similar to what a men’s dress shirt is made of—that is kind of thin and wimpy and wouldn’t stand up well to someone siting on it!
Also, if you are new to this process, it is best to pick a fabric design that is not going to be too unforgiving. For instance, a fabric with a stripe may be very difficult for you to work with on your first project. As you pull it taut from one side to another, you may find it difficult to keep your stripes straight. You may end up with a beautifully upholstered stool but with very crooked stripes! So, try to pick a fabric with a design that won’t be too fussy to work with.
Make sure you have plenty of fabric to cover all sides of your stool cushion. You will now basically repeat the same process as you did with the batting. But, this is now your final, finished upholstery layer so take time to once again make sure you are pulling your fabric with even tautness so the finished product is smooth and wrinkle-free. As you complete your stapling on all sides, leave yourself an un-stapled section of about an inch on each side of each corner. This will give you a bit of wiggle room to fuss with your corners. Once the sides are done, you can go back and specifically work on making a nice pleat or tuck at each corner and then staple it into place. And then, like with the batting, you will make a nice clean cut to get rid of all of your excess fabric. You will cut this off as close to the underneath side of your staples as you can. You don’t want any sloppy pieces of fabric hanging down.
Now all you have to do is add the finishing touches. Even though these photos show a stained wood stool, I actually ended up painting the base black after I was done upholstering it. So, I also chose to finish it with a 1/2” black braid trim. But, you can use cord, fringe, nail heads or other things to put the finishing touches on your stool. Basically, we need this final step so we can cover up the ugly staples. All I did was fire up my trusty glue gun, and run a bead of hot glue along the staple line and then glued on the braid. I overlapped the ends of the braid, and folded over the top end a bit so as not to have a raw end of braid showing and being vulnerable to raveling.
Be careful not to get any glue on the frame or fabric. But, if you do, and it is not too much, you should be able to get it off with your mat knife. But, don’t accidentally cut your beautiful, newly- upholstered stool!
Congratulations! You did it!
For future tutorials I will work harder to take more detailed photos at every steps of the way as best I can. In the meantime, have fun upholstering a stool!