Tufting is a furniture upholstering technique that uses a combination of threading and the placement of knots or buttons to create patterned clusters (i.e., tufts) in fabric or leather. This technique, popular for centuries, adds a prized note of distinction to chairs, sofas, ottomans and many other types of furniture. However, it can also make your upholstery more susceptible to tearing and create an abundance of places for dirt, stains and unpleasant smells to hide. If you have an old, tufted living room accent chair, you may have decided to deal with any existing condition issues by carrying out a reupholstering job. Before you begin, or turn your chair over to a upholstering professional, here are five important steps in the process you should know.

Step 1: Removing the Fabric/Leather

The things needed to accomplish this crucial first step will vary according to the way your tufted accent chair was originally put together. Some chairs have trim glued onto the fronts of their arms. If your piece has this design feature, you can usually peel off the trim with some pliers. Next, you will need to remove the upholstery in sections by removing the staples that hold the fabric or leather in place on the underlying frame. Make sure to label each section of upholstery as you go in order to avoid confusion later on in the process.

Step 2: Inspecting the Foam and Backing Board

The tufting in the body of your chair sits over a layer of foam and a hard piece of material called a backing board. You will need to check the condition of these components before you continue. Plan on replacement if you see plenty of wear in the foam or backing board, or see more extensive forms of damage. You may also need to replace foam in other parts of the chair.

Step 3: Cutting and Sewing the New Material

You can use your old upholstery as a template for the new material you plan to install. Make sure the old material is lying flat, then trace the edges with a fabric marker or leather marker. Next, cut each section and sew the sections together in their proper positions.

Step 4: Placing the Batting and Fabric/Leather

Batting is the layer of insulating material that sits between the upholstery itself and the backing material (i.e., foam and backing board). During this step, you will place the new fabric/leather and batting in their proper position on the accent chair. On the body of the chair, you will also push the batting and upholstery through the holes in the backing board in order to start creating the tufted surface.

Step 5: Threading the Upholstery

The fifth major step in reupholstering your old, tufted accent chair is threading the upholstery on the chair body into position. To start this process, you’ll need to equip an upholstery needle with the proper kind of thread, then push the needle through the back of the chair into one of the holes in the backing board and foam. Next, you’ll pass the thread through the upholstery button to secure it in place at the front of the chair. (If your chair doesn’t have buttons, you’ll use this step to make the first pass in the creation of an upholstery knot). You will repeat this process several times at each hole to make a durable connection between all of the components and create a stable tufting pattern.

It takes quite a bit of skill to properly upholster a chair or any other piece of furniture. In fact, only a trained professional can reliably produce high-quality results. If you have the time and patience, you can certainly upholster your accent chair on your own. However, for the best possible outcome, you may want to call on the services of an expert upholsterer.