15 November 2010

PIY Pointers: How to calculate fabric for a seat recover

The timing was perfect when I received a question in my inbox about calculating fabric for a seat recover.  At the same time, I was working on Laurena's Spoonful of Yellow Flowers Chair. So putting two and two together, it was only natural that today's PIY Pointers is all about how figuring out how much fabric you need for your project

Picking out pretty fabrics? Well now that is the easy part!

Figuring out exactly how much fabric to order? Especially when you're buying it online? Now that's a little more tricky.  Apparently for Allison as well!  Here's her recent question:

"I am going to be attempting my first small upholstery projects...pieces similar in size to your yellow bench that you did and also a small chair like the size of your harp chair. Can you tell me how much fabric you used on each? I'm just starting out so am clueless on what to order."

The first step is to start out by measuring the seat of the chair you want to cover. I recommend removing the seat from the chair base so it's easier to work with. I'm going to use my current chair measurements as an example. Because the seat cover is often narrower at the back and wider at the front - make sure you're always using your widest points for measurement, so you have enough fabric. My chair is 18" wide at the front (widest point), then it narrows to be 12" wide at the back. From front to back, the chair is 17" deep. So for the sake of having enough fabric, we'll use 18" X 17" as our base chair measurement.

From there, I measure the thickness of the seat's plywood base and foam cushion. On my chair, the plywood is a 1/2" and the foam is 2", so I know I need to add 2 1/2"s to each side of the fabric.

On top of that, I need another 2 to 2 1/2" to fold onto the underside of the chair (I like to do an extra fold of the fabric before I staple so I don't have any loose threads or ugly edges). So for the width, 18" + 10" (2 x 2 1/5" for the cushion thickness and 2 1/2" for the backside fold) = 28". For the length, 17" + 10" (2 x 2 1/5" for the cushion thickness and 2 1/2" for the backside fold) = 27". This means your new measurement and fabric requirement is 28" x 27".

*Keep in mind if the fabric has a pattern that needs to face a certain way, if so, you'll need to make sure you have enough to turn the pattern to fit the biggest piece of the fabric.

A traditional yard of fabric is 36" long. The width can be 36", 45" or 60", so you'll need to check for the particular fabric you want. Depending on your seat cover size, you may be able to get away with less than a yard of  fabric or a Fat Quarter (18" long x 22" inches wide for a small seat or bench). For the seat cover I'm discussing (28" x 27"), I either need to order a full yard with any of the widths because my long edge (28") would not allow for a half-yard (18"). A fabric store will cut your fabric to specific decimals of a yard if you bring in your specific needed measurements (.7 of a yard, .8, etc.).

Of course as our mothers and grandmothers and Girl Scouts taught us - it's always better to be prepared and order a little extra fabric rather than end up with not enough.  So good luck and I can't wait to hear about your recovering projects!

Have a fantastic day friends!


  1. Thanks,sweetie for all those tips:) Wish you a lovely Monday

  2. Great post, Lenore! Very helpful! Thanks for taking the time to write all of this out.

  3. Thanks for the tips! You rock. I know who I will come to with any restoration questions ;)

  4. and like Grandpa says "measure twice, cut once"!

  5. Great pointers!
    I am redoing some chairs but won't be redoing the fabric- I'll post some photos soon!


Thanks so much for stopping by, I love reading all your comments! If you have a specific question, please email me at lhume1@mts.net. XO Lenore