Singapore Wing Back Chair

Here’s the original with ripped arms and too-large cushion. I had to cut an inch off the front before recovering it.

Finished chair with pillow

Here’s the chair in it’s new clothes, plus a velvet and faux leather pillow I made for it in Jackie’s sewing class.

My first post-Harvey diy project—a re-upholstered chair! I loved this fabric when it was new, but over the years, the fabric faded and grew brittle. Time for a make-over!

We’ve had both the chair and the fabric for over twenty-five years. My husband’s job relocated us to Singapore, and I had bought the cotton jacquard fabric planning to have a sofa recovered once we were there. Unfortunately, the sofa (an antique cane-back) was destroyed in the move. So this fabric traveled to the other side of the planet and back, then stood in an upstairs closet for twenty years, wrapped in plastic, waiting for its time to shine.

The chair was custom-made in Singapore. When it was new, it was covered in a cheery floral cotton print. But due to wear and tear, about ten years ago it was sent to live upstairs in its transplanted home in Texas, to shield its stuffing from the eyes of visitors. Upstairs, where the flood didn’t reach.

So, I had an unflooded chair in need of upholstering and unflooded upholstery in need of a piece of furniture. Now, how to put the two together? Couldn’t be too hard, right?

Well, I’m not (completely) delusional, so I sought an expert to teach me and found the perfect person, Jackie Brunetti, who runs a small upholstery school in Katy, Texas called Chairdo. For the first class, Jackie gave me and the other four women in the class a thorough overview of upholstery fabrics, supplies, and tools. It was fascinating, and I was relieved to hear that my upholstery was a good (although challenging due to its large pattern) choice for my chair. She had supplies for us, and tools we could use, but to keep from waiting around for my turn to use the tools, I bought my own.

Right from the start, I knew I wanted the redone chair to be a little softer, a little more padded than the original. Except for the outer sides of the arms, the original foam was in good condition so I was able to reuse it. But to make the chair comfier, I added additional foam over the arms and cushion then wrapped the cushion in Dacron. I also added new Dacron to the back and sides, and Dacron plus new additional foam to the deck to make it look fuller.

Here’s what I ended up buying for this project (and future projects):

Good scissors for cutting fabric. Somewhere in all my packed boxes, I have very nice Gingher dressmaker shears. I fretted over which new scissors to buy because crummy scissors are frustrating to use but I didn’t want to get another expensive set when I had a pair that are just temporarily unavailable. I finally decided on the Evergreen Art Supply Super Scissors and I’m very happy with them. They have rubberized hand grips that are kind on the hands when cutting lots of fabric and are a nice weight, plus they make super-clean cuts. Bonus: they came with a neat little snipper! 

Unicatch USC71/16L Long Nose Upholstery Stapler

Unicatch USC71/16L Long Nose Upholstery Stapler

Cheap (“bad”) scissors for everything else. Any sturdy old pair will do.

Unicatch USC71/16L Long Nose Upholstery StaplerAn air-powered staple gun. One of the first things my husband, aka: AMEG (Awesome Mechanical Engineering Genius) repaired after the flood was a huge air compressor which we needed for many of the repairs to the house and other machinery. I chose this long-nosed gun because my husband can also use it to repair his six pinball machines that sat completely under water for two weeks. Also, the long nose can fit into tight places. BTW, you don’t need an enormous air compressor. There are many small ones available like this one from Home Depot.

Staple removers

Crain 126 Staple Remover and a prying tool which shall remain nameless because it keeps poor company.

The Crain 126 staple remover. Accept no substitutes! There are others on the market that look identical but the tiny difference in the thickness of the point makes a huge difference in performance. Spending the extra $5 will save your knuckles, your fabric, and your vocabulary. Also, you’ll need a prying tool. The one I bought came packaged with another staple remover which was worthless. It’s also handy to have a magnetic bowl for collecting staples. I got one as a gift with purchase at Harbor Freight.

Olfa Rotary Cutter

Olfa 45mm Deluxe Handle Rotary Cutter

An Olfa rotary cutter for making long, perfect cuts in the upholstery fabric. I bought the Olfa on Jackie’s recommendation because unlike other rotary cutters on the market, this one has a safety guard that keeps you (or your curious children) from cutting off the ends of your fingers. The blades are SHARP!!! You might want to get a pencil bag to keep it in.

Singer 4432 Heavy Duty 32-stitch Sewing Machine

Singer 4432 Heavy Duty 32-stitch Sewing Machine

And the big purchase… a sewing machine, the Singer Heavy Duty 4432! I ordered this one from Walmart because they didn’t have it in stock at my local store. This modestly priced machine had great reviews that emphasized its suitability for thick, heavy fabrics, even leather. Since I plan to use the machine primarily with upholstery fabric this was important to me. So far, it works like a champ!



Below is the progression of my chair project. If you hover over an image a description will pop up.
Deck is covered with upholstery instead of cheap fabricStriped down to original foamOriginal webbing was in good shape so I kept itCopying the pattern, piece by pieceAdditional foam for the deckCorners are cut in a YStretching the fabricFitting the deck to the legDeck completedGluing on the foamMaking the piping coverCompleting the pipingArm cover not yet attachedCovering the foam and dacron-covered arm Flexible metal edging with prongs for the curvy areasPleating curves
Side stapledBurlap support for the backrestAdding fresh dacron to the foam backrestFront completed!Nail trim before turningAttaching back with nail stripCompleted backFinished chair

Up next, the ottoman!


The Singapore Wingback Chair — 4 Comments

  1. Hi, Julie! There are so many more pictures, but I couldn’t cram them all in. Like, did you know those tiny pleats had to be ironed? It’s amazing; they just vanish!

  2. Hi, Jackie! I’m glad you stopped in! The ottoman is nearly finished. I still have to make the feet. Right now it is using the curvy originals. I hope to post about it soon.

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