- Upholster a Slipseat -

Slip seats are most often found on dining room chairs. They are upholstered seats, usually fastened by screws from underneath. These really make a great beginner upholstery project and with experience can be reupholstered in a few minutes each. Typically they're about an inch thick. Thicker ones may have a seam sewn into the corners, so look first. The typical slip seat requires no sewing and no tools more sophisticated than a screwdriver and a staple gun (you can use a tack hammer and upholstery tacks if you prefer, just don't try holding the tacks in your mouth like the old upholsterers do.. they raise heck with fillings, and don't do your stomach any good either). Also, you'll be adding a lot of time to the project this way. As you'll be saving yourself a lot of money, buy an inexpensive stapler and some stiff 1/4" or 5/16" staples at the hardware store.

  • Remove the seat and place it face down on your material (also face down). As with slipcovers, you might want to start with a scrap fabric or some muslin to get the idea.
  • With chalk, mark the outline of the seat on the fabric. Set the seat aside.
  • Add a few inches around the chalk marks and cut the fabric.
  • As with slipcovers, your existing upholstery is a good guide, so look over how it was done. Assuming that it was professionally upholstered, it's probably the best way to do that seat.


Judy uses her first piece to match the stripe and cut the others.

  • If the existing fabric isn't too thick at the corners, leave it. Otherwise, pull it off using a screwdriver (one you don't care about.. use eye protection) and a pair of pliers to remove the staples or tacks.


  • Take some cotton or dacron fill and add about a 1/2 to 1" layer over the top and sides of the seat. Cut the corners so that it is only a single thickness all over. Trim the fill even with the bottom of the seat.
  • Turn the seat with the fill over and place face down on the fabric (also face down).
  • All staples go in the bottom of the seat. Again, your existing seat is a good guide.

  • Start with the front edge of the seat. Making sure that the fabric shows evenly around the seat, pull the fabric lightly over the bottom of the seat. Place one staple in the center.
  • Pull the fabric tightly over the back edge and place one staple in the center of the back.
  • Flip the seat face up and pull one side until the tension is even across the middle of the seat. Keeping this tension, flip it again and place one staple in the middle of this side.
  • Repeat for the other side.


In this example, Judy does the front and back first, a matter of preference.

She trims the dacron

  • Now comes the part that requires an eye and a bit of touch. This is a skill that you'll use on every piece you ever upholster, so this is a good time to learn it. Go back to the front edge and pull to even out all of the puckers and wrinkles while keeping the fill compressed. Add a staple every 1/2" (closer at the corners). Pull and staple toward a corner, but stop about 1 1/2" away.
  • Go back to the middle and work toward the opposite corner, stopping about 1 1/2" away.
  • Repeat on the back edge and again on the two sides.


  • For a sharp corner, fold the corner of your fabric over the corner of the seat and snip it up to the corner of the wood. Pull the side piece tightly under the front piece and staple. Then pull the front piece over the side piece and staple.
  • Repeat with all four corners, the four side corners under, the front or back corner over.
  • For rounded corners, work evenly side and front toward the corner, using small pleats to take up the excess fabric. If done properly, you'll have an even set of small overlapping pleats all around the corner.

  • Trim the excess fabric all around, making sure that your screw holes aren't stapled over and replace the seat.


Judy finishes the bottom with cambric, folding the edge under and stapling through. She marks the screw holes with chalk to make relocating them easier.


  • Pat yourself on the back, sit down and have a cup of tea.
For seats with brass tacks or a gimp or welted edge, stay tuned.

Also coming up! Cornices and valances.


JUDY RICE has been making custom slipcovers since her early teens, and in SLIPCOVER BASICS she teaches the techniques and skills which have kept her decorating business at the top in one of Connecticut's wealthiest areas. Slipcover Basics: $29.95 plus $4.00 S&H
(CT residents add $1.80 tax)
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