Upholster & Paint a Rocking Chair, Part 1

I hope everyone had a better Independence Day than we did.  4 out of 5 of my children had a very high fever over the holiday weekend, so we basically stayed home and missed everything.  Big bummer – no fireworks, no picnics and no sleep.  But at least, at last we are back on our feet! One thing I did get accomplished was to give an antique rocker a face lift.  I will not claim to be a professional, but am a self-taught furniture upholster fanatic.  My great uncle and grandfather were in the business, and although I never was able to glean from him, I just claim it’s in my blood.

I found this lovely curvaceous chair at a garage sale and the lady told me it was her grandmothers’ chair.  She hated to part with it because it was so comfortable, but as a newlywed consolidating furniture, only so much could stay.

The existing tapestry fabric had sort of a tribal flare it, but it was old, dirty and the wood finish needed some love.

Follow along as I take this chair…

reupholster a rocking chair part 1 via Prodigal Pieces
 …and transform it into this (sneak peek).

reupholster a rocking chair part 1 via Prodigal Pieces

Like most any upholstery project, first you have to take off the old upholstery.  I prefer to use a small pair of locking pliers, which allow me to grab nail heads and staples without destroying the woodwork.  You need to keep the woodwork intact as much as possible so it can hold the new staples/nails you will be putting in.

After the upholstery comes off, be sure to keep the batting, padding, and fabric pieces because you will need them in the near future. You may want to mark the pieces so you will know which piece goes where (ie. back, front, seat).  I like to stack the padding with the matching pieces of removed upholstery so I keep it straight…barring no child decides to make a bed out of it.

Now you’re down to bare bones of the chair.  On my chair, all the interior parts were, for the most part, in great condition.  That isn’t always the case, however when you try to upholster an old chair.  Sometimes you’ll run into out-of-whack springs, or need to replace webbing.

reupholster a rocking chair part 1 via Prodigal Pieces

That lumbar support on the back of the chair had to strips of webbing that were still attached on one side, but need reattached on the other.  I just added a few staples and some of the original nails that were pulled out. It’s a good idea to have an upholstery hammer (smaller head than a typical household hammer).  This is a must have to upholster so that you don’t beat up your frame while trying to hit a tiny nail.  I found mine while junking one time…I was so excited!

reupholster a rocking chair part 1 via Prodigal Pieces

TIP:  Use either needle-nose pliers or locking pliers to hold a tiny nail so that you can hit it with your hammer and not your fingers!!

reupholster a rocking chair part 1 via Prodigal Pieces

I love to see wood refinished to its former glory, but this one was telling me to paint it – my most used finish.  In order to do that, you’ll need to sand out any imperfections and give the wood some “teeth” that the paint can stick to.

I used an electric sander for larger imperfections and hand sanded to give it teeth.  Typically a fine paper is all you need, like 180 grit or finer(the higher the number the smaller the grain of sand, which results in a finer finish)

reupholster a rocking chair part 1 via Prodigal Pieces

That’s it for now. In the next post, it will be time to paint and finish the wood frame of the rocker. Head here to see part 2.

Got questions?  Just send me an email or post a comment and I’ll try to help.
To get these DIY tips & tricks in your inbox, be sure to sign up for my newsletter. PLUS, you will get your FREE Furniture Buying Checklist and special discount to my shop. Until next time!

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More projects on how to upholster furniture:

$3 Garage Sale Channel Back Chair Gets Deconstructed Makeover by Prodigal Pieces www.prodigalpieces.com

Vintage Chair Gets Feed Sack Makeover by Prodigal Pieces | www.prodigalpieces.com

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  • kellyorr

    How fun! I can’t wait to see the final product, the sneak peak is beautiful!

    Sorry your 4th wasn’t memorable in a more fun way! But I’m glad the little folks are on the mend. 🙂

    July 9, 2013 at 4:43 pm Reply
    • Larissa

      Hi Kelly! Isn’t it funny how piece of furniture grows on you…I wish I had a need for that chair. :o)

      July 9, 2013 at 5:28 pm Reply
  • Prairie Kari

    Perfect Timing! I have a very similar rocker with matching chair in a storage shed that I want to re-upholster too and your tutorial is a great motivator to get on with it! I bought it with a broken rocker but I think with my new Kreg Jig and some Gorilla Glue this can be mended. I hope your next tutorial has tips on how to bite the bullet and paint wood – I have spent so many hours in my life stripping paint from wood that this would be hard for me to do. Your gorgeous sneak peek is telling me to forget about all of that though and I suspect when I see the whole rocker I will be a push over! Is it kinda like ripping off a bandaid and you just do it versus overthinking it? 😉 Kari

    July 10, 2013 at 6:43 am Reply
  • Larissa

    I love your bandaid analogy, Prairie Kari! So true. I grew up in a gorgeous log home surrounded by natural wood and you wouldn’t believe sometimes that I have to close my eyes and take a deep breath when I begin. I do still do natural wood, but painting is something I have come to really adore. :o)

    July 10, 2013 at 10:36 am Reply
  • Kathy A Delightsome Life

    By the sneak peek I can tell this is going to be a stunner – looking forward to your next post,

    July 12, 2013 at 9:15 pm Reply
    • Larissa

      Thank you Kathy! Part 2 and Part 3 are up and live, so go ahead, and see how it finished up. :o)

      July 12, 2013 at 10:29 pm Reply
  • Kim M

    Oh wow! This is gorgeous! I love the fabric, just stunning! 🙂 I hope everyone is feeling better over there by now and the rest of your summer is sick free! 🙂

    July 13, 2013 at 1:48 am Reply
    • Larissa

      Thank you! Yes, we are rarely sick, and wouldn’t you know it would hit during the summer. I think it’s self-inflicted because we’re doing too much. Time to slow down!! :o)

      July 13, 2013 at 2:08 am Reply
  • Anna

    Wow, great chair! It looks almost identical to one I just found last weekend….down to the wood finish. Do you know anything about how old your chair is?

    July 29, 2015 at 7:25 pm Reply
    • Larissa

      Thank you! Sounds like you scored a good one. 🙂 I’m guessing my chair was from around the 1960’s-70’s era.

      July 30, 2015 at 7:14 am Reply
  • AnnMarie

    I know this project is a few years old but I have a very similar rocker I am redoing. My question is, what is the name of the woven piece on the chair back (under the webbing)? I need a new one….

    February 11, 2018 at 7:29 pm Reply
    • Larissa

      Do you mean the burlap? That is the brown fabric you see in the photos. 🙂

      February 12, 2018 at 5:35 am Reply

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