How to upholster chairs with button studs

Updated April 17, 2017

Upholstering your worn furniture may seem like a daunting job, particularly with items such as chairs with button studs. Don't let their apparent complexity fool you. Even if you're an upholstery novice, by using a few simple tools and basic skills, you can transform your old chairs into new home decor that not only adds value to your interior, but gives you a sense of pride and accomplishment.

Loosen the fabric on your chair by prying the old staples out of the chair frame, using the staple remover. Remove the upholstery fabric from the back and underside of the chair. You may need to use the staple remover or a screwdriver to pry any tacking strip away from the frame. Once this fabric is removed, you can see the twine or wire securing the buttons to the chair front.

Cut or untwist the twine or wire to remove the buttons, being careful that the buttons do not fly off and cause injury.

Remove the remaining upholstery from the chair, being careful not to rip or cut the fabric. These pieces will serve as your cutting templates for the new fabric. Label each piece as it comes off of the chair, using the marking pen or chalk to identify the piece's location on the chair and its orientation to the chair front.

Separate any sewn upholstery pieces by using the seam ripper.

Cut out the new pieces of upholstery fabric, using the old fabric as your cutting templates. Be sure to straighten out the fabric that was tufted or pleated around the button studs, so that you can mimic the original look of the chair.

Label the newly cut fabric pieces in the same way as the original upholstery. However, be sure to write only in the seam allowances to prevent discolouring the visible portions of your fabric.

Mark the location for the button studs on the seat and/or back of your chair's upholstery fabric. To do this, use the original upholstery to locate the button locations, and mark with the chalk. You may also consider using tailor's tacks, which are small stitches of a contrasting colour of thread. These will not be seen on the final chair, and will not cause permanent marks on your fabric.

Pin the new upholstery together and fit them onto your chair frame. Be sure the new fabric fits as desired. If alterations need to be made, do them at this time.

Sew the upholstery together, using the old upholstery as a pattern, and starting with the largest pieces of fabric.

Staple the upholstery to the chair frame, starting on the underside of the centre front of the seat. Place one staple to hold the centre front fabric in place, then go to the back of the chair and repeat, pulling the fabric slightly to make it unwrinkled. This helps to hold the fabric taut as you place the rest of the staples around the perimeter of the chair. Repeat on the sides of the chair, placing a staple to hold the midpoint of the fabric in place. Staples should be about 2.5 cm (1 inch) from the outer edge of the chair frame. After these initial staples are installed, one on each side of the piece of fabric, continue to staple around the fabric to attach it securely to the frame. Staples should be spaced 2.5 to 5 cm (1 to 2 inches) apart.

Continue to attach the new fabric to the chair, on the seat back and sides of the chair, in the same manner as the seat fabric. Do not install the fabric onto the back of the chair.

Cut the twine into 45 cm (18 inch) lengths, 1 for each button you plan to attach. Thread the upholstery needle and insert it from the back of the chair, through the chair foam and upholstery fabric, so that the needle comes out where you want the first button. Thread the button onto the twine and insert the needle back through to the rear of the chair. Pull on the twine ends until the button is nestled as deeply into the upholstery fabric as you want. Tie the twine through and around a washer several times to secure. Knot the twine. Repeat for all buttons.

Attach all seat button studs in the same manner as the chair back button studs.

Secure the fabric to the back of the chair. If any fabric was originally placed on the underside of the seat, attach it at this time.


If you choose to use wire to secure the buttons, twist the wire around the washers to fasten the button studs.


Use caution when pulling on the button twine to prevent the buttons from flying loose and injuring someone.

Things You'll Need

  • Staple remover
  • Chalk or marking pen
  • Upholstery fabric
  • Scissors
  • Pins
  • Staple gun with staples
  • Upholstery thread
  • Upholstery buttons
  • 2.5 cm (1 inch) washers
  • Thin twine
  • Upholstery needle
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About the Author

Kelli Nottingham has been a freelance writer for more than five years, with published works on topics ranging from international travel to home decor DIY projects. A graduate of Duke University and the University of Colorado, Nottingham holds degrees in anthropology of religion, with a focus on religious ritual. She is also a recognized professional speaker with national experience.