DIY Antique needlework chair protectors

In our home we have several pieces of antique furniture, some inherited, some purchased, and some received as gifts.   They are among my favorite belongings, because they add a timeless character to our everyday activities.  My dining room set is particularly special to me, because it was handed down to me from my grandmother, who was a teenager in 1941 when the dining set was purchased.  My great grandmother Dora made the needlepoint seat covers herself.

Since we don’t have a kitchen table, our dining set gets plenty of use, and I began to worry about spills and stains ruining the delicate wool seats.  This worry increased after we brought home our new kitten last month, as cats are known to relish in the destruction of precious home furnishings.

So I decided to find seat covers that would protect the needlepoint without obscuring it, by applying the plastic covers that are ubiquitous in the homes of ladies from previous generations.  The trouble was that the only option seemed to be going to a professional upholsterer and the work could cost up to $50 per seat ($50 x 6 chairs = $300 total).  This was not an option for me so I decided to make the chair covers myself out of easy to obtain materials, and accomplished the task for about $26.  Here’s how I did it.

You will need two clear vinyl shower curtain liners and a box of thumb tacks ($12.99 per liner x 2 = $24 + $1.99 for tacks), as well as a hammer and screw driver.

Start with a chair.


Flip over the chair and remove the seat cushions by unscrewing the screws that attach it to the chair frame.  Vacuum the chair cushion with an upholstery brush to get all the dust and crumbs hiding in it.  On a clean work surface spread out one of the clear vinyl shower curtain liners.  If it has creases from being folded, throw the vinyl liner in the dryer for 10 minutes on medium low heat.  It doesn’t have to be totally free of creases however, because we’re going to stretch it out, so don’t worry if it isn’t perfectly smooth.  Lay your cushion down near one corner of the vinyl liner.


First, pull the liner over the front edge of the seat, beyond the needlepoint’s edge, and fold it over into a little hem, then secure it with a thumb tack.  Use the hammer to smack it down if the thumb tack resists going into the wood.


Then fold the other side of the liner down over the back edge of the seat, then cut away the excess liner from the top.


Pull the liner tightly over the back edge of the seat, beyond the needlepoint’s edge, and fold it over into a little hem, then secure it with a thumb tack, hammering it in if needed.


Next pull the liner tightly on one side, beyond the needlepoint’s edge, and fold it over into a little hem, and secure it with a thumb tack, hammering it in if needed.


Trim the excess liner away on the other side, pull tightly, then secure with a tack.


Securing the corners is a bit tricky.  You’ll need to pull and fold the liner over to keep the top of the cushion free from wrinkles, and secure with one or more tacks.  Also you’ll want to keep in mind where the screw holes are that the chair frame screws into (see the yellow arrows).  Don’t cover the screw holes with the folded liner, or you won’t be able to reattach the cushion to the chair frame.  Trust me, it’s no fun.


Repeat on all corners until the liner is pulled tight on each side.  Trim away any excess liner.  This doesn’t have to be pretty because nobody will see it.


If you flip your cushion over, the liner should be tight on each side, with no excess liner, bulges or gaps.


Reattach the cushion to the chair frame.  The screws may resist going through the liner, but remain calm and force those little bastards in there.


You now have a chair cushion that is impervious to spills and stains.



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