Lessons Learned – French Button Back Chair (FBBC)


Some of you asked some good questions about the re-upholstery process for the French Button Back Chair (FBBC), So, the purpose of this post is a final wrap up of the project.  I want to answer some questions you asked as well as present some lessons learned.


The finished chair


1. Before you cut any fabric for your new upholstery project, divide your furniture into distinct panels. When working on this project, I divided the chair into 7 panels.  The inner 4 panels consisted of the seat, back, left and right sides.  The outer 3 panels consisted of the left and right sides as well as the back panel.  Dividing the chair into sections makes the project less overwhelming and you can more precisely cut your fabric to the specified panel.

2. Someone asked how I attached the panels on the outer sides and back.  Great question. I used a tack band (a thin cardboard strip that’s attached with staples to the frame) in some areas. Such as those outer panels on the front left and right.  I also stitched together panels in advance, after measuring them for a proper fit.  Rather than taking an entire blog post that talks about how I did it for this chair – I am going to refer you to the book by Amanda Brown entitled Spruce. Chapters 23 through 26 address how to attach different panels of fabric for a sofa. The same method was applied to this chair.

3. Have a clear plan for where you want to have seams and trim. I learned the hard way – these seams should line up with the wooden frame. Ideally you will know where you want the trim and seams to be located before you start cutting and attaching the new fabric.


The wooden frame of the chair


Trim details on the chair


4. Don’t be afraid to mess up.  It’s only fabric, time and some staples.  Worst-case, you simply have to attach that panel over again.  Or maybe three times . .   Anyway, practice makes perfect.

5. Sometimes it’s easier to use the staple gun to temporarily tack fabric into place.  Using a handful of staples in strategic locations allows you to see how the fabric could/will fit.  It allows you to see if you have enough fabric.  It also allows you the opportunity to trim any excess fabric off in advance of securing it permanently to the furniture frame.  By way of example, I temporarily stapled the feedback onto the back of the chair to ensure the lettering was straight and to see where I needed additional fabric for the sides. So I temporarily put 2 or 3 staples on the top, 2 or 3 on the bottom and 2 on each side.  Then, when I was ready to sew hemp fabric to the feedsack, I removed those temporary staples from the feedsack to finish the process.  It’s easier to get measurements and understand where the seams need to be if the fabric is temporarily attached to the chair.


Back of the chair


6. Be. patient.  This type of project takes time.  It’s better to set a clock for a specified amount of time (such as 2 hours) and then put your tools away.  Don’t try to forge ahead when you are tired or frustrated.  This was the most difficult lesson for me to learn because I like to get things done.  Having unfinished projects makes me nuts.  However, it’s better to have a project that takes longer to complete yet have it be better craftsmanship when it’s done.

7. Put the dust cover on.  This should go without saying.  However, I have been known for forgetting to sometimes put the dust cover on.  It’s an important but small step that really finishes a project. The dust cover, is the black thin fabric you find on the underside of furniture.


Dust cover


That sums up lessons learned and questions asked.  I hope you feel inspired to go out and tackle a project.  It may take time, energy and some resources but the results are definitely worth it.


The finished chair

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