How to re-cover a footstool in 8 steps

Take one worn-out footstool, stained and dog-eared, and transform it into an elegant piece of furniture for the fireside. Helaine Clare shows how in her simple eight-step guide, including a full list of tools and equipment needed for the job

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The footstool by the fireside in this Queen Anne style country home is also used as a coffee table

A footstool is top of the list when it comes to versatility in the living room. It can be used as extra seating, or even as an impromptu occasional table.  Re-covering a footstool is easier than it sounds, and with so many tempting fabrics to choose from, you can tailor-make it to suit your room.

Over time joints can become loose, and the original animal glue can be incompatible with modern adhesives, so all the old glue will need to be chipped or scraped off before re-gluing and clamping. If the wood finish needs smartening up do this before tackling the upholstery. Old layers of paint and varnish can be removed with paint stripper or a hot air gun.


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1. Remove the unwanted fabric:

Begin by ‘ripping down’ or stripping off the old fabric covering and trimmings. This can be hard work and time-consuming if the previous upholsterer was over-zealous and has used an excessive number of tacks or staples to secure the fabric. Tacks are best removed with a ripping chisel or tack lifter.

2. Prise out old staples

Take out all tacks and staples. Use pincers to pull out nails and tacks that have been knocked hard into the frame. A staple remover lifts out unwanted staples. Long-nose pliers can prise out those that are difficult to reach. Now inspect the padding: add more, depending on whether a firm or soft finish is required.

3. Measure up new fabric: 

Use the discarded fabric to measure for the new upholstery. If you have added more padding then allow extra fabric to accommodate the increased depth. Lay your chosen fabric over the stool making sure it is positioned centrally and smooth out wrinkles. Secure in place with upholsterer’s skewers or pins.

4. Staple fabric to frame

Start in the middle of a long side and staple the fabric to the frame. Continue stapling from the middle but leave the corners. Do the opposite side keeping the fabric pulled tight. Pull fabric over corner to create a pleat and staple. Fix the opposite corner. Continue working from the corner towards the middle.

5. Add a decorative piping

Piping can be used to conceal fixings. Cover a piece of piping cord in fabric of your choice – a complementary colour will create a contrast. Cut lengths of fabric about 4cm wide. Strips can be joined together at an angle to create a tidy join. Pull the finished piping tight as you staple it in place.

6. Cover the bottom half

Measure and cut fabric to cover the lower part adding a 10cm turning allowance. Turn over 5cm and make a hem. Place right sides together so concealing the fixing. Staple in place against the piping. Keep the fabric pulled taut. Use pieces long enough to cover each side. Avoid bulky corners by pleating the fabric neatly.

7. Secure the underside

Turn the footstool over to fix the fabric to the underside. If you can unscrew the legs this will make the job easier. Use a piece of hessian to cover the bottom. Tack cloth to the middle of one side then pull firmly as the opposite side is secured. Repeat on other sides. Fold hessian to form corners and tack in place.

8. Add and fix some trims

For a finishing touch attach beaded trim or fringing with a glue gun. If you’ve never used a glue gun before, practise first. If in doubt attach trimmings with needle and thread or secure with gimp pins (tiny painted pins which come in a range of colours to fasten trimmings inconspicuously).

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