Reupholstered old cane-back rocking chair

The other day, Sam found not one of these beauties, but two!  They were a great yard sale find.  The woman selling them had begun the process of refurbishing, but I think got a bit stuck on how to reupholster these guys.  After all, gaping holes for the seat and back can be a bit intimidating.  I know I was scratching my head…..the seat would be an easy fix, just needed to cut some plywood to shape and cover it with foam and fabric.  But, the back was a bit of a conundrum….it had beautiful curvature that would in no way lend itself to the rigors of plywood.  Hmmmmmm??????  What to do?  Whelp, after a Google search, I discovered that my fav folks over at Young House Love had already researched and discovered the solution!  Thank God!! The solution….heavy cardboard (never woulda guessed that one in a million years!)


So, after I found my cardboard, the first step was accurate measuring…enter the computer paper and tape!  I love projects that have solutions which amaze you with their simplicity.


(BTW, as you can see, the other rocker already had a cool antique white finish…pretty cool.) After I felt confident about my homemade template…I was onto the cardboard.


Ok, this is an example of Everything I Need to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten….if you can trace, you are golden.  Then hit it with the razor blade.


Important!  You will need two backs for one rocker….One is for covering with two layers of batting and then your fabric for the front.  The other piece is for only covering with fabric and attaching to the back of the chair.  “Why does cardboard work?,” you may say.  Whelp, once you staple and tack the covered cardboard all the way around, nice and secure to the wood frame of the rocker, you have got nice, strong tension (and it works, cuz you don’t sit on the back of chairs…unless you are one of my boys of course 🙂 )


This is the back of the chair….aka just cardboard and fabric.  Oh, and you’re gonna love this one: my luscious fabric was from curtains rescued from Sam’s mother’s hair salon.  Nice recycling, right?


As you can see, on the front, I used two layers of batting under the fabric.  Just enough to make it a bit plush.  And the brass upholstery tacks were so easy to use!  Now onto the seat….


In order to get the unique shape of the seat, I simply flipped the chair over and busted out some more of my excellent tracing skills.  I then measured an inch all the way around before I cut-out my template….that way there was a good lip around for screwing in my new seat once it was upholstered.


Bustin’ out my tracing skills again before I hit the wood with a saw. (BTW you can totally make out the one inch allowance I talked about before.)


Cutting was a cinch!  Quick note, though: because my plywood wasn’t deep enough for my seat template to fit….I cut out my seat shape in two pieces, and then I attached them quickly with staples before upholstering and screwing it down.


These were the short pieces I attached for the far back portion of the seats (if you haven’t noticed by now, I was working on two chairs at once–a brown and a cream).  It worked beautifully, and I was stoked that I was able to use wood I had just laying around instead of running out for more.  Of course, you can bypass this step if you have wood that is the right measurement….I just love being the Queen of Make-do 🙂

After my plywood seat was ready, I again used my tracing skills to cut a piece of foam to complete the seat.  After gluing the foam in place on the wood, wrapping it with my fabric secured by staples and then screwing the seat into place, the rocker was looking good!


She is lookin’ nice!


And she sold in less than a week at Zoey’s Home Consignments….now I’m bustin’ out the antique white rocker with a blue, green n’ white stripe fabric (aka a cotton shower curtain being recycled…tee-hee).

Thanks for checkin’ in!



Comments 6

  1. Great job on the rocker! Do you mind if I ask how much you asked for it?? Thinking about doing a similar project to resale.

    1. Thanks for the props 🙂 Yes, this rocker sold quickly at $179…of which we profited 50% since we put our things in consignment stores right now. I am confident that it could have sold for more in a larger city, too. Good luck in your endeavors…and have FUN! ~Chanda

  2. First, I love the project of course, second – I do love reading the descriptions for your DIYs, here: ‘tracing skills’ motif got me cracking up :):) And of course thx for clear and very informative instructions.

    1. Hahaha….THANKS! I’m so glad to hear that someone out there “gets” me! So great! Of course, my main hope is that my descriptions are clear and anyone can follow along….but, seriously, there is nothin’ like knowing you have made people laugh! ~Chanda

      1. That’s right, your DIYs are very clear and written without an inch of ‘look at me – I’m so important crafter’ cause for a seriously prolific craft person this could be the case. I’m new to blogging (nearly a month old :0) and simply love the fact that you can communicate so easily with people around the globe.

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