How to fix a ripped seam in a vinyl chair cushion cover, or The Little Tailorette

If you are stubborn like me and you’re in a bad mood, fixing something you thought you couldn’t fix is a great way to make yourself feel better although, as Kimberly noted in her comment, if you don’t succeed it can backfire and make you feel worse, so use your own judgement about whether it’s a good time mentally to tackle something you might not succeed at.

But if you’re ready to tackle a ripped seam in a vinyl chair cushion, here’s what you’ll need:

  • A screwdriver to remove the screws that hold the cushion to the chair frame
  • A small flat head screwdriver or similar tool to dig out the staples
  • A pair of pliers to pull the staples out once you’ve loosened them
  • A darning needle
  • Extra strong thread
  • A staple gun with staples, smallish

 

Chair with ripped seam in seat cushion
The challenge

And if you’re stupid like me and fail to make the connection that when your dad gave you your first jackknife and admonished you to NEVER cut towards yourself he also meant NEVER point a screwdriver you’re using to gouge out staples with one hand towards your other hand, you’ll also need some neosporin and  a couple of bandaids (sorry Daddy).

gouge on wrist
Ouch

Turn the chair over so you can see the bottom of the cushion and figure out how the cushion’s attached to the chair frame. On mine, I could clearly see four flat head screws.

Chair, upside down
Turn the chair over

Take out the screws. A good way to do this is to put the chair upside down with its seat on a sturdy table (like restaurants do when they clean). Put the frame aside.

Investigate the cushion construction. Mine had a vinyl cover that had been stretched over the wood and foam and stapled on, and then a layer of piping that had been stapled on top of that.

Two separate layers - cover and piping

Take all the staples out. If you have a top layer (like the piping) do that first and then the next layer.

First, use a screwdriver to loosen the staple

This is harder than it sounds. Maybe there’s some kind of upholsterer’s staple remover that would make this easier (if there is let me know) but I found that if you can get one corner of a flat head screwdriver underneath and kind of jigger it up a bit, you can then grab it with pliers and pull.

Then pull with pliers

And trust me – the one time you forget and use one hand to brace the cushion while you tackle a sticky staple with the other hand, the screwdriver will slip, so please don’t do this. Mine had almost a quarter cup of staples in it. This is staple overkill.

1/4 measuring cup with staples
Staple overkill

Take the cover off by peeling it back and turning it inside out. You might have to stretch it a bit.

Turn the cover inside out as you peel it off

Thread your needle, double the thread, and knot. Use the existing holes – it’s much easier than trying to poke a needle through four layers of vinyl. I used a modified running stitch, coming through and going around one and a half times before moving on to the next hole, which I have tried to diagram here:

 

diagram of stitching
How I stitched the seam

I don’t think it matters that much which stitch you use but I would definitely not skimp on the number of stitches – you probably don’t want to have to do this again in six months or a year.

Row of stitching
I used a modified running stitch

When you’re done, knot securely, turn the cover right side out, and put it back on the cushion. Whatever sequence you used to remove the staples, follow it in reverse with new staples (I did the cover first and the went back around with the piping).

Staple gun on chair seat
Back together, in reverse

Screw your cushion back on to the chair frame and – as Daddy used to say – VWOLLER.

 

Chair, mended
All done!

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