Reupholstery and choosing a fabric

When my grandmother died nearly twenty years ago I was given the little chair that had always been in her guest room and that she herself had upholstered many, many years ago with Sanderson’s Chelsea fabric (she also made a matching headboard and Lloyd Loom laundry basket top). After moving around with me from home to home the upholstery on my precious chair has finally fallen apart. It is my 40th birthday next month so I thought a perfect present would be to get the chair re-upholstered to give it many more years of life.

I have found a local to me upholsterer Sharp & Simpson so Micaela and her team will do the upholstery but I have decided to source the fabric myself. Now, if we had an unlimited budget sourcing fabric would be a very lovely task BUT all of the fabrics that I like best are soooo expensive and the chair requires 3 metres of the stuff! Therefore, I thought I’d share some of the fabrics and stockists that I have been looking at as I know it is something that can prove to be a minefield. A couple of tips I will also offer are, firstly, do always, always order fabric samples. The two things that you need to be sure of and can check with samples are the texture of the fabric and scale of the print. The scale, in particular, will have a huge impact on which fabric you choose for which project. And secondly, try and find an image of the fabric on a chair, cushions or curtains to help you visualise it as a 3D object.

My grandmother’s chair that she upholstered in Sanderson’s Chelsea fabric sixty plus years ago. It used to be in our bedroom in our last flat and it was a bit tattered but still looked lovely but when we moved I put it on Mimi’s room and it got wrecked!

I would say that I have always found fabrics and textiles a stumbling block for me price wise especially when hand printed and made on small print runs. It is very hard to replicate beautiful textiles on the cheap, which is what I try to do with a lot of other aspects of an interior. So what I advise is to use nice plain fabrics (generally much, much cheaper) for large pieces such as sofas and curtains and maybe save up to buy one metre of an amazing print to make a couple of cushions, a lampshade, adding an edge or hem to a pair of curtains, a footstool or tablecloth.

I feel very lucky to be able to get my chair done and it is currently in our living room but I am prone to moving furniture around often and it is a perfectly sized bedroom chair so I want to choose a fabric that will work in any room. That being said I do want to choose a pattern for the chair as we have lots of plain fabrics in our house and I want to slowly build up more prints.

The chair now sits where this cane rocker was (I had to return the rocker as it broke shortly after buying it) so it sits on quite a busy rug but otherwise the only colours it needs to work with are Light Blue (on the woodwork) and Railings (in the kitchen).

The two prints that I am drawn to most are William Morris & Co’s Willow Boughs and Guy Goodfellow’s Olive Sacking in Rosewood. I think both would work really well in the room and the other colours/patterns and they are also very classic so the chair could move around rooms pretty easily.

Guy Goodfellow’s Olive Sacking

The Olive Sacking stripe is too expensive at £80 per metre so I found a cheaper alternative from The Cloth Shop, which is an Oxford Stripe, and it is double width so would cost about £50 for three metres. I ordered a sample and it is really lovely quality but I don’t love it as the fabric doesn’t have much texture and I think I’ll be disappointed with the final result. Therefore, I feel more inclined to go with the Willow Boughs as I have loved that print forever and I know I will never bore of it.

Some of the other traditional fabrics I considered are relatively traditional as it is a very old chair.

And then the way out of price range more modern block prints from Virginia White, Molly Mahon, Penny Morrison, Mimi Pickard and Rapture and Wright.

Virginia White – Three Lines
Virginia White’s Three Lines as seen in Laura Jackson’s home featured on The Modern House. Love, love, love these chairs. I really like the idea of salvaging an old sofa or chair and getting them covered in something gorgeous and classic like this.
Rapture and Wright – Cloud Garden
Molly Mahon – Bindi Pink. This chair looks so sweet but I definitely want something bolder in my living room as it’s an open plan room and I reckon this light print would get lost.

The fabric libraries can be so overwhelming with thousands and thousands of fabrics to choose from so do check out Pattern Spy for more inspiration and introductions to designers. If you know of any fabrics that you think would work on my chair do drop me a line too!

Katy x



  1. Longdenlife
    24th September 2020 / 2:39 pm

    I also feel overwhelmed looking at fabric too – especially when I am open to ideas about whether its stripes, botanical prints etc, there’s just too much choice sometimes. I have also been putting off choosing a wallpaper with a bold pattern for our utility room as I dont have any set ideas about colour or a pattern!

    • katy
      30th September 2020 / 1:41 pm

      Samples, samples and more samples is my advice as well as googling images to see what the fabric/wallpaper looks like in situ. But yes, it can definitely be overwhelming. Got to hope something just jumps out at you sometimes xx

      • Longdenlife
        30th September 2020 / 2:01 pm

        Thank you!

  2. Alexis
    26th September 2020 / 8:28 am

    Haines collection is a good place to pick up expensive prints cheaper… I also have a chair from my granny and have just bought 3 metres of ray nesfield liberty print to cover it… got it on eBay so so cheaper but sill £50 a metre, saving for the upholstery bit now!!

    • katy
      30th September 2020 / 1:39 pm

      Oh yes, I had a look there – really good to know about! Good luck with your granny’s chair; definitely worth the saving xx

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