Recovering nailhead leather chair
December 23, 2017 1:25 PM   Subscribe

I'm buying two old nailhead chairs with torn leather upholstery. Is this something I can replace myself? I love the thick leather that marks with a fingernail from places like Saddleback, where should I get leather material?
posted by stewiethegreat to Home & Garden (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Tandy leather would probably be your best bet, looks like this is your closest one.
posted by julie_of_the_jungle at 2:06 PM on December 23, 2017

Oregon Leather has a great selection and friendly people.
posted by janell at 2:25 PM on December 23, 2017

Another option for leather is The Leather Guy. I've made multiple leather purchases from them and they're pretty nice to deal with. They've given me pointers about which leather would best suit what I'm trying to do (my ambitions are much smaller than yours: I use the leather to make journals and notebook covers. The folks at TLG have helped me pick out the right thickness of leather). Plus, like Tandy, they have 'how to' videos up on their website.

If you've never re-upholstered furniture before, you might be able to find a class or workshop near you to get lessons on how to do that.
posted by LOLAttorney2009 at 2:26 PM on December 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

If you are handy, I think you can do simple shapes. Take pictures of everything as you go. The old leather will be an approximate pattern for the replacement. Leather stretches, so you may need to trim. Ask around locally for sources of leather.
posted by theora55 at 2:39 PM on December 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

A class would be a good idea--upholstery can be tricky & is unforgiving of mistakes & shortcuts. Leather is trickier--you will need some tools you may not have, including a sewing machine that will sew leather. Many standard machines will sew garment-weight leather, depending on its thickness. Use a Teflon foot & a sewing machine needle for leather. Thick leather will require an industrial machine. You may be able to rent one. You may be able to use adhesive for some parts of the process, but upholstery almost always involves sewing by machine and/or by hand. Talk to the your leather source about other tools, like cutting tools. Like most things, there are tools that make things easier/possible that the pros know that are not generally common knowledge to the beginner.

The next part is figuring out how much leather you need--leather is usually sold in square feet/inches and will have some flaws/variations in the hides--scars, light spots, or other things. The hides don't usually come in tidy squares/rectangles, either. You will need to talk to your chosen supplier for availability of enough to do your two chairs, especially if you want them to match.

Pay close attention as you take the original leather off so you can see how corners & edges work & are attached to each other. You also might try making, as we say in apparel sewing, a 'muslin'. This is making the item in a less expensive fabric of similar weight to allow you to actually get the fit right by tweaking the pattern and seeing how the pieces fit together. Also lets you practice your techniques before launching the project with the expensive supplies.

It is possible to do a project like this, but it won't be easy. It will definitely take a lot of time and potentially a lot of money. Do a lot of research/reading on how-to do leather upholstery & sewing. If this is your first attempt at upholstery, you may want to try something with fewer possibilities for disappointment in the results.

Not seeing the chairs & depending on the look you are going for, you may be able to more easily repair the chairs if you can live with the bohemian/pirate look of patched leather. If you want the upscale 'men's club' look, re-upholstery is the way to go.
posted by Nosey Mrs. Rat at 10:45 PM on December 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

Seconding Nosey Mrs. Rat on taking an upholstery class. Yes, you can do this yourself reading books and watching You Tube, but do you want your practice to be in expensive leather? I re-upholstered a garage sale stuffed chair during an upholstery class (took me all semester), under the tutelage of a great old-school upholsterer and the chair still looks fabulous 20 years later. No way I could have achieved that on my own, the first time I tried it.
posted by sarajane at 4:05 AM on December 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

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