Best way to change the fabric color on a wool-upholstered office chair?
April 19, 2007 4:45 PM   Subscribe

Dyeing or sewing? What's the most practical way to change the color of 100% wool fabric from red to black, when the fabric is upholstery on the seat & back cushions of a large office chair?

The chair in question is an Ikea Joakim in red. (I got it free so I couldn't choose the color.) I want to change it from red to black. I haven't dyed fabric since I was a kid, so consider me a beginner.

Thanks for all ideas, about dyes and/or about how to do this. (In the bathtub? If so, does the tub need protection?) There's no outdoor space I can easily get the chair to.

I'm also open to sewing as an alternative to dyeing, but I'm a beginner at sewing too and making a covering that exactly fits rounded, oddly-shaped seat cushions might be beyond me.
posted by allterrainbrain to Home & Garden (11 answers total)
Are the pads where the fabric is removable or are you thinking of dyeing it while still on the chair? Your comment "There's no outdoor space I can easily get the chair to" confuses me. Reupholstering the pads would be super easy if they're sewing involved. You just turn the pad over and see how the fabric is attached, and then remove it as use it as a template to cut your new fabric to size, and then nip and tuck and reattach via staple gun or glue or what-have-you.

So do the padded parts come off?
posted by iconomy at 5:00 PM on April 19, 2007

I'm having an impossible time seeing the details in the picture. Have you made any attempts yet to take it apart to see if you can remove the fabric without destroying the chair? Some chairs can be re-done with just a staple gun and no sewing, if the fabric is attached to some plywood and then set into the chair base. I'd look into that first. Given that most Ikea stuff is easy to assemble, it should be easy to disassemble too.

On preview, what iconomy said. Clearly, I wasted too much time trying to get a better picture online.
posted by saffry at 5:03 PM on April 19, 2007

My personal experience with fabric dyes leads me to say that if you like this chair and want to use it, avoid fabric dyes. Sometimes they work and only stick to the fabric, other times they get on anything and everything that touches them.

What I would do is figure out how to get the fabric panel off then do what iconomy and saffry mention with the staple gun and fabric.
posted by 517 at 6:15 PM on April 19, 2007

If you do decide to dye the fabric check out here:
Search under dying wool- if you use a specific dye made for that fabric you shouldn't have any problems with the color migrating later.

I'd definitely try just taking the chair apart and using the pieces as a template for new material as the other posters have suggested.
posted by Mamapotomus at 7:16 PM on April 19, 2007

Wool is usually dye friendly...the worry would probably be shrinking it (bad). See the Dye It Black FAQ if you can get the cushions off and decide to try dye.
posted by anaelith at 7:22 PM on April 19, 2007

Or, for the lazy, college student approach: color it in with a black sharpie! It will take an OCD-like effort, but surely it's easier than actually removing the cushions and dying the fabric?
posted by nursegracer at 7:43 PM on April 19, 2007

Thanks for the replies so far -- the pads are not removable in any way I can see, so what I was asking is how to change the color while the pads are still on the chair. (I actually think the Sharpie idea is great and I've now tried that on the back corner of the seat and I will report back re. whether it works [whether it will stay without transfering to other fabrics, after it's had plenty of drying time]).
posted by allterrainbrain at 8:08 PM on April 19, 2007

Update: it looks like Sharpie isn't colorfast enough for other fabrics to rub on it. However, since the pads' edges can be slightly pulled up to make a little gap (if you pull hard), a possible non-sewing fabric solution would be to cut pieces of black Lycra or other stretchy cloth a little bigger than the pad surfaces, then attach their edges under the gaps with fabric glue?
posted by allterrainbrain at 2:52 AM on April 20, 2007

Yes, try that! I think it might be a mistake to use sharpie or any kind of dye, actually. If the fabric ever got slightly damp, or you had slightly damp clothing on, there would be some transfer. Even the room being too humid could do it. Another bad thing about the dye is that some of it will get into the padding under the fabric, and the chair will either never totally dry, or that sunken in dye will be waiting to get all over your nicest clothes at the most inopportune time.

Another idea - fabric paint. It's actually pretty effective, and you can find it at any sewing or craft store and tons of places online. It won't sink into each fiber like dye does, it will coat the fibers. But it has lots of benefits - dries fast, doesn't rub off, neat. Worth a shot.
posted by iconomy at 5:53 AM on April 20, 2007

I'd try harder to get it apart. It got assembled, it can be disassembled. I once reupholstered the arms of an office chair (and repadded them--the padding was shot). If you can get it apart it's simple to just buy new fabric, and it's easy to put it together when you took it apart.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 9:17 PM on April 20, 2007

I'm going with black fabric stretched and attached under the edges of the pads.

(I'm reasonably sure this chair's not meant to be user-disassembled -- I've tried putting a lot of pressure on the pads & their edges from all angles, both pulling up & sliding.)

Thanks everybody!
posted by allterrainbrain at 12:53 PM on April 21, 2007

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