Measuring a Simple Chair Seat – determining fabric requirement for re-covering

10' fiberglass tape measure

Here’s how to measure your seat to determine how much fabric to buy:

10' fiberglass tape measure

Begin with a flexible tape measure

If you don’t have a flexible tape measure, you can use a string instead – measure your final string length on a yardstick or carpenter’s tape.

diagram showing where to measure your chair seat

Repeating pattern allowance:
If you choose a fabric with a repeating pattern, you will need to purchase additional yardage so that you can place the pattern on your piece for a balanced ‘look’.  Be sure there is a full pattern repeat that can be centered on the top surface with enough to wrap around and staple to the seat base. Here is a basic guide for 54″ or 44″ fabric bolt width:

About the Author

CarlaHey there! I'm Carla Pyle. I love the stories that our furniture tells. For me a picture of my Granddaddy Milton's green upholstered arm chair brings to mind the vivid rhymes & colors of 'The Cat in the Hat' and his soft low voice in the telling. I love too that there is always an element of nature in furniture - the warm-toned curving grain of a walnut leg or the reflection of life in a mid-century chrome piece. The best part of teaching & sharing natural upholstery is that it ties all of these things together. Stories - of individual experience and of the planet - help us build happy & healthy homes.View all posts by Carla →

  1. Susan PrevasSusan Prevas05-21-2016

    Hi, I am Susan. i have a collection of old furniture from grandparents and parents, and friends. I love that I can work to coordinate with pillows and mats.
    We are recovering dining seats. My question is I have 5 chairs and according to your advice I add 4 inches to length and width, so that makes each seat cover 24 x 28 inches.
    So for 5 chairs and a table runner 52 inches long and 24 inches wide…how much fabric do I need. I picked out something that is paisley with a vertical repeat but I don’t think it really matters because it is a busy print. I don’t know how the wide the bolt is…I will find out this week. but I could use your help with figuring out the total needed. Thanks, Susan

  2. Carla PyleCarla Pyle06-26-2016

    Hi Susan,
    Standard upholstery fabric width is 54″ – half of 54″ is 27″. The 4″ addition to width & length is a rough estimate, and meant to give lots of extra ‘wiggle room’, so I would say you would be safe to make your seat covers 27 x 27 inches, which would allow fitting 2 chair widths across one 54″ width of fabric. If you do this, then you will need 3 x 27, or 81″ of fabric for your 5 chairs, and you would end up with a 27 x 27 piece left over. Sometimes drawing out a map of the fabric helps me visualize how the pieces fit.

    I hope this helps,

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