How To Repair Sling Chairs and Chaises
I was so sad to see my favorite sling chaise die. After many, many years of good service, it finally succumbs to the relentless abuse of my two boys. Now, I have several other lounge chairs that I could choose for my poolside relaxing, but for some reason, I just wanted this one. So, what more is there to do than to perform an overhaul, and this is how I repair sling chairs and chaises.
- sling fabric*
- sewing machine with a leather needle* and heavyweight thread*
- measuring tape
- flathead screwdriver
- needle nose pliers
- other screwdriver bits, socket wrench, and pliers as needed
- clamp (optional but useful)
So, before you worry about any of these materials just let me go over some of these a bit.
You probably won’t find this type of fabric in your local fabric store. I wasn’t even able to get it through special orders at my favorite, and very big, fabric store. It is a specialty fabric and usually will need to be ordered online.
I bought the fabric for my first repair on eBay for about $50. That provided enough to do two chaises and two other sling chairs. So, with just two yards you should be able to easily do a chaise or two chairs.
I have since found a great slection on Amazon, inlcuding the Sunbrell brand. I am including links above to get you to where you need to go.
Regardless of where you choose to purchase your fabric, you will want to make sure that what you are getting is “Sling Fabric.” It is made of nylon and thicker and sturdier than just about anything that you have probably worked with before.
Just any old fabric will not work. 1) Because it must be able to stand up to the elements and most fabrics will degrade over time. 2) Because it needs the strength to hold a human’s weight without sagging over time.
Really, all you need to be able to do is sew a basic stitch in a straight line. You don’t need mad skills for this project. The most important thing is to have a sturdy needle. I used a leather needle, and to use heavy weight thread in polyester (or nylon if you can find it).
I would not recommend using a cotton thread, because it will degrade quickly. You can, however, use a lighter weight thread for the bobbin if your machine will not support a heavyweight bobbin thread.
Besides that, if you can cut a straight line with scissors, and if you can work a screwdriver (or socket wrench – depending on what type of screws are in your chair) you can repair sling chairs or chaises.
Now Back To – How to Repair Sling Chairs and Chaises…
So here is a before of my pitiful looking chaise, after one of my boys decided it was a better trampoline than a seat. It has definitely seen better days. It was originally a chestnut colored fabric. I am going to be replacing it with a SunSetter Sling fabric in Pecan. (To expand any image, just click on it)
To begin, I removed the stretcher bars that hold the body section in place. (Note – If you are wanting to repair a chair instead of a chaise, you will just follow the steps for the headrest section. Chairs usually do not have divided sections like a chaise will. So, feel free to skip ahead).
Mine were held with bolts that have Phillips’ heads, but other brands may need a socket wrench. Once all of the bolts are removed the lower section will come completely off of the frame and this will make it easier to maneuver.
Next, I removed all of the plugs at the ends of all the bars (both on the top section and on the section that was just removed). These can be pried off with a flat head screwdriver and a hammer. Put these and all the bolts somewhere that you won’t lose them.
After all of the plugs are removed, you can see the track inside the stretcher bars. Although you can’t see it in this image, there is plastic tubing down inside the fabric that sits inside this track.
Using the needle nose pliers, reach in and grab hold of that tubing and begin to pull it out of the fabric and the track. You may have to tug and pull hard to get it free because it has molded itself to the curves of the stretcher bars and will not want to slide easily. If the needle nose pliers do not give you enough leverage, use a larger pair to yank it out all the way.
Once that is done, do the same thing with the fabric. The fabric will slide out easier than the tubing, but it may still put up some resistance. I am using my old rusted pliers. I know they look ugly and are in serious need of some love, but they really showed the tubing and fabric who was boss.
Now, you will need to repeat the steps above for the head section, with a few exceptions. As you can see from the image above, there is a stretcher/support bar that runs across the back of this section. Unfortunately, it does not detach. (This is the same as the chairs – so pick up here if repairing a chair). If there are any bolts that connect the bottom of the head section to the frame, remove them now.
The stretcher/support bar cannot be removed on most seats, but in some chairs, you will be able to slightly and temporarily bend it enough to provide a little slack. This is where the clamp comes in. You will need to use your clamp to push the sides of the chair closer together by just a tiny bit.
Note – only do this if you absolutely need to. First, try to remove the fabric by pulling it from the tracks with the pliers. Place the clamps on either side of the support bar, and slowly apply pressure to loosen the fabric stretch. Just apply enough pressure to be able to pull the fabric from the track.
On my chaise, I was able to get it free without using the clamps, but I did try out the clamps after the fabric was removed.
Cutting and Sewing the Fabric…
It is very important to get accurate measurements for the fabric. If you get off by an inch, either way, the fabric will either sag or worse, not go on at all.
Make sure the old fabric is stretched flat. Then, use your measuring tape to take its measurements. To this add 1” on each side. For the head section, or if you are working on a chair, you can go all the way up to 1 1/2″ extra on each side, but only if that stretcher bar doesn’t have any give to it.
Next, before transferring the measurements to the new fabric, make sure that the new fabric is wrinkle-free. The slightest wrinkle can mess up the precise measurements that we want.
I used my iron set on the very lowest setting. Remember this fabric is nylon, and can and will melt very easily. If you are at all concerned about ruining the fabric or your iron, use a tea towel to protect both.
Now, let’s measure the new sections. I am using a square to make sure that the piece that I am going to cut is perfectly square. It is best to create your own raw edges, as the ones that the fabric has will be made by whoever cut the fabric for you. They undoubtedly were not concerned with getting a perfectly straight edge for you.
Work your way around the fabric, measuring and making sure that it is square. It is okay to use an ink pen on this fabric as long as it is not a ballpoint pen (which could run when it gets wet). Just make sure that you are marking on the back side of the fabric.
After marking all of the pattern’s measurements, go back and add a second line 1″ inside of the first. The outside line will now be the cutting mark, and the inside line will be the fold line.
After cutting the pieces out, fold and press the fabric along the fold line. The fabric creases pretty easily. You can use the square or the flat edge of the scissors to press the crease in place.
Once the creases are in place, it is time to stitch everything in place. Don’t concern yourself with folding the raw edge under on this project. The sling fabric will not unravel with an exposed raw edge. The most important thing is to keep a nice straight line.
You will notice how I am using the guide on my machine to visually keep a straight line. If you don’t have something like this on your machine, a piece of blue tape placed on the machine can work as a guide.
First, run two rows of stitching over the top and bottom edges of your fabric. Try to keep the spacing even and neat, because these stitches will show.
Next, begin the stitching on the sides to prepare for the tubing. Place your fabric next to whichever guideline will allow you to sew almost right on the free edge without going over it. This will leave as much room as possible for the tubing.
2) After that stitch line is complete, shift the fabric over just a bit and do a second stitch line. You will notice by my guideline that I shifted just a tad over to the next guideline. You have to make sure that there is enough space to slide that tubing back in, so just consider that when stitching your lines.
Yay! The sewing part is done. Now, we can start putting everything back together. Start by inserting the tubing back into the new channels that you just made.
Now we are ready to reassemble the sections. First, slide the lower seat section back into the tracks of the stretcher bars that were previously removed. Now, carry that section and the fabric for the head section (or entire chair section if doing a chair) and go back out to the frame.
Start by reattaching the lower stretcher bars back onto the frame, first. I had eight bolts on mine. However, make sure that you just loosely attach these bolts at first. You don’t want to tighten them down just yet.
Notice how my bolts still have a lot of tightening left to do. If you try to tighten one side completely and then go to the other side, you will find that it just won’t reach. So, just attach each bolt enough to hold everything in place.
Then after all of the bolts are in place, you can begin to tighten them down. This will stretch the fabric tight. If you measured correctly on your pattern, it should be nice and tight.
Now, it is time to do the head section (or the chair if that is what you are working on). Begin by sliding the tubing covered fabric into the tracks from the bottom of the section. You want to begin as far away from the stretcher bar as possible.
Then, pull the fabric up and through the track. You will probably need to shift from side to side, pulling a small bit on each to work it back in place. It may take some strong tugging to get the fabric to cooperate, but as long as the measurements are accurate, you should be able to maneuver it in small increments.
Notice how the fabric is very loose at the bottom but tight at the top where the stretcher/support bar is located. The bottom is loose because my chaise had bolts on either side. I had previously detached the right side bolt to give more slack in the fabric. Once I tightened the bolts, it all pulled in tight.
If you are having a hard time getting the fabric to go all the way back to the top of the head section, you can use the clamp to push it in just a bit just as you did to remove the fabric.