Introduction: Jean Chair.

This is a project that recycles an old chair from the dump, old clothes, (jeans / flannel shirts, shirts from the rag bag), foam wrapping, Styrofoam packing sheets, old pillows that we would just put in the garbage.

Idea behind the project.

I wanted to cover and restore some swivel seats (originally from the dump) that I had in my workshop they had no foam or covering just the wood base. I had no furniture foam or wadding for padding so I scrounged around and came across some thin wrapping foam and flat Styrofoam as well as an old pillow.

If you had an old yoga or exercise mat or any type of soft packing foam sheets you could consider those and make it work.

If the chair is in good shape you can just use cloth tape on any rips and concentrate on the jean finish or embellish the padding with one layer of foam/ pillow wadding and cover with the final jean or fabric finish.


1. Swivel Chair

2. Old pair of jeans - I used stretch denim from a retired pair of jeans with ripped upper inseam/crotch even a flannel shirt may be good - doing the seat with jean and the shirt for backrest.

3. Padding - Foam -Wrapping Foam, Styrofoam and an old wadding pillow (even if it is yellowed on the outside you will find the interior is usually pretty clean, and they are often treated with an antibacterial from the factory.)

4. Hobby Stapler and/or electric stapler(electric comes in handy when thickness increases and you need longer staples)

5. Staples 6mm, 8mm, 12mm heights. You will end up using a lot of staples depending on material thickness as you build layers

6. Stanley knife , blades and good sharp scissors.

7. Clamps - 2 simple clamps to keep things in place.

8. Small flat screwdriver to undo unwanted staples

9. Pliers to remove unwanted staples

10. Hammer to pound in staples that did not go all the way home.

11. Double sided tape for for foam initial layer.

Step 1: Base Padding

The objective of this layer is so that you do not feel either the nuts or hardware/screw bumps when sitting on the chair. Its ok if the foam is stiff because subsequent layers will give more cushioning.

Padding over the screw /bolt attachments on the chair. I used some thin Styrofoam recovered from some furniture packing - it can be 3mm + in thickness as long as it has a little flex to follow the wood contours. Using a few strips of double sided tape you can fix it to the wood base then using a sharp blade angle trim the edge to give it a nice transition.

Optionally soft eva yoga/ exercise mat or packing foam can be used for this step. If you notice that the embedded nuts are still obvious use a sharp blade to skim the excess over the top of the nuts to remove the lumps.


Be careful if you use contact glue as some foams and sponges react to the chemicals and melt.

Step 2: Thin Flexible Foam Layers.

Usually if you had the upholstery sponge or foam you would need less layers but using this thin packing foam from old furniture you will need multiple layers( I used 3). Cut a piece of foam bigger than the size of the seat by a min of 20cm. Try and use undamaged areas as these can be a little delicate and prone to rips - I was using 2/3mm foam anything less may not work - you can test the foam that you have by folding it over itself 2 or 3 times - if gives a good amount of support and sponginess/rebound than it should be ok. If you have thicker foam than you will need less layers.


1. Using 6mm staples. Avoid being aggressive when tensioning the foam as it can tear, if this happens just use some packing tape to patch the tear.

2. Flip the chair upside down with the foam in place onto a table or another chair. Keep the staples 5mm from the edge as it allows successive layers to be overlapped and stapled directly into fresh wood. Anchor the first side with 3 or 4 staples then staple the opposite side with 3 or 4 staples - keep light tension to keep the layer taught without ripping the foam or causing the foam to shear from the staples. then do the same on the top and bottom edges. It is not a problem if the foam seems to float above the wood base as once the wadding is added the whole thing will be compressed.

3. Finish by stapling the corners and folding the foam and stapling over the the fold - keeping a consistent tension as you staple each area. Now using a sharp blade cut all the excess foam about 1cm from the staple line to give a nice finish. If needed use the 8mm staples if they wont go in.

4. Continue to add layers and stapling in place and trimming - I did 3 layers. You can sit on the seat and test as you go to see if it's comfortable and add layers as needed.

Step 3: Pillow Wadding.

Once you have opened up your old pillow you will find that the wadding is stitched or glued together. Try and separate the wadding into layers of the same thickness weeding out any clumps as these will be felt as bumps in the final padding. You can also use thinned out repair patches to fill in any missing wadding.

Stretch and staple the wadding in place on the back of the panel as you did with the foam and remove any excess beyond 1 cm of your staples.

You can add extra wadding in the under the central area before stapling the complete wadding layer just remember to taper the edges of the added wadding to avoid bumps. You can also stretch your jean or finish cloth - holding it by hand to ensure that the finish will be smooth and add wadding patches as needed.

Step 4: Adding the Jean Finish.

Cut the jeans to make a flat panel. I cut the legs along the raised seam keeping the flatter seam in place. The seat is cut through the front zipper - leave some of the leg 10cm at least as this will give you more material to play with if needed.You may find that your jean panel may be too small for the entire seat area. I used a leg panel to and stapled this in place before adding the larger seat panel with pockets. You could also fill the gap with a t-shirt/ flannel and match it to the backrest.


1. Add lots off tension in the finishing if you used 2 panels as these panels are only secured on 3 sides.

2. You be more aggressive with these final layers - use the taller 12mm staples to go through the multiple layers under the chair.

3. The Belt area can actually take a lot of tension and if you can position it just on the rear curve of the chair it will anchor in better and not move. I used the clamps at this stage to get a good centralized position before really pulling it hard and stapling.

4. After adding your initial staples don't be afraid to add additional tension or remove staples as you adjust the panel to centralize the pockets and center seam.

5. Once the panel is positioned and the pockets are even you can go to town with the staples trimming with a knife the excess material and folding under and stapling it for a nice finish.

Step 5: Afterthoughts and Your Own Fun Version.

Maybe doing the seat with jean and a flannel shirt for backrest would be cool, or even your favorite printed t-shirt would be great for the backrest and seat transition. I am sure you know the t-shirt that I am talking about and I urge you to recycle it if it has any of the following attributes :

* a tiny moth hole on the back shoulder

* one you got at that concert with friends and your other half hates

* a bbq stain that your mom has tried to bleach out but remains stained

* your partner threatens to convert it into a dust rag every time it's washed

* the shirt that always provokes the question just as your about to head out somewhere "Are you wearing that?".

Take the opportunity to immortalize that item and make your partner happy.

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