My New Old Wingback Chair

My father-in-law's favorite wingback chair

My father-in-law’s favorite wingback chair

My husband and I recently inherited a family heirloom. My father-in-law, who passed away in September, had a favorite chair that had seen better days. This is the story of its loving rejuvenation.

Like me, Warren was a gardener. Before he retired, he taught high school agriculture, horticulture and floriculture for many years.  He was so proud of me when I obtained my certification as an MSU Extension Master Gardener five years ago.

I wanted to honor this bond by reupholstering his chair with a gardening theme.  Combined with my current fascination with text fabric,  the idea for a gardening phrase upholstery fabric was born.

I gathered 22 favorite quotes, downloaded some gorgeous script fonts, and set to work with Photoshop.

“He who plants a garden plants happiness.”
“Every blade of grass has its angel that bends over it and whispers ‘Grow, grow.'”
“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”
 “He who plants a tree plants hope.”
“From tiny acorns mighty oaks grow.”
“Leave room in the garden for angels to dance.”
“Life began in a garden.”
“Show me your garden and I shall tell you who you are.”
“How lovely the silence of growing things.”
“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.”
“Gardening is an instrument of grace.”
“All things grow with love.”
“Adopt the pace of nature; her secret is patience.”
“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.”
“At the heart of gardening, there is a belief in the miraculous.”
“If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden.”
“The hum of bees is the voice of the garden.”
“In all things of nature there is something marvelous.”
“We may think we’re nurturing our garden, but of course it’s our garden who is really nurturing us.”
The fabric I designed with gardening phrases

The fabric I designed with gardening phrases – click to enlarge.

I saved the file as a high resolution jpeg and had the fine folks at Spoonflower print up eight yards on heavy cotton twill. I can’t say enough about the fast, friendly service at Spoonflower!  I think they had skeptics like me in mind with their inexpensive swatch option and even a 171-color hex-coded chart to assure me that my beige background would indeed turn out beige.

I’ve done re-upholstery before, so I had all the tools and, probably most importantly, the required audacity.  But as I wasn’t sure there wasn’t some trick for wingbacks, I consulted the internet. Found this great series on YouTube by M J Amsden Furniture.

Believe me:

  • remove each piece of old upholstery in the correct order
  • save it
  • label it
  • keep notes about what came off when, and how it had been affixed.

The removed pieces will serve as patterns for cutting your new fabric, and your careful notes can be used in reverse order when you are ready to start building back up.

Hundreds of staples later (not to mention yards of batting and plenty of malbec),
I couldn’t be happier with the results. I like to think Warren’s angel settles there once in a while, to warm himself by the fire and look out upon my garden.


The finished chair

P.S. If you like the fabric I designed, it’s available for purchase on Spoonflower at