Chalk Paint on Fabric – Vintage Chair Upcycle Project

before and after, chalk paint, DIY, Makeover

My mother appeared with a chair a few months back that she had rescued from going onto a bonfire.  It was in a pretty bad way, with ruptured springs, very dark wood which is not really my cup of tea at the moment, and a needlepoint that had definitely seen better days.  She told me I should try and do something with it, so I chucked it into a corner and sort of ignored it!

Before collage

However, I have been itching to try the chalk paint on fabric method, so decided that this should be the guinea pig of a chair, and if it did not work it could always head back to a bonfire.  On the plus side is that it is a pretty shape, and the carvings are actually very good, so it was worth a try.  I had no idea what I was going to do with it, so started out by painting the wood of the chair and sorting out the saggy seat.  I removed the very crusty edging braid and refixed all of the underside webbing elements with my trusty staple gun.

The painting started out in a buff chalk paint, it looked OK with the needlepoint, and if I had waxed it and added dark wax into the crevices it would have been very typically shabby chic.  But I felt I should push it (and myself) more.  So I left it alone for a while and had a think.

I was looking at Jasper ware china, which has the famed white on blue or green relief, and got an idea for the chair as it had similar protruding carvings.


So I painted the flat background of the carved areas in an olive green, and then added accent olive touches elsewhere on the chair such as banding.  The chair totally changed before my eyes. I sealed the new paintwork with clear wax to protect it.

But now the needlepoint looked off against this paintwork as it was too busy against the new back of the chair colours and in real life was pretty stained, so it was time to PAINT THE FABRIC SEAT & ARM RESTS WITH CHALK PAINT…..scary!  I have seen lots of tutorials online, but doing it for the first time was a bit of a breakthrough for me.  Call it ‘virgin fabric painter syndrome’.


Firstly, always spray the area you are about to paint first with water.  It makes the fabric absorb the paint much better.

As needlepoint is made from wool, it has a raised bumpy texture, so I diluted the paint a little as well bit by dipping my brush into water first before the paint on every application, and then gently scrubbed it into the wool with circular motions.  For fiddly edge areas I used a small artists paintbrush for neatness.  I used the same olive chalk paint that I had used on the carved areas of wood. I noticed that the wool started to tighten up with the use of the water and paint, almost like it was recovering from years of sagging and stretching.

Leave the chair for at least 12 hours between coats of paint on fabric so it can dry out really well.  Coat one looked pretty bad, but coat two started to work really well so it is worth persevering. I gave it a third coat for luck too.  At this point the fabric looked pale and chalky.

Next I very gently sanded the chalk paint to reduce the ‘crunchiness’ of it.  This revealed the raised pattern even more underneath which I liked, so I kept going until it was quite distinct and looked like antique fabric.  I then applied clear wax to the fabric as a sealant.  I used a round wax brush rather than a cloth and did two coats with 12 hours between each.  I also did not buff it for 24 hours as I wanted to keep it as matt as possible.  The chalkiness of the paint vanishes with the wax and a much richer colour appears.  Amazingly, once it is sealed and thoroughly dry it does not rub off at all on clothes, plus it is waterproof as water drops sit on the wax and don’t permeate into the fabric or paint below.   It feels sort of like a sailcloth, firm and smooth.

I then applied new braid with a hot glue gun, (got a huge blister to prove it as usual!), and then used really pretty brass upholstery tacks with a flower pattern to finish it off.


So here is the final before and after:


best done

before after collage final

I have no idea what I am going to do with it and will probably pop it into a guest room somewhere for the moment, but it was an interesting experiment.  I think that different fabrics will all look individual depending on the pile and texture, but it really is a simple and easy makeover technique.


2 thoughts on “Chalk Paint on Fabric – Vintage Chair Upcycle Project

  1. Many thanks! Not sure if I would do a whole sofa in the stuff as it is a bit stiff to sit on, but I liked doing the carving details on the chair.. emma


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