Before & After: Quilted Director’s Chair DIY Project

The director’s chair is a lightweight folding chair, commonly found with a wooden frame and canvas seating. Gold Metal Camp Furniture company introducted the modern American style director’s chair in 1892.

My grandma gave me my first director’s chair when I was in college. I think it had belonged to my uncle in the 80s. It had red canvas and I loved it. I got rid of it before a big move out of state and have always missed it.

After seeing Arianna’s chair makeover on her Instagram page, I instantly knew I needed a quilted director’s chair of my own.

When ‘Make it Work’ Doesn’t Work

Part 1: The Chair

The first director’s chair I came across seemed a bit under the weather. I love a good opportunity for a ‘make it work’ moment, so I brought the dang thang home (mistakenly) assuming it would be an easy to fix replace the janky hardware. After a little time with the Dremel and more than one trip to the hardware store, this project was on a one-way trip to the WIP-wormhole.


Perfection is not something I strive for. Obsession is something I’m plagued by. Time is something…so I don’t really know what time is yet, but my inner being started yelling at me that I didn’t need to spend any more of my time on a broken chair.

Infuriated by this defeat I licked my wounds by heading back to the neighborhood thrift store which proved fruitful once more. This time I inspected the chair and found it in acceptable working condition for $10. I think there is an opportunity in there for me learn something about myself – why did I insist on putting time, energy, and money into the first chair instead of patiently waiting for the right chair to come along?

Part 2: The Panel

It’s just a rectangle, how hard can it be? I found an orphan patchwork piece that was long and skinny. I held it up to the chair and the width was just right. Let me tell you that eyeballing the measurements for the seat back was another not great move on my end.

I used this shiny Glide thread to echo the pointy triangles. It is very Rumpelstiltskin and looks so luxurious with the dense quilting. The problem was the height. It was too tall for the chair back and looked pretty stupid just flapping around on the top.

Trimming the points off would ruin the whole thing. I briefly considered what it might take to make the chair fit the panel, but visions of my very recent diy trauma (the first chair) quickly dissipated the mirage.

Actually Making it Work

The third time was mostly a charm for this quilted director’s chair project. I bet if I went for a 4th round I would really hit the nail on the head.

Using the old canvas panels as a template, I dug into my treasure box of leftover half-square triangles and pulled out this set of peach, red, mustard, and creams.

The old push and pull of designer’s intuition was guiding this part of the process for me. I might start with a plan, but I’m constantly reconsidering the options with every seam – iterating on the layout until it feels right. It is kind of like tuning a guitar, I keep turning the knobs until the soundwaves sync. But the dissonance feels like anxiety and being in tune feels like relief.

My advice for making your own quilted director’s chair

Start with a chair that works. Don’t be afraid to practice folding the chair up before you buy it! There could be a missing dowel or a broken hinge in there.

Use the old seat and back panels as a template for your quilted pieces. Pay special attention to the size on those loops – if the part where the dowels go in gets too thick, it won’t fit back in the groove.

Test your tension. There is going to be a lot of pressure on those seams when someone sits down on your chair. I can hear the sound of seams popping now – don’t let that be you!


Lastly, but most importantly – Have Fun!

Maybe you need multiple sets of panels for you chair that you can change out with the seasons??

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