If you've ever thought about recovering a recliner yourself, you probably found the task a little intimidating. The project is time consuming, but surprisingly easy to do if you have access to a heavy-duty sewing machine, enough fabric and some basic upholstery tools. Upholsterers don't like working on recliners because they are as difficult to recover as a sofa, but they only sell half the fabric. If you can't bear to part with that old recliner, though, reupholstering it yourself is probably your best option.
Choosing the right upholstery fabric is the first thing you'll need to do. Avoid stripes and prints if at all possible. You'll use more fabric, and matching the lines and patterns is very difficult for a neophyte upholsterer. Besides, solid colors are more versatile and make the recliner look smaller and less overpowering in a well-balanced living room or den design.
The only way to get an exact measurement is to take the recliner apart, remove the fabric and measure it. You must account for all the parts that are upholstered. To get an estimate for total fabric, measure the length and width of each piece. Add enough extra to account for the distance needed to repeat any design the material may have. Measure up and down as the pattern may be taller than it is wide or vice versa. Convert the total square inches to square yards to get the total amount of fabric you need. The old fabric can be used as a pattern if you can resist the urge to just rip the old stuff off. Lay the old pieces over the new fabric, mark around it and cut. You'll find your recliner will need anywhere from 8 to 12 yards of upholstery material to cover all the pieces.
Taking a recliner apart is fairly simple. Look it over carefully before you start removing screws, nuts and bolts so you know how to reassemble the mechanism. Find a safe place for all the bits and pieces so they won't be disturbed and mixed up. To reassemble, just put everything back in reverse order. Take care when covering and reassembling not to damage the new fabric. Figure on spending from 24 to 72 hours on the entire project.
To take the recliner apart and measure your fabric, you'll need a few tools in addition to your fabric, cotton batting and webbing material. You'll need a flatblade screwdriver, a Philips head screwdriver, an adjustable wrench, a tape measure, staple remover, tack hammer, staple gun, pins and a pair of heavy-duty scissors. You'll also need a heavy-duty sewing machine, an upholstery needle and heavy upholstery thread in appropriate colors if there are seams to make in the new fabric.