Feb 212014

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I had been challenge by Carrie of Lovely Etc. to take a risk with her and nine other great bloggers. I had a couple of ideas in my head for this challenge.

How to Dye a Wingback Chair, before and after

Like I said, when I first began thinking of a project to take a risk with, I had a few options. Ultimately I landed on one that I’ve put off for nearly a year. Let me tell you a little story. You can skip down if you just want the short tutorial. *Tear*

Last year we installed hardwood flooring in our two upstairs bedrooms so we could move up there, freeing up the two main floor bedrooms. I took over one as my craft room. I tried to call it a studio for awhile because it sounded less frivolous than “craft room” but it just never took. Too fancy for me, I suppose. I digress.

With this new space I was on the look out for a reading chair for a corner of the room. The room isn’t large so I knew I’d need a small-ish chair. For over a month I trolled Craigslist for a wingback chair in good condition that cost almost nothing. I’ve reupholstered a few things, so I assumed that whatever dated chair I acquired would need some work. Finally I found one for FREE. It satisfied my criteria. Cheap? Yes. Good quality? Yes, it was from one of the nicest areas of St. Louis, which made me sure it had been cared for (pet free, non-smoking, etc.). Quality fabric? Yes, it was solid colored velvet. I could over look the mauve color and minor imperfections. It would do until I could reupholster it.

I picked it up and it didn’t take long for Dylan to decide it was his favorite chair because it was so comfortable. After some furniture shuffling, it became part of our living room collection.

So here we were with a comfortable, not bad looking (but not great looking) chair. The only problem was the mauve color. It wasn’t offensive in any way, but it also didn’t go with the rest of the space. Our living room is basically gray, teal, and lime.

Last year I painted an upholstered chair (it turned out quite well, I’ll have to blog on it soon) but I didn’t want to do that to the wingback. Painting upholstery makes the fabric a bit stiff and we liked the softness of the velvet. Short of reupholstery (which is a large undertaking for this kind of chair, which originally reclined) I wound up with the option of dyeing the chair.

While researching this option I found lots of horror stories of dyeing furniture. One person dyed their couch a vibrant purple color. Although it turned out beautifully, it also meant people had purple backsides after sitting on it. I didn’t want to risk ruining Dylan’s favorite chair. Though it was free, I knew I’d have to spend more time finding a “new” chair to replace it if I ruined it. So I put it off and we lived with a mauve chair.

When Carrie brought up this challenge, the word “risk” caught my eye and I thought of this project. I had the dye, I had the chair, I just didn’t have the guts to try it out.

how to dye a wingback chair (naptimediy.com)
Turns out, this was a pretty easy project! After putting Jules down for the night I put drop cloths over our living room floor, turned on the Olympics, and got to work.

For the first three coats I mixed 2 capfuls of liquid black Rit dye with 2 cups of HOT water. I put the dye in a cheap-o Dollar Tree spray bottle and sprayed down the whole chair. I ended up refilling the bottle twice, for a total of 6 cups of dye. It only took about 45 minutes total. I let the chair dry out until the following night, when I repeated the process.

Dyeing Wingback Chair 12

After three coats I was less than impressed with how things were progressing. The chair was darker, but nowhere near as dark as I wanted. For the final coat I doubled the amount of dye I used. I suppose this was the trick to darkening the upholstery up, because that fourth coat gave the chair a major color change!

Dyeing Wingback Chair 16

So, what is the result? Success or failure? Well…mostly success? The chair doesn’t dye our clothing, which was my biggest concern. It didn’t get as dark as I was hoping. At night it looks almost black, but during the day it has definite pink undertones. WAY better than before, though! I think the moral of the story is that dyeing upholstered furniture works best if your goal is in the same color family as the original color.

Dyeing Wingback Chair 17

Remember what this view looked like a couple of months ago?

Living Room Tour 17 (NaptimeDIY.com)

It’s not totally perfect, but for less than $5 in supplies, I’ll take it. After this project, I’ll definitely be keeping my eyes open for other furniture I can dye. I only wish I’d tried it sooner!

Dyeing Wingback Chair 15

Don’t forget to finish up your BOLD project this weekend so you can join us on Monday for our link party!

be bold challenge with border.

  66 Responses to “How to Dye a Wingback Chair”

  1. Wow! I never would have thought to dye it! As I type this, I am sitting in a brown wingback chair that looks about the color of yours after 3 coats of the dye, and it could use some serious TLC! Thanks so much for sharing your project with us, Ashley! It turned out beautifully!

    ~Abby =)

  2. I love this! It turned out great and I love that you really went for it! I have an ivory couch I have been thinking about painting gray but maybe dyeing is the way to go instead. You may have just given me the push to finally do something about it!

    • Glad you like it! I definitely think that the type of fabric makes a big difference in whether paint vs. dye is the way to go. Paint gave my other chair a very even color. I don’t think I could have gotten quite as rich a color with dye. But with the wingback I didn’t want to lose the softness of velvet, so dye worked better. Good luck!

  3. Oh, and I forgot to mention I love your new site design.

  4. […] Dyed Wingback Chair from Naptime DIY, Industrial Pipe Built-Ins from Primitive and Proper, DIY Drum Pendant from The Blissful Bee […]

  5. […] Dyed Wingback Chair from Naptime DIY, Industrial Pipe Built-Ins from Primitive and Proper, DIY Drum Pendant from The Blissful Bee […]

  6. […] Dyed Wingback Chair from Naptime DIY, Industrial Pipe Built-Ins from Primitive and Proper, DIY Drum Pendant from The Blissful Bee […]

  7. oh wow! i have a couple chairs i may need to try this on!

  8. Wondering about your technique more. Just spray? Any rubbing or moving the liquid around?

    • All I did was spray the entire chair. The first coat I tried the “spray then rub it in” method, and it seemed like it wiped off the water and dye, so I didn’t think it would saturate the fabric as well as I was hoping. Plus it was really messy! Definitely have a layer or two of drop cloths (I added some plastic trash bags on top of my old vinyl tablecloth) because there will be lots of drips.

  9. Wow- what difference! I think this is a major success! I might have to try this out sometime!

  10. Ashley that looks great!!! so glad it doesn’t die clothes.

  11. Oh my goodness! Thank you for this! I tried to PAINT an upholstered chair and it was an absolute.disaster. Seriously. Terrible. Maybe I can dye the other one that matches it and just pray for a solution to the other one…

    Thanks again for this!

  12. After seeing your post I decided to get the Craigslist chair I had my eye on and try this out! One question, did you do any prep cleaning of the Upholstery? (my chair is in need of some cleaning…)


    • I cleaned it when I first got the chair so I didn’t clean it again before dyeing. I would just make sure to let it thoroughly dry before your first coat of dye to make sure it dyes evenly! Good luck!

  13. […] Pipe Built-Ins from Primitive and Proper | Split Photo Wall Art from House by Hoff | Dyed Wingback Chair from Naptime DIY | West Elm Wood Tile-Inspired Bedside Table from May Richer Fuller Be | Flag […]

  14. I love your black chair. Thanks for sharing this. I actually love your house. I love to try this idea, I have a wing-back chair (light pink) that I salvaged. I would like to use your method to make it a dark wine color. My concern is that the dye will get in our clothes. Is your still good? How long it has been?

    Thanks for taking the time.

    • The dye worked great! We’ve never had any dye transfer to our clothes and the velvet fabric is still soft to the touch. Good luck!

  15. Just curious to know what the status of the chair is months later. Is it still as bold? Any issues with the dye bleeding onto clothing?


    • Still looks like it did when I first dyed it and haven’t had any die rub off! I totally recommend this for updating an upholstered project!

  16. Well im giving it a go .. fingers crossed .. im without dining chairs for a few days but hopefully it will be worth the wait how do I add pics ? Ill send a before and after once I work it out thanks for post .. I love ignoring instructions and going for it..kristy

  17. I love how it turned out. I have been watching CL for months for the right set of matching chairs and finally found a set I like except they are the wrong color. They’re not cheap or free either, so it would be a chunk of change to mess it up too. Is your chair cotton velvet? I’ve dyed cotton things before with Rit, but the label says it’s not as effective on other fabrics. I doubt the set of chairs I found is cotton.

    • I’m not sure exactly what fabric my chair is…if I had to guess I’d say velvet, but I’m not sure if it’s cotton or something else. The dye stayed well, but didn’t turn it all the way black like I’d hoped. Still better than light pink, in my opinion!

  18. You didn’t say if you ever washed excess off after chair dried completely? I am wondering about that due to you never having dye trfr to clothes?? I have a copper colored believe small recliner I want to dye grey , I wonder if I should start with black or grey??

    • I never washed off the chair, just sprayed it on at night before bed and let it dry. I never had any dye bleed onto clothing, either. I’d probably start with black dye…my chair started a very light pink and I only used black dye. The final result wasn’t a black chair but rather a very dark pink. Very muted, but definite pink undertones.

  19. I want to try this on my couch but m not sure if it will work?? New at this 🙂

  20. Thanks for sharing. I am on my fourth coat of dye for two chairs that I was going to get reupholstered. I thought I would give this a try first. If it did’t work, I could always still reupholster. So far, so good. My last coat, I decided to paint it on with a foam brush as I was starting to get uneven marks on my chairs. It looks like it may have worked better. I am going for a fifth coat tomorrow. My chairs were mauve and green plaid, ugh. I tried to dye them navy blue. I knew the plaid would remain and it did. My chairs now are more dark purple and gray but I like them much better. They are going in an office with gray walls so I think they will work. Thanks much for your inspiration.

  21. So I just did my first 2 coats on my pinky mauve wingback chair!! Going for red! Fingers crossed! Just wondering how long you let the final coat dry before you actually were able to use the chair???
    Tha ks so much! Hope mine turns out as well as yours

    • I think I only waited until they were dry? Definitely didn’t wait very long! Though I did rub the chair with a white rag to make sure it didn’t rub off on clothing.

  22. Thanks so much for you information. Just like you I have recently found a passion for DIY. I have 3 kids and the youngest has a disability called Rett Syndrome. My in laws also live with us and my Father in law has been very ill often. So, not only do I have very little time on a consistent basis, but I am often very stressed. I found out during this holiday season that doing these projects helped be to de-stress, as well as gave me a sense of accomplishment. I think with DIY you are in control of something and how it turns out. I re did my bedroom and found I needed a chair or chairs for a sitting area by my window. I had been searching for a chair for cheap like you were when I realized we have 2 wing back chairs just stuck in a room because when you have 2 families that move in together you have too much furniture and no one wants to get rid of it… since it is all good furniture. By re-doing these chairs I will be able to fill the need for my bedroom as well as de-clutter the room the chairs are currently in. The chairs are a very light cream color (almost look white) and the colors I have in my room are black and a goldish brown. I was originally thinking of black but after your post thinking the golden/tanish color would probably work better. I didn’t see on your post… did dyeing the material make it stiff? you said it did not bleed onto clothing bus I did not see if you said about the velvet not being soft anymore. I hope to see more of your projects in the future. So far I have done a DIY mirror frame for a huge mirror in my bath, added a chandelier type embellishment to a recessed light in my bathroom, re-painted/re-finished all bathrooms cabinets, re-painted my daughters room, re-finished my daughter’s ceiling fan (it is now sparkled), and a created a faux paint in certain parts of the house.

  23. well you have certainly inspired me! I can’t hardly wait to finish my antique sofa set….and post all about it.
    P.S. You forgot to mention that your hands get VERY sore pumping and pumping that spray bottle…lol
    If I had known, I would have thought of a different sprayer. haha
    Thanks for the great post and the inspiration!!!

  24. Im doing this right now on a pair of tufted chairs that were baby blue. Yuck. I got them for a super good deal but with kids baby blue just isnt going to cut it. So Im dyeing them black I purchased the canned upholstery spray and if any one is reading this let me save you some time and tell you to skip that canned mess and just go with the rit dye. The canned crap sputtered and left a uneven finish plus it cost me 11 bucks a can! I went and got rit after seeing this in the liquid black and so far so good. 10xs better than the canned upholstery spray paint.

    • I hadn’t heard of the canned upholstery spray, but too bad it didn’t work out! Glad the info here helped!

  25. Going to try dyeing a chair my son bought for $2 at a yard sale. I like the deign of the chair but it doesn’t fit in the the color scheme in my living room. Since it comes with an ottoman I’m going to try doing that first so I’ll have an idea as to the results.

  26. I have two chairs I never thought of dying velvet but it looks good my chairs are like olive green and I’m going for a royal blue. B4 i start and mess it all up right away, I was wondering if you used the rit fabric adhesive with this? How many liquid bottles did you go through?

  27. My sofa is made of Denim. Is that fabric suitable for dyeing? Also, could you recommend someone who could do the work for me. Getting too old to undertake. And too limited financially to buy new. Thanks so much for your response. E.D.

  28. silly question…..but i just found a navy blue wingback velvet recliner, any chance this would get darker with the dye you used? The original manufacture date on this chair is 1988 and absoslutly has its wear and tear.

  29. HI! I just came across this last night as I was looking for an option for a couch and chair I just got for free- but don’t love the color of. It’s been a while since you did your chair and I’m just wondering- how’s it holding up? Any tips you could offer now that it’s been a while since you did yours?

    • The dye job is holding up great! Hasn’t changed since I first did it and we haven’t had any issues with bleeding. Good luck!

  30. Wow..nice black chair…..did you do any rinsing of the chair after color set and if so did you use any vinegar as noted on some blogs? I have recliners with alot of upholstery tacks…should I remove them…they are metal.

    Thank you…

    • I didn’t do any vinegar for mine and never had issues with it coming off on clothing. I did test it with and old white t-shirt before sitting in it. As far as upholstery tacks, I wouldn’t remove them, mostly because it sounds like a lot of work! I have another chair I painted that has a ton of upholstery tacks that seemed really hard to get out. I just painted right over them and went back with a paper towel and q-tip to clean them off before the paint dried. Worked great for me!

  31. looks great, does it feel different? how many bottles of dye did you use?

  32. Do you think if you used the doubled solution 4x it would have been darker or taken less coats?

    • Maybe. I’d be tempted to try that if I did it again, but I’m not sure if the fabric takes the dye as well. There might be issues with it staining clothing? Not sure. Let me know if you do try it!

  33. I know this was a couple years ago, but taking a shot you will answer. There was lots to go through, so my apologies if you’ve allready answered this, but…. what type of fabric is the chair?

  34. Hey a little color theory might help…if you were going for a black to cancel the original color just apply its compliment, in this case perhaps something with green(can’t say exactly without seeing the actual color) our even turquoise of you want a cooler black then applying your black dye. The compliment should cancel out its buddy and reducing or even cancelling its afterglow!

  35. I know this is an old post, but I was just wondering, did you wash and rinse the chair after you dyed it or just allowe it to dry?


    • I didn’t rinse or wash. I just let the chair dry out and tested it with some white cloth to see if it would bleed. We’ve never had any bleeding on clothes or anything!

  36. I have an old velvet Victorian sofa that came out of the Westfield Hotel in Westfield, Mass that I bought at an auction for $100. Supposedly Clark Gable sat on this sofa when he visited Westfield.
    We have used it for about 5 years, cats love it and I can just use a damp sponge to get off the hair.
    It used to be a bright red (Buffy dug up a piece of fabric from the underside) but is now more of a fade pinkish maroon.
    Do you think that I could use Rit to dye a darker maroon color- I am a quilter and know the horrors of red fabric.
    I just don’t want it coming off when we sit or having a maroon and white cat.

  37. OK. Here I go. I read all that was necessary to read. I have 2 beautiful 1950’s velvet and wood accent chairs. I cannot afford to have them reupholstered. People do good work and they should be paid, but not by me. On a budget So dyeing is the way to go. They’re cream colored. I’m going for the GOLD!!!! My living room is neutral, in the woods colors. Pray for me. Oh. And I’m going to use Ritz, a spray bottle, the back yard and water hose…I’ll be rinsing when I finish. I’ll just keep spraying and rinsing until they are the color I want. God be with me! Why is this scary??? Guess we want a nice home and no mess ups. Breathe!!!

  38. Absolutely loved reading your tutorial, thanks. I have a barrel chair with Channel back that I’m considering dyeing or painting. However, the fabric is a much looser weave, not smooth at all, more like a basket weave although you can’t see through it. What would you suggest?

  39. Hello, I have purchased a floral (teal, light and dark peach, cream, blue, green) settee for my sitting room and also purchased an ottoman which is country french cream and grey french lettering. My dilemma is should I purchase a slipcover for the floral settee in a solid Color to match the ottoman or try to stain/dye the fabric to coordinate colors in settee. If I decide to dye, do you think it will cover the French lettering or would a light dying with a color from the settee (maybe peach?) allow the lettering to show and blend the so pieces better? I need to finish my color scheme for the room and this has me stumped. Any suggestions would be welcomed and appreciated. Thank you.

  40. Hi! I have a great over-stuffed chair covered in a burgundy “velvety” fabric.
    Love the chair but not the color. Using your Rit dye method, do you think I
    could go lighter??? Like yellow maize? Or would it be impossible to lighten
    from the dark burgundy?

    • The only way to lighten the color is to paint it, I believe. You could possibly try bleaching the fabric, then dyeing, but I have no experience with that, so I don’t know how it would turn out. Try at your own risk! 🙂

  41. Ashley, I jus dyed a headboard but after 2 days of drying it still comes off….any tips for SETTING the DYE?

  42. […] Dyed Wingback Chair from Naptime DIY, Industrial Pipe Built-Ins from Primitive and Proper, DIY Drum Pendant from The Blissful Bee […]

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