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Monday, 06 October 2008

Replacing RiempiesDo your chairs have sorry-looking, sagging, discoloured riempies like this?

It is so easy to replace damaged riempies and have fun while you're doing it.


Replacing riempies is so easy, you can do a chair in an hour. It’s relaxing and fun and there’s a great sense of pleasure looking at your chairs once those old sagging, worn, riempies have been replaced. Try it, you’ll be surprised at how easy it is.


  • Apart from buying the riempies and the tacks, you will find you probably already have all the tools you need in the house. If not, these items are useful to have, and can be used for a million other things.
  • Upholstery tack remover (not absolutely necessary, but useful, however, you can use a screwdriver and small hammer to remove old tacks)
  • Sharp Stanley knife/NT cutter
  • Prestik
  • Riempies – these come in strips about 2m in length each – you normally use 3 to 4 per chair (with 8 to 9 holes per side)
  • Price at hardware store – R19.95 per riempie
  • Price at leather supplier – R12.95 each or R125.00 for 12
  • Something to hold riempie in place once it is threaded and pulled taut – laboratory forceps are ideal as they are sprung, but a thick nail or thin dowel can also work
  • Upholstery tacks - +/- 13 mm tacks
  • Hammer
  • Old towel or piece of cloth


  • When purchasing your riempies, unless you are going to re-riempie genuine antique furniture, use the cured, treated white leather riempies. They come in uniform lengths and diameters. The riempies you use for antiques are cowhide and difficult to work with, they are very long, the diameters vary in length and are just generally difficult to work with.
  • Cut one end of riempie using the cutter so that it tapers – easier to thread through holes. Do this on an old piece of wood, you don’t want to cut through to that beautiful table you’re working on.
  • Cover tapered end generously with Prestik (about 2.5 cm) before soaking so that this part remains hard; it is very difficult to thread floppy riempie. (Image 1)
  • Soak riempies to make them pliable (about 1 hour in lukewarm water).
  • Wet riempies give off lots of "white water" after they have been squeezed, stretched and pulled through the holes. This is more difficult to remove from furniture once dry so wipe it off as soon as you notice it. (Image 2)
  • It is important to make sure when threading the riempie that the "right side" is uppermost all the time, particularly when pulling the riempie through, it can get twisted and the underside shows, so keep straightening the riempie as you work. There is a right side and a wrong side, but it’s easy to see.
  • One more tip – you’re sailing along, having fun, nearly finished the chair and then you notice – whoops! – instead of threading under, you have threaded over, so make sure that as you start each threading, if you the previous thread started with threading under, the next one starts with threading over.

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    I know it sounds Irish, but if you do it, you will see what I mean. (Image 3)


  • Remove old riempies and tacks using cutter and tack remover.
  • Clean any grime that settled under the old riempies. (Image 4)
  • Remove riempie that has been soaking. Wipe with cloth along its length to remove excess water.
  • Remove Prestik from tapered end.
  • Thread riempie through first hole (from underneath of chair) leaving about 1- 2 cm underneath. (Image 5)
  • Turn chair over and secure end of riempie to the chair frame using an upholstery tack and the hammer. (Image 6)
  • Thread riempie through hole opposite the first one (from top of frame down).
  • Pull the riempie as taut as you can and secure it in place by inserting forceps or nail in the hole together with the riempie. This prevents the riempie from becoming loose and sagging. (Image 7)
  • Thread the riempie up through the next hole then across to the opposite side. Once it has been threaded down through the opposite hole, pull it taut, remove the forceps from its first position and insert in the new position. (Image 8)
  • Continue in this way until the riempie is used up. Leave enough that you are still able to pull the riempie taut. (Image 9)
  • Turn the chair over, secure the end with a tack and cut off any excess riempie. (Image 10)


When you get to the corners, you can either cut the riempie there and tack it, before starting with a new riempie, or you can pull it across the corner, however, just make sure it can’t be seen when the chair is the right way up. It’s not a train smash if you do it like that, but it is generally preferable to end a riempie at the corner and then start with a new one. (Image 11)

Yay! You now have a beautiful chair with great new riempies. It’s time to scout your friends and family’s houses, look in horror at their sagging riempies and charge them to do fix their chairs and benches! In fact, become the local "riempier" – you could have a business going in no time! (Image 12)

Cutting a riempie Riempie Water 
Weaving riempiesRemove riempies
Pulling riempie through holeTacking the first riempie
Securing riempieSecuring second riempie
Keeping riempies straightTacking end of riempie
Riempie CornersFixed Riempie Chair

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 07 October 2008 )
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