13 April 2011

why not diy? wednesday: the chair: a re upholstery project


the CHAIR! this the chair. no, not just A chair...THE chair! this is the chair (actually 1 of 2) that came from my great-grandparents home when they moved into assisted living. this is the chair that my dad tried to get me to get rid of multiple times, he even offered to buy me a new chair! but alas, i am one stubborn girl, and this is the chair i wanted. i had big dreams for recovering it. but no one believed i could. so it sat in my old room at my parents house while z and i moved into our apartment. it came time for us to move to nashville, and z said "we are not taking those chairs." ha. into our 22-foot moving truck they were loaded, and off we went across the country. so, for the last 5 1/2 months these chairs have been sitting in the garage waiting.

and waiting

and waiting

 until i found the perfect fabric on a trip back to Cali. and then, i got after it. no one actually thought i could make it happen, but i did! and it's not perfect, but it's pretty darn great! you see, the house that we are renting is wonderful, and i love it! but not knowing how long we are going to be in it makes it difficult to want to put the time into painting my walls. currently they are your basic "sienna sand" tan-ish, which contrast wonderfully with the white ceilings and baseboards, but blends into our hardwood oak floors. if i had it my way, every room would have its own personality...including paint colors. for now, though i'll settle for pops of color in bright whimsical colors and prints on pillows, and furniture.

one chair is going to be mostly the print, with blue cushions, the other will be brown, with green cushions and a printed accent throw pillow. 

in all the "diy: re upholstery" blogs i've found, they (the proverbial "they" of course. like the tim mcgraw song...."who are they, they're probably livin in LA..." ANYWAY) THEY tell you to take each piece off the chair, trace them onto your new fabric, and put the new pieces on the chair backwards of how you took them off. however, i knew i wasn't going to replace any of the batting (aka stuffing) and the printed fabric is really light weight so i wanted to use the original fabric as a bit of a backing to my new stuff. instead of pulling off all the nasty, pea-soup, crushed velvet, i re-covered it! here's the essence of how i managed...

Step 1: gather all necessary pieces of equipment, and triple-check that you have enough fabric! the worst thing would be to get 3/4 of the way finished only to realize you don't have enough fabric, because then...if you can't match dye-lots...you're back where you started!
necessary tools:
~ staples - mine were a little short, i would go up one size next time
~ staple gun - mine is pretty basic, but works fabulously!
~ measuring tape - to help estimate the size fabric you'll need for each panel (always give yourself a good amount of fudge room!)
~ fabric scissors - an ABSOLUTE! use them only for fabric, and they'll always cut it like butta' (sidenote:make sure your hubby/children know they aren't for cutting paper!)
~ pin cushion - how better to celebrate great-grandmas chair makeover than with an old fashioned pin cushion!?
~ flat-head screwdriver - for removing staples
~pliers (not pictured)- for those hard to pull staples
~ hot glue gun (not pictured)

step deux (2): with the skirt...i'm pretty sure there were a gazillion staples and 8 furniture tacks holding the skirt on. i mean if that chair went through a tornado, it needn't worry about showing its nether-parts...that skirt ain't goin' no where! i pried the staples out with the aforementioned screwdriver, and broke out the pliers and some muscle for the really stubborn ones. (no, z isn't the muscle mentioned but i was halfway through the second skirt when he walked in from work, and he offered to help...)


"skirt on the ground...skirt on the ground...lookin' like a foo' with your skirt on the ground..."
step trois (3): i attacked the back of the chair with the new fabric, and the handy-dandy staple gun! looking back, it probably would have been better to start at the front and work my way back...oh well...it was totally unchartered waters, and i was diving in headfirst. 

i oriented my pattern to my liking, then cut a piece of fabric large to cover the whole back of the chair, PLUS and extra 18 inches. i had plenty of fabric, and since this was my first re upholstery project i wanted PLENTY of fudge room. thankfully, the width of my fabric was much moreso than the chair, so there was no need to have a seam or try to match up the pattern perfectly.

 i flipped the chair and started at the bottom, i stapled the fabric to the wood frame every inch or so to keep it from putting to much strain on any one small section. from there, i stapled the back panel to the frame going up both sides. i made sure to smooth out and pull the fabric taut without stretching it, or deforming the pattern! again, i stapled about every inch...but i pulled the fabric around each corner, and THEN stapled it on the side. i wanted the back to be super clean looking.

 next i realized i needed some sort of welting. since i have zero experience using a sewing machine, not to mention that i don't own one, i worked some magic with my hot glue gun. my wonderful husband drove me to joann's fabrics (the closest is like 30 min away), so i could buy some unfinished cord. i cut a few strips of the brown canvas, placed the cord in the middle, hot glued the cord, and folded the fabric over the cord lengthwise. i ran a line of hot glue down the patterned fabric where the staples were, and attached the welting to it.
i laid more glue on the other side of the welting, and attached the pattern fabric to that.

 oops...my glue got a little out of control...
then i stapled the side panel of fabric to the bottom of the chair and worked my way around. again pulling taut, but not stretching it
i added more welting where the seams on the original chair were. i love the dimension the welting gives it! i left excess fabric hanging for the arms, so i could have plenty to work with on the most complicated part of the chair.

the panels on the face of the arms popped off really easily. i gathered the fabric around the curve of the arm, and stapled it to the frame too. the little arm panels were recovered in the same brown as the welting, and lined with the brown welting. then they were hot glued back into place.

these chairs had attached cushions, however, yours truly wanted them unattached. cue the "seam-ripper."

i pulled the cushion off the back, and simply wrapped the blue fabric around it (again comes into play the no-sewing machine issue). thankfully i have a friend who is willing to help me sew the cushion covers, when i get around to it, that is!

by the way, one of the coolest things about this chair is a little tag, stitched into the original upholstery that has the address of the place where they were originally done!

i LOVE my new chair! it fits perfectly on my frame wall, and matches the rest of our decor wonderfully! i can't wait until i have a few spare moments to re-do the matching one!


  1. thank you!! :) i really love it! every day i look at it, i love it a little more!