Sunday, April 13, 2008

Reupholstering a Chair and Stool

This is what I've been doing, off and on, for the past few weeks. Reupholstering this chair and stool. I bought this chair for $12.50 some years ago and it's one of the most comfortable chairs I've ever sat in. It, however, was not pretty.

You'll notice the right arm is a little askew. It had some "issues" shall we say. Issues I was able to address at the real site of the problem, which was not at the arm. But this chair is so comfy it's where I always go to read. In fact, it was on the blog in July last year when I was reading Harry Potter.

The stool was in better shape, if you like that 1970s bright orange look. I paid $4 for it at the same store at a different time. Sad to say, this store is no longer in business.

For those of you concerned about its original state, I just covered over it and did not remove the orange, nor put any holes in it. So, should that come back in style, I can easily remove my flowered cover. I didn't take pix of the stool reupholstery because there wasn't much to photograph - it's pretty straight forward.

But I did take photos of the chair process.

OK, here's how you're supposed to do it. You take the chair apart and keep the pieces to use as a pattern. You cut out the pieces just like the old ones and reassemble. I didn't do that. This chair had been recovered before and it wasn't the best job as far as I could tell, although it apparently was done by a professional. Frankly, I think mine looks better, even though this is the only thing I've ever recovered, except a piano bench once, which must be the easiet thing ever to do.

This wasn't "easy," but it wasn't very difficult either. I think it probably would have gone smoother if the chair had been in perfect shape to begin with and I'd had the original pattern to use. I had to do a couple of things more than once, because I was making it up as I went, but I'm happy with the final result.

First I disassembled...

And I found what I'd read about... glue. Yes! Apparently professionals use the equivalent of hot glue to make piping and attach it. I didn't use any hot glue, but apparently it's an option.

I started here, at the side on the chair, but I have no idea if that's the right place to start. It worked for me. I'd just start wherever it looks like you can remove a piece to start.

Once I had everything off, I reused the batting they had. It was amazingly clean. I did add a layer of clean quilt batting.

When you're using stripes or plaids or anything with a design, you have to figure out how it's going to be placed on the piece. I just flopped the fabric up there and figured out how I wanted it to be before I started stapling anything down.

I decided on the red stripe down the middle. Then I just worked on one side and then the other, to keep it even as I stapled. Oh, and I did invest in a $29 electric staple gun. Frankly, if you're planning to do a lot of this, get a better one. This is worth every penny.

As I said, I didn't use the old pieces for a pattern, so I was winging it. One of the mistakes I made was not thinking through the bottom part and I cut it because that's how theirs had been done - they had an extra piece over the lower wooden part of the seat. However, had I thought it through I could have just let mine wrap around and be stapled underneath. But, I didn't think about it. So, I made a little skirt for the chair instead of making it fit the wooden piece.

Oh, and that reminds me of the arm being loose. Rarely is the root of the problem obvious. It's like a door that's not closing properly. People always look at the handle. About 95% of the time, the problem is on the hinge side. Same deal here. You could see people had messed with the arm - there was glue and a broken mending plate. The actual problem was at the bottom, where the back and seat had separated. It was easily fixed, with a mending plate and four screws.

OK... the cushion. I've always heard that the cushion is what separates the men from the boys when it comes to reupholstery. I can't say that it's any trickier than anything else. Meaning it's not really very tricky. I don't know why it has this reputation.

If you're going to do cushions, you've got to do piping. That's the rope part around the edge. You buy this cotton string in the sewing department that makes the rope part. Then you cover it with fabric folded over it and sewed closely. The trick to the whole thing is a zipper foot. You MUST get a zipper foot for your machine. It's made to allow the needle to strike on the outside of the zipper foot, meaning you can sew very closely to the rope inside.

I bought mine at the local sewing center and it was $5.99. It snaps on and fits a number of different machines.

Supposedly, all the fabric for doing piping is cut on the bias - that means diagonally. I didn't do that. I just used strips cut straight with my rotary cutter.

I found that pushing the fabric covered rope slightly while I was sewing helped keep it tight. Of course, you can just go back and sew any place where you wandered again, because it will be inside the seam when you're done.

There may be some special reason for doing the bias cut, but I don't know what it is, and because this is the first piece I've done I didn't want to use that much fabric since I need it to do multiple more pieces. And my planning was about right on this chair. I had intended for it to have the floral seat, and to have enough of the plaid to make a pillow later for another piece of furniture. I've probably got enough for one regular pillow and one small one. So, my estimates were good.

One thing about a bias cut is that it would bend, but I didn't have too much trouble with that. The cushion corners weren't bad without the bias cut.

If you want to try it, I found this site particularly helpful. I didn't have any of the specialized tools, but I can see their benefit. I will probably try to get some of the tack strips and metal jaw things before I tackle another thing. I thought this chair would be the easiest one to do.

I did cut some cardboard and used it anywhere edges were needed to keep them straight, like on the bottom skirt. That tack strip stuff would be very helpful for this sort of thing. But then when you fold the fabric back down you have a nice straight edge.

Remember you have to get the design you want in the middle of your cushion or the footstool. I put the fabric over the footstool, with the design where I wanted it, and drew on the edge of it with chalk, using the original piping as a guide, so I marked the size of the top of it. Then that's where I sewed the piping on my new fabric.

The stool took about an hour to do. The chair I have spread out over so long a time frame that I don't know how long it took. I just had it in my downstairs sunporch and would close the door when I wasn't working on it. I'm guessing if I had just done it from start to finish it might have been 5-6 hours, and includes the time I spent redoing a couple of things. Overall, it's not nearly as difficult as people would have you believe. I bought my fabric a year or so ago when it was half off so I have well under $100 invested in both pieces.

Overall, I'm pretty pleased with the final product. It's not perfect, but I'm content with it.

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Anonymous said...
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Garden Place Design said...

You did a beautiful job. Love the materials you used. :)

Patsy Terrell said...

Thanks so much. I've been very happy with it. I'm trying to convince myself to start on other chairs and the sofa. Haven't gotten motivated yet, but I'm working on myself. :) Thanks.