Monday, October 7, 2013

How NOT To Upholster a Chair

In the previous post I gave the history of this chair. I love a challenge (and so does Decor-Cat) so here we go:

The fabric I used is (surprise) a painter's drop cloth like I used for my headboard. I couldn't bring myself to experiment with expensive fabric. Much better to play with something I only spent $10.98 on.  That is not the price per yard. That is the TOTAL cost. (I'll be pointing out mistakes as I go. I made quite a few.)

Mistake 1: I could have easily used ONE continuous piece of fabric from the bottom of the back, over the top across the seat and then down the bottom front. Instead I cut the top into front/back sections and then stitched them together at the top hoping to get a clean line. 

 You can see that it didn't work. I didn't want it to look like a slipcover so I created two tucks (if you remember darts from home-ec, you'll understand) and stitched them down, having pinned the fabric taut.

 Mistake 2: Cutting the fabric away on the sides of the back. OMG now I have to make what are essentially sleeves. All that I needed to do was make sure I had enough fabric to tuck and fold then stitch down if I hadn't cut away these pieces of fabric. Yay! Extra work! (Do you think the dog looks depressed?)

I pinned right sides together and began sewing them together in the front, when I reached the top it became too difficult and I ended up whip stitching it together from the outside. I was using clear nylon thread so it was nearly invisible.

Mistake 3: Not stopping long enough to drive to the upholstery shop and buying a curved upholster needle when I knew I needed one. Next time that will be my very first move. Doing it this way killed my fingers!
But I do think it looks pretty good.

In order to get the smooth tight look I wanted I placed the fusible quilt batting I had leftover from the headboard between the old fabric and new. 

And then yes, I ironed my chair. 

The side pieces were tucked underneath then tacked under the arm, stretched over the top of the arm and then tucked between the arm and seat bottom. When I removed the front arm pieces they were just covered cardboard. I tucked and tacked the fabric the way I wanted then covered those cardboard pieces (using spray adhesive) and replaced them to give the front the finished look I wanted. 

Why not just buy a new chair? Vintage solid wood construction--that's why. Please note that the solid oak FRAME was stained. The frame no one would ever see unless they took the chair down to the bones. Ladies and gentlemen, we call that craftsmanship. And it's a very good reason to overlook some ugly fabric and appreciate the construction and design of a piece of furniture.

 All that pulling, tucking, stitching, and tacking became worth it when I started to see the lovely lines of the chair appear.

 The cat is my only real supervisor.

 I turned the chair over to secure all the material underneath. Decor-cat was super excited about this.

I haven't covered the cushion yet but wrapped it so you could get the full effect. After taking a poll on my FB page I decided I would use a bold fabric for it...

Then I found this fabric for the cushion and thought "Wouldn't that look great on the whole chair..."

Now that I know what I'm doing I may actually recover the entire chair the right way in a year or so. The cushion in this chair is so broken down that I'm going to replace it with a new piece of foam (the cushion has springs inside) but this is the final result so far except for that.

I know how you love a before and after: 

And naturally, now I'm looking around for other things to upholster, perhaps even correctly next time.