We had opted to keep it instead of tossing it on the curb, telling ourselves that one day it could be--what's that scary little DIY word?--oh yes: reupholstered. Really, what better to do on a sweltering summer Saturday?
Although we learned a LOT, perhaps the biggest lesson we took away from this project is that no tutorial will 100% help you with your individual upholstery job. Every piece of furniture will have its own unique challenges that can only be conquered with many trials, even more errors, and some good old-fashioned patience (which will, inevitably, wear thinner than the old fabric that you're painstakingly removing). Therefore, the details below will not provide a step-by-step guide about how to reupholster this chair (because let's face it, not everyone has an armless, gold velour chair sitting around!) but, rather, several recommendations about reupholstering in general, that we hope you can apply to your own stab at the task. Oh--and they'll also provide a glimpse at our very own camera-loving cat who made it her personal goal to oversee just about every step of this process. Now if only we could train her to use the sewing machine...
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Make sure you have the following supplies on hand: a heavy-duty staple gun, a big box of staples (we stapled and removed
Take tons of pictures of the "before." We got some from every angle. Gingerbread's favorite angle was this one.
She cried a bit when she discovered that we were not, in fact, creating a nice little tent for her.
Not only will these "before" pictures help you show off the dramatic change after all of your hard work, but they'll also provide you with the images upon which you'll need to base your reupholstering. Because believe me, once your chair has been stripped down to its bare bones, you won't remember exactly what it looked like at first--and not just because you blocked the disturbing image from your memory. Think of this collection of "before" pictures as the puzzle box that is helpful to look at while putting the puzzle together.
|That looks like a fun toy...|
Carefully and methodically take off each individual piece of the chair. Even though you're probably dying to just toss the old fabric in the trash, the pieces will actually need to become the pattern pieces for your new fabric. So avoid the temptation to shamelessly hack away at the old material. We found it helpful to make a list of each part in the order that it was removed, because putting the chair back together would require us to do the same in reverse order. For example, the first thing Rick did was remove the cording strip around the very bottom of the chair. This cording, then, was the last piece that we attached as we completed our chair.
Save money by reusing the upholstery tacks that were used to put together the chair originally. We found that ours were mostly in good shape and were up for our round two makeover. Putting them in a small glass dish as we removed them was also helpful so that they didn't get lost in the floor for someone to step on.
| Upholstery |
Buy forgiving fabric. Especially if this is your first attempt at reupholstering, make sure your fabric will allow for--and, if possible, mask--beginner's errors. The zebra print we chose did not have to line up in any particular way, thus reducing our frustration and urge to sob when it didn't work out exactly as we wanted it to. Fabrics with intricate prints, in contrast, might have looked sloppy if it wasn't pieced together neatly and correctly. We were glad that we took our time selecting fabric (Rick especially--he loves to spend a good several hours staring at the home dec fabric under Joann's halogen bulbs) so that we ended up with something that was durable yet chic, and could match a variety of accent colors, since I change my mind about colors almost as often as I change my clothes. Almost.
Cut your new fabric several inches larger than the old pieces. We did this and were still maximizing the new fabric's stretch factor in some places. Give yourself the extra wiggle room so that you don't end up short: you can always cut off extra once the piece is on.
|Do I want to know what those stains are from?|
When attaching the new fabric, start in one corner and work your way to the other. This way, you can stretch the fabric as you go to get a perfect fit for your piece. If you start attaching the back by stapling first the top right corner and then the top left corner, for example, you'll have to work your way into the center and may end up with unsightly bulges. And on the topic of unsightly bulges, make sure your staples and/or tacks are close together and evenly spaced so that the batting under the fabric doesn't begin sporting, for lack of a better term, "love handles."
Save money by making your own tack strips out of cereal boxes. These simply help reinforce the seams and the curves in the piece of furniture, and we found that our Shredded Wheat-n-Honey Nut Cheerios versions were just as sturdy as the ones used to put together the chair originally.
Invest in heavy-duty tack strips for the very final piece that will need to be attached. Up until this point, the tacks and staples get hidden by the other pieces of fabric. With the very last piece, though, you can no longer let everything hang out. We snagged a tube of tack strips for less than $10 from Joann's and I'm fairly certain they saved our marriage. This video on YouTube was helpful for figuring out how to use the tack strips, but the tube we bought also came with its own set of directions.
Be prepared to make mistakes. Although it was a challenge, Rick really had to set aside his perfectionist tendencies when our back piece ended up being ever-so-slightly too small (!), despite us cutting the piece larger than the pattern suggested. So, as you can see in the picture below, we had to get creative, and ended up making three separate sections to piece together the back. We also left off the buttons that were on the chair originally, preferring the more modern look achieved without them.
Finally, take lots of time to step back and admire your hard work. And yes--the work will be hard. Especially if it's your first attempt, as this was for us. But considering we had never even heard the term "tack strip" before we began this project on that one sweaty Saturday, we are quite proud of our finished product.
So here is our new creation looking happy among my silhouette collage and side table trunk. And we're sitting happy knowing that this entire project only cost approximately $56 (for the fabric, tack strips, and rope for cording all purchased on sale at Joann's) and 18 hours of time (17 of which were spent at Joann's--Rick insisted). Not bad for a brand new chair!
If you have any of your own reupholstery advice, feel free to share! :)