November 22, 2015

Furniture Reupholstery 101 (The Lazy Girl Way)

Back in March when my beautiful friend Alexandra visited me all the way from Seattle, I ended up dragging her to a Restore (a store where they sell leftover furniture, fixtures, etc. from Habitat for Humanity) where I found an arm chair for $9. It was love at (almost) first sight. The truth is that I saw the chair, we left the store, and several hours I went back and picked it up because I could not live without it. It had some bumps and bruises, but it had great bones! Meanwhile, Alex was mentally rolling her eyes because I'm a nut, but she's too nice to actually tell me how crazy I am.

And how hideous is this fabric?
I had added the chair to my Summer To Do List and with summer having come to a close quite a while ago, I decided it finally needed to be done. While Matt was in Oregon for work about a month and a half ago, I invited another dear friend of mine to come hang out. You know the drill: watch movies, eat pizza, and oh yeah - help me with this chair.

Prior to her assistance, I had spent upwards of eight hours yanking out staples, pulling fabric and prying nail head trim from the (very) hard wood frame of the chair. As it turns out, upholstery staples are ridiculously long and incredibly hard to remove. Who knew?

The new fabric I chose for the chair was some that I picked up from a church tag sale that Matt and I happened upon back in July. I picked up about six yards of upholstery fabric for $5 which, if you're a regular purchaser of fabric, you know is an amazing price (for those of you that don't purchase fabric all that often, upholstery fabric tends to go for $15-$40 PER YARD). Like I said, total steal.

That being said, I ran out of fabric half way through the project - but we'll get to that.

I've never upholstered furniture before with the exception of recovering a few folding chair seats (one of my first ever DIY projects!). Upholstery is certainly a labor of love and to say I was unprepared for how challenging it would be is an understatement. If we're being frank, I doubt seriously that this chair would stand up to any serious use. But since in my case it's more of a decoration (and occasional reading chair) for our bedroom, I'm pleased with the outcome:

Chair $9 +
Total fabric cost $20 =
New chair = $29

What You Need

Clawed hammer
Nail puller
Screw driver
Fabric (6-8 yards, more or less depending on the size of your project)
Staple gun
Tacky Glue
Tape measure
Chair (or other furniture piece, obviously)

What You Do

1. Stream Netflix. Trust me, this is the only thing that is going to help you survive yanking out all of those silly staples.

2. Yank the silly staples. I used a variety of tools for this, including a claw hammer, nail puller, a flat head screw driver and pliers. Figure out what works for you! My chair also had nail head trim, which surprisingly came out easier than said staples.

3. After I had pulled about as many staples as I could stand, I started pulling - and thereby tearing - away the fabric. DON'T DO THIS. If possible, it helps immensely to maintain the integrity of the shape of each piece so that you can use them as templates when you cut your near fabric. However, because I didn't pull all the staples (read: impatient), I continued cutting and pulling until the arms of the chair were bare. This is about where I had my reupholstery epiphany.

4. I threw out an idea to Juliana that I was really hoping she'd support: what if I just... upholster over the fabric? *Cricket chirps* "Yeah. Let's do that." Perfect! I laid out the fabric and, using a sewing tape measure (the flexible kind), I estimated the yardage for each piece. Using the pieces I had been able to remove from the arms, I laid them out as patterns on my fabric and made my cuts. Unfortunately, I didn't get pictures of this process, but there's a great example by Megan over at DIY Project-aholic. Her tutorial was the inspiration for this project in the first place!

5. I started with the largest portion of fabric - the body of the chair. I first stapled the fabric along the back of the chair to create some tension as I tucked the fabric into the crevices of the chair. I cut away excess fabric to minimize bunching when I covered the back. I then tucked the fabric tightly into the area between the arms and the cushions.

6. Once I had the fabric properly tucked in, I stapled the fabric along the front, bottom of the chair to help keep it in place. Next, I started working on the arms of the chair. The key to folding fabric around the "round" portions of the piece is to "tuck and gather". You start by stretching the fabric as tightly and as far around the rounded part as possible and staple into place. Then, you fold the fabric back over in the opposite direction to create a little fold/pocket situation. Staple this into place once it's tight. Continue this process around the area until it's securely fashioned.

7. Working around each of the arms, I stapled the edges of the fabric piece to the back and bottom of the chair. (I also used tacky spray glue to help keep the fabric in place while I worked.) Not shown are the pieces used to cover the front-most part of the arms which are used to disguise the mess of fabric and staples. I cut these pieces out and glued them into place. I then recycled a bunch of the nail head trim I pulled by hammering it back into place around the edges of the cover-up piece. 

Spot the cat.
8. With that done, next came the back of the chair. And this posed a problem. Mostly because I ran out of fabric. As I mentioned, I purchased my fabric bolt from a yard sale - which was great! But remember when I told you not to rip your fabric while you were removing it? Well, due to some not-so-smart cuts on my part because I didn't have proper templates, I was left just several inches shy of the right size. Solution? Buy a yard of coordinating fabric. The color looks brighter in the photo than it is in person, but it goes pretty great with the accent color in the original fabric. And I'll be honest, I was so worn out from having worked on this chair for so many hours that I was pretty much spent at this point: 

So it's a little rough looking - but it suits it's purpose! Besides, the back of the chair rests against a wall in the bedroom. No harm, no foul. I attached the back portion of the fabric by stapling the top most edge upside down and folding the fabric over to create a seam. I sprayed tacky glue lightly along the back of the chair to help adhere the fabric, and then pulled down firmly, folded the bottom edge and attached the fabric to wood along the bottom of the chair. With everything in place, I relocated the chair out of the living room and into it's rightful place: the sunny spot in the bedroom. 



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