As someone who loves vintage stuff, and who loves a good deal, garbage day is my favourite day of the week! Once every two weeks, when the weather is non-rainy, I take a drive around my neighbourhood after I’ve dropped the boy off at preschool and look for neat stuff. I’m famous for it. I’ve been able to pick up enough awesome things over the years, though, that if my hubby is with me, he’ll just roll his eyes while we turn the car around to go back for something neat. He used to refuse to turn around, then we’d argue a bunch, then we’d turn around anyways; this is faster.
Just this last Tuesday I was making the tour when I found something neat. Something really neat. A chair! To me, picking up chairs is like shopping for accessories in thrift stores. Scarves and purses and shoes don’t need to be tried on (at least not in the changing room), they go with everything, and you can never have too many. Chairs fit anywhere, always go with the decor of one of your rooms, and are incredibly useful (especially if you’re lazy like me).
Now, in the past I’ve been guilty of picking up awesome but flawed chairs and not, well, fixing them up the way I’ve promised. This chair, for instance, that I got at a garage sale for $5:
I have been intending to re-upholster this one for over a year, but the curved wooden back that makes it so awesome also makes re-upholstery difficult, plus my sewing machine won’t tackle pleather.
Anyhow, it was garbage day and I found a chair (NOT THIS ^^^ CHAIR – A DIFFERENT ONE). And the chair was good – nigh, it was great! A solid 1970s chair with great bones that just cried out for new fabric! And so I stuck it in the back of the car and apprehensively brought it home. Apprehensive, I say, because while hubby may be resigned to my quirks, my mother-in-law is a little more vocal about things. She very subtly (I’m not being sarcastic, she was being really nice about it) stated that while she liked the chair, and that it did indeed have good bones, that we didn’t actually need a chair, especially an ugly chair covered in duct tape (did I mention the duct tape). So, I did it. I actually did it. I re-upholstered the chair.
And here’s where the story falls apart. While I was working on the chair, removing the fabric, pulling out the dozens and dozens of tacks, cutting out the new fabric, putting all the tacks back in, etc. I was taking pictures of every step so I could show them here. And just a few minutes ago, when I went to post those pictures here, I realized that the memory card wasn’t in the camera when I ‘took’ the pictures and that the pictures not only were gone, they had never existed in the first place. So, no pics of the process! And awful enough, this wasn’t the first time I’d taken a score of pics without the memory card in the camera! CARELESS!
I’ve taken some pictures since, and they’ll just have to do. But first of all, I must thank the two men who first got me interested in refinishing and re-upholstering furniture: The Furniture Guys, from their show Furniture to Go, which was on TLC back in the 1990s. They’re hilarious!
So, here are two pictures of the completed chair. The fabric on front and back are both Sunbrella indoor/outdoor fabrics. The patterned one I got on sale for another incomplete project that I gave up on, and I had tonnes left over. The back fabric is a remnant I got for $5 (because Sunbrella, even on sale, isn’t cheap). The chair has four legs, even though it doesn’t look like it here, and swivels and rocks.
I had enough of the flowered fabric to cover the back as well, but I wanted a bit more interest and contrast.
The original fabric was a reddish orange textured synthetic with a slight thread of silver, as you can see here. It was rough and uncomfortable feeling and quite faded, and the seat had a large worn spot that had been patched with duct tape. The chair also originally had arms, which I had planned planned on putting back on when I was done, but it turned out the chair looked better without them and they weren’t structurally necessary.
I don’t think that this was the original fabric on the chair, but it had been recovered by a professional who had done an excellent job. The first step was to remove all the fabric which was tacked on rather than stapled. I kept all the tacks in case I might need them later. I then used the fabric pieces I had removed to create new fabric shapes, though the spare lines of the chair meant that I essentially just cut out appropriately-sized rectangles. I also cut a double layer piece of quilt batting to cover the batting already on the chair, which was till in good condition but needed a bit of a boost.
I used a staple gun to attach the batting and then most of the pieces of fabric in places where the staples would not be seen, i.e. the bottom of the seat, and on the back where I would be covering the staples with another piece of fabric. After I’d stapled everything tight, I cut off the excess fabric.
I finished the corners at the front edge of the seat and the top of the back with flat folds, as seen here:
For the back, I cut a contrasting piece of fabric which I tacked rather than staple to the frame since staples would be visible and ugly. This panel also hid the staples used to hold the floral fabric on the front part of the back of the chair. I folded all the edges over, stapled the piece down in a few places temporarily, and went to it with as many tacks as was necessary. I removed the temporary staples as I went. While the tacks are still visible, they are much more attractive than the staples would have been. Another option I have seen is to cover staples with ribbon to hide them, but I didn’t think it would suit this particular chair.
I also used a few tacks where the fabric of the chair back and the seat came together at the sides since I found there was a bit of movement (and gapping) there between the two separate pieces of fabric. Getting this area to look good was the trickiest part of the re-upholstery process.
So that’s it. The chair is done! Just the look on my mother-in-law’s face when she saw I’d actually finished it and that it looked good, was worth all the hard work. Actually, it was much much easier than I thought it would be. All I did was replicate what was already there.
This was a good chair to choose for my first re-upholstery project as it was a very simple shape, essentially just two rectangles. Now that I’ve finished it, though, I think I might want to try something a little more complex. Awesome orange curvy chair, here I come!
Here are some great resources and inspiration for your first/next upholstery project:
– Inspiration and a beautiful chair!
– great tips!
– More inspiration and another beautiful chair!
– this one is fantastic. Dina here has made a printable visual guide to how much fabric you’ll need for a particular style of chair. That way you won’t end up buying ten yards of Sunbrella fabric to recover a chair and then never actually do it, then use it for another chair that only uses up two yards (long story).