I Battle a Chair and Win!

Have you seen all those Drop Cloth projects on Pinterest? I’ve seen about a million of them, and they always look amazing, so a few weeks ago I decided to give one a try. Look what I just completed! 



My first upholstery project was actually in college. I had an old blue, button tufted armchair from my childhood bedroom, a few yards of super-cheap upholstery fabric, and my first real tool – a manual staple gun. For that first project I didn’t really RE-upholster iit. I just covered the existing fabric with some foam and the new fabric. Each button is still perfectly in place beneath about 6 inches of additional foam. This time I decided to do it right using a chair we picked up at a garage sale last summer. After a couple weeks spent scouring blog posts by other people who had no real idea what they were doing when they started their reupholstery projects, I was ready to begin! Step 1 was to start essentially ripping the thing apart, while keeping the original fabric as much in tact as possible. 



Little did I know, Step 1 would also involve ripping my fingers to shreds. Holy Cow! Reupholstery is really crappy hard work! I yanked and tugged and pried and broke staples until my fingers couldn’t take it anymore, then took a break, so it took a couple weekends just to deconstruct the chair. By this point I was really questioning my choice to take on this project, and it was far too late to go back. Tony suggested we could leave the whole mess on the corner on trash day, a thought I entertained for only half a second. Although my financial investment in this project was minimal, I’d given that chair my blood and sweat, and I don’t sweat easily! I was determined not to let that chair beat me. I would win the battle!



The orange-red wood had some scratches, so I sanded it all down for painting and distressing. My plan was to use a neutral white, but when I went to my paint samples box, the blue just jumped into my hand! The left side had stain applied before taking this photo; the right had not yet.  



Then it was time to start putting the new fabric on – the drop cloth I picked up at Lowes . Here I was a bit flummoxed. I had all the origional fabric pieces so I could easily cut everything to size, except the back cushion. The back foam was actually sewn into the fabric in a pattern I learned is called a channel back. I was not interested in trying to fit three inch foam through my sewing machine, but I just couldn’t figure out how else to keep the shape of the channels. Since the drop cloth was already pretty plain, I really felt I needed to keep the channels in order for the chair to have some interest… and I didn’t want to buy new foam anyway.  So I thought about it, formed a plan, then decided it wouldn’t work. That process repeated and repeated again. My indecision resulted in a considerable amount of procrastination and TV watching, the results of which I will soon show you, but finally I just had to take action. 



Since the foam was sewn between a backing piece and the origional upholstery fabric, I ended up just cutting the maroon fabric off the channels. That meant the foam was still attached to the backing, giving me enough leverage to pull the foam between the seat and the wood frame of the chair. I guessed at the size of the fabric panel, since I’d cut it into 7 pieces, and began pushing it between the exposed strips of foam. I did my best to crease the fabric in the right spots where it met the seat, but I did have to call Tony in to help. Then a single staple in the fold at the top of the chair’s frame and a pleat that wrapped around the back of that frame kept the shape of the channels. My idea worked! Tony pulled the fabric as tight as he could so I could staple the fabric at the base of the seat. 

By the way, can I tell you how much I love my new pneumatic staple gun? Thank you Christmas present, for making this job easier possible! Even with the power of 100 PSI at the touch of my fingertips, it was seriously challenging to pull the fabric taught with one hand and use the other to hit both the safety and the trigger. Without that staple gun, the chair probably would have been picked up with the trash this morning! 

I mentioned that I wanted to do this reupholstery projet the right way, but I did take a shortcut with the trim. The chair was origionally outfitted with what I’ve learned is called double welting. I had zero interest in making this double welting, which apparently involves endless amounts of sewing. And did I mention you have to SEW it? Bleh. So instead, I used the hem from the drop cloth and hot glued it on. How great is that?! No sewing necessary.



This chair is definitely not perfect. There are lumps in places where I didn’t realize the excess fabric would show through and where I reused cardboard and metal stabilizing pieces instead of buying new ones.  But I love the soft color, and I love the cheap price, and I especially love it when Tony looks at something I’ve done and says, “You know, I had my doubts [about using a dropcloth], but that’s really cool!” When is he going to learn that all my ideas are good ones?!



And this project has made me super excited to get that bedroom wall finished so we can paint the whole room. Won’t the chair be beautiful with a soft gray wall behind it and a big mirror over the shutter table? I’ve got plans, people!

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5 Responses to I Battle a Chair and Win!

  1. Dad says:

    Nice job baby girl! I am very impressed with your home improvement projects. Every time I see one I think back to your childhood years and how I never would have expected you to be doing projects that involve power tools. It’s been very fun to watch!

  2. Beth says:

    So beautiful!!! You need a pair of leather gloves for the demolition stage though!!

  3. Pingback: Paper Projects | A Guy, A Girl, and a Really Old House!

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