October 20, 2010
No project has seemed as intimidating nor as daunting as upholstery. I was determined to learn and with the support of my husband (who gave me the tools as a birthday present) and local thrift stores, I started my first project. I choose a simple chair (click to see the uglyiest of ugly yellow chair) from the Goodwill for $25, picked a delicious Joel Dewberry from our Upholstery section and stopped. Where to begin? How to begin? I took a moment to panic and then visited my library and choose a few books to help me get started and more importantly, finished.
The best book that I have found is the Complete Step by Step Upholstery by David Sowle. It is filled with tools, notions, tips, detailed pictures and various projects. I could not have done my chair without this book. Every question I had, every stage I needed courage to complete was in this book. There are some tips and lessons I would like to pass on outside of books.
1) Take pictures, before and during your upholstery. As much as you hate the old fabric on your thrift store chair, take detailed pictures of how it is pieced and where tuck and seams are placed. Continue taking pictures as you rip off the old fabric. You never know where some secret to securing the fabric or a special way of adding a nice detail will be hidden.
2) Carefully remove the old pieces of fabric and keep them as patterns
3) Do not skip the muslin and fleece step. It will really smooth out your piece and make it look amazing.
4) Get the right tools but they don't need to be new. Check out eBay or thrift stores
5) Don't ask your husband for his opinion on fabric. I did and he didn't like the thumbnail picture I showed him but he totally loves it in context on the chair.
6) Don't be afraid to splurge on a print you will LOVE. You saved on the chair (only $25!) and you are saving on labor. Check out the prices of new furniture pieces online and set your fabric budget by that. A comparable chair for $700, that $22/yd fabric is not looking so expensive after, especially if you know in your heart you will love it for years. A $5/yd fabric that you will change every year turns out to be not so cheap after a few years.
I learned very quickly that upholstery is very little sewing and more hammering and folding. It is a great stress reliever. It does take planning and some creative manipulation. I recommend lightly tacking in your fabric as you go and then going back and really nailing them in once you are sure the fabric is where you want it. Also, once I figured out placement for fabric, I would take my scissors and snip into the fabric and rip it the rest of the way. This makes a nice straight line, no jagged cuts.
It took me about a month to reupholster this chair but with practice I can get the time down for next time. I also had to work in my living room, which meant cleaning up every time I had to stop. I ended up keeping my tools and notions in a large rubber bin with a lid for easy transport and to keep little hands away from needles, tacks and tools. Also, Prudent Baby's tutorial on double welt is awesome! I watched it while I sewed. Making my own welt really finished the project. I applied it with a glue gun and was really impressed with how well it adhered and finished the look. I am so happy with my chair and am actively searching craigslist for my next project! I am thinking a wingback in a cool linen or houndstooth- Yummy.http://gruenetree.typepad.com/gruenetree/2008/08/soon-to-be.html
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