Monday, January 16, 2012

Save a Chair

Before I moved out of the dorms and into an apartment, I had a lot of planning to do. The apartment I was moving in to was already fully furnished, but after seeing pictures, the colors were very monochromatic. So, I wanted to find a chair. My criteria for said chair were: pretty color, patterned fabric, no arms.

After searching and searching, I couldn't find a pretty chair that was in my budget! So, I discussed this problem with Chris (my then boyfriend, now husband), and asked if he believed it wouold be possible to just redress an old chair. He said we could do it- easy.

This sent us to his parents barn (his mom is in the sale of antiques and enjoys finding old furniture and bringing it new life). There, we found a chair.

 Looking at its bare bones, this chair had a solid frame. That was all that was essential. So how did this turn in to a gem of a chair? If you have a chair similar to the one we found, you will want to add support in the back. We had scrap pieces of lumber, so we found one that was long enough and was a few inches across (we settled on a scrap piece of 2x4). If your chair has a good frame, this is what you will need:

Cotton Batting
Several yards of a fabric of your choice (measure, but I suggest always getting 1 extra yard)
Decorative Tacks
Wood Stain or Paint

This is how we did it:
1. Removing the seat of the chair was pretty easy. There were 3 screws from the bottom that held the seat at the corners. We removed these, then searched in our odds and ends parts for another matching screw so that we would have the necessary 4.

2. Next, we cleaned the chairs frame. It was riddled with spider webs, dust, and buildup one would find on anything that has been hanging out in a barn for a while.

3. Sanding the chair was fairly simple and only required a low grit sandpaper. I am always tempted to skip this step, but remember when ever you are working with wood that the sanding part is critical to ensuring your paint or stain sticks.

4. A dark wood stain was applied next to the base and legs of the chair and left to dry for the time required by our stain. While that did its thing, I moved on to the fun part...

5. If you are doing a project similar to this one, I recommend covering the seat of the chair before covering the back. It is much easier and you feel quite enamored with how wonderful your unholestry skills are. This gives you the needed confidence to complete the rest of the chair. First, pull off the old fabric on the seat. If you are lucky, it is like ours was and just held on with staples. So, I pulled those buddies out and went on a journey with the chair. There were 3 separate fabric covers on our seat - a vinyl, an ugly floral print, and a dingy solid color fabric. We pulled out all of those and the old, lumpy cotton batting that made the seat comfy.

6. Lay out your new, fluffy cotton on the seat. Measure the seat and give yourself atleast 2 inches all the way around to secure the fabric. Remember to measure twice and cut once. The easiest way for me to secure the sides of the fabric to the bottom of the seat were to center the fabric over the cotton batting on top of the seat form, pick a side, and staple it down. Then, I pulled the fabric taut and stapled the opposite side. Do the same with the rest of the sides of the chair, ensuring the fabric is taut and smooth.

7. The back of the chair was more difficult. Keeping the seat of the chair unattached, and of course after the stain has dried, Measure the fabric. I measured mine in a way that came from the back of the chair to the front to give me seams on each side of the chair.

8. After wrapping the back in cotton batting to make it comfortable, I draped the fabric over the chair from front to back. If this sounds confusing, let me try to explain this another way. If you want your chair to have the decorative tacks and seams symmetrical on both sides, your fabric will be cut in a rectangle. If you stand behind your chair with your fabric, you will lay it across with the shorter sides of the rectangle going across the front and back and the long sides of the fabric on the sides of the chair.

9. Begin by pulling the front flap of fabric around to the back on the bottom and secure the corners with regular tacks. Then secure the back flap. I folded the back of the fabric over to keep the frays from being exposed. Then, I used the decorative tacks across the back to secure the back, folded flap over the fabric from the front. Be sure to space them out.

10. The sides can be tricky. Just make sure you pull the fabric taut and fold both sides the same and it will turn out great. Folding the fabric over onto itself should also be done to hide the frays of the fabric.  Place your decorative tacks evenly down the side.

11. Finally, secure the seat onto the base of the chair.

Here is how ours turned out-

 It was a lot of fun and I learned a lot doing it. But it was very worth it. It was just what my first monochromatic apartment needed. When we did this chair, I did not have a sewing machine and was too lazy to hand stitch the sides. On the portions of the tutorial where I was to just fold over the fabric, you can actually do a quick hem across and that will make it easier to tack it down.


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