Welcome to Legal Tender Farm

Welcome to Legal Tender Farm

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

CHAIR...By Michelle

I love all the Haverty commercials (and another especially good one) starring Emily.
  This month I am Emily.

(This is a long post, get a cup of coffee and settle in for a long read)

I have this big overstuffed chair that I bought second hand.  I'm embarrassed to say that I think I bought it about ten years ago...with the intention of recovering it.  It is wonderfully comfortable and it used to reside in my master bedroom, where I sat in it all the time.  It didn't go with anything else in the room.  Since we moved to the farm, this chair has become a guest room chair.  It still doesn't go with anything in the room, or, in the whole house for that matter.

Really, the chair was pretty nasty.  At some point, years ago, someone spilled something on it, but this was under the cushion and you couldn't see it.  What you could see was the stained, discolored, faded, and ripped fabric of the arms and back.  Ugh.

I have found that if I have something long enough and live with it day after day, I sort of quit seeing it as it is.  Here's a tip...try seeing your things or your home through someone else's eyes.  Or, ask someone else what they see, or smell, when they come into your house.  You'll need an honest person.  Or, maybe just not a Southern Lady who will go to great lengths to give no offense.

Or, I'll lend you my husband or a member of his family.

My husband's sister, whom I love dearly, came for a visit.  She stayed in this particular guest room with this chair.  So, she said to me, "What's up with that... chair?  I mean, everything in the room is so perfect and coordinated and then there's that...chair."

OK, so I am adequately shamed into action.

Really, it is sooo expensive to have a chair reupholstered and it's hard to pick and commit to fabric.  At one point I was determined to have it upholstered in RED velvet.  What was I thinking?  I never do red.  It's a good thing I didn't commit at that time.  So, you see, procrastination can be a good thing.  Anyway, the guest room is cream, black and green.  So, I picked cream and black (I bought the fabric on-line and it turns out the "cream" is more of a taupe, but...it'll do) and I plunge head first into my first real reupholstery project.

And, was it a doozy.  On some areas, this chair had four layers of fabric - not reupholstery jobs, but the original upholstery was four layers.  Each layer was stapled out the wahzoo.  I think I removed a million staples.

It took a long time.  Not only because there were so many staples in so much fabric, but because I also have another furniture project running concurrently; I'm getting the garden ready for springtime planting; and the barn ready for kidding season.

I make it sound like I'm so busy and noble, but the real reason is that it's winter time, it's cold, and when it's cold, all I want to do is snuggle up with a cuppa and read a book.  And, I need frequent breaks from this kind of labor that I really don't like.

If you're thinking about tackling a furniture reupholstery project, let me warn you, the deconstruction is the worst thing about it.  Honestly, I hated the process.  You can't just rip it off.  You have to take each piece off carefully to save it as a pattern.  And, you have to get all of the staples and tacks out so that you have a clear surface to restaple and tack.

The only thing getting me through it was the knowledge of how much money I was saving and that, after deconstruction, if I thought I wouldn't be able to put it back together, I could take it to a professional and it wouldn't cost as much to finish it.

But, I got all the fabric off.  Finally.  And, by seeing first hand how it was all put together, I found I had the confidence that I could put the new fabric on.  Really good professional upholsterers will also remove all that batting and cushioning and start new with just the frame.  I didn't think twice about doing that.  It would have been way too much.  I decided the foam and batting was just fine the way it was.

Now the real fun begins.  I made the seat bottom by sewing a strip of the new fabric to a piece of muslin that I had cut out using the old stained seat fabric as a pattern.  I doubled the seam over and sewed it again to make a good strong line to attach the fabric to the springs underneath.  I used a curved needle and just whipstitched it all the way across.  

I pulled the fabric through the back and stapled it onto the frame, on which I had made written notes so that I'd remember where everything should be reattached.  Then I turned the chair over and stapled the printed fabric to the bottom of the frame, pulling everything very taut as I stapled.

Next up, the arms.   I'm recovering the chair exactly as it was with the only exception being no "dressmakers skirt".  The fabric will all be attached tight on the underside of the frame and the legs will show.  Fortunately, it has nice legs.

Following the pattern of the old chair fabric, I just folded and tucked real tight, then stapled.

Then the back.  It is button tufted, so I made covered buttons and went to work.  My other furniture project (which I'm still working on and will post when I finish) has some button tufting, so I kind of knew what to do with this part.

I had even saved and reused the wads of batting that were originally used for the tufting.

The back of the chair has this heavy, kind of plastic, fabric that covers the springs.  I used a six inch needle, pushing it through the wad, through the heavy fabric, springs, then printed fabric, looped it through the button, then back through the way it came.  The wad of batting is used so that the thread has something to attach to.  You have to pull really, really hard to get the button tight enough for a tuft.  I even braced my feet against the back and wore my gardening gloves because it hurts to pull so hard on the thread. 

One tuft.  Nine to go.

After the tufting was complete, I pulled the fabric very taut over the back and stapled it to the frame.  I've discovered that upholstering involves a whole lot of pulling.  Everything has to be tight, tight, tight.  And, you can't keep long fingernails looking nice.  I finally gave up and cut mine all off.

The back fabric is also pulled down through the same space the seat fabric is pulled, then stapled to the frame in the same place.

After getting all the fabric on the front of the chair, I replaced the gauzy underlayment, stapling it to the frame, and restuffed the innards.  Then I got to work on the seat cushion.

I bought a new piece of foam from an upholstery shop, then using an electric knife, cut it to fit the seat, using the old cushion as a pattern.  Seriously, this is the best DIY way to cut thick foam.  Scissors just won't get the job done right.

I needed welting for the cushion and for a couple of places on the chair.  So, for welting, I need bias tape.  Here, I have cut some fabric on the bias to make the tape.  There is a quicker easier way to make bias tape, but it requires a good size square of fabric, which I didn't have.  I had barely enough to cut out all the major pieces, so I waited until I had everything cut out, then I used the scraps to cut the bias tape.  Rumor has it that one should cut off the selvage because it stretches different than the rest of the fabric.  It seemed like a waste of perfectly good inches, especially since I was running short on fabric, but I didn't want to risk messing up, so I cut it off.

Since I'm covering the back and sides of the chair in black velvet, and I have plenty of that fabric, I made the welting to go around the back of the chair with that.  Here, I'm attaching the welting around the back.

I so wanted to finish the chair this day because all that is left to do is attach the metal tack strip starting at the front bottom edge, on the underside of the rolled arm, up around the back top edge all the way to the other side.  Then, attach the velvet to that.  But, alas, my electric stapler is not up to the task.  It barely will staple the fabric on and I've probably removed as many mangled staples from the chair as I have left solidly attached staples in it.  So, I had to wait while Tom went to town to buy me a new staple gun that attaches to our air compressor.

One word.  Uh.Maz.Ing.

With the new compressor staple gun, I was able to attach the tack strip lickety split.  Well, I got it halfway on, realized I had it on backward, took it off (more staple prying), and then lickety split.  Look at that sssinuous, sssnaky curve.  This is deeply satisfying to a person like me who likes to see crisp, clean edges.

After attaching the tack strip, you pull the fabric tight over the edge, slip it into the groove, then hammer the two sides closed.  It holds the fabric tight so you can pull it down and staple it on the underside, which I did. 

Finished chair!

Black velvet sides.

Smooth, sleek back!

No more 80's pink Waverly.

I'm holding my breath just a little bit, in fear of the chair somehow busting a gut and the fabric popping off.  Keep your fingers crossed for me.


Meagan Claire said...

It looks so nice! I'll sit in that chair in a week!

Teacupfive said...

This is amazing. Very professional. You did a wonderful job.

April said...

Beautiful! you did an amazing job!! Maybe I could hire you do redo Grandma Fisher's chair? Its got a 'hunting' scene on it and doesn't go with ANTHING in my house..lol

Mosaics said...

April, you could do it! Go ahead and start deconstructing it. If you need help after you get all the fabric off, then you can bring it over and we'll do it together, but I bet you could finish it yourself. Leah would probably like to do it with you.

Nelda said...

As always, your creativity and skills amaze me! I have 2 chairs in need of help.....:)

Nelda said...

As always, your creativity and skills amaze me! I have 2 chairs in need of help.....:)