Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Chair

Since interest was expressed (Katy), I will go into greater detail with this post that I normally would have.

My sister-in-law is pregnant with her first and is getting the nursery together.  She inherited her great-grandmothers chair many years ago and wants to put it in the gender-neutral nursery, but she wanted to have it reupholstered with something more her style....something more modern.  She contacted me to see if I ever reupholstered or if I knew someone.  My answer to both was: no. 

I have considered re-doing the chair I have in my own daughters bedroom (similar back story, it was my grandmothers chair) but I've been to chicken to do it.  It doesn't help that I don't hate the fabric that's currently on it.  But my chair is a different story for a different post.  Back to my SIL. 

As I was telling her that I have never reupholstered anything before I started wondering just how hard it actually is.  I told her to go ahead contact the professional company she had in mind, and that I would give it some thought.  I did some internet research and quickly realized I could totally do it myself!  I warned her it would not be professional grade, but she also wouldn't be paying professional prices, so you get what you pay for.

That Saturday we went to the fabric store to get supplies.  She ended up buying the very first fabric she saw. It immediately drew her eye and she kept going back to it.  So....perfect!  We got almost everything else we needed in addition to the fabric, and we were on our way.

As for HOW MUCH fabric:  first I thought 5 yards would do it, as a blog I referenced used 5 yards to do a similar-style chair.  But then a popular chart recommended 6.5 yards for her style chair.  The third recommendation came from the professional company my SIL contacted - they said 8 yards would be necessary.  Since the fabric she chose had a specific pattern that needed to be centered in certain areas, and it could only be oriented one direction, we went with 8.  Just to play it safe. 

I started by making the cording.  My SIL did not specify that she wanted cording, and the chair didn't have it originally, but it was something I wanted to do.  I had never done it before but I feel like it adds so much to a chair/cushion, so I gave it a shot.  I made 10 yards of cording one night after the kids went to bed. 

Second step was the cushion.  Sadly, the foam padding needed to be replaced.   It was in multiple pieces and I (not a professional) just couldn't work with it.  Our fabric was just too smooth and thin for me to risk it.  I didn't want the cushion to be lumpy and piece-y to the eye or to the touch.  Anyone who knows foam knows it's not cheap.  And of course we are talking about the 5" foam!  But hey, that's what coupons are for, right?

I used this amazing tutorial to make the cording and cushion!  Of course I had to adjust the tutorial to work for my non-square cushion, but it was easy enough.  The cushion took 3 nights after bedtime to complete.

Once the cushion was done I needed the actual chair and sent my manly husband next door to get it ('next door' is where they live).  I had looked at many "how to's" and blogs about reupholstering chairs, and I think the most helpful one for me was this one.  Even though the chair styles aren't the same, the concept and techniques are.  I basically spent one entire Sunday taking the existing fabric apart and putting the new fabric on.  It took extra time and extra fabric to make the chair as symmetrical as possible, but I'm glad I took the time and care to do it. 

The buttons are hard to see in the photos, but they are in the same positions they were in originally.  The buttons were fun and easy to make, but interesting, and at times frustrating, to work with (especially when little children would pull the buttons out after you spent 5 minutes getting them positioned correctly).  I used this tutorial to help me figure out how exactly to install them.

A few general rules for reupholstering:
Label and number each piece of fabric as you take off the chair
Use a seam ripper on the old fabric, then using the old fabric as a pattern to cut out the new fabric
Put the chair back together in the opposite order in which you took it apart

There were times when I wanted the fabric to sit differently on the chair than the way it originally was, which meant I had to use as much common-sense as I could come up with to figure out how to do it my way (i.e. the arms of the chair). 

In the end, it's not perfect by any stretch of the word, but I'm happy with it.  Hopefully she is too!

~I saved her $500 in labor - the price the company would have charged her
~I saved her 68% on the fabric by telling her about an amazing sale and by giving her a coupon to use on top of the sale
~we used four or five 40% and 50% off coupons to use on the other items we needed (piping, tacks, etc)
~She got $20 in gift cards to use on a future purchase for spending x-amount of money - thanks to me telling the cashier about a promotion they were running (she was clueless).

So as you can see, you make it extremely affordable by knowing the right time to shop and by doing the work yourself!


  1. I'm pretty sure I told you before, but the chair looks great!

    Now if I could find a cheap thrift store chair here in the near future....

  2. Wow!! I love it and congrats on such a beautiful first try! I have a chair that I would love to recover. I'm starring this post for future reference.

  3. It turned out great! I keep looking at my chairs but I'm SUPER nervous about it! Maybe once I get these other 25 projects out of the way...

    Thanks for the detailed post. I'll definitely be peeking at those tutorials.