Friday, June 1, 2018

New Life for Old Furniture: Reupholstering a Thrifted Desk Chair

When I moved abroad a year and a half ago, I got rid of most of my "stuff." Furniture, dishes, lots of clothing—so much of it was college hand-me-downs, odds and ends that didn't feel at all like "me" so definitely justify keeping in storage for my year in London. My younger brother took much of it for his own college digs, so I could Marie Kondo half my stuff away guilt-free!

All this to say, with my recent move, I've gotten to buy furniture and art that really speak to me and make a space that feels completely my own. Something that was important to me was to thrift and repurpose as much as I could, and the chair for my sewing desk was a perfect opportunity to do so!

I found this chair for $5 at a big sale benefitting the student's union at the university in my parent's town. I knew it had such great potential, and so it came straight from a lobby waiting room to my sewing desk.

I found this gorgeous watercolor-esque upholstery fabric sample at Fabric Outlet in SF, but there wasn't enough to completely cover the chair so I dug up a yummy dark blue, midweight denim to coordinate with it.

Ever the researcher, I found a few tutorials on how to reupholster furniture, like this and this—it seemed so easy! 🙃What I didn't take into account was that the chair's frame was not something I could remove—the arms have pegs glued in to secure it all together, so removing the arms would basically destroy the chair. That meant I couldn't so easily recover it.

First, I traced the shape of the chair back on my denim, stitched around the outline RST, flipped it WST and pulled it down snug around the back. Then, I painstakingly stitched the fabric down along the edges where it meets the arms, with the denim folded under about 3/4" to get relatively pretty coverage. I am not joking—I thought about ditching this project halfway through this step. It takes a lot of time because, even with a thimble, your hands and fingers will get sore so quickly. Do the same in the crack where the back and the seat meet. Lastly, take the bottom edge of the back side, stretch it taut underneath the seat, and use a staple gun to secure.

Next: the seat. I had to cut into my watercolor fabric where the seat attaches to the legs, and fold under the excess—kind of like trimming notches into the seam allowance in garment-making. I did this no problem on one side, but then cut too far in on the other side. Upholstery fabric is a bit of a bitch, so fixing it was... interesting. I tried to fix the cut with some zig zag stitches from the top with the sliced edges butted against each other. It's still not great, but it's good enough! I'm certain no one will notice unless I point it out to them, so I'll just have to try not to notice it myself. 😅

After this step is done, you'll want to staple the seat fabric underneath, as well. I started at the front center, then moved backwards, making sure to stay even along each side as I went. Usually, you would go from the center out towards the edges, but I didn't want to stretch the fabric so much so that my notches weren't in the right place. Afterwards, it's recommended to use some sort of fabric (it's usually black and lightweight) to staple over the raw edges of your fabric on the bottom side. I skipped this step, but might revisit if I notice the fabric fraying much.

Listen. Is it perfect? Far from it. Do I love it anyway? Absolutely. Will I be able to do something like this better next time? You betcha!

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