Thursday, September 6, 2012

A Soft Landing for Old Furniture: Recovering Chair Cushions

Have you heard?  I look like this.

I am unwieldy.  I am misshapen.  I am a twofer.  And I cannot take an iPhone self portrait.

This baby is due in 12 days.  12 days!!!  It's been great sharing my body with him and everything, but GETOUTGETOUTGETOUT!!! 

I'm normally still pretty busy but toward the end of this pregnancy there has been some of this action.

A little R&R is needed.  But mostly, lately it's been all about crossing things off my to-do list.  Call it nesting if you must, but I really believe it's the accurate realization that I will soon be attached to another person whose needs will be unpredictable, round-the-clock, and very demanding.  Add to that my toddler, husband, animals and full-time job and... well... it's gonna be a while before I resurface to tackle any projects. 

Nesting = Planning.

So the house is relatively clean and organized, the laundry is caught up, rooms are rearranged (more on that in another post), and I've been cleaning out cupboards and storage areas.  We need room for baby stuff again.

Nesting = ...nesting?  *maybe*

One thing I knew I could tackle easily and inexpensively was recovering a little footstool Beep likes to carry around.  Because how else is she supposed to reach all the forbidden FUN STUFF?

The stool belonged to Cabbage's grandmother, and who knows where it came from before that.  It's old and sentimental and I didn't want to change it too much, but seriously.  Look at the upholstery.

It was time.

If you've never reupholstered a chair, trust me when I say it's one of the easiest DIY projects to tackle.  It usually requires no more than new fabric, a scissors, a couple of screwdrivers, and a staple gun.

In this case I turned the stool over to reveal some ancient screws securing the pad to the base, and old nails holding the crumbling upholstery to the pad.  Most of the time, though, you'll find a few screws holding the cushion to the base, and staples attaching the upholstery.  Carefully unscrew the base and set it aside.  Then pry up the old staples (in this case, nails) to remove the old fabric. 

This bad boy revealed yet another layer of even older tapestry, which was crumbling with age.  I happen to think that's cool, so I left it there for... whatever.  Historical records? 

I opted not to replace the padding (hellooooo people, that would have required EFFORT and MEASURING), but if you wanted to do so, now would be the time.  The foam is sold at fabric stores and you can cut it to size (plan to overlap the base a little which will give nice rounded edges) with a straightedge razor.

Next I centered the cushion on the pattern of this great aqua ikat-esque fabric I ordered from  I carefully cut around the base, being sure to leave enough to wrap around the cushion to the back, plus a couple of extra inches on each side.

Testing the wrappage factor.

Take your time making sure you're happy with the pattern placement.  Then, it's just a matter of wielding ye olde staple gun.  It usually works best to staple opposite sides as you go, rather than all down one side at once.  If your cushion was a clock you'd staple at 12, then at 6, then 11, then 7, and so on.  That method helps ensure your tension is even and the fabric stays straight. 

Stapling isn't an exact science, and I don't see any need to be super picky about it as long as the top side looks good.  But, if you want to try to make less of a hash job of stapling in a straight line than I did below, be my guest.

Please also try to get your toddler to be your hand model.  Child labor, it's the next big thing.

Continue to staple opposite sides until you approach the corners, but leave them loose for now.  Then rotate the cushion to staple the remaining sides.  Trim any excess fabric from the sides.

The corners can be dealt with several ways, but I usually just make a neat fold and try to ensure each corner's fold matches the others.  Then staple away until it's nice and tight and flat.  Trim as needed.

Flip over and review your work.  If you notice any unevenness, this is a good time to tweak or add staples.

Reattach the pad to the base, and away you go!

Take some crappy pictures of your child playing with it in a messy room and enjoy the satisfying results of 15 minutes well spent...

Until the next project, which is this nice little mission-style rocker my aunt snagged at a garage sale a few years ago.

It's in good shape and the size is perfect for Beep's room, but the upholstery is old and grody. (I'm bringing grody back, by the way.  Hey, 80s, how've you been?)

I removed the cushion from the base, popped off the upholstery you see above, and found this stuff which looks pretty original. 

...And is stuffed with straw.

Nope, didn't replace that either.  I left the green fabric alone and cut out a new square of my happy aqua fabric to match the stepstool.

This one required a little more planning because two sides will show- one in the front and one in the back.  I simply creased and folded the fabric and stapled it firmly in place wherever the staples would be hidden.  Where they will show, I tacked about three staples down the side, with plans to add some nice little upholstery tacks down the line.  (Translation: when the new baby is weaned in a year or so.  If I remember.  Which I probably won't.)

Continuing around the sides, trimming and cornering that bad boy, I soon had this nifty little number.

Reattached, the rocker now looks like this.

And these two separate pieces, though not matching per se, now relate to each other. 

I love how they turned out.  Though the chair will stay primarily in Beep's room for bedtime stories and midnight rocking sessions, I chose a pattern and fabric that would work anywhere in our house.  That way, as my little helper navigates a world made for people twice her height, her great-grandmother's little stool will be welcome wherever it lands.