23 October 2011

Reupholstery Tutorial: Part I.

When I was 13 or so, I picked out an office chair with wheels for my brand new desk.  It was a bold aqua color.  At least, I think this color is aqua...Whenever there is some combination of blue and green, I don't ever know how to define it.  I mean, I know a handful of terms that define a mixture of the two colors: cerulean, teal, turquoise, blue-green, green-blue, aquamarine, aqua, seafoam, etc. But, I'm lost when it comes to the actual concentration of blue and green in each of these colors.  Is this just me?  I think we need a scale like the one in all science books for wave sizes (infrared, radio, x-ray...).
Regardless of its actual color, this chair has gotten pretty dirty.  And, since I painted my room "Avocado", it's a blaring clash of colors.  So, I decided to reupholster it.  There are some great reupholstery (or upholstery, I think it's just common to add the prefix re- in front if it's not the first upholstery for this object) tutorials out there including these ones: here and here.  Every furniture item is going to be constructed differently, so all you can really do is take the essential ideas and apply them to your own!
Here is my own reupholstery tutorial for an office chair!  Enjoy!

Equipment List:
  •  Fabric (3/4 yard was plenty sufficient for this office chair) (Preferably upholstery fabric, which is thicker than regular fabric and will hold up better.  I bought mine at fabric.com, which has a good selection and offers great value for the price.)
  • Phillips screwdriver and Allen wrench (for disassembling the chair)
  • Flat screwdriver / staple remover
  • Staple gun


Start by taking apart your chair.  Only take apart the sections that have fabric on them.  Mine required using a Phillips screwdriver and Allen wrench to remove a few screws, and manually unscrewing the tension knob on the backrest. 

* Hint: It helps to take pictures while disassembling your chair.  You can go back through these pictures later if you get lost and forget how the chair was constructed.  

My backrest is formed from 2 pieces.  Use a flat screwdriver to separate the individual pieces.  Keep in mind that they are likely connected with something (mine was connected to 8 pegs) and locating these will make it easier to remove the pieces.

Take a minute to label your pieces.  I used a black Sharpie marker.  Use an up arrow to signify the top of the object and label your sides Left and Right based on how they are oriented when they were put together.  Verify that when you put your left and right sides together, they match up correctly.  I later added the labels, "Front Piece Inside", and "Back Piece Inside" to the wood pieces in the picture above.

Now is the super-fun-demolition part!  Take a flathead screwdriver or staple remover (an office one worked for me, but you can also buy fancier upholstery ones) and remove all of the staples connecting the fabric to the chair.  Use pliers to completely remove any stubborn staples that only come out halfway.  Make sure to measure the height of these staples, starting from their bending point.  You should use staples of the same height later, so be sure you have a box of staples the right size!

Once all of the staples are removed, label your fabric pieces in the same manner as the wood pieces.  Just make sure that however you choose to label them, you know how to reassemble all of the pieces.  Don't forget to keep taking pictures too!  Now, check the foam: is it in good condition still?  Chances are, it is.  If so, you can just reuse it!  If not, you should go to a craft store and buy some foam to replace it. 

Now, iron out the fabric pieces to make them lay as flat as possible.

Place the fabric pieces onto your new fabric.  Lay it out so that both right sides are facing up.  Use a fabric marker or chalk to trace around the pieces onto your new fabric.  Add a little extra, say 1/4" to all sides for some wiggle room.  (You could also just cut directly around the old pieces, but I like to draw first).  Cut the new pieces out.

Again, label the backs of these new fabric pieces with an up arrow, and Left and Right sides.  (Don't use that same black Sharpie because it might bleed through!)

Zigzag the edges of these pieces with a sewing machine to keep the edges from fraying.  Don't worry about the color of thread or even your sewing skills because it will be hidden from view.

Get your staple gun out and get ready to fall in love!  I used an electric one (perks of living at home), but an industrial, non-electric kind will be just fine.  You can find a staple gun at any hardware store (e.g. Home Depot, Lowes) or most craft stores (Michaels, Hobby Lobby) should carry them either in their leather-working, upholstery, or wood-working section.  Take the new fabric pieces and begin to staple them to the chair pieces (use the same staple height as determined during deconstruction) close to the edges.  Be sure to stretch the fabric as tightly as possible as you go, and don't do an entire side at one time.  That is, staple some on one side, and then move the the complete opposite side to staple there (this ensures an even fabric stretch).  Use a helper if you need, preferably someone whose finger you don't want to staple! 

Continue stapling around the entire piece, close to the edges.  When stretching the fabric, look at it from the front to make sure it's looking how you'd like it to, and then staple again.  On rounded corners, fabric will need to be bunched up and sitting on top of each other, as in the picture below.  This is okay, and necessary to get a good look!

When finished, it should look something like the following picture.

From the back:

From the front:

I've only finished this front piece of the backrest, so Part II will go over finishing the back piece of the backrest, reassembling the entire backrest, doing the seat cover, and spray painting the metal parts!

Hopefully this first tutorial gives you some solid concepts to work with for reupholstering. 

Now, go get started on that old office chair, armchair, rocker, or some other old, outdated and dirty piece of furniture!  And don't pass up an opportunity to snag a cheap chair from a yard / garage sale just because it has ugly or ancient, worn-out fabric--now you know how to fix it!

Show me your success!

No comments:

Post a Comment