Buh-Bye Polka Dots

Living on Saltwater - A Mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions

In 2013 I ran a marathon. That experience taught me a lot about what I am capable of. I learned that I can accomplish whatever I am mentally determined to do. The hardest part about running a marathon is not the physical act of running. The hardest part is stretching your mind to believe that you can run for 26.2 miles, that you can keep moving for 4-5 hours. When I started training, my mind wasn’t 100% sure that I could complete the race, but when I finished a 15 mile long run, I knew it was within reach. In my mind I often compare challenges to running a marathon to psych myself up into thinking that I can do anything I put my mind to. Sometimes when it comes to DIY projects, especially new projects that require some technical knowledge and skill, I don’t always have the confidence that it’s going to turn out good. I was hesitant to start on my latest project, upholstering this heart shaped chair. I’ve never upholstered anything in my life and I feel like it requires some prerequisite knowledge. But I’m pretty excited with the results and I wished I decided to tackle this project sooner. Here’s the complete step-by-step process with the supplies I used.

Living on Saltwater - Chair Upholstery

I ordered my upholstery supplies from www.diyupholsterysupply.com You can also check out my supply list on my Upholstery Pinterest Board, here. I also picked up some supplies at our local Joann’s Fabric Store. The material is from the Loomcroft Fabric Outlet in Burlington, NC. For most simple upholstery projects you probably won’t need a sewing machine, but I needed to make some piping for one of the edges.

Supplies and Tools

Utility Knife
Hammer
Plyers
Cotton Fiber
Ruberized Hog/Horse Hair
Upholstery Edging
Tack Strip
Tacks
Staple Gun
Staples
Mallet
Scissors
Fabric Scissors
Fabric to Recover (I bought 4 yards for this chair, could have probably purchased only 3 yards).
Zipper Foot for Sewing Machine
Matching Thread for Fabric
Rotary Mat
Rotary Cutter
Sewing Machine
Big Needle

I wrote about the history of this chair in my last post, here. Here’s a before picture of the fabulous green and white polka-dot vinyl.

Living on Saltwater - Chair Upholstery

I searched online and at Joann’s for fabric but I have difficultly buying fabric that I can’t touch and feel, especially for a project like this. For upholstery it’s nice to have a decently weighted fabric that isn’t too thin and won’t be durable, but also one that’s not too thick and hard to work with. I like the simplicity of the pattern on this fabric and that it is neutral. I picked up some other choices that were blue and teal, but I was afraid that I would grow tired of those.

Living on Saltwater - Chair Upholstery Fabric

I’d done some research on reupholstering furniture a while back. I learned that when you’re taking the piece apart you need to take A LOT of pictures. Take pictures of every part of the process and all of the details including where seeams are located, how piping is put together, how the fabric is layered over each other to hide seems, pictures of where certain pieces are attached to the frame. I took over 100 pictures of this chair and at times when I referenced them during the process I still felt like there were things missing where I wasn’t sure how it was put together. You can’t take TOO many pictures.

I started by taking the back piece of fabric off.

Living on Saltwater - Chair Upholstery

After the entire back side was exposed I started working with the ruffled top piece. There was some cotton batting inside this part and it was attached to the frame with a tack strip and some upholstery edging.

Living on Saltwater - Chair Upholstery

Living on Saltwater - Chair Upholstery

Living on Saltwater - Chair Upholstery

The next part was removing the front cover and the buttons. The buttons were secured with some twine and a knot on the back. The front piece had a layer of cotton underneath, which was in front of the jute webbing and a silk layer.

The bottom piece was last. Underneath was a layer of cotton followed by this horse/hog hair mess that covered the springs.

I left the springs, jute webbing, and silk fabric in place on the frame. I could of replaced them, maybe I should have replaced them, but decided they looked fine. This chair isn’t something that someone is going to sit in every day. So I didn’t worry about it.

Living on Saltwater - Chair Upholstery

After everything was stripped down, it was time to put it all back together. Keep all of the old parts, including the fabric, as these will be your patterns/templates for your new pieces. I started by cutting some new rubberized hog/horse hair mesh to go over the springs. I really considered using a piece of foam here, instead. But I was worried that I couldn’t find anything thin enough (the mesh is only ½ in thick) and if I did find a thing piece you would be able to feel the springs. Two layers of cotton went on top of the mesh. I started with the bottom piece of fabric and secured it on the sides, but waited until the end to secure the front and the back.

Living on Saltwater - Chair Upholstery

Living on Saltwater - Chair Upholstery

Next was the front part of the chair back. Two layers of cotton went on top of the wood frame and the fabric was stapled around the edges.

One of the most complex parts was making the ruffled top and the piping. I bought 3/8 piping/welting cord from Joann’s. It’s pretty simple to make. I looked up some tutorials. You’ll need a zipper foot on your sewing machine. I cut a two 2” pieces of material 54” long and sewed the ends together to make one long piece. Then place the cord in the center and secured it with some pins to hold. When you go to sew the piping, the piping side will be on the outside of the sewing machine foot.

Living on Saltwater - Chair Upholstery

Living on Saltwater - Chair Upholstery

To make a ruffle, I called my Granny for instructions. She’s very talented when it comes to sewing and was the person that taught me everything I know on the subject. I did the sewing for the ruffle on the machine, thinking it would be quicker, but I would probably be easier to do a basting stitch by hand. You will need two basting stitches, one on top of the other. If you’re using a sewing machine, set your stitch width to the widest possible setting on the machine. Once your two basting stitches are done, you’ll start to pull and gather the material on each side, until you meet in the middle. Be VERY careful to not break the thread, or you’ll have to start over.

Living on Saltwater - Chair Upholstery

The next step was to sew the piping onto the ruffle. Easiest way to remember how it should be sewn is to line up your seems together and line up the part that goes on the outside together.

The ruffle was attached with a tack strip and some tacks. I tried using a staple gun for this part, but were not holding the fabric. A piece of edging was put on top of the tack strip for extra structure and support.

Living on Saltwater - Chair Upholstery

Living on Saltwater - Chair Upholstery

The ruffle was filled with cotton and closed on the back with some staples. At this point I contemplated not putting the buttons back on. I kinda liked the simplicity and clean design, but was convinced otherwise. I “cheated” on the button making process. To do it the correct way you need a complicated and expensive button making system. Instead, I reused the buttons that were on the original chair. I cut a circle of fabric just a little bit bigger than the button and sewed a basting stitch. Then I pulled the ends of the thread to gather the material around the button and tied it off. Looked pretty good to me.

Living on Saltwater - Chair Upholstery

Living on Saltwater - Chair Upholstery

To put the buttons on the chair I needed a huge needle.

There were holes in the jute webbing from the old buttons, so I used that placement as a guide. I threaded the buttons through some cotton before tying a knot.

Living on Saltwater - Chair Upholstery

The last parts to finish off were the front and back of the bottom cushion, closing up the back, and putting a black dust cloth up, to close off the underside of the fabric. I watched a You Tube tutorial for the bottom cushion, here. The front corners were the most difficult part. I made a couple of cuts around the front leg and wrapped the side material over the front, and then folded the front part down over those staples to cover, like the guy shows in the video. Whew!

Living on Saltwater - Chair Upholstery

Living on Saltwater - Chair Upholstery

For the back piece I originally planned on securing it with some decorative nail heads. I practiced with some and let’s just say, I could NOT put one of those things in straight if my life depended on it. I’m not sure if my problem was the fact that they are curved on top or what, but it was going to be a shit show if I used those things. So I decided I would secure everything from the inside. I started at the top and worked my way around and folded the bottom underneath the frame. Everything was closed off with a black dust cloth.

Overall it wasn’t a bad project and for the most part it turned out way better than I anticipated. It’s sitting in my guest bedroom right now. I love that this chair is FINALLY out of my garage and is no longer a “someday project.” I can now add upholstery to my resume…..here’s some before and after shots for comparisons.

Living on Saltwater - Chair Upholstery

Living on Saltwater - Chair Upholstery

Living on Saltwater - Chair Upholstery

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