Time for a change

A while ago I inherited some chairs which I painted and very simply recovered. I write about it here. With general use and a specific disaster when I spilt stuff on them I decided they needed a change.

Here they are ‘before’. Slightly stained.

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I found some fabric I liked in John Lewis called Deco Tulip.

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And I was ready to get started.

This is by no means a proper professional bit of upholstery. I have (I confess) been on a short course where we were taught to lovingly rework furniture and this isn’t really the thorough approach they recommend, but it works.

First I just removed the old top layer.

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And cut out roughly the right amount of fabric.

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As I paint I’m lucky enough to have a staple gun I use for making canvasses, but I think you could just use small tacks in fact that is a bit more professional.

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I then just pull the fabric tight, but not excessively so and staple it in place. A bit like wrapping a present.

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Pop a bit of fabric on to cover the edges.

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And you’re basically done.

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Simple chair update

Recently I was lucky enough to be given a set of dining chairs by generous friends. I also found and bought a new dining table from an antiques shop and together I felt I had a bit too much dark wood going on.

So I decided to update the chairs by painting and recovering them. Painting the chairs is obviously the bigger, more permanent change than recovering so needed a bit more thought. Although it’s not for ever, you can of course strip them back or change the colour even if doing so can be very time consuming.

I started by sanding down the chairs and giving them an undercoat.

I then chose a new colour for them. After much agonising I went for Chalk Violet from Fired Earth.

I also had to choose some fabric for the seats. I wanted something with a strong pattern and considered doing each seat in a  different fabric but in the end I found this simple design in John Lewis . I thought this had a bit of interest but would also work with other fabrics and patterns in the same room.

This is where my slightly basic approach comes in but I kept the process of recovering the seats really simple and quick.

I removed the old leather cover and retained all the stuffing and the black piece of fabric used to hide all the workings.

Then using the frame as a guide I cut out an section of frabric with enough give around the edge to allow me to fold it up and staple the sections to the frame, but not so much that it would be bulky and hard to manage.

I have a staple gun for stretching canvas when I am painting and I used this to fix the fabric  and stuffing in place. Mine in reality isn’t strong enough so I had to help some of the staples in a bit. It can be tempting to add in loads and loads of staples but having spent hours removing them and knowing I might want to change this fabric one day meant I was fairly restrained.

I added staples bit by bit, first on one side, then the opposite and working round like this to create and even look.

When folding in the corners you have to make sure you get it pretty tight as this will need to drop back into the chair frame.

Then I fished out the bit of black fabric to cover this slightly erratic stapling and neaten things up.

And you have a finished base.

Then you simply drop this back into your painted frame and you’re done.

Up-cycling…

Some time ago the courses at The School of Stuff were recommended to me.

This rather sorry piece of furniture also arrived in the house, a refugee from a previous life as a stage prop.

As you can probably guess I decided to do a five day course at The School of Stuff in upholstery and use this bench as my project.

Five days seems like a long time but my main learning from this course was that upholstery (proper traditional style) is quite fiddly and quite time consuming. So without giving the end away I haven’t completely finished, but I thought a post now with all the stages covered would help me remember what I have learnt so far.

Stage one is stripping back. For everyone else on the course who had bought lovely antique pieces this was a very important stage. They had to document all the layers to help recreate the shape and remind them how the elements fitted together. For me with my rather basic bench this was less of an issue.

What I did have to do however was remove an incredible number of staples, dull work.

The wood frame didn’t look like it would be nice enough to bother stripping back the treacle like varnish. So I sanded it down and decided to paint it white.

Then I was ready to start rebuilding. We could have just repaired the springs that were there and used foam again but I wanted to go for a squarer shape rather than a dome when finished. So it was a complete rebuild.

First up I added webbing which is going to support the springs.

Then we worked out how many springs were needed, their size and where to place them. Once in position and evenly spaced I drew around them in red chalk so they would be easy to replace if knocked. Then they were sewed into position.

Then all the springs are tied together using a clove hitch. I found this quite hard as you had to compress the springs slightly, hold them in place, get the distances between them right and tie the knots.

The springs then get a cover of fabric and the tops of the springs are sewn to this as well.

Into this fabric large ties are sewn to give something to tuck the stuffing into.

I think this stuff is made from coconut husks but traditionally it would have been horse hair.

Another layer of fabric this time put on very carefully to form the corners and the shape of the seat. Once covered the stuffing inside is then “regulated” using  a needle like tool that allows you to move the stuffing around and even it up. Then some stitches are added through the seat to start to hold the stuffing in place using an enormous needle.

The next stage is to stitch round the sides. Again we sew through the seat and stuffing to start to pull it into shape and form a neat regular edge.

And that’s kind of where I got to. I need to arrange to go back in and spend another day or so finishing off.

I have however got the fabric for the covering sorted. We ordered it via the school from a company called Bute and I decided to go with Lime for the base and Dove for the back rests.

So all ready to go….

An evening in

Since the ceiling fell in upstairs in the sitting room we’ve been forced to have a re-jig. We have moved our remaining settee downstairs and the fatally injured one out the front ready for the final trip – to the dump. 

The dogs seem to be carrying out a survey to find the best place to snooze. 

This is the settee that we really need to re-upholster. We bought it for very little in an antiques shop in Rye but just haven’t got round to it. Plus the cost of having something beautifully upholstered is way more than the settee cost. You can do these things yourself – I made the red headboard in our bedroom. But in this case I think we need a professional job. When we find the final home in the house for this settee we’ll make a decision about the look and get it done. 

This chair we bought years ago in Greenwich market. Klaus is pleased as it is starting to look a bit worn. The rug is a simple one from Ikea.

The fireplace is still empty. The slightly ridiculous dogs’ bed is tucked in here and they seem to like it.