DIY Upholstery, Part 1: Demo

Charlotte@Living Well on the Cheap  —  September 6, 2011 — 6 Comments

I spent the labor day weekend finally tackling the secondhand wing chairs in my living room.

I got these chairs for $50 from craigslist right before we moved into this house with grand plans to sew custom slipcovers. A shameful 18 months or so later the mauve velvet is still proudly on display and I’m ready to do something about it.

I’m still a total newbie to this sort of thing, but I think that reupholstery is actually easier than making a custom slipcover. I’m not so great at spatial reasoning, so I really struggle to sew anything more complex in its 3D-ness than a throw pillow. Upholstery is a little easier since you can use the old fabric as a pattern for the new and then just tack it all on there.

That said, let me just tell you that this is hands down the hardest project I’ve ever undertaken. After three days of tearing those chairs apart and putting them back together my body is sore, my brain is frazzled, and, here’s the worst part, I’M STILL NOT DONE! Can you believe it? To be fair, it’s not like I spent every moment working on it. I mean, LSU did play their first football game this weekend. But I can say with honesty that I’ve put at least twenty hours into this project so far and I’ve probably got another 5-10 hours to go. It’s taking waaaaaaaay longer than I expected it to.

This will not be a detailed step-by-step tutorial because I still have no idea what I’m doing. I started out by reading this tutorial, which I found really helpful. I grabbed a small flathead screwdriver, a pair of pliers, and a bowl for all those staples. Armed with my tools and a Kardashians marathon, I flipped chair #1 over and got down to business.

I was feeling so full of hope and determination when I removed that first piece of fabric covering the bottom. Oh, how my spirit would be crushed in the hours to come.

Pretty much everything is stapled to the bottom of the chair. I got started prying out one staple at a time.

So, so many layers of staples. I removed staples all around just to find that the only thing I’d freed was the piping. Ugh. Eventually I got everything detached from the bottom and started working on what appeared to be the next layer, the back of the chair.

The sides were attached with this strip of nails. I pried it out with the screwdriver, then gently pulled it off of the fabric. I set it aside to re-use with the new fabric.

The top of the back piece was attached with this grippy strip thing. Kinda crazy. As with the strip of nails, I tried to keep both it and the fabric in reasonable condition so I could use it when I put the chair back together. Apparently by the time I got to this step I was so worn out from all the staples I’d removed thus far that I couldn’t even snap a picture without my finger blocking the lens.

The grippy strip was attached to the chair with more staples. Ugh.

Next was the part under the arm and wing. The original upholsterer had applied the staples through a thin piece of wood to give a nice, crisp line at the top. Clever.

Next were the wings, arms, and what I’ve recently learned are referred to as the “deck” and “nose” (the pieces under the cushion and at the front of the chair, respectively). And I guess I was in the zone because I didn’t take any more pictures, save for this one I snapped on my iphone. The Animal Entourage was protesting my devotion to the chair.

After a whole day of working off and on, but mostly on, I had ONE chair deconstructed.

Note that I kept the original batting and foam. I saved everything except for the staples and fabric to be reused. Waste not want not! BTW, I used a sharpie to label each piece of fabric as I removed it, writing down where it went, which way was up, and instructions to attach the new stuff (ex: left side, attach after arms, before wings). I thought that might help in putting humpty dumpty back together again.

There was nothing intellectually challenging about this part of the project. It was just very tedious, frustrating, and physically grueling. And also disgusting. The inside of that chair was full of dirt, crumbs, and junk. I’m so glad there aren’t any little kids in this house because I was stepping all over rogue staples and unidentified particles by the time this chair was naked.

So that was Saturday. I spent Sunday tearing apart the other chair. I knew that if I reupholstered one chair completely it would be really hard to get motivated to do it all over again on the other one so I figured it best to get both of them torn apart from the get go. Spoiler alert: it’s 8pm Monday as of this writing and chair #1 is about 75% reupholstered. So much for getting this project done before returning to work on Tuesday!

Charlotte@Living Well on the Cheap


6 responses to DIY Upholstery, Part 1: Demo

  1. Can’t wait to see the finished product! I’ve heard that reupholstering is a bear. Sounds like that’s true!

    P.S. I thought of you as we watched LSU! I told my hub that I have a blog friend that lives near LSU. I felt like I was hot stuff :)

    • Charlotte | livingwellonthecheap September 6, 2011 at 1:12 pm

      I live soooo close to LSU. We can walk to and from campus in a pinch! You should come visit! And you ARE hot stuff!

  2. Sounds like you’re really doing a great job with such a big task! Rock on, girl!

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