Remember when I was getting quotes on reupholstering the Craigslist chairs? The two places I'd contacted quoted me $550 for the pair, plus fabric. A deal breaker that compelled me to try it myself. Done! Guys, I'm so proud of myself! I know this isn't the hardest upholstery project, especially because the chair padding was in great shape, but it involves sewing. Ew. Not my favorite thing at all. But I did it!
Here's what they looked like before. Nothing wrong with that, except maybe the ratty pillow that came with them. But I need color. My modern and mid-century-loving self is deferring to my "try to respect the house at least a little bit" self. Our parlor is going to pretend to look a little Victorian, thus the Louis-esque chairs. But to keep it fun, I picked a crazy-colored upholstery fabric with an ogee pattern, which you see a lot in retro prints. It's soft and a little bit velvety (Iman's Malta Tourmaline). Nice.
I thought maybe I could pull off this project with my manual stapler, but after some testing, I determined the staples didn't quite go all the way into the wood, and it was very hard to wedge them into little nooks and crannies. So I bit the bullet and bought a Porter-Cable air compressor from Home Depot (it came as a set with a nail gun, which could prove useful) and a Surebonder 9615 pneumatic upholstery stapler from Amazon. I'm in LOVE with these tools. Even though it was an investment, they cost about 1/3 the price of having the chairs professionally done, and I can use them on future projects. Oh, and I also bought this Double Rock staple remover, which was a life saver.
This isn't going to be a tutorial for how to reupholster a chair, since there are good ones online like this one. There's also the great book by Amanda Brown, Spruce: A Step-By-Step Guide to Upholstery and Design that I mentioned yesterday, and to which I referred while doing this project.
But mostly I just took apart what the guy before me did, and copied it. I labeled the old fabric pieces with a Sharpie, marking where it went on the chair and which way was up, and then cut out new pieces in the same size.
I was most nervous about sewing cord around the edge of the back piece, because it had to fit perfectly into the chair frame. I traced the old piece onto wrapping paper folded in half to ensure a symmetrical pattern, then traced that pattern onto the new fabric so I knew where the cord should lie. I cut a generous inch or so outside that line. Then I laid the cord along the line, folded the excess over it, pinned, and sewed it.
And it fit! A little tugging was required in one corner, but I yanked that bad boy into shape.
I tucked the staples up under the cord and you can't even see them.
I made double welt cord (find a tutorial here or in the book) to cover all the staples around the bottom of the chair. I've never made piping before, but the $3 piping foot I bought made it a piece of cake. It was... dare I say it... fun? You can make this cord by purchasing actual double welt cord that's "double" already, or buy regular cord, just twice as much. I used actual double welt, but next time I'd use regular cord. It's cheaper, softer, and easier to find, and the sewing is the same.
After I had the chair all covered with fabric, I wondered how I should attach the cord. The stuff I removed had been stapled on, and you could see most of the staples when you looked at the chairs. Everything I read online said to hot glue it, and so did an upholsterer I asked, and so does Amanda's book--although she says to use a more intense glue gun than the dinky little craft one I have. She also mentioned a gimp stapler as an option. Which I also don't have.
So I just used the pneumatic gun and pressed firmly to embed the staples between the two cords, hiding them in the slight fuzziness of the fabric.
It worked fine and they're almost all hidden. And this way the trim will be easy to remove in the future. I thought maybe I could line up the pattern on the cord with the print on the chair, but realized that's not possible because the cord fabric is cut on the bias. That's okay. My perfectionist self can accept that.
I am SO delighted with how these turned out! I mentally congratulate myself on my good job whenever I walk by them. It's so obnoxious to brag, but I don't care. I'm telling you, they're awesome. If you've ever thought about attempting this kind of project, I know you can do it.