Wednesday, July 24, 2013

DIY Cane Chair Reupholstery

I am a huge believer in adjusting and redoing classic, vintage pieces of furniture over buying something brand new.  I care deeply about investing in furniture that is classic, well made, and will last.  In my price point, that is more likely to be a historical piece rather than a contemporary one.  You can find amazing pieces at estate sales, auctions, thrift stores or as hand me downs, and it is surprisingly easy to refinish or reupholster them.

I have a great pair of chairs that I was given by my friend Cate when she moved from a house to an apartment and needed to edit her furniture a bit.  to be honest, they aren't a perfect pair (there is a slight difference in the cushioning in the back, but there are the same cane sides, arms, and legs, which create a uniform look.  Cate had gotten the chairs hoping to work on them someday, but never got around to it.  When I first got them, they were very 1960s, with a walnut stain and pink and orange velvet upholstery.  I never took a formal picture of the before stage, but they did make an appearance in a Christmas tree picture a few years back:

I have not every taken an upholstery class and do not claim to be a expert; I've followed a lot of tutorials on blogs and via Pinterest.  While it is not as difficult as you first anticipate it to be, it is something that I have gotten better at as I've gone along.  In our old apartment, I first reupholstered these chairs in a white and yellow chevron.

While these chairs worked okay in our space at that time and I enjoyed experimenting with patterns, ultimately I always want my projects and artwork to look high end.  I am always on a budget, but practice, research, and self teaching are free.  I believe in reworking on projects, whether it is a home DIY or more fine arts related, until I am completely satisfied and feel like the product looks sophisticated.  Once we moved into our new place and developed a plan for the colors, textures, and prints in our new place, I chose to keep the wood painted white and to pick a luxurious textured linen fabric in a sandy taupe color.

First, I removed the old fabric and used it as a pattern, leaving about two inches of extra border to help pull the fabric taught.  I used pliers to help pull the fabric tightly across the seat and back as stapled it to the frame.  This a trick I learned from stretching canvases across a wooden frame in painting classes in college.  Keeping the fabric pulled tightly is essential to keeping the upholstery job looking professional.  Any lumps, tears, excesses, etc., make the item look like a cheap hand me down rather than a piece that is classic, antique, or well cared for.

While I know that some high end furniture stores, specifically Restoration Hardware, has been featuring deconstructed pieces with raw fabric edges, I don't trust myself to pull off that without it looking clearly inauthentic.  You can't fake the wear that an antique, French flea market piece would have, or at least, I can't.  I wanted to finish the edges and hide the staples and raw edges with double welting made from the same fabric.  If you want, many upholsterers can make this for you or you can buy cording from any fabric store to make it.  Or, if you need the cording in a larger quantity, like I did, than your fabric may have on hand, you can use clothesline or rope from Home Depot to make the welting.  to do this, I started by first wrapping the clothesline in the fabric and pinning the fabric shut.  I then stitched as closely to cording as possible using the double stitching setting on my sewing machine, removing the pins as I went.

A nice perk to this step is that my sweet puppy loves to sit by the sewing machine while I work.  She's helpful like that.  

Afterwards, I trimmed some of the excess fabric, but left a half inch or so border so that I could ensure I had enough to attach the welting to the cushion and cover the staples.  To attach the welting, I used basic tacky glue for fabric, applying it liberally to the excess fabric and then pinning it.  To be on the safe side, I let it sit overnight.

The next day I repeated the process, this time facing the cording upward rather than downward.  The following day, I applied glue between the two cords and then pinned them together to create the double welting, leaving the chair looking polished and professional

I so proud of how the chairs turned out.  Overall, the cost per chair was around $45 each.  The chairs were given to me, the paint I had, the fabric was purchased on sale, and many of the tools I already had on hand.  Plus, the feeling accomplishing a furniture makeover on my own is pretty satisfying and motivates me to continue to work on things throughout our apartment, making it more and more our own beautiful space.

Have you ever done reupholstery?  What has worked well and what hasn't? 

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