Sunday, April 17, 2011

Vintage Blossom Wingback Chair

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Last month I became obsessed with finding a nice upholstered chair to put in my new home. Long story short... I couldn't find one I loved within my price range, so I decided to rescue a junkyard wingback chair and reupholster it myself. I must confess, if I had fully realized all the time, blisters and expense that goes into reupholstering, I would not have taken on such a huge project. That being said, I'm glad I did it and I love, love, LOVE my new chair.

Here is the chair I rescued. It was once owned by a old granny and her many cats. My husband is allergic to cats, which meant I had to strip this chair down to its bare wooden frame and replace all the foam and batting as well. Take note, new foam doubled the cost of this project. So, if you decide to rescue your own chair, it would be a bonus if the foam was still in good shape.

Believe it or not, taking apart the chair is the most tedious, dirtiest, time-consuming part of reupholstering. You will most definitely ruin your manicure, and will potentially need to get a tetanus booster shot in the process (you may want to figure that into the cost). Using a flat-head screwdriver and needlenose pliers, you have to pull out thousands of staples, removing your fabric pieces layer by layer. I wish I would have timed this part, but I'd estimate it took me about 15 hours to get the chair down to its frame:

Molly,the creative maven, gives an excellent tutorial that compares the chair pieces to layers of an onion. It's important to take notes on the order of your layers. She recommends numbering each piece as you remove it so you'll remember how to put it back together. And keep your old yucky pieces intact, so you can use them as your pattern. Here is my pile of pieces:

I fell in love with the dove fabric on Crate and Barrel's Carly Chair shown here:

This particular fabric is called Vintage Blossom, and was designed by Dwell Studio for Robert Allen Home Fabric. Although I loved the gray used in Crate and Barrel's chair, I decided to go with the jade because I think it'll survive the wrath of my children better.

Since I am no expert on reupholstering, I'm not going to make this a full tutorial. However, let me steer you to some excellent tutorials that helped me:

How to Reupholster a Wingback Chair by the creative maven

Back of Chair Video by diyupholsterysupply

Curve Ease Video by diyupholsterysupply

Foam Video by diyupholsterysupply

Cording Tutorial by Autum

Additional notes that you may find helpful:

Fabric: I used 6.5 yards of home decor fabric (fyi, carries Dwell Studio home fabric)

Batting: 6 yards of 8 oz poly batting (about 1 inch thick)

Cording: 12 yards

Metal Tack Strips: 3 (1 cut to size for the outside of arm sides, 2 for back of chair)

Cardboard Tack Strip: 3 yards

Curve Ease: 4 feet (for outside of wings)

Staples: a lot, a lot, a lot

Medium or High Density Foam: 1 3/4 yard of 4-inch thick foam (24 inch wide) and 2 yards of 1-inch thick foam (24 inches wide)

Paint for the chair legs: Valspar high gloss latex enamel paint (Black)

If you're smarter than me, you would have found a chair with the foam intact and this would be your starting point (not to mention, saving yourself $100). OH! and springs... make sure none of the springs are broken. Bad springs or bad foam... just walk away. This picture also shows the new seat bottom and front. I cushioned the front with 1" foam and a layer of batting before putting on the front piece as shown. The seat cover sits directly on the springs and is composed of a layer of wool felt, a layer of batting, and the gray wool you see on top. Why did I use wool? Because that's what I happened to have in my fabric stash. Muslin would work equally as well.

*Note: The inside wings, inside arm and bottom front got 1" foam and the chair back and seat cushion got 4" foam.

Even if your foam is good, I recommend replacing your batting. The batting will add about $25 to your costs, but it gives your foam a nicer finished look and adds a flattering loft to your chair. At this stage, I put the batting everywhere except the back. Do not staple the batting on the outside arm piece to the bottom of your chair yet.

Here is my seat cushion, layered with batting on each side. Have you ever tried cutting 4-inch foam? Do yourself a favor and use an electric knife (yes, the one you use to carve the Thanksgiving Turkey).

After layering the batting on each side, I wrapped my cushion with another layer of batting. There is a special adhesive that you can use to apply the batting to the foam, but since this is my first and last reupholstering project, I decided to save the $10 and do a quick hand-stitching along the edges. Voila:

Next I prepped my cording using this fantastic tutorial. I almost had an aneurysm trying to wrap my brain around this concept, but once I figured it out, it changed my life forever. It takes the tediousness out of making bias tape and I'm very excited about that. Please refer to the same tutorial for guidance on making your seat cushion cover.

Each chair is a little different, but on my chair, the inside wing piece was sewed to the inside arm piece. The original chair covered the front of the arm as a separate piece, which was nailed in place. I opted to sew my arm front to my inside arm piece beforehand because I liked the look of it better. Use your old pieces as a pattern (you'll have to seam rip them apart first in this case). Once you have your new inside arm/wing pieces sewn together, center the arm/wing seam (mine has cording there) and start attaching from that point.

If you look at the wooden frame picture above, then you'll notice openings at the back, bottom and sides of the frame. This is where everything slides through. Tuck your excess fabric through those openings and those will be pulled taut and stapled last. First do the inside arm/wing sides and next do the chair back.

See all the excess fabric hanging out the back and side? Pull the heck out of it and staple them in place after you've stapled around everywhere else as shown.

After you've stapled the fabric to the back, bottom and sides of the frame, feel free to trim away the excess.

Next I stapled on my cording in one continuous strip along the sides and back.

And more cording along the front:

Next, watch this Curve Ease tutorial and use this technique to put on the outside wings. Staple your curve ease snug against your cording. I applied more batting as shown in the video (so my outside wings had double batting), crimped the curve ease along the wing, then stapled the sides to the back of the chair taut.

I didn't take a picture of applying the outside arm piece because at this point I could see the light at the end of the tunnel and I was too dang excited to take pictures. I used cardboard tack strip along the top of the outside arm (snug against the underarm rest). Then watch this video and use the same principle to apply a metal tack strip to the front arm side and staple along bottom and chair back. I had to cut my metal tack strip to size for this part.

Refer to the same video to put on your chair back. Turn your chair upside down and staple on a dust cover (really, you can use any fabric for this... muslin would work fine).

And there you have it... my total cost of reupholstering this wingback chair was about $225, plus 25 hours of hard labor (my poor blistered hands... it's a miracle they're not marred by staple holes). If I were to take this in to be professionally done, it would have cost at least $400 PLUS cost of fabric ($100) so $500 total. Before taking on this project, I would have thought that price was ridiculously high. Now it seems a bit low. Kudos to professional upholsterers.