Saturday, September 13, 2014

Conquering Upholstery

It's finally finished!

This was a true labor of love.  I stabbed my hands with a thousand pins, bent many upholstery needles and pins, ripped out and restitched too many seams to count, bruised my hands from the staple gun, and jammed my sewing machine at least a dozen times. All in, this project probably took 40 hours.  And, I am so proud of the results!

In 2011, Michael bought a $10 Craigslist chair for his grad school apartment. I hated everything about his apartment, and wanted no reminders of those two years of long distance--chair included.  In spite of my protests, he brought the chair with him when we moved to NYC together last summer.  

Since we were not willing to shell out for a professional re-upholstery job or invest in a new chair, the only option was to DIY.  I quickly convinced Michael that I could knock the project out in "one long weekend" with his engineering help.  Little did he know, I had no idea what I was talking about...

We started fabric shopping at Zarin's in Chinatown and made multiple trips to the garment district, returning home with swatches each time.  But, we weren't able to find anything we liked.  Finally,  at Mood last September, we found the perfect suite of fabrics to re-do the seats of our dining room chairs (finished!), upholster the chair (halleluja!), build a DIY coffee table ottoman (finished!), and make coordinating throw pillows (stay tuned!).

The chair fabric stayed in my closet for 3+ months, as I found excuse after excuse not to start. On New Year's day--4 months BEFORE our wedding--we plunged in.  The chair is comprised of four pieces: two arms, the rounded back, cushion and many yards of piping. Using my trusty seam ripper, I removed all of the existing upholstery and Michael used the old fabric as a template to cut the new.  I painstakingly removed the 2 inch bias-cut fabric around the piping so that I could encase the existing cording in velvet bias strips for the new piping. Once all the fabric was cut, I labeled Ziploc bags for each piece (left arm, right arm, back, cushion) and we stuffed the Ziplocs with the template, the newly cut fabric, and the corresponding velvet piping. The steps up until this point took us the better part of an entire weekend, the two of us working side-by-side.

The original fabric is on the back piece of the chair and the new fabric is already stapled to the front edge of the chair.  
When I first attempted to sew the new back piece in late January, my Brother machine (sans walking foot) quickly let me know who was boss. Let's just say there was lots of broken needles and cursing.  I persevered and *mostly* sewed the piping to the rounded edges. The chair back sat in the corner of our living space for the next five months while we attended to wedding preparations. 

After the dust settled from the wedding, we picked the project back up earlier this summer.   This time, I had a new Bernina 1008--birthday present from Michael.  In late June, I headed to  City Sewing to buy a walking foot.  Over two separate weekends in June and early August,   I worked on the arms of the chair.  Each arm consisted of three pieces of fabric and two sections of piping.  The fabric is stapled on the underside of each arm.   From there, I redid the rounded corners on the chair back and made the zippered seat cushion.  The contours of the arms and back are still not perfect, but I am satisfied with the results. 

Michael took it from here... he put the three pieces of the chair back together.  This involved lots of screws, nuts, and bolts, and the stapler.  He then placed a new tack strip (purchased at Mood) on the chair back to hold the final piece of fabric. 

We are both so proud of our new chair!

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