Reupholstering…..it is one of the scariest words known to man. (Okay, maybe just this man, but still…) It’s a topic that fills this DIYer with a sense of dread. When Kelli first mentioned she wanted to start repurposing some of our old attic relics and that she wanted to change the colors I just assumed that she wanted to paint the wooden parts of long forgotten furniture. (Like she always wants to do.) I was mistaken. She had plans to reupholster several pieces with more pleasant and modern material. Fabric material. This scared me! The process of taking an already complete piece, disassembling it, altering it, then reassembling it was intimidating. There is tangible pressure working on a piece that is a family heirloom, or is somehow more important than just its’ purpose. I was most concerned about making the corners where the fabric would fold over look like a DIY gone bad.
The reupholstering bug had definitely hit Kelli so we were setting off down a road that neither of us had traveled. In the midst of it all we also began to float the idea for me to build a new bed for our soon to be redone master bedroom and this new bed came complete with a newly built and upholstered headboard.
For some unexplained reason the idea of building and upholstering a new headboard for our newly built platform bed seemed like something I could try. I was less scared of the headboard project for several reasons. 1) The headboard was my own creation, if I messed it up or didn’t like the finished product I could just start over. 2) The shape of the headboard (rectangle) would be easy to work with. 3) There was zero sentimental value in the chunk of particleboard I was working with, unlike the attic relics. So I guess you could say our new headboard was my gateway upholstering project.
I will admit I use the internet in the same way as most people, to get in arguments with strangers and to watch cat videos, but I can also use it for the powers of good. One of our favorite blogs is Young House Love because they have similar tastes and passions as we do and, as luck would have it, they have a great write up on building and upholstering a headboard.
Check them out:
Kelli liked their design so much she even used the exact material for our head board.
The material for the headboard and bench projects in this post is called Gazebo Cloud by Braemore and we purchased them online from http://www.onlinefabricstore.net/. The rocking chair fabric is Premier Prints Zig Zag Storm Twill also bought from the same online store.
I am planning on a whole different post about construction of the actual bed (which is very different from the Young House Love bed) so I’m just focusing on the upholstering part of the project here and I’m not going to go into the construction just yet. (But follow our blog and stay tuned!)
The most important thing I learned from the above blog is to “pull tight”. If there is any secret to upholstering it would be “pull tight”. Also, “pull tight”! When you are securing the batting or whatever “padding” you choose to go under the fabric (we chose extra loft batting and put two layers of it) it’s very important that all of the creases and wrinkles are pulled out or they will show through the finished product. It is also a good idea to iron out the fabric before it is put into place, this will help to keep wrinkles out of sight.
I always started my work on one end of the surface and stapled the entire side, then moved to the opposite end so as I pulled the fabric it was as straight and square as possible. It is important to have a good staple gun to get the most secure results.
….or one like this….
I used two layers of batting over the headboard to give it a more comfortable feel. Then moved onto the fabric cover material. As I stumbled and faked my way through the project I began to realize that upholstering was less of an art, and more of a wrestling match between a person and a piece of cloth. Of course the corners were the most important and difficult part of the process. There are several ways to decribe the folding of the corners; folding a paper airplane inside out, wrapping a Christmas gift with a blanket, or putting a diaper on a rocking horse. Again pulling tight is really the best advice I can give.
After completing the headboard I developed the courage to start working on other projects. My first attempt was a bench that again had a rectangular shape so the process was very similar to the headboard. Usually furniture is built in a way that the frame or legs is detachable from the horizontal area (sitting area or table top). Often a screw is driven through the framing into the horizontal area. After locating these screws it is simply a matter of pulling them out and you will be left with the part of the project that will be reupholstered. This bench was originally covered with black pleather and was the bench to a “Fun Machine” that Kelli’s family had when she was growing up. (Yes- I have no idea either- but she says it was awesome…she also says to tell you to google Baldwin Fun Machine Organ and you’ll see the awesomeness for yourself.) It had sentimental value for Kelli, so I certainly wanted it to turn out well!
The last job on my list was an old rocking chair that had belonged to Kelli’s Granny with a trapezoid shape (smaller in the back than the front.) It was the most sentimental and therefore the scariest! The fabric originally on the chair was a frayed green silk fabric with much wear and tear. The process was similar to the first couple of projects, however I had to take more care to keep the fabric square because of the irregular shape of the seating area and because the fabric was chevron and would be more difficult to keep squared. Again, no secrets, just pull tight.
Hindsights: (All DIYers have them- or maybe they aren’t truthful!) I am proud of these projects but I would change a few things.
· I would have liked the headboard to have more padding, I need to do some research on better ways to develop that super soft feel.
· Using slightly larger screws when I reattached the tops would make me feel better.