Thursday, April 9, 2015

Re-Upholstery Lessons Learned

The chair is done.  It looks great and works perfectly.  But I still give myself only a B- on the project.  Why?  I made a lot of mistakes – many of which could have been avoided if I had planned better and/or executed more carefully. 

So in the interest of helping someone else avoid the mistakes I made, here are my lessons learned:

1.  Take pictures.  Take lots of pictures.  Take more pictures than you think you’ll ever need.  Take a picture at each step of disassembly – both of the overall unit and of each piece. The more time it takes to complete your project, the more the pictures will help you put things back together.  The pictures were very helpful in putting together pieces that needed to be sewed.  The old fabric you’ll use as a pattern won’t have nice markings and notches, nor will it have a sheet of instructions on which was two straight-looking pieces go together to make a curve.  Take pictures.

2.  The air compressor is your friend.  If you can, use compressor-driven staples.  With the number of staples we used to attach the fabric to the wood, we would have been exhausted trying to manually drive them. 

3.  Fit multiple times, staple once.  Those great compressor-driven staples are almost impossible to remove once they’re in, so be certain that the piece is exactly where you want it before you install a staple.

4.  Allow extra fabric for pieces that will need to wrap along an edge and be stapled.  How will you know?  If you've taken pictures in the disassembly, you’ll see where they wrap and attach.  If, like us, you didn't take quite enough pictures, any piece that isn't sewn and doesn't have a finished edge is a likely candidate for stapling.  Cut it long.  You can always cut off excess fabric. 

5.  Tack strip is your friend.  As I was taking some of the pieces apart I noticed that there was half-inch wide cardboard strip along some of the edges.  I didn't know what it was called at the time, but I knew I needed to get some.  It comes in rolls and you can get it at fabric and craft stores.  I thought it was kind of pricey, but it’s really great for the nice finished edges.  And, if like us, you cut a piece that should have wrapped around too short, you can use the tack strip and another piece of fabric to finish the edge. 

6.  A needle and thread is your friend.  I made patches for a couple of areas where I messed up either cutting or stapling.  I used a straight needle, and while it was awkward I could still manage to get it to work.  I was told later that this is why curved needles were invented.  Oh, well.  The fabric I chose was very forgiving; you can’t even see the stitches. 

Here’s hoping that these lessons will help someone out there somewhere.  Happy re-upholstering!

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