February 10, 2014

High-Back Chair Reupholstery (Part 1): Preparation

My high-back chair project is finally done, so I want to share the process with you, as well as some of the discoveries/mistakes I made.

Before you do anything, the first step to reupholstering a piece of furniture is to take a ton of photos. I'm only going to show you a few, but to give you an idea, I took over a hundred photos before and during the deconstruction phase! You want to document every part of the piece of furniture: how and where the cording is attached, where the fabric seams are, what it looks like underneath the chair and underneath the cushion. And you want to continue taking photos as you are deconstructing the chair, so you can remember how and where certain pieces of fabric were attached once it comes time to put the new fabric on.

So here's the chair I started with. I purchases it at a thrift store for $12. It was very sturdy and I liked the shape, but the velvet was worn and stained. Noticed the diamond-shaped pattern of buttons on the back panel (half of which were missing). I decided to forego these when I reconstructed the chair. Unless the back of the chair is concave, there really no need for the buttons and I thought it made the chair look dated.

Make sure to take photos of the detailing, such as this piping along the back cushion. Notice also how the back cushion is boxed (there's a strip of fabric on the side). I actually decided to change this aspect of the chair and replaced the back cushion with a single piece of fabric. That reduced the amount of work and I think it looked better in the end.

One of the worst parts of this chair was the sticky/greasy spots on the arm rests. Notice how the piping on the outside of the armrest is one continuous piece.

That piping on the outside arm continues down to the underside of the chair where it was attached with a nail. Also note how the front corner of the chair is a separate piece of fabric from the outside arm. These are the kinds of things you want to document, so you don't get confused later trying to recreate it in the new fabric.

Another bad aspect of this chair was the cushion and front panel under the cushion. They were both sagging and I suspected the foam inside was crumby and disintegrating. Also take photos of the cushion (how the zipper is attached, etc) if you are planning on ripping it apart to use as a template.

The panel under the cushion also had some unnecessary seams (see those little darts on the side) that I decided to forego when I redid the chair). I also switched the piece of fabric directly under the cushion with thick inexpensive muslin to reduce the amount of upholstery fabric I had to order (no one will see under the cushion anyhow).

Once you are done documenting how the chair is constructed, you can start deconstructing it (again, taking more photos as you open seams and remove panels of fabric. To get started, turn the chair upside down so you are looking at the dust cover (called cambric). And let the staple-removing fun begin!

Check out my next post for the "Deconstruction" steps...

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