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From a Crawl to a Sprint

Before & After

A couple of posts back I mentioned how I had gone to an ottoman upholstery class and after doing so feeling like I could take on any refinish project.  And by any refinish project, I really mean any refinish project.  Let me just preface by saying I initially started small. I wanted to graduate from a rectangle ottoman to a simple chair, and maybe move on to something more difficult later on.  So I snatched up an upholstered, tufted back chair with caning under the arms that needed a little love posted in one of the local vintage yard sale Facebook groups for $30ish.  I hesitated momentarily because I had NO IDEA how to do tufting, but I could totally see her potential!  It definitely fits into the French Provincial theme that I am gaga for. Now came the part of deciding what to do with her.  But before we get to that you should know that almost immediately after I purchased this gal-a settee at too good of a price to pass up came available and I snatched her up and hauled her home too!  It was around this time that I got addicted to being the first person to say "I want" and our new home quickly began filling with project condition furniture I was totally going to refinish in all of the free time that I have.............................yep.  Needless to say, my "refinish goals" escalated rather quickly.   Once the glow of "winning" such a prize (I know that's what you are thinking) wore off it started to sink in that I was WAY over my head.  What business did I have tackling the upholstery of a settee when the most I had ever done was a rectangle shaped ottoman?  A single piece of fabric-no sewing required simple shaped ottoman.  I was too overwhelmed to do anything about it yet, I couldn't bring myself to admit defeat and pass the settee on to someone else either.  So both chairs sat.....in my formal living room.....UNDER SHEETS.....FOR MONTHS AND MONTHS.  I was so overwhelmed and so embarrassed when company would come over.  I hope that most people assumed the sheets were protecting some really nice furniture from my dogs lying on them.  Maybe?? Okay-on to what to do with these old gals hidden under shame sheets.  I have seen a lot of wonderfully bright and fun upholstery jobs with accent polka dot patterns on the backs, etc.  I love them.  But-being an old soul at heart and knowing that my husband would never go for something like that, we (shockingly agreeing & yes I hauled him to Hobby Lobby with me one day) ended up picking a semi-neutral damask print.  It's greige with a soft blue metallic undertone.  Sometime shortly after picking up the sad settee, I found a great deal on barely enough tan woven canvas type fabric to reupholster it.  I think I paid $10 for 8ish yards.  If you have ever shopped for upholstery furniture, you know just how great of a deal this is.  I decided that even if I didn't use it for the settee, it was worth picking up for something else later on anyway.  The only problem is that this didn't leave me any room for error.  Not really the best strategy.  Oh well, carrying on...I decided to paint the wood on both chairs to match since this was also the same paint I used for the legs of my sweet little ottoman.  I picked it up in the 'Oops' area at Home Depot for super cheap.  Because of all of the beautiful floral details in the wood, I decided to also buy a charcoal tinted glaze to make them pop.  You should know that I learned AFTER this project that a couple of coats of polycrylic before glaze will really limit the glaze to the details.  My intent was to have it just in the details but I still love the way it turned out too. Removing the old fabric & staples is tedious, time-consuming and blistering to your hands especially when you are trying to save the fabric shape to use as a pattern.  Since I didn't have fabric to spare, preserving it was my only choice.  I have found in other reupholstering that gripping the fabric with pliers and ripping it off removes or loosens a lot of staples without too much digging and prying out.  But, when you need to keep the fabric intact-I wouldn't recommend ripping it off.  If your piece still has trim around the edges of the fabric, you will need to rip this off to expose the staples.  If you can, wear gloves for this part.  It helps reduce the callousing and blistering to your hands some.  I used a heavy duty pair of needle nose pliers and a tack remover.  Finding out very quickly to use the part of the frame that is hidden by fabric as leverage for the tack remover to pry the staple up.  The wood of the settee in particular was soft and dented or chipped anywhere the pressure of the tack remover was applied.  Regardless of whether you need to preserve the fabric or not, removing the old staples is a necessary evil.  You need to be able to sink the new staples into the wood without running into old staples. So-are you terrified to take on a reupholstering job yet???  I'm not trying to scare you off.  I really just want you to be fully aware of how much work is involved to a rookie.  I was super naive and really had no idea what I was doing.  The YouTube videos I had watched made me feel like I could jump right in and be done in a weekend.  Combined I probably worked on both pieces for a solid 3-4 weeks over the course of a few months. Once all of the staples were removed, & the full deconstruction process fully documented in pictures & notes (See below.  I referenced these later for putting it back together), [gallery ids="570,571,572,573,574,575,576,577,578,579,580,581,582,583,584,585,586,587,588,589,590,591,592,593,594,595,596" type="rectangular" link="none"] I began prepping for paint.  This involved a full scrub down with warm water and a little dawn dish soap and a decent but not full sand and an additional wipe down, vacuuming and especially in those little carved details of the wood.  I also repaired a couple areas of wood detail where the tack remover had chipped off a delicate edge using plastic wood to build up the area to match and sanding smooth after it had dried.  I used a high-bond multi-surface primer made by Behr, to help save me some time spent on the sanding process.  There are other options out there like Zissner 1-2-3, Killz and Fairy Chalk Mother's.  But at the time, I didn't know to look for them.  In my defense, these chairs were among the first refinish projects I had ever done.  I worked with what I knew and that's how you learn, right? The paint I picked up in the "Oops" area for this project is latex and using a high quality brush, I applied it by hand.  There isn't a lot of exposed wood on this settee so it was easier to just hand paint it and since the paint was already on the brush, I just kept going on to the chair.  Let me tell you really quickly why I like using latex paint for a hand brushing paint job even though it's not popular right now and a pain to remove later....the self-leveling agents in latex paint are much more forgiving than using a chalk paint and therefore, you can still achieve a smooth, even, brush-less finish by hand and in only 2-3 coats.  After paint, I applied the glaze, really working it into the details with the brush tips and then wiping it off with a clean lint-free cloth from the smooth surfaces.  When the glaze dried, I sealed with 2 extremely thin coats of Minwax Satin Polycrylic.  Polycrylic is definitely a "less is more" kind of product.  It goes on milky and dries clear-however-if it is applied too thickly at once there will be bubbling even after it is dried. I let the newly painted skeleton's cure for a couple (maybe more because I was already so over this project) weeks.  The paint hardens as it dries and where the piece is likely to take a little bit of a beating when stapling the new fabric on, you will want to give the new paint some time to be able to withstand it.  I took advantage of this time to start cutting the new pieces of fabric and sewing the cushions of both pieces.  I replaced the zippers of the settee cushion covers since the existing zippers were plastic and not in great condition.  Now it was time to go back to those notes and pictures and start putting the pieces back together!  This process took a lot more time on the settee than it did for the chair.  My sweet little doggie got a hold of some of the back cushion and chewed up a nice chunk of it.  So I ended up patching together a portion of it with new cushioning and spray adhesive.  I decided to fill in the tufting of the back of the settee.  I used a lot of high quality batting recommended for stuffing pillows and stuffed animals per the packaging and slightly overfilled all the tufting holes in the settee back cushion.  Once this was completed, I could finally start working backward through my pictures and notes to put it back together!  Parts of the settee required tack strip to be put back together.  The existing strip was metal, rusted and falling apart.  I found mine at JoAnn's in the upholstery aisle. For the chair, I didn't go with traditional tufting, but instead used "blingy" large buttons.  I wanted to add a little bit of tween flair to an otherwise "blah" grandma chair.  No offense to any grandma's out there I am an old soul at heart.  It was just missing something to make it totally me and this was the ticket.  I used very strong waxed upholstery thread and a 6" needle to pull the button as tight as possible into the existing tufting holes.  This part was probably the hardest part of refinishing the chair.  Because of the large damask print on the chair, before I cut any of the pieces out I decided where I wanted the print placement on the seat cushion and both back pieces and I wanted the print to be in line so that the flow from the back to the seat cushion matched up.  I'm a bit OCD about this kind of thing so just throwing the fabric on would not do for me.  If you are worried about getting it straight or centered, pick a fabric that doesn't need to be lined up to look good-like the fabric I used for the settee. I bought the trim for both pieces at JoAnn's & used a hot glue gun to apply it.  The chair only needed 2.5 yards to go around the seat on the back.  If you're planning to trim around the base of the seat, you will need another 1.5-2 yards for that.  The settee used up nearly 8 yards of trim!  Watch for the 30% or 40% off your purchase coupons as this will save you a ton of money on this expense! Finally for the reveal! Image-1 (1)Image-1 This project was such a long and tough learning experience!  To say that upholstering is a difficult job is an understatement.  I definitely tip my hat to those that do it on this level all of the time.  I am in no way a professional and I do not intend to go on the record to say that the way I went about it is the best way.  But I hope that by sharing my experience, it will save you from the same headache and stress that I went through.  Best pieces of advice I can leave you with for rookies like me, take a ton of pictures-like, too many pictures of the deconstruction.  Write detailed notes for each step of the process.  I can't stress this enough.  Be flexible to having to adjust and think outside the box a little.  You're staples don't have to be perfect, you can hide these with pretty great trim & I would definitely recommend that you buy quality trim as this will really make a statement on your piece.  Any questions, leave in the comments and I will answer as soon as I can!  Good luck and happy upholstering! ~R      


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