Five things you wouldn't realise about upholstering a Wingback chair
So, I’m launching my eagerly anticipated blog with a recent up-cycle project that I'm blown away with the results of and that is currently sitting proudly in my living room for all to enjoy. I acquired this magnificent wingback chair for free from a local Facebook group and as much as I adored its sweeping contours and classic design, I could not stand the worn dusky pink velvet. It didn’t fit anywhere in the house either (even though it did end up in the living room for a couple of years). What eventually motivated me enough to get round to reupholstering it was my beloved husband making jokes that I’d never do it. For someone as determined and stubborn as me, that was JUST the kind of motivation I needed! I vowed to finish it by the end of the year but I had the more pressing task of growing a second little boy for our family so the chair took a back seat. It wasn't until he reached six months when my creative juices and energy were flowing again and my eye was back on that chair.
First step was choosing the fabric. Finding upholstery fabric is not easy as it needs to have high thread count to avoid fraying at the edges, be hardwearing and also fire retardant. This really narrows down your options and it can be quite pricey. My initial thought was red linen to complement the red velvet curtains in my living room but decided that was a little boring (being brave and taking risks will definitely be a theme on this blog) and would be incompatible with other rooms done the line so decided on my favourite decorating colour, dark blue. After receiving some samples I settled on a linen mix but to really customise it and make it unique, I finally got round to using a box of my husbands old jeans that were just waiting to be used for the right project. With fabric ordered and staples at the ready here's where the fun really started and when I discovered the bittersweet experience of upholstery….
One. Why the hell are there so many staples and how many tools and layers of skin am I going to break in the process? Seriously! Hundreds of staples. If it were not for the camaraderie of Sarah at Ugly Duckling I’d have given up on that first day. It took hours, I mean literally hours of poking various small implements in between staples and wood. And under every layer was a new surprise of more staples. In revenge, we got a bit trigger happy in the end with the electric staple gun should anyone dare to strip this back in the future! I'm not sure I've ever persevered with a project with such determination so I learnt a great lesson here that the more difficult something is the greater the end reward.
Two. I was shocked at how much brain power and logical analysis was needed at every stage of this project. The attention that was needed to solve the intricate puzzle of remembering the order of the fabric components as well as what end to start stapling each section for a smooth edge made this quite a tiring project. Even though we did take some scruffy notes and photos along the way, the complexity of this chair gave us both such brainache! It was by far the hardest DIY project I’ve ever accomplished, much harder than sewing blinds or baby clothes. And it took us months of weekly meet ups to complete.
Three. You can't really re-upholster on your own. I’d been given this top tip beforehand and I discovered that I just didn't need a buddy physically for the 'stretching and stapling' stage but to chat and pass the time and figure out the upholstery conundrum. Although the husband volunteered I decided to enlist the help of the very wonderful Sarah who although was also a virgin re-upholsterer like me, was also curious at how hard it would be to to cover a chair. VERY hard was definitely the conclusion! Would we do it again?
Four. These teeth may look like some sort of chicken wire (and yes was just as dangerous!) but this contraption very cleverly allows you to have a neat folded-in edging of fabric WITHOUT using studding (which I'm not keen on to be honest). As you can see from this picture, it is a flexible metal strip the flat edge of which you have to carefully staple down and the other sharp side will grab and hold fabric when it is pushed onto the prongs. Hammering it together shut was a favourite task for both of us! It arrived from eBay in a flexible strip rolled up and we cut it with sharp pliers. The beauty of these teeth is it that it works brilliantly on curves AND straight edges. This was one of the only pleasant discoveries in our upholstery journey.
Five. I never knew it was possible to fall in love with a chair! I've wanted an additional seat in our living room for a while and always pictured a wingback against the chalky dark blue wall. I adore the way that the symmetrically placed jeans on the back draws your eye and how the jeans tell the story of our lives and memories of where we went wearing them. The faded worn material reflects the busyness of our lives and gives the effect that the chair is older than it really it. Often aesthetic takes over function in my interior design decisions. Jeans are actually not a great idea for upholstery as they stretch too much and have lower thread count than upholstery fabric which means that they pull and fray very easily. Unfortunately I found this out the hard way thanks to my delightful kitten Maverick!
I have made a lot of things, decorated rooms and up-cycled furniture but this project is the one that I am most proud and I genuinely hope to enjoy for years to come. In spite of the blood, sweat and tears that should put me off upholstery for life, I’ve got a couple of cute little stools that are awaiting a new outfit in the garage and can't wait to sand them down and recover them. I promise to post the results as soon as they’re completed. One question remains, why didn’t I start with an easier upholstery task? That’s me I guess, I like a challenge and learning on the job. That’s definitely a theme for my life this year. So as I write this, I'm actually sitting in and enjoying this wonderfully comfortable and unique addition to our home for all to enjoy. I just love it!