Tag Archives: fabric

reupholstery… the fat ass chair

So we have this chair my mother bought us about 15 years ago, for something like $200 at some crazy NJ furniture outlet, that we call the Fat Ass chair… not to the kids but to each other, to them it’s just the big chair. The chair and I have a bond after all these years and I can start to date times in my life by what cover the chair has in photos. I think I have recovered the chair at least 7 times with an increasing frequency due to 2 daughters and an ever napping dog. I was looking back through some photos just to post on this and I had even forgotten a couple of the covers, really there is only so much brain power I have left now due to children and the effects of wine abuse. So really this is a love story about a chair and wouldn’t you love just to change your cover in a day, go from haggard to spanking new in around 5 hours? This chair is particularly easy to recover (as most mass produced furniture is, that’s why it’s cheap). So here’s the basics:

  • you need a flat screwdriver (to pull out old staples)
  • pliers to pull out the staples after loosening with the screwdriver
  • a good quality staple gun and staples
  • scissors
  • 8-10 yards of fabric (which I always buy on sale never more than $12 a yard)
  • a sewing machine or a friend with one (if you have a cushion)

So here’s the reason I recovered it this time….

Gross! so here’s what the fabric looked like new:

So now that we’ve established that it was indeed time to think about recovering the chair I go fabric shopping. I have to say we have in Burlington an awesome decorators fabric store called Rags to Riches and I do like to wander through fabric stores so I don’t actually dread this part of the job. One of the things I can say about myself in all honesty is I’m quick, I choose things quickly, I form opinions quickly, I speak too quickly (usually before I’ve actually thought about where and what I’m saying…. trouble). Anyway, I usually can pick out something I like quickly. In choosing fabric patterns I like to get something that is busy (shows less stains and can hide imperfections in your sewing/upholstering techniques) and something that’s different from the last choice so it really feels different. This time I choose a pretty mellow pattern because the last floral was really big and bright…. and even better it had some fading so I got 3 yards for free, so this upholstering job was around $80.

The first thing to do is check out your chair to see what staples you can get out first, then just start dissembling the fabric piece by piece, and this is crucial… remembering the order in which you can take things off, because that is the reverse of how you are going to reassemble the chair. I take the fabric off and label it with a sharpie “left arm”, “back”, etc. This will be your pattern for the new fabric. Here’s my bare chair:

Have I mentioned my kids are gross? Have I mentioned the spoonfuls of Nutella gobbled down while watching Saturday morning TV while Mom and Dad sleep upstairs? The amount of snacking done on this chair? You know how when you’re looking for your phone or wallet and you reluctantly pull up the couch cushions and realize that even though you think your house is clean that this amount of filth is really beyond gross? Well when you reupholster it’s even worse! This is what the exterior arm of the chair looked like (keep in mind this crap had to work it’s way down the side of the cushion, down into the inside of the arm)

yep, dog hair, sand, dirt, old necklaces, yogurt squeeze wrappers, straws, pencils….

here’s the pile:

3 spoons!

So, you now have a naked chair, you cut your fabric out following the pattern of the pieces you took off, one at a time. Cut a piece, put it on, cut the next piece. When your upholstering always staple one side of the fabric, starting from the middle and pull tight while stapling to the left and then back to the right. After one side has been stapled, pull fabric over or through (like you took it off) pulling tight and work your staples from the center out to one side and then the other. My chair is arm first:

for this it takes some folding/pleating which is just done by folding into the underside of the arm and stapling over and over to get the pleated look.

Follow with the next pieces and really this is the fun part, it’s quick and rewarding because it changes so quick and it’s relatively easy going, just a lot of squatting, sitting, standing, bending as you maneuver around the chair stapling fabric to it.

For seams that are trickier I just fold, tuck and sew it on the chair old school, with a needle and thread.

check it out, I don’t even do it well, but you know what…. it doesn’t matter because I’ll redo it in a year and it gets done fast, if you want to take more care, go ahead see if I care. The whole point is that you don’t need to be so intimidated and take it so seriously, if you screw it up just try it again.

Here’s more progress

When I get the body done I move onto the cushion. I do sew and have an average sewing machine, but once again I never do an amazing technical job, I just get er’ done. I use the old cushion as a pattern leaving the back seam open so I can put the cushion in and the… gasp… I don’t even bother with a zipper, I just hand sew that freaking cushion right up, sloppy as can be but who the hell will see it? it’s in the back! The only time you’ll see it is when you’re looking for your phone or your keys and by then you’ll be so distracted by all the food, dog hair and spoons under the cushion you won’t even notice the seam!

Here’s the finished product:

and here are chairs past… sometimes I even piped the cushion, I must have had a lot of caffeine that day!

and here are the reasons my chair gets gross… and I kinda love them for it!