Friday, February 4, 2011

Update:The Fabulous Ten Dollar Find

Remember all of my posts about this fabulous chair that I found at the GoodWill for $10? You can read them HERE.

My upholstery lessons have started....thanks to my new friend Jerry, the owner of Luckason Upholstery, who has been kind enough to take time out of his day to show me a thing or two about upholstery.

Jerry has been doing this since 1978, so I am certainly learning from a master of the trade. You should see how fast he can go with his staple gun! Now I see why it's entirely likely that at some point in this process you sill staple right through your fingers!

I will attempt to give you all a tutorial, as it's a hard process to explain. Especially since I am a person who learns by doing...

1. It all begins when you start ripping your project apart. It takes serious muscle to do this part!! I need to start lifting weights!!

This step can take the most time. Would you believe it practically takes more time to tear apart your project than it does to put it back together?

This is what the fabulous chair looks like all torn apart. Would you have suspected that her bones look like that? Sort of strange isn't it?

Notice ALL those staples?? There was probably 900!

ALL of those have to come out! Normally, they could probably stay, as long as they aren't poking out, because they will be covered back up, but I can't leave most of those because of my plans for the chair. So pick them out I did!!

2. So...step 2 involves some time picking out staples. You wanna get your project all cleaned up and ready for it's new life.

This is what I learned.....when you get that quote from your upholstery guy and you get the cold sweats and want to throw up a little...consider the fact that he/she will probably spend hours tearing apart your project and then probably injure himself/herself while removing all the staples. It's rough work people!

3. Now it's time to evaluate the structure since you can see it and feel it out a little better. The structure is usually composed of a few layers. Each situation is different, so I will use the fabulous chair as my example. The fabulous chair is a little "old school" if you know what I'm saying.

The layers go:
1. wood structure
2. burlap straps
3. a layer of burlap to cover the straps
4. cotton batting that covers the entire surface and provides your cushion. You could also use foam cut to the same shape.
5. a layer of lining over the batting (not always necessary but good for long term wear)
6. The final layer of fabric

In this instance, the fabulous chair had loose burlap straps, so I had to detach one end of each strap in order to tighten them back up. Once they were all tightened up it was time to put a new burlap cover over the straps. This is just a layer of burlap that goes on top of the straps. It keeps the cotton batting from falling through the straps.

The seat was also lacking in cushion, so Jerry helped me put on a new layer of thin foam.

4. Once you have the structure nice and sturdy and you have all the cushion you want, you can staple it all into place.

When you staple the batting, a dimple will form. You don't want to see that dimple once you put your fabric on, so the trick here is to rub the batting and rough it up a little, so it fluffs up over the dimple mark. The fluff will fill in that dimple. This is one of those PRICELESS tips! I wouldn't have known to do this step. I would have put my fabric on top and gotten frustrated when I realized the dimple was showing.

5. Next is measuring your lining and fabric and getting it ready to be put on. I'll cover that in the next post. I hope to have more pictures then too. This is a good start for now ;)

Here is the design by Dan Marty that has inspired me to do this chair.

Notice the open backs.

To most people this would be strange. Most people wouldn't want a chair that looks like this.

I'm guessing that like me, Dan has an appreciation for the structure underneath it all, and he appreciates the art of upholstery. Once you tear apart a chair and you see it's bones, you appreciate what is underneath, and you can see that in it's own way, it is beautiful.

I don't want to cover it all back up. There is something intriguing about the wood frame and burlap straps to me.

The contrast of the crisp, beautiful fabric, against the raw, rustic, and industrial look of the burlap straps, is strikingly beautiful to me!

I can't wait to learn more and to share with you the upholstery process!

While it's much easier said than done, if you are intrigued by this process, I say tear something apart and just give it a shot! Just don't stab yourself with the staple remover!!

Hope you all have a fabulous weekend!!


  1. I'm so looking forward to your final result. I do have a question though, if you do the tearing down of the piece yourself would an upholsterer give you a break on the price of reupholstering the piece?

  2. Kelle, what made you know that this was a chair worth salvaging? If I was in a thrift store and found this what clues should I look for? Awesome tutorial. I guess you've got your weekend plans, huh? Can't wait to see the final result...carol

  3. Good question Carol!
    I do a thorough inspection of each piece. First sit in it and wiggle around and if feels sturdy that is the first check. Then flip it over and check for any rotting in the fabric or holes where animals might have found their way in...yuck!!! That is check #2. Then put pressure on the legs while it's flipped over, wriggle them around and if they seem sturdy, then it gets check #3. Then the smell test. If it doesn't wreak, it gets check #4. If there is a cushion on top of a piece that is removable and has a zipper, open it up. Look for small grainy black things that look like pepper...this could be a sign of bugs...another yuck!! While you have the cushion open, feel the foam. If it's powdery or hard, then it's gonna have to be replaced because it is deteriorating. That isn't always a bad thing. The structure of the chair itself may be the worthwhile part. Padding that is detached is an easy thing to fix. So Check #6 isn't a "make it or break it" check for me. Check #7 is the lines...if the piece is made up of relatively simple lines vs. complicated curvy lines, it will be easier to slip cover and/or upholster. Again not a "make or break" check, it depends on the type challenge you are looking for.
    Hope that helps!
    Those are my tips for upholstered pieces.

  4. Wow Kelle, I can't wait to see the transformation. I would love to learn from someone like Jerry! Thank you for passing on such valuable information! Loving your blog and thank you so much for taking the time to stop by mine! I really appreciate your comments! Hope you have a great weekend and it's warm in your neck of the woods.

  5. I am enjoying this Kelle! I have a lazy boy rocker that I would love to do this year. I can't wait to see and learn more. I know that the two chairs are different but I would imagine that there are some similarities! The inspirations pics are interesting, I have never seen anything like that.

  6. Wow, that is so neat that you are doing that! And learning from a pro! What a priceless experience :)

  7. Can't wait to see the transformation.


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