Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Reupholstery 101

In another attempt to learn more about upholstery, I picked up a Queen Anne's chair from Craigslist (they seem to pop up daily in the free section.....score for me!) I figured as long as I was working on a free piece, any mishaps or major ruh-roh's were A-OK. Guess that makes me a "calculated" risk taker? Anywho, as with my other Queen Anne's chair project, I wanted to find a way to do the entire project on a strict budget and in the easiest manner possible. I do not own an upholstery gun so the ole' powershot and glue gun would have to do!

I started searching for ideas for fabric and I cannot tell you how much I love the designs from Shawna Robinson at Happy Chair.

Seriously, this woman is my upholstery guru crush! I am not sure why her chairs elicit....well...happiness in me...Is it the colors, the mix of fabrics and textures? Either way, I find myself surfing her site often (cue the drool).

I noticed some chairs where she used swatches of burlap or jute and it got my brain spinning. So of course, in the jumbly, spastic way my mind sometimes works, I started searching for chairs made from burlap, jute and old coffee bags. After cleaning up more drool (there are some seriously amazing pieces out there), I started to feel confident that I would use coffee bags. Pluses here are the fact that I would be recycling (or upcycling) and that the fabric is durable and forgiving for the upholstering rookie.

Next up was getting my hands on some bags. An online search led me to believe that A.) these bags are seriously overpriced and B.) I couldn't select the ones I wanted. Lucky for me, there is a local coffee shop that has some hanging in the windows as a decoration. A quick phone call revealed that they had "tons" (exact words) and that they would be happy to sell some. I took a deep breath and asked what they charged per bag and after a pause......"Would $1-2 be OK with you?" Um, ding ding ding....yes, my dear that would be more than OK!

After picking up my bags, I felt a little surge of bravado and decided the only way to jump in was to literally just get after it. Step One: breakdown old chair. This is easily done with a little sweat and a sharp box cutter.

**If you have sensitive skin, the underlying batting and stuffing may make you a lil' itchy, so wear gloves!**

Once I had peeled it down to it's bare bones, I used about $6 worth of thin quilting batting to create a smooth and plush surface. This also helped me to expose exactly where I would be stapling the bags to.

I looked at a lot of sites and I found a few to be very helpful. The Creative Maven had a great tutorial as well as Although I did not follow these instructions to a T, it did help me understand how to start and where to attach the various pieces.

I decided to start with the arms as they looked the most difficult. By laying out my bags, I was able to drape the chair with the various bags to determine what would go where. After seeing it in this light, I decided on using the back sides of the bags for the arms.

Exterior and Interior Strips of Arm Attached.

"Fan" folded by hand and stapled at the base. Leftover seam from bag twirled into a pinwheel and glued down to cover staples.

Once both arms were pulled through and stapled. I decided to start on the on the front side of the back and the upper arm wings. These were a little more difficult than expected simply because it was a hard to pull the fabric taut and push it through to be stapled on the back. A little maneuvering (and maybe a swear) and it was stapled into place.

Since I did not want to pull out my sewing machine to do the wings, I draped the fabric and pulled it through to the back and under the arm. After stapling it to the wooden frame, I folded the top to create a seam and stapled it down. The burlap was then manipulated and pulled to cover the small bit of staple that was exposed.

Wings attached like an envelope and then a seam created along the top.

Pulled through to the back of the chair and stapled down to the wooden frame.

I could finally see it coming together and was starting to actually feel like I may have pulled it off. To attach the back piece, cut a bag in half and in an inside out fashion stapled the top following the curve of the chair.

Stapled the fabric on the underside to hide the staples. Followed the curve of the chair.

Once it was stapled, flipped the fabric back down and was able to achieve a clean, taut seam.

Then I pulled the fabric taut under the bottom side of the base and secured with staples. A few staples over the top of the fabric on the sides of the chair held the sides down. I hid these by angling the stapler and then pulling the burlap a bit to cover the staple.

For now, I am using the original cushion. I may recover this (which will surely require me to break out my sewing machine....big sigh). Love the finished product and feel way more confident in upholstery!

Currently linking up over at:

Chic on a Shoestring Decorating

The Shabby Nest

Furniture Feature Fridays


  1.! I think you did a great job! If you do cover the seat cushion, I can't wait to see what fabric you choose to use. I'd have to go with something floral I think.

  2. love this colleen - fantastic! adore the idea of coffee bags - would love pillows from the same or even in a black frame - that would be cool. let me know if you can get your hands on any more - i would be very interested!! xo

  3. Oh yay. You are amazing AND inspiring. Why is the idea of upholstering a chair SO scary to me. Yours is beauty.

  4. Oh I love this chair. I am in the middle of redoing a chair and would love to find choco bean bags now to redo it in. I am going to have to ask my mom if she has any left in the barn from years ago

  5. How wonderful! I think picking up the pink in the sacks would make a wonderful seat cover.

  6. @The Mommy

    I totally agree on the floral. The bags sort of strike me as a little masculine. There are some really beautiful florals from Waverley that I may have to take a serious look at!!

  7. @meg manion silliker

    Thanks Meg!! I just redid a few of the kitchen chairs in feed sacks and coffee bags! It all started with a bag my sister in law got me for Christmas (made from a coffee bag). Now I can't stop....hahahaha. Pillows would be so cute too!

    Hope all is well. I love the pics of Devynn and Quinn that you did at the hospital! Adorable!!

  8. @The Vintique Object


    Thank you so much! I am in love with your salt and pepper shaker idea for cleaning products! What a cute (and genious!) idea.

  9. Are oyou kidding me? This is awesome! I have coffee bags from Rwanda and would love to be brave enough to try this.I even have an old wing backed chair I was thinking of giving away. Thanks for the inspiration!

  10. Wow!!! I love how it turned out... and putting the blue cushion back is so sweet!


  11. I'm so impressed by this innovative & creative project. It looks so adorable. I'd love for my readers to see it if you'd like to link up to my party & then I'll feature it when I get back in town from vacation.

    Warmly, Michelle

  12. Colleen @ Red Door AbodeAugust 7, 2011 at 7:12 PM

    @Faith, Trust, and a Little Pixie Dust

    Hi Michelle!

    I just linked up! Thanks so much for your kind words! Now off to check out the other links from your party!!

  13. Colleen @ Red Door AbodeAugust 7, 2011 at 7:12 PM


    Thanks so much!!

  14. Colleen @ Red Door AbodeAugust 7, 2011 at 7:13 PM

    @C'est Magnifique

    Thanks Tania!!

  15. Colleen @ Red Door AbodeAugust 7, 2011 at 7:15 PM

    @Anna See

    I would love to see pics if you end up using your bags!! I was thinking of picking up some more bags and doing two small pillows for our front porch rockers! I think I am addicted!

  16. Colleen @ Red Door AbodeAugust 7, 2011 at 7:15 PM


    I think I am leaning towards pink too!

  17. Hi Colleen, Thanks so much for linking this awesome project to my party. I'm excited to feature you tonight. Please feel free to take an "I Was Featured" button if you wish.

    Warmly, Michelle

  18. Is the burlap scratchy against your skin? I don't think I would like that but the chair looks great!! I am working up my courage to reup a wing chair myself and this really inspires me to be more fearless!!!


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