Oh my goodness! I feel like such a slacker or maybe a procrastinator is a better word. It has taken me a month and a half to finish my dining rooms chairs. A month and a half, people! Anybody else out there ever run into projects that you get all sorts of excited about, only to find out once you start that you quite possibly the CRAZIEST person on the planet?! Yep, that’s me. And these chairs tested my patience more than I ever thought possible (worse than my kids even — and that’s saying something). Haha! Maybe all of these feelings and frustrations, wrapped into one project, should have been a good indicator on how much I DIDN’T want to do this project.
Now, I know there’s all sorts of websites out there that show you the “how-to” parts of reupholstering so this post isn’t going to be a step-by-step tutorial. It’s more of what I learned along the way and hopefully what I’m sharing today will maybe help you decide what to take on and what to avoid. At least that is my hope. So here they are (in reverse order — just because I can and I want to save the best for last): my good, bad and ugly of reupholstering chairs. Hopefully this will help you maintain a little sanity in the end.
Heat N’ Bond Vinyl. After some research, I discovered some Heat N’ Bond iron-on vinyl that I got pretty excited about and wanted to try. It comes in a gloss finish or a matte and I really liked the idea of using the matte finish because in my mind, I wanted to avoid the look of the 60’s. So I ordered some from Fabric.com and patiently waited for it too arrive. Sadly, after it arrived and I cut out my first piece of fabric and vinyl, ironed it on and put it on the chair, it started pulling away from the chair and leaving wrinkles in the fabric once someone sat on it. No bueno!
Note: I don’t attribute this to the actual product. I think if my chairs were smaller, I would have been able to wrap and staple the vinyl all the way under the chair. I think it was pulling away because the sides were exposed. I also didn’t take into account that once the vinyl was ironed on it made it so the fabric wasn’t stretchy anymore. Definitely something I should have taken into account before I even started.
All of those darn corners. Make sure to spend adequate time on the corners. I think, they can make or break the overall look. 8 chairs X 4 corners each = a royal pain in the behind! But we figured out a system that worked for both the fabric and the vinyl. For the fabric, after stretching and stapling all the sides, we took on the corners by stretching and pulling the center section in, stapling and then folding the left and right sides in.
We took a different approach with the vinyl though. We stapled only the center of each side and then we worked on each corner. This approach definitely takes a lot more blow drying, stretching and molding into the chair but it is so worth the extra effort.
Do a test run! I know. Probably not what you want to hear. If you’re anything like me, when you set out to do a project you just want to get it done in as little as steps as possible. However, remember this. Every chair is different. Fabric is different. And the best way to finish it will be different. I used some scrap fabric to see what worked best for my chairs and my fabric. As I mentioned before, I tried the Heat N’ Bond but I also tried sewing elastic around the whole thing (fail) and then just on each of the corners (fail, again). After all of this I learned I would have to come up with something better if I was going to get the spill-proof, child-proof chairs of my dreams.
The plus side for you is, maybe now that you’re reading this, you won’t have to go through all the test runs I did. However, I still would suggest using a scrap piece of fabric to use as a test run since it will help ensure the size is right, the material is perfect and it lays exactly how you want it to.
Four hands are better than two. For me this was bad, because when I started working on the chairs I was home by myself so only one pair of hands. I don’t know about you but it seems every time I watch a how-to video on reupholstering furniture there’s always just one person. For me, having another set of hands made this project go so much faster, especially when it came to stretching the vinyl. So if you’re planning on using vinyl, wait until you have someone to help (I know, patience can be tough sometimes). But it really does make all the difference.
Just a quick FYI, we used quite a bit of staples for this project. With eight chairs it’s almost a guaranteed thing. I bought a 1,250 box of staples and almost went through the entire box. I think I had two staple strips left.
Clear Vinyl Once I got my pride back after the ultimate fail with the Heat N’ Bond, I decided my chairs wouldn’t look too bad using clear plastic vinyl instead. I bought some 8-gauge clear vinyl from Joann Fabric. And it really ended up being ok. I promise. To me, it actually looked like it made the fabric more vibrant. So who can complain about that? My only real dilemma now was how to get it to stretch.
Enter the blow dryer. Yes, a blow dryer! The saving grace for this project (and my sanity) was discovering that a blow dryer makes the clear vinyl pliable and stretchable. I’m a little OCD about things and so I really wanted to avoid as many wrinkles around the edges as possible. I realized it was nearly impossible to do but I wanted to take the time to make each chair nearly perfect. Enter the blow dryer! After combing the internet for the best solution, Marie (remember she was visiting a few weeks ago), stumbled upon a how-to website that suggested a blow dryer is the perfect tool to use when working with vinyl. OH MY HECK! Why didn’t we think of this. Seriously, if you take anything from this post, remember a blow dryer will be your best friend.
Let’s be honest, all that matters when it’s all said and done is how you feel about them. I’m not only happy with finally having them done, I LOVE how they turned out. They look awesome! I now have my spill-proof, kid-proof chairs that I’ve always dreamt about.
Let us know if you have other tips out there that we might need to know about for our next upholstery project? We’ve been discussing taking on Misty’s La-Z-Boy for her nursery and we only have until December. We really don’t have time to be procrastinators.