Thursday, July 9, 2009

In Which We Display Our Awesome DIY Skill...

Oooh, that title sucked you in, yes? The DIY in question is the recovering of my dining room chairs. Brief history:

  • They were first purchased, with matching table in 2000.
  • 2 of the 6 chairs have arms (they're the fancy ones).
  • I do love the wood - and the modern but traditional feeling of the set, but the bland, cream seat covers were in really bad shape and they were soooooo 2000.
  • My goal was to spend no money. (I realize that this goal, while laudable, was stupid. And I'm firmly against figuring out how much it would have cost to outsource the job, because if it isn't $1000.00, I'm going to feel like it would have been a good deal.)

It is technically inaccurate for me to suggest that I am displaying my own skill. This is more about showing the ripe, luscious fruits of team work. Because all of the expertise, such as it was, came from my friend Nicole (frequent blog presence) who is a) so detail oriented it's insane and b) taking actual sewing courses. Very good features in a DIY partner, might I add.

Just so we're clear, that I too have certain talents, the fabric choice was mine (it's no great departure, I realize) and I was the one who intimated it couldn't possibly be that hard to reupholster 6 chair seats. I mean, what's better than saving money while being creative and getting together with a friend all to improve the beauty of your home and gain blog fodder?

Note to reader: Do not try this at home. Just don't. However much it costs to outsource reupholstery to professionals with hydraulic staple guns and ergonomic workspace, call it a bargain. (FYI, this is analagous to my frequent and sage advice - as a woman who just barely survived a home birth - to take the freakin' drugs.) Of course, if you are a princess of home handiness - much like if you are an earth mother with a cervix that just loves to efface easily - then, by all means ignore me.

Now, I'm going to walk you through this process but this is NOT a tutorial. If you want one of those, go to Apartment Therapy or one of the 8 zillion posts that will give you the step-by-step. And, though very helpful, when you trust them with the chairs on which you eat your dinner, note that they will not advise you about the mysterious (and complicated) technique for folding the new fabric around the corners so that they are a) beautiful/tight and b) thin enough so you can rescrew the seat cover down on the chair frame.

Yes, I know this because we had to redo 4 of the 6 chairs. Largely using our imagination.

Also, please note that while I didn't love the process, I value it for having taught me new things and for giving me an opportunity to work incredibly functionally with someone else who shares my work style (something that rarely happens with me and home projects). Also, the final result is entirely, 100% excellent. So it's hard for me to be hateful of the experience. I'm just trying to give you the real story so that when your neck freezes up and you can't move your arms for 2 day, you won't come back to this blog suggesting I made it seem like puppies and flowers.

Here's the original product (one of the fancy chairs with the arms). I know, it's far too bland to be my chair:

First, we removed the seats from the frame:

Then we made a paper pattern of the seat which provided for 3 inches of extra folding fabric on each side... Yes, for the notetakers, that is zebra pattern:

Next we took the pattern and laid it on the fabric. We used the floor as a set square. The most key thing was to make sure the predominant stripe would lie perfectly centred and move towards the front of the chair:

Here's a closeup of the fabric with the sewing chalk lines. That's how we traced the pattern prior to cutting the fabric to the appropriate size...

The part whose difficulty you can't possibly appreciate, unless you've done this for yourself, is the staple and folding part. This took approximately 40 minutes per chair. Hundreds of staples were sacrificed in the making of this seat cover...

Closeup of the re-done corners. See how the fabric pulls diagonally from the corner towards the centre of the chair? (Email me if you ever decide to do this. I can explain in detail.):

And voila - pretty final product:

The cost:
Fabric - $100.00
Staple gun - $60.00
Staples - $5.00
Scotchguard - $15.00
Time: 4 people hours to get the fabric / 16 people hours to do the work = 20 hours

What do you think??


  1. I think you are smarter, sexier, funnier and have a better eye than Martha Stewart. Do you hear that TV executives?
    You are a multi-talented woman, K-Line!

  2. Good for you! Sometimes when I begin a DIY project like this, I get the regrets when I take the first step (removing the cushion, in this instance). But you persevered and the chair looks great!

    (My secret word is "mensuppr." Does that mean your husband is hungry?

  3. WOW... those look amazing. It is a wonderful idea :) Nice work!

  4. Very Pretty. Very talented. I think I will call my upholsterer now.

  5. Came out gorgeous and of course I approve of an animal print! But the work you put into it? I'm not capable of that. I can barely even think about it.

  6. love love love, very professional!

  7. Fabulous job, darling! And perfect timing! Love this DIY :)


  8. Dangnation! You're good! I love your new fabric, of course. I did this to my dining chairs with a big black and white buffalo check. It's so easy to replace the fabric when it gets mucked up from the kids!

  9. Wow - I am SO impressed! Love the Zebra print fabric and admire for taking the project on.... and finishing it! I'm not a completer finisher!

  10. Oh perfect!! You are amazing... I will do my best to incorporate this into my own decorating ideas, haha :)

  11. K, you are the BEST project partner -- thoroughly enjoyed myself, and love the finished product! Now, send me some dimensions and I'll whip up some zebra ties :)

  12. Bel: You get comment of the month! Thank you for that lovely compliment. FYI, I work for chocolate and meals at fancy steak houses :-)

    Miss C: Oh, I was there. There's that no go back moment and it's scary. We pushed through, thankfully...

    D. and Marta: Thank you so much!

    Mardel: You see, that's intelligent!

    Wendy: Thank you - and I really am not capable either. It just looks that way :-)

    Pink: Thank you! I love the word professional when applied to my DIY!!

    CC: Weird coincidence, huh?

    Karen: You did it yourself? Impressive! Did you find it horrible or would you do it again?

    That Girl: I know the procrastination that turns into never getting done. It's a scary element in the DIY soup...

    Aya: Suggestion - do zebra, outsource job :-)

    Hey N: Why thank you!! We'll have to do more of this as soon as we forget the neck pain :-) I will send those measurements, I swear. I just keep forgetting... xoxo

    Imogen: Thanks!

    Monkey: I just love being called a kid. :-)

  13. They look fantastic! I say picking fabric is the hard part and you are so brave. It's gorgeous.

  14. Stacey: You know, it is a make or break moment - but I try not to look at it that way! :-) Thank you...

    Maegan: See, I can do DIY too!!

  15. I.DIE

    A zebra print dining chair, it's too much! Am I to assume you covered two chairs, because whilst I won't mind lapping with you, Mr K-Line might object.