Sunday, August 7, 2011

Adventures in Upholstery - Rocker for Susan - Jan 2011

I've been thinking about sharing some of my upholstery adventures with ya'll for a while now.  Upholstery is my day job, and I run my sewing business on the side.  I work with my dad at his shop, which he runs out of his house.  So, I get to hang out at mom & dad's house all the time!  It's really fun.  Dad and I make such an awesome team.  
I'm more or less an apprentice.  I started working with dad during my summer between my first and second year of fashion college, and after college, I worked with him for over 2 years.  I then moved away from home and worked as a cashier at Wal-Mart, then upgraded to a teller at a bank, then worked my way up to receptionist, then Mortgage Administrator.  I was at the bank for 4 1/2 years.  I could have worked my way up the corporate ladder, but it was pretty clear that paperwork was not my forte.  

I was itching to sew.  So, I left the bank and worked at The Bridal House for 7 months and learned a ton about altering wedding gowns.  The experience I gained was priceless.  But it was very busy, very stressful, and sucked up all of my summer.

So, I started dreaming of starting my own sewing business, but I didn't want to rely soley on that.  I asked my dad if he would like me to work for him part time, and he almost came unglued!  "Really?!"  He was thrilled.  And that was history.  I'm not making as much money as I used to, but I finally feel like I'm doing what I was meant to do.  I can finally say that I LOVE MY JOB!
So, to introduce you to my trade, I'd like to show you the rocking chair I recovered for my mother-in-law Susan's Christmas present.  In keeping with my usual timelines, I missed the Christmas deadline and did this in January.

This is her mother's chair, and she sits in it every day.  I helped her pick out a brand new fabric, then I kidnapped the chair for a couple weeks, and got to work!
Eep!  It's naked!  This is a typical piece of good-quality older furniture with all its clothes removed.  This is like working on a blank canvas.
 When you recover furniture, you measure and take apart the old pieces and use the shaped ones as patterns to cut new ones.  The closest thing that describes it is a knock off.  If you've ever made a pattern out of your favorite pair of jeans without taking them apart, you know what I mean.  Except in this case, you can take it apart, which makes it easy.

I've now clocked in over 4 years in this trade, so I can do furniture almost entirely on my own.  The only stage I need help with now is stapling it together. I just ask Dad tons of annoying questions.  But he assures me there is no such thing as a stupid question.  He's an excellent teacher.
 The chair gets assembled in a logical order.  First, the deck, then the arms, then the back.  Here you can see the pulls on the sides (the beige strips), and the little rolls of fabric that you tie the buttons to.
 Here is the front.  Coming together nicely!  Isn't this fabric fabulous?  It's very similar to the old fabric, only more modern, and quite striking.
 Next steps are to cover the outside arms, the outside back, and attach the skirt.  The very last thing we do is the cushion.  We always add extra padding, so we put in the old cushion and double check the fit so we don't make it too tight.
 I love this trade.  Every time you finish a project, you get such an amazing sense of accomplishment.  I love being able to take old, ratty things and make them shiny and new!
 Susan loves her chair.  And I love being able to see it every time we visit!
I hope you enjoyed my first upholstery post.  I have lots more cool stuff to show you.  As a seamstress, I find lots of this stuff fascinating, and I'm taking a chance that you will too!


  1. Such a fascinating post! Thanks so much for sharing :-)

  2. Beautiful chair and thanks for sharing. I have an old mission style recliner... circa 1930 (I think) with charteuse velvet fabric. Hoping to reupholster it one day and think it would be easy. The only section that needs to be reupholstered is the back, seat & the front of the retractable foot rest. The arms are wood with spindles at the sides, sort of mission style.

  3. Thank you for the insight on dressing and undressing a chair (lol), beautiful job you did on it too! Lucky Susan :)

  4. The chair looks great - with the subtle piping and everything. It's fun to read about your reupholstering, since it seems so few people do it.

    My husband and I have reupholstered two of our couches. Boy that was an experience since we had no instructions! The second one went better, of course. But you're right that the sense of accomplishment you get with the finished piece is huge.

  5. Fascinating! I've always wondered what goes into upholstering a chair or sofa. It's cool to get to see it!

  6. Wow! Really interesting. I hope you share more redos in the future.

  7. Have always wanted to learn how to do upholstery! I did a simple and I mean very simple rocker. Covered the bottom, put piping and a ruffle around it. Made a loose cushion for the wood back. How nice you get to work with your Dad!