Category: Furniture

wiwo wednesday: removing staples from the chair

chair reupholstery: staple removal

My biggest project this week has been working, slowly but surely, to remove as many staples as I can from this chair. I started the chair back in November (see this post for a before picture) and it’s been sitting in a corner of my bedroom, raw but filled with staples, ever since.

This week has been a little bit hectic and a little bit stressful, and I wanted a project that I didn’t have to think about. Removing staples has been the perfect brainless task: I don’t have to think, but I still feel productive. To keep myself entertained, I’ve been listening to an audiobook while I work. I download them for free from the library and they make a huge difference in my motivation for tedious tasks.

chair reupholstery: staple removal

I got this fantastic staple remover for Christmas and I can’t imagine a tool doing a better job on the nearly-flush staples I’m encountering. This chair is just covered in staples, layer after layer, so the tool isn’t a miracle worker: I have a lot of work ahead of me. But I would have given up ages ago without it.

My process so far has been to loosen the staple using the staple remover, rock the remover back and forth a bit to start to pry the staple out, and then grab the staple with jewelry pliers to coax it the rest of the way. This chair has two types of staples. One are a thin, flexible metal, and they’re very easy to remove; the others are a brittle metal, most likely a steel alloy, that tend to crack and break before I can remove the whole staple. When I remove one of these steel staples without breaking it, I get a rush of success. Those successes are few and far between.

I’ve made it through most of the side panel and the lower front panel this past week. Again, this is definitely going to be a lot of work. I’ve filled almost a whole coffee can with staples and threads. Pro-tip: the coffee can is perfect for plunking staples into. If you’re more cautious than I am, cut a slit in the lid so you’re safe even if you tip the can over! I have also been keeping my mini shop vac handy, and briskly vacuuming the floor each night when I’m done.

chair reupholstery: staple removal

The biggest reason I’ve started back into this project is that I finally found a fabric for it! I’d been debating for months about which direction to take the chair. On the one hand, it would be super fun to use a bold, graphic print and turn this medium-sized chair into a statement piece. But, on the other hand, this project is going to be a lot of work and I want the result to be able to blend into any of my future homes. I didn’t rush the decision. While I love fabric shopping, I often hate fabric shopping for specific projects… it can be intimidating and overwhelming to try and make the perfect choice.

This fabric came to me, as fabrics often do, without any effort on my part. I found it at the thrift store. The picture above is super lame, but the fabric is absolutely ideal. It’s thick, upholstery weight, with a diagonal denim-style weave and a soft, brushed feel. It’s light gray with a good amount of visual texture – the threads vary from white to dark gray – and there are even a few small “nubs” in the weave, something I always like. It will match nicely with my hassock and I’ll have the freedom to decorate it with any pillow that I choose!

Hopefully there aren’t too many more evenings until the chair is staple-free, but I’m not counting down yet. Wish me luck. Someday, this chair will be soft and gray!

Marie started wiwo wednesday: What I’m Working On. I try and join her as often as I can to give you a peek into my creative process and my works-in-progress. See all my wiwo wednesday posts here.

wiwo wednesday: tearing apart a chair

I’m joining Marie for wiwo wednesday (What I’m Working On). I always love to see what my favorite crafters are up to, and in-progress shots often tell an even better story than the finished product.

reupholstered-chreupholstered chair - before

Last week, it was actually warm on the balcony. Instead of “warm with a blanket and mocassins”, it was “warm enough to tear apart a chair in shorts and a t-shirt”. It was the last of these warm days, and I had to take advantage of it.

I bought the chair, above, for $20 at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore. I think it’s cute, and it will be really cute once it’s covered in a good fabric, rather than this particular shade of “ugliest fabric known to man”. Plus, it’s very wide, so it will be perfect for sitting sideways and reading. Finally, fingers crossed, it looks like it won’t be very difficult to recover.

reupholstered chair - tearing it apart

I dragged the chair onto my balcony in anticipation of the 30-year-old dust that was about to pour out of this thing. That was an excellent decision. The piping was hot-glued on. I started to take the staples out, one by one, but after seeing the number of staples involved, I resorted to tearing the fabric away from the frame. This loosened the staples, and I can pull them all out later – but I wanted to get all the foam and dust out of the chair while I still had a warm balcony to work from. I made sure to pull the fabric carefully so it would retain the pattern shape… but it wasn’t a very gentle process.

diy dust mask: cow bandana

robbing a train… or tearing a chair apart?

The dust was unbelievable. I resorted to tying a sweet bull bandana around my nose and mouth to avoid breathing in 30-year-old foam dust. My mini shop vac was a big help here.

reupholstered chair - tearing it apart

I stripped away the fabric, and then the cotton, and then the burlap (ugh, old burlap!), and then the cardboard. I think this chair was built by an amateur – but I may also be considered an amateur, so it will work out.

Before the sun had gone down on that warm evening, I had the chair to bare bones. I saved the fabric pieces to use as a pattern, and everything else – cotton, foam, that nasty burlap, and even the penny I found inside the cushion – went straight to the trash.

vintage pyrex: cinderella salad bowl

What else have I been working on? Salads from my Pyrex salad bowl, curtains and a sewing lesson for my friend Claire, perfecting pork chops (hint: mojo criollo), and generally adjusting to the current weather that is ANYTHING BUT “warm balcony weather”.

What are you working on this week?

recovered patio chair cushions

recovered patio chair cushions

I’ve always dreamed of having a balcony. Balconies and porches are the best places to relax: a breezy spot for some tea, be it hot or iced, and a book. When Hannah and I considered living off-campus for senior year, we found an apartment with a balcony connected to one of the bedrooms. “You get the room with the balcony,” she said, as soon as we walked through. Because she’s my Hannah, and she understands my love of balconies. Of course, I would also share. Balconies are even better with company.

So when I finally found this wonderful apartment of my very own, that has not only a sewing room but also a balcony, I couldn’t wait to set up my cozy reading-and-tea space. But patio furniture is expensive. Like, really expensive. I only needed two chairs, and I was convinced I could find a deal if I combed yard sales for a few weeks.

recovered patio chair cushions - before

So one Saturday in May, a few weeks before my move-in date, I embarked on my quest. I drove out first thing in the morning so I’d have plenty of time to scope out every sale in the area. I had a good chunk of cash ready in the car, and I even packed snacks.

I was low on gas, though, and long quests like this one obviously require a full tank. So I stopped by the gas station, and passed a yard sale sign. The arrow pointed toward a neighborhood of townhouses – not one that I had considered a likely location for patio furniture. But I had to start somewhere, so I followed the arrow.

Two chairs, two ottomans, cushions in need of love. Perfect! I asked the price – 20 bucks. Loaded it all into my beloved wagon and arrived home less than 20 minutes after I’d left. I unloaded the chairs into the yard to give them a quick spray-down with the hose, and my mom appeared in the doorway, appalled that I’d already found what I needed. I mean, I’d packed snacks! And instead I only spent 20 minutes and 20 bucks! It was amazing.

recovered patio chair cushions - before

The cushions were incredibly ugly, and pretty dirty, but the chairs had great bones. From there, my job couldn’t be easier. I picked up some outdoor home decor fabric for its resistance to water and fading from UV exposure. Usually water-resistant fabrics only come in a few prints, so it’s hard to find something good… but I managed to find this one that has the best colors. And the brown looks so good with the brown of the chairs!

recovered patio chair cushions - fussy cut

it was fun to fussy-cut my squares so that the big flowers would be centered

For actual cushion construction, I started by measuring the original cushions. Then I just sliced the old cushions, retaining the innards: they’re made of a plastic, light-density batting that seems like it would dry quickly if it were to get wet, as you’d expect from outdoor furniture. Usually I use new foam when reupholstering, but for this purpose, the old insides were just fine.

recovered patio chair cushions

The original cushions were made with piping, but I decided to save some effort and just made standard dart/box corners. I did a lapped zipper on the back of each piece, taking care to match up the flowers as you see above. I only did the flower-matching on the seat-back cushions, because you can see those from my living room. Nobody sees the base of the seat-bottom cushions, so those don’t match up. (don’t tell)

recovered patio chair cushions - zipper detail

In the use-what-you-have spirit, I used two medium zippers for each cushion instead of buying the long ones. It works just fine, especially since I never plan to remove the cushions. Once I was done, I just slid the batting pieces into the zipper and fluffed them a bit until the corners lined up.

recovered patio chair cushions

As a final touch, I decided to transform one of the ottomans into a mini table. A few boards glued together, with glue blocks screwed to the bottom so it doesn’t wiggle, and a few coats of outdoor polyurethane, gives me the perfect tea surface. The other ottoman… doesn’t have a new cushion yet. I’ll get to that one eventually! For now, I’m enjoying my last few weeks of fall balcony weather. It’s definitely not iced tea season anymore, but with some hot tea and a blanket I’m still happy out there.

recovered patio chair cushions: before and after