I imagined my summer being full of sun cream, beach days and playing outside. And don’t get me wrong, there was of course a lot of all of those things (sadly mum life doesn’t leave any time for relaxing on a sun lounger but I’ve already made my piece with that). What I wasn’t expecting to spend my summer doing was reupholstering a Parker Knoll wing-back chair.
Upholstery is something I’ve barely even dabbled in before. I’m quite happy with recovering a standard dining room chair seat pad (following a 1 hour workshop I did a few years ago) but when I found this chair on EBay I knew it was way beyond my limits. I did consider trying to figure out how to do it through lots of YouTube videos and googling but I really didn’t want to make a hash of it so set off hunting down an upholsterer who didn’t think I was completely mental (it really wasn’t the beginner project some thought I should be doing)
After a lot more searching than I imagined I’d have to do (it seems upholsterers who teach in my area are few and far between) I found someone who had sessions running through the summer… and that’s how this summer project started.
After some advice over emails in the run up to the course I successfully stripped the chair back to the frame and purchased all the foam and fabric I’d need before I began.
The process of reupholstering this chair was a lengthy one. There were a lot more steps than I anticipated, and I did look back at times and consider whether it really needed it. When you look at the original chair, yes its just a beige chair but it only showed a few signs of wear and it was perfectly usable. The biggest issue I had with it was it just wasn’t really my style, though when I began stripping it back it did become quite clear that the foam was starting to disintegrate and was unlikely to have lasted many more years as it was, so it really has been given a huge new lease of life.
Now I’m not going to talk you through every step of the process… I’d be here all week and I’m not an expert on this by any stretch of the imagination. Below are a few photos of the process; from supporting under-layers (hessian and webbing), to foam, calico underlays and then adding the top fabric and finishing it all off.
Some very important things I learnt about re-upholstering along the way (other than how to do it)…
- The frame of the furniture has to be in good order. There really is no point putting all that effort into the re-upholstery if the frame is cracked and likely to break, if there is any damage get it repaired properly before you begin.
- Choose a good quality fabric. There is a reason why some fabrics are specifically marked for upholstery. You can use a dressmaking fabric but don’t expect it to last well, it is much thinner than upholstery fabric and therefore wears through quickly and sometimes struggles with the tension it is put under during the stretching.
- Don’t rush it. Give yourself enough time to do a proper job so that the furniture stands the test of time, there really is no point rushing it or you’ll just end up re-doing it.
- Up-cycling, repairing and rejuvenating old furniture is totally worth it. The frame of this chair was made with better quality wood than they use nowadays, it was built to last. Throwing things like this away is just such a waste of the incredible craftsmanship than went into making them.
- Don’t expect it to be cheap. Now don’t get me wrong here, the cost of re-upholstering this chair was still cheaper than buying one new but the foam is more expensive than you expect it to be and you use a lot more fabric than you anticipate too. I’m obviously not going to have the cost of the course every time I do a project like this but all the material costs add up.
I surprised myself with how much joy I got from working on this chair. I make things all the time so didn’t anticipate such a different reaction, I can only assume its because its something so new. I massively pushed myself out of my comfort zone with this and am so thrilled that I did. I am well and truly in love with this chair… from the fabric I chose to the details like the piping that I added I really wouldn’t change a thing and I am already on the hunt for my next upholstery challenge.
So try something new, give yourself a challenge and take a chance… it’s totally worth it!
Fabric from Spoonflower
Upholstery classes by Philippa Crosse
Chair is a Parker Knoll Wing-back found on EBay