Friday, March 29, 2013

Spring Baby Shower

It feels like all I've been talking about this week is the upholstered chair I made for my niece, Tory.  Partly because that IS pretty much all I've been talking about between the reveal, the frame tutorial, and the upholstery tutorial.  I mentioned Monday that the chair was a baby shower gift, and today wanted to share with you some shots from the shower that I co-hosted with my mother-in-law last weekend.

My mother-in-law really did the lion's share of the work.  The shower was at her house and she did an amazing job turning the inside into a spring haven as the wind whipped big snowflakes through the air outside.

How adorable are these little fleece-lined Crocs?

She had a bar set up with stemmed and stemless wine glasses and had juices, wine, and mimosa fixings in a super cool metal box her father had made when he was in school.

The sweet guest of honor getting a kiss from her pup.

We kept the food to reasonably simple brunch fare - mini quiches, a fruit platter, sticky buns, and a couple different varieties of cookies.  My mother-in-law made this chicken broccoli braid - basically a garlicky, creamy, chicken and broccoli filling inside crescent roll dough - that was totally amazing and as soon as I get the recipe from her I will share it with you!

I grabbed the idea for these bee and B cookies (our last name starts with B) from Sarah's blog a few weeks ago.  I'll share the recipe I used for them and for the sticky buns next week.

And just one more shot of the chair.  Tory has a little growing to do still but she looked right at home in her new chair.

Hope you all have a great weekend!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

{Tutorial} How to Upholster a Chair

Okay, as promised all week, here we go with the upholstery tutorial for the child-sized chair I made for my niece.  I hope you'll get more than just how to upholster a mini armchair out of this, though.  A lot of things I'll show you can be applied to many upholstery projects, and while I'm still far from considering myself an expert, I've learned some things about upholstery this past year that I'm very happy to be able to share.

So, here we go!  For this part of the project you'll need to gather the following supplies:
  • staple guns and staples
  • sharp scissors
  • 1 1/4" wood screws
  • 2" wood screws
  • 1" high density foam
  • cotton or poly batting
  • elastic upholstery webbing
  • webbing stretcher
  • 3 yards of fabric (I used Annie Selke Links)
  • large piece of cardboard
  • cardboard tack strip
  • 2 metal tack strips
  • hammer or mallet
  • upholstery nails
  • cambric cloth (black cloth underneath furniture)
  • 4 bun feet, stained and sealed
  • 4 mounting plates for bun feet

I last left you with the frame of the chair built in four separate pieces - the seat, two arms, and the back.  The next step is adding some padding and dimension to the chair with the 1" foam.  Hold one of the arms next to the seat and mark where the top of the seat hits the arm.  You'll add foam above this point.  Cut enough foam to staple at this mark and then wrap up and over the top of the arm, stapling underneath to make the roll of the arm.  Use as many staples as you need to get a smooth roll.

Repeat for the other arm.  Hold the back against the seat and mark where the top of the seat hits the back.  Also hold the arms against the back and mark where the tops of the arms meet the back.  Staple foam inside the marks, but slightly overlapping them so there's no visible foam line once it's upholstered.

Set the arms and back aside for now.  Staple elastic webbing to one end of the seat.  Use a webbing stretcher to stretch it tightly to the other end (the tool is essential or the webbing won't be tight enough) and staple to the other end.  Cut below the staple line and continue until you have all the vertical rows made, then do the same with horizontal rows, weaving the webbing in and out of the vertical rows, until the entire seat is covered.

Cut a piece of foam to fit the top of the seat exactly.

Wrap the seat and foam snugly with batting, as if you're wrapping a present, and staple underneath.  Pay special attention to smooth lines and corners.  Do the same for the arms, covering only as far down on each side as the foam goes on the inside.

Wrap the back as well, but be sure to cut little holes out where the screws will go through when it's time to attach (where you drilled pilot holes while building the frame).  If you don't do this, the batting will wrap mummy-tight around your drill when you go to put the screws in!  You don't need to cover the back (where the slats are) with batting.

Determine how you want your fabric to align if using a pattern, then drape the fabric over the seat and cut a piece slightly larger than the seat (don't forget to account for the sides!).  The front is the most important side so start there and staple the fabric underneath, starting in the middle and working out to each corner, leaving a few inches unstapled at each corner.  Pull tightly toward the back and do the same for the back.  Go back to the corners and fold and tuck until you have smooth creases, then staple underneath.

Pull the fabric tight and staple the sides underneath.  Don't worry when the sides themselves look bunched - they'll be covered by the arms. 

Focus on getting the front and the top as smooth as possible.

Lay the fabric over one of the arms and cut it so it overhangs each side by an inch or two, then cut a second piece exactly the same.  Staple underneath each arm on the inside (the roll faces the outside) then drape the fabric so it hangs over the arm as it will when finished and attach the arms to the seat using the Kreg holes you drilled underneath the arms when building the frame.  The arms should be firmly attached but will have a little wobble to them until the back is attached, so move the piece gently at this stage.

Smooth and pull the fabric down the outside and staple in the center underneath the arm. Work your way out to each corner, leaving a few inches undone.  To finish the backs of the arms, smooth, pull and staple in place, only worrying about the very outside of the roll being perfectly flat because that is the only part of the back that will show once the chair is assembled.

For the front, follow the same basic procedure, but play with the fabric to get a pleated effect along the top of the roll.

Pull any extra fabric at the bottom underneath and staple, also closing up the loose corners as you go.

For the back, cut a piece that will cover the inside and a few inches down the outside.  Staple underneath on the inside.

Wrap the fabric up and over the top, tucking and folding the corners so they lay flat, then staple on the back side.

Lay the back on top of the seat and arms and attach using wood screws.

Cut a piece of cardboard to fit the open back space and staple it in place.

Secure the side flaps on the back with staples.

This was my first time using flexible metal tack strips and I watched this five-minute tutorial on YouTube, which explains the process better than I could in words.  I followed the steps outlined here to finish the back of the chair

Cut two strips of fabric in roughly the shape of the fronts of the arms.  Hold them in place and tuck and fold while hammering upholstery nails in to get a smooth and even look.  This step can be tedious and challenging.  Go slow.

Flip the chair over and staple a piece of cambric underneath to cover the opening.  Then attach metal mounting plates for the bun feet to the four corners.

Attach the feet and YOU. ARE. DONE!


A few tips and tricks you might find helpful:
  • Use whatever length wood screw makes sense given the depth of wood you're screwing into.
  • At various points in the assembly give the chair a gentle shake and add extra screws if you feel like it needs more stability.
  • I use a small flathead screwdriver, needlenose pliers, and a little prybar (sometimes called a cat's paw) to remove staples and upholstery nails when necessary.  Don't be afraid to remove staples and nails and do them again to get it right.
  • I order most of my upholstery supplies from DIY Upholstery Supply.
  • My favorite wood screws are the brass cabinet screws from Ace Hardware.  I find they don't strip as easily as others I've tried.

FREE PLANS - how to build a child-sized chairFREE PLANS - how to upholster a child-sized chair

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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

One More Day...

I had planned to share the tutorial for the DIY upholstered chair with you today, but these kinds of tutorials can be pretty heavy on the photos and time-intensive to write, it was 10 p.m. last night and I was still editing photos with not a word written, and my two year-old has been waking up not-a-moment-later than 6 a.m. every morning for the past two weeks, sooooooo...I went to bed.  Any moms out there have a guess as to what might be going on with my daughter who has consistently slept until 7:30 every morning for the better part of a year??  It's like a switch flipped one day a couple weeks ago and she comes staggering into my room yawning before the crack of dawn and sometimes once in the middle of the night too.  I have no clue why the change but I am exHAUSted.

So instead of poring over an upholstery tutorial, might I suggest you visit my friend Sarah, over at Sarah M. Dorsey?  I've told you about her before and she has been spending the past three weeks competing in Creating With the Stars over at East Coast Creative and has been knocking it out of the park.  She's been in the top three for two of the three weeks and is moving on to the finals next week! 

Check out her projects:


You will not believe what Sarah made this pretty pendant out of.  Seriously.  I think I have a creative bone or two, but I NEVER would have thought of this.

Custom cornice, knockoff Schumacher drapes, knockoff Anthro bench

Sarah shares tutorials for the cornice, drapes, and ottoman on her site.  

Painted desk and accent wall using custom stencils


Just today, East Coast Creative announced Sarah was in the top three again with this project so check back in the next few days for a tutorial on these projects.

And try to remember to pop over next Monday to vote in the finals.  Best of luck to you, Sarah!  

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

{Tutorial} Child's Upholstered Chair Frame

As promised, today I have a tutorial for you on how to make the frame for the child-sized upholstered chair I shared with you yesterday, and gave to my niece this past weekend.

Today's tutorial is solely for the frame and I'm planning to show you how to upholster and assemble it tomorrow.  These instructions are how I made this chair.  Like I mentioned yesterday, I'll likely make a few tweaks in the next version of this chair, but this tutorial will give you a sturdy piece that looks just like the photo above!

I used a Kreg jig to pre-drill most of the holes used for attaching the pieces together here, but if you don't have one, you can piece it together using regular screws.  You'll have to adjust the screw length from my instructions based on how you do it though.

  • 5 8-foot 2" poplar boards (actual width is 1 1/2")
  • 1" wood screws
  • 1 1/4" wood screws
  • Kreg jig
  • sandpaper or orbital sander

  • 2 - 15"
  • 6 - 12 1/2"
  • 2 - 16"
  • 2 - 17"
  • 4 - 9 1/2"
  • 4 - 16 1/2"
  • 4 - 18"
  • 4 - 15 1/2"

The frame of the chair is made up of four separate pieces: the seat, the two arms, and the back.  The first step is building the seat, which is narrower at the back than at the front so the rolled arms don't stick way out on the finished chair.

Lay one of the 15" pieces flat on the floor and center one of the 12 1/2" pieces 15" above it (a cutting mat used for sewing makes this step easier, but use whatever measuring tools you have).  Take the two 16" pieces and cut the tops and bottoms at 5º, so the outsides measurement is 15".  If this confuses you, you can also lay the 16" board on top of the 12 1/2" and 15" boards and mark where your cuts should be.

Drill Kreg jig holes in the side pieces and attach using 1" wood screws.

Drill a Kreg hole in the center of another 12 1/2" and the other 15" board and attach them to the base you've already made.  Cut the 17" pieces at 5º angles so the outside measurement is 16 1/2" or lay the 17" boards on top of the pieces you just attached and mark where your cuts should be.  Drill Kreg holes in the ends of the side pieces and attach using 1" screws.

For the arms, drill Kreg holes at the ends of the four 16 1/2" pieces.  Attach to the four 9 1/2" pieces as shown, using 1" screws.  Drill Kreg holes going inward on the bottoms of the arms (you'll use these holes later to attach the arms to the seat).

Lay an 18" piece on top of each of the arm frames you've built and attach using 1 1/4" screws straight through the wood (no Kreg holes).  Make sure you place this piece correctly.  It should be on the opposite end of those Kreg holes you drilled to attach to the seat and on the outside (the Kreg holes will be pointing to the inside).

For the back, drill Kreg holes on the ends of the remaining four 12 1/2" pieces.  Attach to the remaining 18" pieces using 1" wood screws.  I lined the top and bottom pieces up exactly with the edges and eyeballed the placement of the center two pieces.

Lay the 15 1/2" pieces over each of the 12 1/2" pieces and attach using 1 1/4" screws straight into the wood below.  I find drilling pilot holes first keeps the wood from splintering.  Also drill pilot holes as shown below that you'll use later to attach the back to the seat and arms.  Make sure you hold the back up against the arms to see where you need to drill the pilot holes along the sides - they need to be below the tops of the arms.

Use sandpaper or an orbital sander to soften the corners of the seat, arms, and back.  I've found this helps prevent sharp edges from poking out and making the upholstery look odd.

And that's the frame!  Click HERE for directions on assembling and upholstering the chair.

FREE PLANS - how to build a child-sized chairFREE PLANS - how to upholster a child-sized chair

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