I’m queen of biting off more than I can chew, but I’ve always been pleasantly surprised when I’ve completed a project. We’ve been looking for a chair to go in Jude’s room, and when we were at Urban Ore the other day, I saw this stunning channel-back antique chair for $25 and just had to have it. I went and sat in it and got really excited when it was super comfy too. We also picked up a toy chest for $8 that I’m going to repaint and share in another post.

Chair Upholstery Saga: Before www.thesimplelane.com

Chair Upholstery Saga: Before www.thesimplelane.com

Reupholstering something just sounds like such a fun and challenging DIY. I’m excited about how it will tickle my brain to figure things out. I’ve watched lots of videos on how to reupholster a chair or couch, but I can’t seem to find one for the channel back that our chair has. But one thing the videos have always said is to pay attention to everything as you take it apart, because that’s how you will put it back together. I’m a pretty good reverse engineer, so we’ll see how well I can do on this.

PLANNING: The fun part was coming up with an idea for the design. I’ve been going crazy for white milk paint these days, so I think I’ll paint the wooden parts white. And of course the old rustic French look is all in vogue, so I like the idea of a simple darker gray fabric, something that isn’t fancy or refined. Since I already have the milk paint, that part was easy. But finding the fabric and tools turned out much harder than I thought. I tried to google places to get upholstery supplies in Berkeley and came up short. So I called Ace Hardware, and the person on the phone was just very confused. So I googled upholsterers in the area to ask where they got their tools and someone recommended I try Discount Fabrics. Again, no dice. But at least I was at a fabric store and might see some good options, right? Wrong! Finding gray upholstery fabric is apparently impossible!

So again I turned to google, but the only gray fabric I found was polyolefin, which definitely doesn’t fit in with my natural lifestyle! Etsy had a couple of options for light upholstery (pillows and such), but they were still $50/yard! Tell me, am I really the only one to ever want a natural gray upholstery fabric?

I had heard of people taking drop cloth and dying them them color they want, but after seeing a close-up of the washed cloth, I didn’t like how cheap and pilly it looked. And of course the question as to how to dye it came up. Natural dyes for gray include carob pods, iris root, and a few other random hard-to-find items like fresh hazelnut husks. After a lot of research, I realized I don’t have a container large enough to hold the 5 yards or so of fabric I’ll need to dye, and since I didn’t want any discontinuity in the colors, that option was out. SO, I think I’m going to settle for the iDye fabric dye. It’s supposedly less toxic than the standard Rit dye, but I still don’t know what’s in it. Oh well, I can only be so much of a perfectionist!

So what about the tools needed to remove the tacks and such? Though somewhat expensive, www.diyupholstery.com had the cheapest tools I could find. The shipping is painfully expensive, but when google, ebay and etsy fail you, well, what can you do!

Chair Upholstery Saga: Horsehair Stuffing -- www.thesimplelane.com

Chair Upholstery Saga: Horsehair Stuffing — www.thesimplelane.com

SUPPLIES: So what do I need to do this? Obviously new fabric and paint, which I’ve discussed above. But I’m going to need new filler, burlap, cotton fabric and batting. You can see a hole in the chair where someone tore open the batting to look and see what the filler was. Let me tell you, that is some scary looking stuff in there. Turns out, it’s horsehair! Horsehair was used as filler through the 19th century, so this chair might just be over 100 years old! But what can I do with it? Apparently you can just wash it like you would regular hair! Do you see now what I’m calling this upholstery project a saga?

So I’ve got the supplies for the filler, and I’m going to be looking for organic options for the batting and burlap/cotton. It’s going to be an adventure, but one I’m really excited to go on! Hopefully I can finish it before it drives me nuts just sitting in our solarium!

Have you ever tried your hand at upholstery? What are some common mistakes, and would you do it again?