Upholstery - ain't nobody got time for that

I'm back! I told you I would be and tell the tale of a chair.

Let's recap.

I have a chair, an amazingly gorgeous, well made, feather stuffed, rolled arm chair (sounds exquisite doesn't it), in dire need of reupholstering. No, I was not going to pay hundreds and hundreds of dollars to get done professionally (yes, I looked into it) - surely it couldn't be that hard? Could it?

Well, maybe it could.

The backstory:

I have had this chair for YEARS - I was actually given it from a neighbour along with its matching ottoman for making some clothes - a gift for his sister (funny how so many things seem to come back to me making something for someone!). It was gorgeous, super wide, the kind where you had room to tuck your legs up beside you (or hang them over the side if you were so inclined) and relax.

But after years of relaxation and comfort my poor chair had seen better days. It had begun to get tears in the fabric, and while I had done my best 'patch-up' job it had started to look rather tatty. My amazingly gorgeous, well made, feather stuffed, rolled arm chair was looking very well loved and a somewhat embarrassing piece of furniture to have on show in a lounge.

You see, upholstery had always been on my bucket list, not just the simple kitchen chair or square ottoman but a full on chair. I mean, how hard could it be?

It wasn't until my husband and I bought a new lounge suite that I told him I didn't want my gorgeous rolled arm chair to be banished to the spare room any longer. I wanted it in the lounge - this however took quite some persuading, convincing and encouragement. The answer was 'NO' for a long time! Apparently, it wasn't that he didn't like the chair, just that it wouldn't look right. I used all my best persuasive techniques, explained how I was going to upholster it and how it was going to look amazing. And, like all the good creative things I have done around the house - I wait until he is at work before putting my plans into action. This allows me to 'surprise' him with my latest creative venture when he gets home from work. (I will share some more of these at another time).

But where does someone start with learning upholstery? A course? No, not me. Instead I find myself a YouTube tutorial! Surely it won't be that hard and I will learn everything I need to know through a well constructed tutorial. I found the best tutorial for a rolled arm chair that I could find. A mere 2 ½ hour tutorial on the complete process. From deconstruction, materials required to reconstruction. I watched this twice in total taking detailed notes and listing everything I needed to make my upholstery bucket list dream a reality (lucky I have a multitude of notebooks to choose from).

From YouTube to Google (and another safari tab) I managed to locate upholstery fabric and material suppliers. I was off! Not long out of cast after an ankle reconstruction I was free and out in the world after a long 6 weeks in a cast. First up was the fabric, a mere 20 metres (surely that would be enough for a rolled arm chair and a cushion top ottoman), I mean how does someone actually measure the exact amount required? I measured and estimated I needed 14 metres, but since this was my first upholstery attempt I gave myself a 6 metre buffer!

It wasn't until I got to the upholstery supply shop that my hopes and ideas of my upholstery task hit home. I was asking ALL the right questions - well, according to my tutorial I was. Armed with my list of supplies I knew exactly what to ask for. This initial upholstery excitement was subsequently squashed when the sales lady asked me 2 questions:

  1. What am I upholstering?

  2. Have I upholstered anything before?

My answers, I thought, were on point.

  1. An absolutely gorgeous rolled arm chair and ottoman

  2. Other than some dining chairs and some square ottomans, no.

I followed this by "I have watched a 2 ½ hour tutorial" which went down like a lead balloon, and "I am a competent sewer". This is where my confidence took a hit. Her reply, quite simply, "Oh, you are the worst". Really? The worst? Being a sewer is the worst? Or being a sewer trying to be an upholsterer is the worst? I guess this I will never know.

I showed her a picture of the chair, her reaction was somewhat discouraging, "You have never upholstered and you want to do that, I wouldn't even attempt this, and I would say that an advanced level in upholstery is required to complete this chair, why don't you start with something easier?"

SOMETHING EASIER? I don't want to start with something easier, I just want to upholster my gorgeous rolled arm chair, not fill my house with projects to work my way up to my chair!

This was definitely fuel to my fire. Did this lady really just tell me that I WOULDN'T be able to do this? No one tells me I can't do something! It just makes me more determined to prove them wrong. Does this make me stubborn? (No comment required).

Home and fuming about what she had said echoing through my head "Sewers are the worst", "You won't be able to do this". No lady, you are wrong! I will do this, I am a sewer and we are not the worst.

I had my fabric, supplies, my tutorial on standby. The first step was to get the old fabric off the chair. Armed with my staple remover and a bowl I swung into action. Until I hit a snag, and the fabric appeared to be trapped in the wood. This is where I began to realise that my chair and the tutorial chair were made completely differently. What I was attempting, well, already started attempting (to the point of no return), was completely different to the tutorial. I was going in completely blind.

My chair, yip, the amazingly gorgeous, well made, feather stuffed, rolled arm chair was now sitting on my lounge floor in 3 completely separate pieces, nude of all fabric! The point of absolutely no return, a head full of doubt and the overwhelming sense of "what the f@%k have I done"?

Breathe . . .

Surely it's not that hard, a few phone calls later to my Mum, my husband and my antique restorer brother gave me the pep talk I needed to continue.

Suck it up, you've got this!

Step by step, piece by piece my chair, my amazingly gorgeous, well made, feather stuffed, rolled arm chair, started to go back together.

Saturday morning until Sunday morning, 18 hours in total, when my hands no longer had the strength to staple in another staple, when my fingers were raw, cut and bleeding, my chair, my amazingly gorgeous, well made, feather stuffed, rolled arm chair (and matching ottoman) were reupholstered with contrasting piping and a new lease on life.

I had done it. Finished. Completed. Me, a sewer, a person who has never upholstered before, finished.

And all I wanted to do was go back to that shop, back to that lady, and ask her if this was the chair she said that I wouldn't be able to upholster, because I am a sewer, and they are the worst!

No, don't tell me I can't do something, it appears (well, in this case anyway) that I will prove you wrong.

And as for my husband, he came home from work and loved the chair, and it now has pride of place in our lounge with our new couch.

Anything is possible if you put your mind to it it seems.