Do It Your Own F&*@$ing Self

When we moved to New York, Soren’s parents were nice enough to give us a dining room set that once belonged to Soren’s grandparents. The table is truly beautiful, but the fabric on the chairs was a throwback to an earlier era — a simpler time when brown and orange stripes were hip.

Around the same time that we moved to New York, I started reading Betty Homemaker blogs. “Why not try switching up the fabric on your dining room chairs?” they asked. At the time, I didn’t have a good answer. But now I am older and wiser. So I’ll tell you why not. It’s flipping difficult.

In the world of upholstery, dining room chairs are considered baby stuff. They’re supposed to be the easiest project one can tackle. DIY blogs will lull you into thinking that this task is so simple even a four-year-old with one arm and ADHD could do it. They’ll make you believe that the chairs, given the opportunity, will nearly reupholster themselves. I’m here to tell you this is a lie. The process is difficult. But it isn’t impossible. For those of you who haven’t been completely deterred by this intro, let me lay out the steps:

1. Gather your tools and supplies
staple gun, staple remover (highly recommended), screwdriver, scissors, scraper, hammer, pliers, band-aids, patience

2. Take the seat off
This is surprisingly easy. Most seats are attached with a few screws. Take these out, and the seat comes right off.

3. Start pulling staples
This is tedious work. Stick with it. Each chair in my dining room set had eleventy-billion staples in the bottom. You can pry those up with a flathead screw driver, but that’s an enormous pain in the ass, not to mention a hazardous endeavor. I can’t tell you the number of times I nearly speared my flesh. Using a special staple remover (which cost a whopping $32 bucks for reasons that I cannot comprehend), makes the process slightly easier and moderately less hazardous. You’ll need pliers to get out the stubbornest staples.

4. Scrape off the old foam
Often the old foam will be glued to the seat bottom. You might be able to peel it off. But a paint scraper works well for dislodging any stubborn bits. You want to have the cleanest, smoothest surface possible.

5. Put on the new foam
I had the shop where I bought my foam cut each piece to the exact shape I would need. They did it for free. If you don’t do this, you will need some sort of foam-cutting device. You can use a knife, but your edges may end up quite jagged.

6. Attach your padding
You want the fabric that goes over your foam to be nicely rounded, not boxy like the foam piece. So I stapled some batting called Dacron over the foam. Then I realized I had covered the screw holes that I needed to reattach the seat. So I had to do it all over again. Sigh.

7. Attach your fabric
This is the real bitch. You want the fabric to be straight and taut, but not stretched so tight that you can see it pulling. On each corner, you have to make a fold. Ideally, you want all the folds to look the same. This is harder than it sounds. Making them look neat and professional takes time and several do-overs. I think my corners look pretty amateurish. But at some point you have to say, “Goddammit, I have a life to live. I am done redoing these effing corners.”

I also don’t think I got my fabric tight enough. Occasionally when the cat jumps off a chair, you can see a tiny indent where her paw was. The indent isn’t permanent, but I still don’t think that should be happening.

And, voila! The finished product . . .


Filed under DIY, upholstery

3 responses to “Do It Your Own F&*@$ing Self

  1. vsheaffer

    “Goddammit, I have a life to live. I am done redoing these effing corners.” Hahaha so true

  2. Pingback: The Green Room | Urban Cholita

  3. Kathleen

    Actually, I think your chairs look quite nice. I am redoing a dining set that looks like yours. I have recanted the backs and am now about to tackle the seat cushions, which I have decided to re-pipe. Just deciding on piping on top of cushion, bottom of cushion, or both? The re-staining and re-caning turned out well. Wish me luck on the sewing part.

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