But lets start with the chair.
I have to start by saying that our Naked Lounge Chair for Rethink’s Battle Pink was a bit of an ambitious project. Just a tad.
The timing was tight, and anything short of spectacular just would not satisfy our eager DIY brains. Plus we started off this project with our famous last words, “How hard can that be?” That’s always a sure sign of trouble.
I’m here today to give you a bit of a behind the scenes look at the making of our chair. Just in case you feel you want to embark on a DIY-fabric-design-and-upholstery project of your own. You never know when those skills might come in handy.
And just before we get to the how-to, I have to talk about the wholehearted support we received in doing this project. It was almost overwhelming actually. Whenever we needed some help along the way, we just told people what we were trying to do, and why, and the answer was always “yes.” No exceptions. This is where I need to thank talented artist Shawn Skeir, fabulous fabric mega store Designer Fabric Outlet, and upholsterers extraordinaire Scarboro Interiors. I’ll tell you more about how they helped us later.
It seems that cancer touches a lot of people. Everyone has a cancer story – maybe about a friend, or a loved one, or even themselves. Nads and I have a new one of our own. We lost our aunt just last week to breast cancer – our Zia Claudia in Italy. She was a tiny but exceptionally positive and cheerful woman, always with a ready smile. My oldest girl had a chance to meet her earlier this year when an international exchange happened to take her close to my hometown in Italy. One evening, 14 of my relatives showed up at her host family’s home to take my daughter out for a pizza dinner. She told me about being surprised by a little lady who ran up and gave her a big bear hug from behind, warm and welcoming even though they just met. That was my Zia Claudia.
You probably have your own cancer stories. And I wanted to ask you to help us, too. Take a minute and vote for our project over at the Battle Pink site. Post the link on your facebook page, or tweet it to your friends. Send it out to your email list and ask people to pass it on. This campaign lasts 2 weeks, and Penguin Canada will make a donation to Rethink Breast Cancer for every single vote. This will be the best few minutes you spend today.
And now, on a lighter note, let’s talk about how to make your own Naked Lounge Chair. Here’s our how-to guide to get you started.
The first part of this project was the easy part – chair shopping! Hit up all your favourite antique and vintage stores and look for a sturdy chair in a simple design. To make life easier, avoid anything with wings, arm panels, or box pillows.
If your chair looks fairly new and in good shape, you may be able to keep the stuffing, padding and other internal components. We lucked out with our find from Frontier Sales. The chair was simply upholstered, made of high quality materials, and in excellent condition – practically new. The best part was the size – the wide back and seat were perfect to showcase the beautiful artwork we envisioned for the upholstery. We asked Frontier Sales to donate the chair for a good cause, and we heard our first “yes.”
2. Removing Piping Trim
This is the chair we started with, upholstered in crocodile-stamped orange vinyl. It was a great shape and size, and it might have been kind of funky in the right space. But it definitely did not say “boobs.”
So the upholstery had to go. And this was the fun part. One key aspect of our Battle Pink challenge was to use the Precision Tools Pink Tool Kit, and so we pulled out our pink tools and got to work. We used the screwdriver to gently pry off the piping, which we discovered was hot-glued to the frame to cover the upholstery staples and then we cleaned off all traces of hot glue.
3. Removing Upholstery
The next big job was to remove the staples one by one, using the screwdriver and pliers
Hint: if you don’t have upholstery experience, go slowly and take pictures as you go. This will help guide you as you put the chair back together.
The padding on this chair looked brand new and so we were able to reuse it all. But because the chair had buttons on the front, we had to remove the padding on the back in order to cut the button ties. This is where our pink craft knife came in handy!
Here go the buttons:
Once we removed the back cover, we were able to access the remainder of the staples that held down the seat upholstery.
4. Taking Apart Sewn Pieces
The last thing was to take apart the vinyl covering of the front seat cushion, which was sewn into a box shape with double stitching. The craft knife did a quick job of this. It was important to take all the pieces of upholstery apart carefully, so that they could be used as a pattern for cutting the new fabric.
5. Making The Pattern
Making the pattern for the new fabric was pretty straightforward, once we turned for advice to Scarboro Interiors, our long-time source for quality upholstery work. They patiently gave us some tips and tricks that helped us get it right.
Wherever the pieces were sewn together, like for the box-shaped front seat cover, we cut the pattern exactly to the size and shape of the vinyl fabric. Wherever the pieces were stapled on to the chair, we added 2 inches so that there was enough fabric to pull tightly as you stapled. Any excess could be cut off afterwards.
I used old wrapping paper to make pattern pieces by tracing around the vinyl, leaving the proper 2 inch allowance where necessary. I labeled each piece to show direction (up versus down) and placement (front, back, seat).
I also measured the piping and cut 1½ inch strips of paper to the correct lengths. I had to add a length of piping for the top of the seat cushion. With the vinyl, this seam had been double stitched, but we thought adding piping here would be a nice finishing touch for our new chair.
Hint: Scarboro Interiors told us to try to cut the piping fabric on the diagonal, which would help avoid wrinkles.
Here’s the chair with the upholstery removed.
And here’s a shot of the back.
Check back next post, where we take you through the fabric design process and you get to meet talented Canadian artist, Shawn Skier.
And have a look at our other posts on this project – Presenting: The Naked Lounge Chair for Rethink Breast Cancer, Designing Our Naked Fabric With Shawn Skeir, and Covering Up Our Naked Lounge Chair: Some Upholstery Tips.
Our Naked Lounge Chair project was sponsored by Frontier Sales, our go-to place for used, vintage, retro, unique or antique.