I'm coming out of blog retirement to document a little project I recently completed. I first mentioned this project in a post way back in June 2011, where I featured three projects I planned to tackle that summer. Ayeh. At least I've finally managed to cross the child's rocking chair off my list...FIVE YEARS LATER! Since I now have a cute one year-old granddaughter, who is just the right size for this little chair, I finally had a good reason to get this done.
As a reminder, this little chair was in sad shape when I acquired it. Knicked up, filthy and ugly it was definitely in need of some TLC. It was upholstered in a ghastly red, white and blue quilted print featuring bandanas and gingham.
Conveniently, I already had almost everything I needed to tackle this small project, using materials left over from other projects. The only things I had to buy were a spool of nylon thread and eight brass screws.
I started out by taking off the old upholstery, a time consuming task of removing old rusty tacks. Underneath the quilted fabric were pieces of orange vinyl upholstery that I'm guessing was the original. The wood frame wasn't in great shape either, with splits and cracks. This might have even been a homemade chair as it looked to be quite a hodgepodge of scrap lumber. While Grandpa got to work replacing a few broken pieces, I sanded the arms and rockers to ready them for painting. Luckily we had a nice winter day that was above freezing so that I could do that messy work in the garage. After giving it all a good sanding and wipe down, I applied a coat of dark tinted primer and then two coats of very dark brown gloss latex paint.
|My dining room "workshop".|
I wanted the chair to be more padded and cushy, so I started with adding some 1-inch thick upholstery foam to the seat and back. I attached it with a spray adhesive made specifically for foam.
As you can see the seat and back pieces are pretty much just boxes. The seat has a plywood top but the back was just an open frame of four pieces of wood, so I stapled on pieces of cardboard to cover the front and back.
The next step was to bring out the pneumatic staple gun to attach batting! I bought a used upholstery stapler off eBay a few years ago and use a 1-gallon air compressor, which is sufficient for a small project like this. The stapler uses 3/8-inch upholstery staples, which can be difficult to find in the big box stores. I ordered mine from Amazon and they come in different lengths depending on your project needs. If you ever buy a pneumatic stapler make sure it's one with a safety tip that has to be depressed before the trigger will work. Mine doesn't have that and I have to be very careful not to accidentally bump the trigger and shoot off an errant stale! A long nose stapler would also be nice for getting into tighter spots.
After donning my eye and ear protection (the compressor is very LOUD while it is charging up) I got to work covering the chair with upholstery batting. When working with batting you might also want to wear a face mask as the batting is very messy and leaves tiny fibers everywhere, as seen in the picture below. I purposely left the corners like you see to offer a bit more padding for those sharp edges.
The chair back wasn't actually attached at this point. I needed to upholster the seat and back sections separately before attaching them. I had lots of decorator fabric in my stash to choose from for this project. I wanted something that would fit in almost anywhere and be somewhat neutral; not a juvenile fabric. I also wanted it to be somewhat modern and interesting. I chose this now discontinued Ikea print. It's a sturdy canvas-like cotton which was the perfect choice, not too bulky and easy to work with. I did have to pay a little extra attention so the pattern would align on both the seat and back sections.
It was a lot of trial and error in positioning, cutting, trimming and stapling. I made sure to iron my pieces before attaching them. I used a curved needle and nylon thread to sew closed the boxed corners using a blind stitch. Once everything was taut and to my liking I was able to attach the back piece to the seat. At this point the back side of the chair wasn't upholstered yet. I didn't get pictures of the next steps. A strip of chipboard is stapled to the underside of the fabric at the top, then the fabric is flipped over leaving a nice even edge with no exposed staples. Tack strip is used on the sides, tucking the fabric under and hammering it in place with a soft mallet. Then the bottom of the fabric is stapled underneath the chair.
Finally it was time to reattach the arms. I thought this would be easy enough, but not so fast. First of all the arms didn't fit the same as when the chair had no padding so there was some trimming involved. The previous holes no longer lined up to the chair so new ones had to be drilled. Therein was the real problem. As soon as the drill bit hit the batting it caught and pulled, winding the batting up like spaghetti on a fork, leaving a big lump of it under the upholstery! I then had to dig and pull the lumps out through the tiny hole using a combination of knitting needles, tweezers and needle nosed pliers being careful not to rip the hold or make it any bigger. Very frustrating.
The very last step was to attach a piece of cambric fabric underneath to hide all the staples and raw edges. It wouldn't be absolutely necessary but it does make it feel more finished. One other thing I noticed was that the heads of the brass screws I used to attach the arms had some sharp edges. Brass is somewhat soft so they got a bit roughed up in the process of screwing them in. A Dremel with a grinding wheel worked fine to take off the sharp bits. I also sprayed fabric protector on the upholstery to help make clean up easier in the event of any spills. I'm using a product called Vectra which claims to be child and pet safe.
And finally, here is the finished chair, all ready for some serious rocking by my little gal. I'm happy with how it turned out. I gained some knowledge and enough confidence to tackle a bigger project some time down the road.