Monday, September 24, 2012

Upholstery 101: Burlap Bench

Here's a quick reupholstery lesson..... everyone should learn how to do this easy project so that when you need to recover  a simple chair you'll have the know-how and can do it yourself.  

I found this little bench that probably used to be a sewing bench or a little music bench but would be great at a vanity.  I've already given the bench a washed driftwood finish.  The step-by-step instructions for this technique are the same as in the Chair-y, Chair-y Quite Contrary post.
This top is going to be easy breezy because it has soft rounded corners on all four sides.  Also, it just rests inside the frame of the bench because it's a storage bench.  No screws to worry about.

I want it to have a little padding so I use a double layer of Dacron for a little "cush".  I'm going to cover the bench in burlap because I just love the natural color with the driftwood finish.  I cut the Dacron so that it will just go to the edge of the wood and not wrap under.  This top just sits on the bench because there's storage; so I don't want any extra bulk.

Now, I know not everyone has a pneumatic staple gun but if you have one or access to one it makes this job a piece of cake.  There are manual staple guns and electric staple guns that will work but if you are going to be doing a lot of re-upholstery work and you already have an air compressor, this baby is worth the investment.

All upholstery jobs start the same way, working from the top where you can see the fabric, center the fabric on the seat making sure to center your pattern if you have one.  If you are working on a set of chairs instead of just one, make sure you pay attention to the direction of the fabric so that all the chairs are the same.  You can put an arrow on the edge of the fabric where it won't show to remind you which way is up.

Then, flip the seat over and working from one side, place a staple in the center.  Then flip the seat back over and smooth the fabric with your hand across to the opposite side.  Flip the seat over and place a single staple in the center of that opposite side.  Be sure not to pull the fabric too tight.  You don't want it to be so tight that it looks pulled and you lose all your "cush".

At this point, the top of your seat will look like this; stretched but not too tight.

Working from one of the center staples toward a corner, smooth the fabric over with your hand.  You'll see a line in the grain of the fabric that you can use as a guide to line up against the edge of the wood.  This way you know you'll keep your fabric looking straight on the seat.  Even a fabric like burlap, that doesn't have a pattern, still has a grain and will show if you have it on crooked.

Place a row of staples one right next to the other.  This is probably the biggest mistake I see people make; not putting enough staples close together.  This will result in that puckering you see along the edge of a chair.

Here's what it would look like if I placed my staples further apart.  This is an exaggeration but you can see that any fabric between two staples creates a pucker because the fabric isn't pulled tight if it's not stapled.

Go ahead and staple along one whole side stopping and inch or two before you reach a corner.  This is what it should look like from the front; nice and smooth with no puckers.

Next, staple the opposite side; again stopping an inch or two before the corner.  Once two sides are stapled your seat should look like this.

 Here's what it looks like from the back side.  A nice row of staples close together.  This is why a pneumatic or electric staple gun is handy; it's easier to get everything even when you can staple it quickly.  It takes a bit longer to staple manually and so there's a chance the fabric slips before you get to the next staple.
Once all four sides are done, it's time to work on the corners.

When you get to the corners, whether you can smooth the fabric around a corner like we will be able to do here, or you have to make a little pleat like on a sharp corner, there's always more bulk of fabric to deal with.

Here, I pull back the burlap at the corner and cut away any excess Dacron.  I don't want any extra stuff on the bottom of my seat or it won't sit nicely on my bench.

You can trim the excess fabric from the sides that are stapled and any excess that may get in your way around the corner.  Just be careful not to cut away something you'll need for the corner.

After trimming the Dacron and excess fabric, I can see that I will be able to smooth the fabric around the soft corner of the bench without having to create a pleat.  This is why it's important to stop a couple of inches short of the corner.  This will give me room to sort of stretch the fabric where I need to in order to get it smooth around the corner.

Taking your time, start working the fabric around the corner stapling as you go.

Don't be afraid to use a lot of staples here.  The staples will help keep everything as flat as possible.

This is what a corner should look like when finished.

Now I have a nice smooth corner from the front.

Once all four corners are done, trim the excess fabric from the corners and your finished.

And there you have it, a pretty little bench with storage.

This bench is for sale and will be available to see in person at Pomar Junction Vineyard & Winery.

Overall dimensions:
17 1/4" x 15 1/8" x 19"


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