Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Designer Chairs Using Re-Cycled Surplus Office Chairs -Easy To Re-Upholster

The Butte County had a surplus sale a few weeks ago, I like to attend as I am a sucker for office supplies.  I had been thinking about getting a couple of regular office chairs to re-cover, one for myself and one for my daughter who needed a chair for her craft room.

I spent 27 years in an office chair, so I knew what to look for when selecting them.  But with so many people going to these sales, I used my head for a change-ahead of time.  I put a bunch of post its in my pocket saying "sold" to Paula.  When I got there, I put the post its on 4 chairs right away after waiting in a long line to enter. Then I started checking each one more carefully to make sure the mechanics of each one worked; up and down valves; etc. 
There were a few with arms, a few without; some had some really bad stains.  I made my final selections and went and paid for them, at $10 each.
When I got home, Frank took them apart so I could work on just the parts that needed fabric.  
I went to Joann's Fabrics and was very lucky to find the perfect fabrics; one of them had beautiful birds, for my chair.  The other chair was for my daughter, Celli's craft room which is done in purples, grays, yellow.   I found a great fabric for her chair, both fabrics were 50% off. Here are the steps I took to recover:
1.  I put the chair top piece and seat on top of the fabric facing me so I could see how the fabric pattern would look on the chair.  Unfortunately, when there is a large pattern, such as the birds, to position the chair back and seat where you want them, it does waste some fabric.  Cut enough all around so it will fold around the seat to be stapled underneath.
2.  Starting with the seat.  Once happy with the fabric placement, I sprayed the old seat fabric with fabric adhesive all around the flat part and on edges. (I actually did this on my kitchen table but put down a drop cloth.) and pressed the new fabric  all around the flat part and the edges. The fabric should be very tight against the old fabric.  Turn it upside down so the back is facing you and staple (I used an electric stapler) all around. 
3. Trim excess fabric. Be careful to smooth all around the corners, sometimes having to lift up the new fabric to work out the folds.  I used a muslin piece of fabric, cut it to shape and hot glued it down onto the underneath of the seat to cover up the raw stapled edges.
4.  The back part of the chair is done the same except the back of the chair is visible and is done in two pieces; one piece for the front and one for the back.  Cut your fabric pieces making sure the pattern is what you wish to be seen from both directions.  I matched the seat print to the back print.  But on the back of both chairs, I used a different design on the same fabric.  I sprayed the adhesive glue, pressed the fabric and
wrapped it around the curved edges.  But for the office chair back, you don't staple. It is like a clam shell of two parts pushing against each other.  I took a screw driver and gently pushed the fabric edge down between the front panel and back panel.  At first it is a little difficult but once you get going, it presses inside the two pieces very easily.  Then I cut out the back of the chair, sprayed it with the adhesive, and did the same thing, started pushing the fabric in between the two pieces, all around.  Careful not to push too hard with the screw driver which would rip the fabric.

5.  The blue chair, the one I covered with birds did not have the same connecting pieces, front and back.  It had these teeth that I pulled the old fabric out and pulled them loose again.  I cut the two pieces of fabric, sprayed, glued and pulled to back.  But this time, it pushed it into these jaw type teeth that held the fabric tight.  I worked my way around the chair, sometimes having to re-do a portion of the chair I had already done because it started to buckle.  After feeling they were all correct, I pushed down on this jaw of teeth, hit it a few times around with a soft mallet which tightened up the grip to give the back a very tight fit.  I had never seen these in chairs, but Frank said he had seen them in the automotive industry.  They use them in head liners of cars.

6.  The last part of the upholstery job were the arms on the gray chair.  It was covered with fabric but the blue chair (bird fabric one) had plastic arm pad.  I cut two pieces of fabric that matched, sprayed with adhesive, pulled the fabric to underneath, stapled, trimmed and they were done.  Frank put all the pieces back together in about an hour.
Re-cap:  The bird fabric was upholstery fabric, so came wider in width so I purchased 2 yards and had a little left over mainly because the actual chair seat and back are smaller than the gray chair.  The paisley purple print cost $8.50 a yard and I purchased 2 1/2 yards because I knew I wanted to match the large print in the middle and it would take more fabric.  I had some fabric left over but they were pieces. The chair cost $10 + $25 for the purple one = $35.00.  The bird chair was $10 + $30 for fabric = $40.  Not a bad price and a new designer look for old chairs.
If you have any questions or comments, would love to hear from you.  Don't be afraid to tackle them, I am not a professional upholstery person, just get your sissors, fabric, spray glue out and give it a try.  I knew that if it didn't turn out well, I could always SEW a slip cover over the chair and it would also look great.


Anonymous said...

Beautiful job. Now that you've done them, do you think the seat fabric could be drawn in and under using bias tape and fine cord like an ironing board cover? That's how I was thinking of doing mine. With so many other ways to accessorize, the scraps can surely find a good use.

Windmill Farm said...

That idea crossed my mind too, when I was considering actually doing a slip covered chair as opposed to the re-upholstered chair. My only worry was that the chair seat would slide around as you get on and off of it so often if a draw string was used. I suppose you could use the spray adhesive with the fabric and still use the draw string idea. It would depend on how the chair was put together with the metal frame work support system. Either way, it does give a rather plain looking chair a much better look and only you would know whether glued, slip covered, or tied. Have fun with it, would love to see your finished chair!