To say I’ve been obsessed with upholstery is an understatement. Its hard not to get passionate when the universe keeps providing signs that this is what you are supposed to be doing! And I will take the signs of cute, all be it sad and neglected, free pile furniture as a sign. Dan would be quick to tell you its a sign of a future episode of Hoarders. But I take it as a sign I’m supposed to give life to once grand pieces.
Over the past few weeks it went from 90 degree summer weather (Seattle had a HOT summer) to nice fall days. With this weather change I’m ready to clean the dead plants off my porch, put away the grill (even though Dan is not), start cooking with the oven and crock pot again, dig out the jeans and boots, maybe even a coat, and of course, blog. Its not that I don’t want to blog during the summer or even that I don’t do projects in the summer, I just get busy with, well, summer things. And this summer has been no exception! While we didn’t go on vacation we did travel to Eastern WA several times to visit my family . At work I was busy helping customers with their projects. I helped customers with everything from how to use salvaged material for small craft type items to giving advice on a bathroom remodel. But don’t think for one moment I did not take my work home with me, because I would be a liar if I told you otherwise.
When not at work, spending time with family and friends, or enjoying my patio with Dan and cats I spent my days (and nights) learning everything I could about upholstery. With every book I read and every free (or nearly free) project I acquired, the more obsessed I became.
Around the apartment there are items we date with the letters BD (Before Dan). I started doing this because I honestly can’t remember when I got an item/project . I can remember when I got it based on my relationship with Dan. Right around the the time I met Dan, I acquired an amazing mid century teal chair. It was perfect! This sexy little chair had its original teal vinyl upholstery, dark stained legs, and brass feet. The moment I saw it I knew I had to have it! I had no room in the apartment for it, and my Mom who was with me when I fell in love, only encouraged me in to needing it. So the chair came home with me.
As it would be pointed out by Mr. Practical Dan I was wearing rose tinted glasses (seeing a pattern with me?). The chair wasn’t perfect. The upholstery had two giant tears in it, the legs were in desperate need of refinishing and the brass fee…to the untrained eye would have thought them to be rusty steel. But it was “perfect” and found its way into my living room where a blanket would cover the tears. Fast forward 2 plus years to December of 2014 when I discovered a new passion…Reupholstering.
This is something I have wanted to do for a while but never got around to. So as a Birthday/Christmas present to myself I paid for an upholstery class. I walked into class that first Monday of December with my coffee and chair and was ready to get down to business.
We started by removing all the staples, tacks, and nails in the original upholstery. For my chair it went quickly (others were not so lucky) and within an hour I was on to the next step, buying fabric!!
I was panicked! I had no idea what fabric I wanted. I was worried the fabric would only look good on a small scale but over a whole chair, it would be tooo much. I was stressing and finally narrowed it down to two fabrics. Good old inny-minny decided the chair’s fate and I began cutting out the pieces needed to put my chair together. I left the first day of class in LOVE!! I was enjoying it soo much that I couldn’t wait for the next class.
Weeks two and three flew by in a blurr of stapling, laying out fabric, cotton stuffing, and sewing chair welting.
My chair was coming together nicely until it came time to repair the chair itself. Over the years, one of the wood joints had popped out of its socket and needed to be pushed back together. Sounds simple enough..WRONG!!! I bought a bar clamp to squeeze it together and used Dan’s muscles to tighten the clamp to apply even pressure to pop it back into place. Within moments, the bar clamp was bowing and creaking while the chair wasn’t moving at all. Then, the clamp handle snaps off because we were cranking it too hard. Quickly, we grabbed a wrench added it to what was left of the handle and tightened the clamp and chair together. Add some wood glue and let it sit for several days (neither of us wanted to pull the clamp off) and it was ready to be finished.
As I walked into class for week four I was both sad and excited. I didn’t want my class to end, yet I couldn’t wait to see my chair finished. Within 3 hours it was complete! It even has a dust cover on the bottom! You know the piece isn’t from Ikea when you have a dust cover! I have to say, I’m pretty proud of myself and my chair! And I can’t wait for spring when I can take another upholstery class!!
When refinishing my chair, I not only had to pad and reupholster it but I had to do something with the wood itself. The chair and wood weren’t too terrible just really worn and dull. Which, if I was a 70 year old chair I would probably be dull too. Since I had everything off the chair and it was just a wood base/legs I figured now would be the time to do something about it. So I spent two nights hand sanding the frame down to the bare wood. It is important to note, IF one is staining wood a darker color than what it currently is, it does NOT need to be sanded perfectly down to the wood; just the top coat needs to be sanded off. Since I was unsure of the end wood color, I did a complete sand.
Once it was sanded, I stopped by Home Depot to pick out a stain. Since it is a mid century chair, and mid century is known for dark, rich woods (especially mahogany) I decided to go with Varathane “Red Mahogany” stain. I got home and was all ready to stain.
Do I stain my chair with a brush or with a rag? You ask anybody who has worked with stain and they will both tell you it depends on your comfort and the size of the project. I did my research and found that since my chair was round and had smaller work areas, I went with a rag. I dipped my rag in the stain and started slowly working in a downward motion (so I would always been wiping up drips and the drips wouldn’t ruin my work). I did the first coat alone.
Dan was worried that the color in the jar was too dark but after the first coat, he was shocked and impressed. I ended with three coats of stain, to make it look like mahogany. I then added a clear coat for protection and to give it that nice finished look.
I then added the clean brass feet, and took it to class to finish the upholstery. Everybody kept oooohing and ahhing over it. Now Dan wants to refinish all the wood in the house mahogany……
The brass, vintage feet from a mid century chair, was in desperate need of polishing. Now I’m sure everybody is thinking, ummm she is going to write a whole blog post about how to use brasso?! And my response is simply no. Brasso is great, don’t get me wrong. It will polish brass quickly and remove the grime, the patina….and the look of 70 year old brass. So I used my own advise I give customers…polish them with Ketchup.
Sounds gross I know, but the acid in Ketchup works wonders on cleaning the tarnish off brass (and silver). Having never used the ketchup method on anything but faceplates (and didnt want to stain my carpet) I went about it a little differently. Poor Dan watched in both awe and horror.
Step 1: Using warm soapy water, gently clean the brass. It might be that you like the look of the piece once the dirt layer is removed.
Step 2: Lay the dry brass on a rag (I would use a dark colored one since the ketchup will stain) and goop on the ketchup.
Step 3: Practice the P-word (patience) and let the brass and ketchup sit and “marinate”. The longer it sits, the more the acid will break down the patina (my feet which probably had never been cleaned/polished/loved took over being soaked over night, but I’ve seen it work in as little as 10 minutes)
Step 4: After the ketchup has sat on the brass and helped break down the dirty, tarnished patina, rinse it. Grab a clean lint free rag and start polishing.
Polishing took a while; even if i’d used Brasso, polishing would have taken awhile. They were REALLY bad!! But the end result was great!