Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Not art

I have been at my sewing machine every day for the past month, but not making art. We have two chairs that are probably 35 years old, and the upholstery was wearing out. Especially where I had scrubbed it because of animal accidents. Yet the chairs were still in good condition and very comfortable. They sort of swivel and rock. So I thought I would make slipcovers for them. How hard could it be? Talk about famous last words....

Now I know why it costs so much to have these made. Being a novice at this, I went to the library and checked out several books on making slipcovers. Read them thoroughly. Only one of the three actually gave explicit instructions. The other two pretty much left out the steps getting from "Buy your fabric" to "Put it on the chair."

I started out by making a muslin cover so I could figure out where the difficult parts would be and learn how to handle them. Well, I figured out where the difficult parts would be but didn't solve how to handle them, at least not very well. When I got the slipcover fabric I bravely set off. The book said to make the seat cushions first, just for a psychological benefit. So I did. But the first cushion turned out way too big, and then I decided I should buy new cushions since why go to all this effort and use old cushions? I'll save the cushion cover til later.

Anyhow, after a lot of bad language, ripping out, frustration, and hair pulling, I finished one slipcover. I took it to chair #2 to put it on. I had used chair #1 as my model. That's when I discovered that the chairs were fraternal twins, and not identical twins. More bad language, but no more ripping out. On to the second slipcover. Which wasn't any easier, and even developed its own new problems.

But finally they're done. They're not perfect but they are pretty good. Slipcovers can't fit as well as upholstery, so I can live with the wrinkles. They look much better than they used to.



After I was about 75% finished with the second slipcover I discovered a website of a guy who sells step-by-step instructions of how to make slipcovers, geared towards the beginner. I was particularly interested in the "tips for first-timers". He suggested to not try to tackle a chair with an attached back cushion, wings, or curved arms. Check, check, and check, my chairs have all three. Probably better I didn't know that up front.



And here is Rosie, now 8 months old. She supervised from her comfortable perch, or helped by chewing the tape measure, pulling out pins, and knocking stuff off the table.

And now gotta get back to doing some art. The snow has melted and Spring is starting. Hooray!

9 comments:

Mandi said...

Ooooh! Good for you. That is a scary project. I am going to try my first slipcover next week and I'm kind of dreading it, but the chair is fading and needs it. I see you did some nice piping, too. Looks great.

Gerrie said...

I used to reupholster furniture. Haven't done it in ages. I have a nice chair in my office that needs redoing - great chair! You may have inspired me to do this again.

sophie said...

Years ago, I took a slipcover workshop at The Sewing Workshop in San Francisco. Everyone brought a chair and created a pattern (from muslin). It was very educational both to work on the chair I had brought, plus watching what everyone else was doing. Slipcovers ARE a lot of work–in many ways, I think they are harder than re-upholstering a piece of furniture. Pat yourself on the back. You did GREAT!

Cathy Kleeman said...

Thanks, all! I think a slipcover workshop would have been a good thing for me, but I didn't know of any around and would probably be too impatient to wait for one. I have to move while I'm still eager for the project. If I wait too long it will never get done.

Pink and Polka Dot said...

Great Job! I would love to see the before picture. Slipcovers ARE hard work...I don't think people realize that. It's beautiful!

Cathy Kleeman said...

I thought about a before picture but it takes about 15 minutes to get the slipcover on and tucked in and smoothed out and I'm not taking those suckers off again until absolutely necessary. :)

Dawn said...

Cathy, the slipcover looks great! I did my sofa and chair about 15 years ago and I remember it being a bit painful!! Sold the pair at a flea market and got my asking price!

sharon said...

the slipcovers look great!!! i recovered pillows on a wicker chair last year and even thought they came out fine...it was difficult to get them to fit tight on the cushion....

TALL GIRL said...

Thanks for giving me a good laugh on a gloomy day! I love this mindset we seem to have developed about saving money while giving ourselves a migraine...like our mental health has no value?!!! The chair looks fabulous, btw!