Friday, August 26, 2011

Step Three---Re-Upholstering the Frame, Part One

Now that everything is in pieces it is finally time to put it all back together! This is my favorite part, much more gratifying for me to put something together than to take it apart. So, let's get started.

First, we are adding some new tools to our lineup today.  You will need some kind of stapler. You can use an electric one, manual, or I use an air stapler. I bought a 2 gallon air tank from Target (of all places!) a few years ago and it works great for projects like this one. And staples, you'll need whatever brand/style that is compatible with your stapler. I generally use 2 different sizes, 1/4 inch and 1/2 inch. I use the 1/4" on almost everything, I find them easier to pull out if you make mistakes or if you need to undo something. The 1/2" staples I use when stapling through many layers of fabric, foam, batting etc.... I find it holds better.  You'll also want your scissors and a small hammer. I couldn't find my tack hammer, so I'm stuck with the big, man hammer, but it will work just fine.

Also, if you took photos of the couch when you were removing the fabric, keep them handy.

Starting with the lower front piece of the couch (last piece off, first piece on), put on the long strip without the piping. This is the piece that you sewed the square piece with the mitered corner into.

This should fit fairly snugly going around the corners, it's okay if you have to pull it to get it to fit, just make sure you're not distorting the fabric or ripping out the seams.  Beginning in the center front, staple the bottom, then the top. Go back and forth like this switching sides every few staples, so that the fabric stays even, you'll be able to tell if you're distorting the fabric if the nap starts to look uneven. Don't go all the way to the ends. Stop about 6-8" from either end and work on the corners. The corners should look something like this.

Begin by tucking the fabric into and around the frame, pulling it evenly around the arm.  You will need to trim off extra fabric, but you should leave enough to fold under in order to help finish the edges. 

Also on the corners, you'll need to clip into the fabric on an angle so that it lays flat as it goes around the corners of the frame. Clip into the fabric just a small amount and wrap it around the frame, if it doesn't lay flat, clip a bit more. Always trim and clip less at first, you can always go back and adjust if you need to. Once your fabric is tucked and positioned how you want it, staple around the corners, again going from top to bottom, then staple the sides down. And you will have this---

If your fabric on the corners is pulled tighter than the middle section, simply pull out some of the staples and adjust your fabric as needed.

The next piece is the lower front strip, the one with the piping.

Lay this piece on top of your frame, with the right side of the fabric facing the frame and the edge with the piping facing the bottom of the frame. We're going to staple this piece all along the top, next to the piping.  When we flip it over, it will be right side out and all the unfinished edges will be enclosed. So, begin in the center front again and working from side to side, staple all the way across, again stopping just short of the corners. At the ends of the piping, trim off the excess and pull the cording out about an inch or so and trim it out, this will help the side piece lay flat over the trim, and it's easier to staple down. Then pulling the fabric firmly, staple the sides down.  Then finish the front and staple around the corners.

Now put back those 2 pieces of cardboard we took out earlier. If you didn't save them, cut new ones that measure the full length of the couch by 6" wide.. Don't worry if your cardboard is a little ripped like mine, we are covering it with batting.

  The top edge is going to lay along the stitching line of the piping where you just stapled and give a clean edge underneath the piping.  Staple the cardboard down along the top edge, and tack down in the center of the cardboard all the way across.  Next, add some batting to help soften the front edge. Place it along the front over the cardboard and tack it down.  Then pull the fabric down and you'll have a finished edge with piping.  Staple the fabric to the bottom edge all the way across and around the corners and sides.  Once that's done, your lower front is finished.

Next, we need to do the inner part of the arms. Begin with either arm and fit your piece over the frame. These are the pieces with the alien head shapes sewn into the back. You'll need to do some clipping at the top of the frame and where the back meets the arm so your fabric can lay flat on either side.

Once everything is laying smooth, start on the curved side of the arm and staple underneath along the frame, again beginning in the center. Staple along the edge stopping about 2 inches from the front and 1 inch from the back.

Then, pulling your fabric taut and smooth, staple along the inside edge, leaving the front loose for the pleats.

Next, staple the fabric around the back, pulling firmly and clipping if necessary.  

Now, we'll move on to the front pleats. I wasn't able to photograph this as I was doing it (only one set of hands) so I can show you a before and after with some pointers. This is what we have right now.

And you can see that the fabric does have some natural draping already. So, there are several choices here, one of the most important is where do all the unfinished edges of the fabric end up? In it's original form, the pleats all wrapped around the side arm. But I decided to have mine end in the center with a button as an embellishment. I made 7 pleats in a pinwheel around the arm ending in the center. I did have to wrap around the side in order to finish the edge. End result---

I will finish the center with a button covered in the contrasting fabric.

Wow! That was a LOT of information!

There are a few more steps to finish the frame, but I am going to let you absorb all of this first. I will have Part Two up soon! In the meantime, the couch should look like this---

So far, so good, we're getting there!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Step Two---Cutting and Sewing!

Your couch is now stripped, yay! Let's do the next step. Remember the pieces of fabric I told you to save? This is where they come in very handy.

Before we get to that though, I need to interrupt for a very important statement. MAKE SURE --that's bold and underlined--- that you have enough fabric to redo the couch, otherwise your whole project may come to an unhappy, screeching halt at this stage. That is what happened to me when I started cutting out my pieces. This is sometimes the downside of buying fabric off the clearance table, no more available. So, back to the fabric store I went, where I found the coordinating fabric of my dreams. More on that later, back to the cutting and sewing....

Okay, first lay out your fabric on your work area. If your fabric has a nap, like mine, or is directional, you will need to find or decide how to cut it so everything runs in the same direction. For example, my fabric is a chenille blend, which has a nap. If you run your hand over the fabric in one direction, the fabric will feel soft and smooth. If you reverse your direction, it will feel rough and may even "stand up" a bit. It's not unlike petting an animal, nap, like fur, should all go in one direction.  On a piece of furniture, that direction is either down or forward. So, when you are cutting the piece for your back, the nap will run from the top of the frame toward the floor. Like so----

You can cut out your pieces in any order, I try to cut mine to minimize waste (especially in this instance). You may have to pull apart sewn pieces of the old fabric in order to make patterns for the new. Like these pieces that go on the back of the arms, kind of looks like a weird alien head, don't you think?

Once everything is cut out, if there is any sewing to do, now is the time. First, on my couch, there is a long piece of piping along the front edge. So, I cut my bias strips, sewed them into one long piece, and sewed the cording into it.

I then pinned it to one of the lower pieces (keeping the direction of the nap going down) and sewed it onto the top.

Then I stitched on the fitted pieces (the alien head pieces) for the back of the arms. This was a tricky one. Not only do you have to keep in mind the nap direction, make sure that you have a right arm and a left arm. Just go slow, and double check.

I also added some canvas pieces to the edges of the back piece and the arms where typar was used in the original piece.

On the last bottom strip, there were some mitered corners with a small square sewn in to help go around the corner on the frame.

And that's it! You have all your frame pieces cut out and stitched together and are now ready to reupholster the frame of the couch!!

Some tips:
You can sew most upholstery fabrics with regular thread, you may want to do 2 rows of stitching on the seams for extra strength. Or you can use a heavy duty thread to sew you pieces together, whichever you prefer.
Remember to clip your curves and corners on shaped pieces and trim your seams to help them lay flat and minimize bumps and bulk.
When in doubt while cutting the fabric, cut bigger, you can always trim it later.

Okay, now let's go get out the power tools!!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Step One---Strip It!

Getting back to my couch, (please see this post for the beginning of the story) obviously the first thing that needs to be done is to remove the old fabric.  This is usually the hardest part for me.  The labor isn't hard (as long as there aren't a zillion staples in the frame) but it's the least fun part of the process. But it is necessary.  So out with the old!!

Here's how I do it.

Gather up your tools.  These are my favorites. I have a tack puller, a staple puller, a nail puller and a pair of needle nose pliers.  The one with the plain yellow handle is the staple puller and it is the best tool EVER! It has skinny points on the end which are excellent for getting under small, embedded staples. It will also really hurt if you stab yourself with them (or accidentally sit on them) so be careful! You can never go wrong having a pair of scissors handy either.

First, if there is a bed in your couch, take it out! Believe me, you will be happy later that you took the time to do this now!  The beds aren't usually hard to remove, mine was held in with 4 bolts, and once it's out, you will be able to move the couch really easily and there is plenty of room to work.  So, take the bed out and set it aside somewhere. The whole couch now looks a little less intimidating, right?

Next, remove any feet or other "hardware" from the couch frame that is on top of the fabric. My couch had some rubber tap in feet on the upper corners to help protect the wall (that's my guess anyway) so I pulled them out with the tack puller, tipped the couch onto the front face and began with the back piece.
(As a general rule, when reupholstering, the first piece/fabric/cushion etc... that you remove from the piece will be the last thing you put back together. Put simply, first off, last back on.)

Begin with the bottom edge and pull out all the staples, then at the sides, use the tack puller (a flat head screwdriver will also work) to pry up the tack strips. A tack strip is a long thin strip of metal with a row of tacks or teeth on it that helps to finish an edge. (I will get into greater detail, and use a better photo, when it's time to talk about reassembling) So, pull these out, be careful, they're sharp, and pull the fabric forward exposing the inside of the couch.

Once you've exposed the inside, take a minute to look at everything. If you want to, take some photos to help you remember where everything goes. I do this all the time. This comes in really handy when you have to walk away from your project for a few days, or are like me and can't remember anything for longer than 5 minutes!

Now, looking at this photo, the next step will be to remove that row of staples. There will most likely be some on the sides near the arms as well. Once you've taken all of those out, you should be able to pull the whole back piece off the couch.

Like so. Set the fabric aside and start on the arms next. On this couch it doesn't matter if you start on the inside or on the outer arms, so I started with the outer arms.

Tip the couch onto it's back and again removed the staples from the bottom of the couch. Then using the tack puller, pry up the tack strip on the front side of the outer arm. When I pulled that back, I found another tack strip along the upper edge, just below the curve of the arm.

It looks like a plain piece of cardboard. It is. This is another type of tack strip, also used to make a clean, finished edge. It is stapled in, rather than having tacks embedded in it. (This is another thing we'll get back to later) Pull the whole thing out, staples and all, it's not necessary to try to save the cardboard, you'll use a new piece for the new fabric.  So, once all of the outer arm is loose, go back to the inner part and start pulling out those staples.  

Let's talk about the black and white fabric in this photo. It's called typar.  It's use in upholstery is mainly to finish the underside of a piece of furniture. In this case, the black piece is covering up the raw edges and staples on the inner arm. The white piece is actually sewn to the fabric of the arm and attached to the frame. The purpose of the white typar is to help reduce waste of your good upholstery fabric. You could also use muslin or canvas in it's place.  So pull all of that out. Set the black typar aside, we can reuse that later.

Peel back the fabric of the arm and pull it all off. Set this aside if you want to use it to help make a pattern for the new fabric. Sometimes I do this and sometimes not. In this case, because there is a sewn piece on the back, I decided to keep it and look at it again when I start to put the new fabric on.

We're almost done!! This is the long piece of fabric that goes across the front of the couch. Tip the couch onto it's back and pull the staples from the bottom. Then remove the batting and pull out the staples. (By now, you should be sensing a pattern) You can either save this batting to reuse or use new, it's up to you. There was so much dog hair (ick) in this that I decided to toss it. Pull off the fabric and set it aside.

Congratulations!! You are now the proud owner of a naked couch!

Are you seeing possibilities?

Are you imagining the lovely new fabric on the couch?

Good, now stretch, give yourself a huge pat on the back, the hardest part is done.

I'm going to clean up now and reward myself with some cookies!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Baby Girl Bassinet

I wish I had a "before" picture of this bassinet.

I didn't think to take one, so you're just going to have to take my word that it was in sad, sad shape. A friend who was pregnant with her second little girl really liked using the bassinet for her first baby, she just didn't like the color and wear that was on it. This was a fun project, we went shopping together for the fabric and trim. (Just in case you were wondering, if you call me and ask if I want to go to the fabric store, my answer will be a big YES!) I love to take people to the store and see them fall in love with a fabric, especially for babies, gives me major warm fuzzies.

Anyway, I took the old fabric off the bassinet and took it apart in order to use it to help create a pattern. The canopy was oddly put together, so that I threw out and started from scratch. It went together very quickly, only took an evening, and I was so excited when I was done, I sent a photo to Mom, I just couldn't wait for her to see it.

She loved it as much as I did, and so did dad and  big sister. They were all even happier a few months later, when it held baby girl number 2. Talk about warm fuzzies!!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Technical Difficulties

I wanted to start this week with an easy tutorial for a Gymboree knock-off top, but due to some technical difficulties, mainly that my photo editing program keeps crashing, today's blog post will have to wait until tomorrow.

Sorry about that. I have some fun things planned to share this week, including some couch progress, so hopefully my computer will get over this tantrum it's having and play nice again.

In the meantime, Happy Monday!! Here's hoping everyone has a wonderful, crafty week!  Thanks for your patience and understanding!