Upholstery trumps Tidying

I started today with one goal in mind – to thoroughly tidy and organise my sewing room. It started so well as I emptied a shelf full of boring paperwork and allocated this perfect space to my four ‘teaching’ sewing machines. The boring paperwork is now homeless, but I’ll deal with that ‘later’.

After re-homing the sewing machines, I began to wish I had a handy roll-out shelf unit for the overlocker and coverhem which could reside neatly under the cutting table. Sadly, early thoughts of an Ikea hack turned up lots of box units that were just too small. A project for another day. But then I remembered the vintage ‘Chippy’ telephone seat which has sat, hidden away, with seat tucked in, in a corner of the living room for a few years. It would fit right next to my sewing table, and at the very least I could fit one machine on top!


So, suitably crafty distraction from tidying decided upon, and it was time to set-to (yes, immediately) with the revamp.

I took a few upholstery classes several years ago, and in between the sewing I’ve enjoyed breathing new life into a reasonable number of vintage chairs. I take on occasional upholstery jobs when they come my way – I’m not ‘properly’ trained or qualified but I’m pretty good at it. Hey, this is my blog and I’m allowed to ‘blow my own trumpet’ so to speak. I’m currently mid-way through re-upholstering a cute caravan.

One of my favourites last year was this lush mid-century chair that my customer picked up at Ardingly Antiques fair, just down the road from our village.

mid century chair reupholstered

There was some fabric left-over from this job (it’s called ‘Seedheads’ and was from John Lewis), which my customer didn’t seem too fussed to take away with her. More than enough for a little project like this.

First up is the messy and boring part, know as ripping down. This is just as it sounds – tearing off the old upholstery. It’s horrible dusty work but it was so lovely today that I was able to work outside. A telephone seat like this is a really straight-forward job. I took a few screws out, and you’re basically working with a piece of board with foam on top.

While it’s tempting to use a knife to cut off the fabric top and then leave the mess underneath, for a really nice finish you need to take the time to take out the staples. It’s pretty simple though, with a staple remover, mallet and pliers.

Because I wanted instant gratification and zero expense, I chose not to replace the old foam, crumbly though it was. With the chair I showed you earlier I replaced all of the foam, but on a little seat like this it didn’t feel necessary. Frankly, I doubt anyone will ever sit on it!

I did, however, cover the old foam with some polyester wadding, just to smooth things off a little and add some ‘bounce’. For this you simply cut a piece big enough to cover the foam and then glue it in place with some upholstery adhesive spray. The bulk at the corners can simply be trimmed off.

Once the foam was in place I could measure up for the fabric (above right). I measured over the top and sides, and then added a few centimetres to pull across the base.

I’m usually fairly traditional in that I use tacks to secure the fabric, but recently I was given a big bundle of upholstery supplies from a kind lady who no longer used them. I now own a staple gun so decided to break it out for this little project. However, I did use tacks to lightly secure the fabric first, before stapling throroughly and removing the tacks. It’s easier to get the tension just right all around if you do this. Staples are very unforgiving and a pain to remove if you get them wrong!

And that’s that. The final fun part was putting the seat back in, and giving that lovely teak a good polish with burnishing cream. Looks good and smells good!


Just for fun, here’s a picture with the seat tucked in (but where’s the fun in that?!), and one showing the pull-out ‘memory slide’ for all those important phone numbers. I had to give this a good clean as I used to put my coffee cup on it. And there’s a handy little drawer too – what more could you ask for?

And finally, it’s new resting place. It’s a bit special just to sit my overlocker on, but at least it’s not gathering dust in the corner of the living room anymore. Next to it is my vintage printers tray – still waiting for the husband to hang this on the wall – I gave up and added some sewing threads anyway.


I guess I’d better finish tidying now…


2 thoughts on “Upholstery trumps Tidying

  1. Quite timely as I’m thinking about reupholstering some chairs we have. Your project looks great, but now I’m coveting the printers’ tray. Nice repurposing.


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