The Little Tub Chair Reupholster

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Here she is! My adorable little tub chair that I’ve spent the last week or two getting boatloads of contractions on behalf of.  I have been on a veritable nesting rampage these last couple months, tackling massive jobs that apparently I couldn’t tackle until I was massively with child, there must be some magical hormones at play. For fun I’ll tell you that right  now I’m currently working on getting a guestroom put together for my sister who is going to spend a little while post-baby with me (that includes clearing out and relocating lots of art/sewing supplies, painting a dresser, building a night table, making a bedspread, and then finding/making the necessary accessories like lamps, mirrors, plants, art etc). No biggy. And that was just today! SO I’m trying to say that I really didn’t need another project on my hands.

But when I stumbled upon this little tub chair selling for a song on KSL (like Craigslist), I knew that whether I liked it or not, re-upholstery was on my horizon. I was actually looking for a chair for my livingroom, but ended up deciding this one is perfect for our office/studio space because we just needed something cozy in there for relaxed crafting and programming (hers and his) pastimes. (I ended up getting a pair of chairs for the livingroom, so that settled it–this little tub chair was destined to become the favorite family chair for the favorite family room (we spend a LOT of time in there). Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

When I picked this little gem up she was in pretty crappy condition. The kinda-cute peach floral/swan fabric was incredibly shabby and coming undone in several places like the back (where the frame was completely showing through the fabric–no foam or support back there), and when you sat down you’d sink so far it was nearly impossible for me and my 8 month pregnant booty to hoist myself out. I couldn’t sit in it cause it grossed me out, but my family took to it immediately despite my efforts to constantly have a blanket draped over it. Gross.

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THE WORST part of re-upholstery–BY FAR–is removing the upholstery. It’s just so gross, with decades of dust and grime flying up and in your face and contaminating the air. And it’s super labor intensive, pulling out all the thousands of staples. This time around I wised-up and purchased this little baby to help remove staples, and it made all the difference in the world. Best $13 bucks I ever spent. But after pulling off that sea of peachy floral grossness, I wasn’t exactly thrilled to discover ANOTHER older and grosser layer of upholstery underneath—they had just re-upholstered right over the top of that sucker. Now at this point I was practically convulsing with disgust (ask my husband, he was getting pretty annoyed at my hysterics), but I just muscled through it and had it all stripped off in an evening. Yuck yuck gross nasty bleh. Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

Down to her knickers, the foam and cotton wadding underneath were super gross too–but surprisingly not in as bad of shape as you’d think. There’s NO WAY I was going to reuse any of it, I knew it would just prevent me from ever sitting my keister down on it though, so I had to pony up to buying new foam and batting which isn’t cheap. The back also had nothing to support the upholstery, which is why the frame was showing through. I ended up finding all my high density foam and cotton wadding from Russell’s Upholstery shop in Provo, where the most adorable old men you can imagine sold me it at a very fair price by the yard. They also gave me some good tips on how to tackle this beast, it totally made me want to ask them if I can apprentice there, but then I remembered that upholstery is so much work and so so gross and I’ll never do it for anyone else but me. Selfish but true.

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Here she is naked and exposing those bare bones.  Everything was solid structurally, but the seat webbing was incredibly stretched out and sagging. I re stretched it, but used the same material; hopefully that won’t come back to haunt me. This is the point in re-upholstering that I start to believe that I could actually build furniture from scratch, because it’s just a wood frame! It seems amazing that this will become my cozy chair!

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Here she is with her new underwear, I could finally stop convulsing!

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And here I stretched the back piece over the cotton wadding. It’s three pieces seamed together, I had to resew the seams several times to get that sleek fit, the curve of the chair made it kind tricky.

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And then the seat and front foam and upholstery. This was the trickiest part and the part I’m least happy with. It would be impossible to explain how that front seam was done, but it was very thick, two layers of upholstery, a burlap bumper piece and two layers of 1″ foam, and I really needed longer staples to make it smooth. The bumpiness of that seam where the seat curves into the front bumper really bugs me and I was about to take it apart and start again, but I decided that it wasn’t worth the effort since it’s covered up by the seat cushion. Still bugs me, but I’ve moved on.

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This was how the back was, it had nothing to structure the fabric over that frame. I decided to first layer a sheet tight over it, and then my 1/2″ foam, which as you can see, I had to do some clever seaming to get a smooth fit.

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Then for the fun part where I added piping and the three-paneled back piece, it was so fun and satisfying to make it look so sleek. The original chair didn’t have the piping, but I love the crispness and structure it adds.

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Worked extra hard to get the front seaming to match the back seaming. Nailed it.

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Almost there!Processed with VSCOcamThen I just took apart the cushion covers and used them as a pattern to create new ones. I even reused the zippers cause I’m thrifty like that.

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And finally, I slapped on some mid century legs that I found on Home Depot for a great price (I stained them and spray painted the silver finish gold). In the end my family veto’d the legs because they were all enamored with those easy-to-move caster wheels, and loved to be able to just push the chair around the room according to needs. So now the chair is back to the casters, but I took photos with the legs, just cause they’re so perty. In the end I spent just under $150 for everything: the chair/fabric/foam/buttons/thread etc which I think is great for getting a comfy chair I love.Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

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When people ask me if re-upholstery is hard I always say that skill wise, it’s very doable. It’s just taking apart a puzzle and putting it back together. The sewing skills are very basic, and really there’s nothing that’s too complicated. But it is a TON of work. And as I’ve been clear about, it’s super gross. But once you get past the gross part, it’s incredibly fun and rewarding to put it back together with your pretty new fabric and see the new piece of furniture take life.  If you’ve always wanted to try re-upholstering, I highly recommend just heading to your library and checking out as many books as you can find to get a feel for the tools and process. You can also try youtube of course, but I love the thoroughness and organization of a book, myself. I am planning on buying this book because it looks like a great reference book I’d love to have. mim's-little-tub-chair1

I am feeling very tired and very very pregnant (36 weeks!) and uncomfortable (oh the back pain!!), and am starting to be consumed with thoughts about this little girl and our changing family and preparing myself for it. I’m really excited, although I’ve definitely run the gambit with my emotions this pregnancy. If you follow me on Instagram you’ll know that our 3 and half year old Tiny started having seizures in January, and that really threw me for a loop emotionally, I was having so much doubt and insecurity about being able to handle a newborn AND a special needs daughter who was having a SUPER difficult time on her seizure meds in addition to just still being a baby in so many ways. But gratefully (and I mean that in the most sincere, poignant way I can possibly say), she hasn’t had any seizures for a long while and our neurologist okayed her going off the meds for now at least. I’ve been using Frankincense oil on her religiously (supposed to have anti-seizing effects), which I’m not sure is the reason for her not having more seizures, but on the off chance it is I’ll keep using it.  And a couple months ago I had this sweet moment where I was watching my kids and was filled with all that motherly-love and joy and had this sweet thought that this new little girl would bring with her every bit as much joy and love that my other children have, and I can’t even imagine how good it will be–it’s impossible to imagine before they come and bring it all with them. So I’m excited. And keeping busy with every last home project and can squeeze in before she comes!

28 Comments

Megan

Wow! that’s an amazing transformation. I totally believe all the hard work that went into that. You make it look easy, but I know it’s not!

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Miriam

Yeah it’s true,upholstery looks pretty easy in gif-mode! Makes me want to do it again…in maybe like 5 years!

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Suzie

Wow, that is so impressive – I am in awe of your skills here! Your new chair looks absolutely amazing and finished to an incredibly professional standard. Upholstering is something I have always wanted to try, but have yet to tackle – but hopefully some time in the future I will.

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Miriam

Thanks Suzie! It’s one of those things that can be super intimidating until you just dive in, I say just go for it!

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Abby

Mim! This is incredible! I’ve always wanted to do a re-upholstery project (more than kitchen chairs), but I’m not sure I’m brave enough. You did such a great job, I love the finished chair!

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Jodi

Gorgeous work! And I am super excited for you and your soon arrival! Best of luck in labor and recovery!

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Jen

You are amazing. That is one project I don’t think I would ever have the guts to do but boy it looks so great! đŸ™‚

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Victoria

This is so, so lovely! I’m inspired to try and reupholster a chair I’ve been hoping to fix up soon. I wish I could find a lovely little tub chair to go with it!

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Sarah

Chair of my dreams. Well done!! I am in awe of the amount of work that took and the fact that your pregnant makes you one bad a$$ chick. Love it! Now put your feet up and enjoy–after your other 100 jobs are done of course đŸ˜‰

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Miriam

You know, I feel pretty bad a$$ I’m not going to lie:) once I have this baby I am going to truly do nothing but nurse and sleep for like a month!

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Sister K. Hullinger

Dearest Mim, Thanks for the delightful tutorial. It turned out wonderful! Good on ya Mate! Yesterday Elder John and I cleaned out 2 missionary flats in here in Melbourne and I can’t wait til I can once again do a project like this. So excited to hear you’re having a new baby—- Heather had hers yesterday and Natasha will give birth soon. Love, Mom Hullinger

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Miriam

Korinne!! What a absolute delight to hear from you today! I don’t envy you cleaning out missionary flat, hopefully that’s not a reoccurring project! Although it would be akin to the kind of projects I do most often

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Miriam

And also that’s so so exciting about heather! And I heard that she came quickly, which is awesome! Love you Korrine! Have fun out there!

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Juliette Lanvers

simply amazing job, very different than the piece I saw in the back of your car that day!

I am so impressed with you. That said, I agree with your little ones, I like it a ton better on the casters, the little legs are a bit too long and skinny for the rotund shape ; )

juju

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Miriam

Yeah they were definitely too skinny, I agree. But I did like the height they brought to the chair, it’s pretty low. But function is king around here, the casters win! Miss you juju!

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Kristie

Lucky me, my mom re-upholsters for me. Or at least right beside me. She went to school for it. Which has been nice in the once in a great while we need the skill. She also has the machine and tools for it which make it super nice.
I love the fabric you used. Where did you find it?

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Miriam

Wow, that IS lucky! I would kill to have someone do it for me!! Awesome. I got my fabric at Jo-Ann! It was one of those wonderful moments when they had exactly the color I wanted, and it happened to be 60% off so I got for $10 a yard!

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Sidra

WOW!!!!! I have a chair I’ve been dying to do and you’re my re-up inspiration!!!! I’m ready to start now, but it’s 1:00 in the am, beautiful job!!!

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Miriam

Thanks Sidra! Besides the fact that I was a million weeks pregnant, it was such a fun project! Upholstery is such a rewarding diy!

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Julian

This is an astonishing makeover! I can’t believe it’s possible but after seeing the step by step tutorial, it seems manageable. Congratulations again!

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