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Upholstery Complete!

5 Sep

Drum roll please…..



Let me present Dusty’s transformation into Goldie!


She is finally finished! I can’t believe this has nearly taken me a year –  as one of my best friends said, she managed to conceive and deliver a child in the time it took me to complete this project, and the baby was 2 weeks late! Continue reading

Bedroom Update #2, Part 2

26 Aug

So, I promised this by the end of May, and now it’s August. What can I say, I’ve been a busy girl!

Anyway, you may remember me posting about a sideboard which I picked up from the local YMCA for twenty quid, with a view to updating it for my bedroom. The room is predominantly red, so I decided that the outside of the unit should match. However, I wanted the interior to be a a little more exciting…

I have been dutifully collecting the pages of my week-to-view Gil Elvgren Pin-Ups calendar all year, so finally I have enough to complete the interior decoupaging of the drawers and shelves. Decoupage is really, really easy – all you have to do is sand and clean your surface down, and once you have planned your pattern with your chosen papers, you simply paste them to the item with PVA glue. Once the glue has dried, you can strengthen the surface with 3-4 coats of clear varnish…and voila! Your item is updated and FABULOUS!


One thing to watch out for is puckering on the images. As the paper absorbs the glue, it expands, which leaves creases across the surface. The only way I have found to prevent the creases, is to roll the paper on carefully, making sure that it has time to expand before being fixed down entirely. I normally start on one corner and use a paintbrush to ease the rest of the image into place.


One of my hopes for this project, is that I will keep my drawers and cupboards tidy if they are so beautiful. So far, it’s working! I have just a few images left, so I might cover the various jewellery and toiletry boxes inside too. I’m so happy with how it turned out – a perfect piece of furniture for a boudoir – Smart and sensible from the outside, and a little bit naughty on the inside. A bit like me!


Musings on Upholstery Pt 4 – Diamond Tufting for absolute beginners

21 Aug

My upholstery project is really starting to take shape now. The wood has been stripped, painted and varnished, the fabric has been strip-quilted and cut to size, and now I suppose it’s time to start putting the thing back together!

I trawled the internet and found lots of super-helpful tutorials for diamond- or deep-tufting. Of course, this project would be a bit different, as the diamond pattern was already imprinted on the foam, so I didn’t need to prepare the surface. Also I couldn’t neatly finish the edges by folding the fabric over at the top, as the foam was already firmly attached to the wood. However, I could get to the back of it quite easily!

Some of the tutorials tied the buttons from the back, and some from the front. I found this blog by Adventures in Dressmaking one of the easiest to understand, so I began by trying the front-tying button arrangement. To stop the threads pulling back through, I looped them around small rolls of hessian on the back of the chair.




Prior to cutting the fabric, I spent an unhealthy amount of time deciding on whether to have vertical stripes, horizontal stripes, or a mixture of both. I then had to work out what colour each of the buttons would be, based on where they were positioned on the fabric. I hadn’t covered the buttons yet, and I was simply too excited to wait, so I first practised my skills using the old buttons, until I was happy with how the fabric was fitting.

Following the advice from the tutorials I found, I began in the middle of the material and systematically worked the fabric into the diamonds towards the edges. At this point I still didn’t staple the edges down, as I wanted to be sure that the buttons were firmly placed before pulling the fabric taut. I tried wherever possible to ensure that the folds all faced downwards, so that the finished effect was neat and uniform. However, I encountered endless problems due to the fact I had strip quilted so many different types and textures of fabric. Some refused to fold, and some warped and stretched out of all proportion when buttoned. It was really tough! Note to self: use easier-to-handle materials next time!


Another problem I faced was also caused by the strip quilting – it meant that I had to check and double check that the fabric was perfectly straight all of the time, so that the stripes stayed completely vertical. I’m sure for a skilled, experienced upholsterer, this would have been no trouble at all. However I was a total novice when I tried this, and can see nothing but errors and faults in the finished tufting! Another note to self: practice on a lovely, large-repeat floral next time!

I have absolutely no idea why, but I found covering the buttons one of the hardest parts of this project! And here was me thinking I was just getting the hang of this crafting lark (ha). I worked out which colours of fabric I would need, to coordinate with where the buttons would lie on the material. I cut small discs of material out, after fashioning a template out of a blue post-it note. I then stitched a running stitch around the edge of the fabric disc, so I could gather it up around the button.


Once the button top was covered, I trimmed any excess fabric and firmly pressed the back on, until the button was secure. Partly my troubles were caused by each of the different materials being of different weights and thicknesses, which meant that some of the buttons refused to snap shut. Also, I find working with little items like this supremely fiddly and frustrating!

Utilising my ever-depleting reserves of patience, I eventually managed to cover all 14 buttons, much to my relief, so I could get on with the tufting again. I replaced the old buttons with the newly covered buttons, and tightened the threads to finish the look. Some of the finer fabrics in the patchwork had loosened, whilst the more traditional furnishings fabrics had kept their shape. Therefore, I tried my best to adjust the new buttons to return the tufting to a neat, uniform look.


Again, at this point I encountered a few additional difficulties – some of the threads snapped as I tightened the knots. Undeterred, I simply laced them back up with new threads and tried again. Some of the tutorials I had seen had recommended a back-tying method, and I thought that I might be able to pull the buttons tighter this way. Therefore, I replaced the snapped knots with back-tied knots, which made it much easier to firmly fix the buttons. Actually, it felt awfully like tightening a corset!

Anyway, withstanding trial and tribulation, I eventually finished my tufting to a reasonable standard. I was finally able to staple the edges of the material down and begin the seemingly endless work of hammering upholstery tacks along the seams. I found the tufting element of the project quite enjoyable, and I realise now that the end really is in sight! Goldie is very nearly finished!

Dusty is gone, Goldie is born! A novice’s musings on upholstery pt 3

23 Jul

I realise I haven’t updated you recently on the progress of Dusty, my tired bench which had seen better days. Well, I have made some progress, although she isn’t finished!

I eventually removed the last tack and the final staple, and was able to get on with sanding and painting the frame. I sanded old Dusty down and then washed her with soapy water, before giving the entire frame two coats of white satin emulsion. Once the paintwork had dried, I began distressing it. I didn’t want to distress it too excessively – it’s bound to get scratched and bumped in this flat anyway! I used light sandpaper on the edges of the curves on the arms, and used a butter knife to scrape lines into the engravings on the front and back. Once this was done, I lightly cleaned the paintwork, to ensure no fragments of chipped paint remained, and finished the paint job with 2 coats of clear varnish.

Believe it or not, but I’ve also finished patching all the lovely materials together! Well, I certainly surprised myself – I was becoming the Mistress of Procrastination over this project. I was able to use the old fabric as a template, and have begun stapling the new cover onto the frame.


Yay! Goldie is born! The project is finally coming together, hurray !I’ve still got some way to go – I need to master the deep tufting on the seat back, and then I need to staple the material onto the frame, then embark on tapping the new tacks into place. I hope it doesn’t take as long as removing them!


However, I have noticed that my flat is at its messiest when a project is nearly complete. So, I guess if this picture is anything to go by, I must be nearly there…


A Novice’s Musings on Upholstery, Part 2

28 Feb

….or should that be Round 2?

Today I plucked up enough courage to have another bash at removing all the tacks and staples from a dated, plush bench, which I have had a love/hate relationship with for some time, and which I am attempting to reupholster.

This time, I am ready for battle – the gloves are on, the caffeine is brewed, and the battle music is playing . I mean business!

Ding! The bell rings, and I make a good start – in the first half an hour I manage to completely strip both of the arm rests and make a start on the seat itself. I managed to rip one of the foam pads in half, by accidentally getting it caught on the leg of the bench when I moved it round. This will need repairing before returning to the armrest! A few hits are returned – in the form of various minor scratches and scrapes all over my hands from errant staples, but I emerge relatively unscathed, with a full bowl of extracted metal, one hour later.


Carly 1 – 0  Bench. Result!

More tea, and I’m ready for the next bout.

Actually, today old Dusty (yes, I’ve ended up calling the bench Dusty, after her rather faded pink covering) is actually behaving herself and I am making good progress. In fact, there is a much better fabric-to-staple ratio on the seat (one staple to every centimetre, rather than 3), which is making this a whole lot easier. It’s almost as though the arm sections were prepared by an overzealous, trigger-happy apprentice, who was beginning to lose interest by the time he got to the seat.  I feel like I was a little hasty to curse the whole project previously, especially if it continues to go smoothly! I’m almost beginning to feel a little sympathetic towards Dusty – if someone was pulling all my skin off I’d put up a fight too!

Either Dusty and I are getting used to each other, or (possibly more likely) I’m improving my techniques with this. I’ve discovered that it’s easier to loosen a row of tacks first, and then removing them all with pliers, rather than loosening and removing each one before starting on the next. I’ve also discovered that brute force isn’t nearly as effective as gently levering each pin out. This method also seems to do much less damage to the wood, which is obviously a good thing.


Therefore, at this point I change the record to allow more calm work! Time for a little bit of Frank Ocean, to put me in a chilled mood. Ah. Better.

Given that a calm demeanour seems to yield better results for this sort of activity, I’ve taken to doing little and often, rather than being in a mad dash to get it finished. If the kettle’s boiling, dinner’s almost ready or the bath is filling up, I’ll use that 3-5 minute period to tackle another little row. I’ve realised that there is no point getting stressed with it – after all, all this crafting is meant to be stress-busting!

I’m very close to having all the fabric removed now, which is a relief. All I’ve got left to do is remove the buttons from the seat back now. Hopefully I’ll get the whole thing stripped down in the next few days, so that I can get on with sanding and painting. Stay tuned!

A Novice’s Musings on Upholstery – or how an old plush bench got me in a grump.

10 Feb

I own this article of furniture:



It appeals to me enough that I can’t bear to part with it; it’s also ugly enough that I am inclined to throw a blanket over it when I’ve got visitors. In short, it’s seen better days. I’ve always harboured an notion to reupholster it. I’ve done a small amount of upholstery before (here ) but really that was removing all of the old fabric and then making a new slipcover. I knew this would be a whole different barrel of peanuts.

Hopefully, this will one day be bedroom update #4 (after 1, 2 and 3).

I’m obviously no expert when it comes to this sort of thing, but I thought to myself, “how hard can it be?”. One of my good friends had tackled a project to reupholster two dining chairs and said it was a bit of a nightmare, but I thought maybe she was just unlucky. I read a few tutorials on the internet and gamely attacked the project, armed with a screwdriver, pliers, a large mug of tea and a positive attitude.

  • After removing my first 5 tacks: “Wow, this is easier than expected”



  • After removing the next 20 tacks, some of which snapped as they were removed: “Well, this is a bit tricky, but will all be worth it”



  • After removing the first 100 tacks, which were holding in the fabric patch on just one arm: “….I think it might be time for a little break”.

Continue reading

Bedroom Update #3

1 Feb

Somehow, when I moved into my new place, my bedroom became a graveyard for cast off and hand-me-down furniture. A case in point.  Most of the furniture in there has really seen better days, and as soon as I have the time I will get it all repainted and updated.



One of the items that I have struggled to part with is this: a rather sad looking, beat-up old blanket box. When I left uni I ended up living with my brother and a friend in a rather tumbledown basement flat – what it lacked in mod cons it completely made up for in warmth, ambience and good company. When we left there, I took this old blanket box with me. That was 2004, and I’ve lugged it from home to home,  storage, to two more homes, and finally to my new apartment. I think after 9 years of me procrastinating about it, I think the old blanket box has definitely earned some attention!

When I moved in, my bedroom was painted red and cream, and seeing as they are the colour of the curtains I already had, it’s stayed that way. The curtains are patterned in a faux velvet damask, which I thought would make a good stencilling motif for this project.


I bought some sheets of stencilling acetate (£3 for 2 A4 sheets) and traced a few of the details from the curtains, and cut my stencils. I used a leftover piece of underlay as a cutting mat (which is also very useful for pinning threads to when weaving!) Cutting the stencils was much easier than I expected, and I was also left with the relief patterns, which I’m sure I will find a use for at some point.


I sanded the box down and gave it a good scrub; then I varnished it with rosewood-colour quick dry varnish. Then it was time to start stencilling! The paint looks quite pink in the pics – it is exactly the same shade that’s on the bedroom walls (in fact it’s the left-over emulsion) but it looks pink here. The pics below help to illustrate the joys of furniture restoration when you live in a shoebox and the only outdoor space you’ve got is a metre wide and 2 metres long. And people wonder why there’s paint on all of my carpets!


There was a fair amount of to-ing and fro-ing with this – each stencilled image needed 3 to 4 coats, so I would say the whole paint job took 2 full days. I also embellished the detail on the front with a little bit of acrylic paint. Finally I varnished the whole lot with some clear quick-dry varnish.

Et voila! The battered old blanket box has a new lease of life! I’m really happy with how it turned out.




Bedroom Update #2

20 Nov

When I moved house, I didn’t really have very much furniture – as with most new movers, the first few months is taken up begging, stealing and borrowing second hand stuff, or spending a small fortune in Ikea, or in my case, both.


One of the items which solved my storage needs in my bedroom was an old sideboard, which I spotted in the YMCA charity shop in town on my lunch break one day. It was in fairly good working order but was in need of a bit of an update. Twenty quid, with delivery thrown in, was in my eyes, a bargain. It also has legs, which were removed for delivery.

I took the doors off, sanded and scrubbed it, and gave it a lick of paint to cheer it up – my bedroom is red and the previous owners very kindly left the remaining paint in the flat for me when they moved, so that came in handy here. One observation I’ve had: there are certainly easier things in life than trying to paint furniture on a tiny first floor balcony. However, it is possible!

Last Christmas I received an absolutely gorgeous weekly calendar of Gil Elvgren‘s pin-up girls paintings. I saved all 52 of the pictures and have been looking to use them in a project. I decided to decoupage the interiors of the cupboards and drawers on the sideboard – sort  of like a secret surprise when you look inside.

I’d not decoupaged furniture before (the only thing I’d done was a little papier mache fish that came in a kit) so there are a few things I’d do differently next time – as you can see, there are a fair few creases! However, I’m really happy that I’ve been able to put the fabulous pics to a permanent use. Also, it should encourage me to keep the contents of the cupboards tidy….perhaps.

I ran out of pictures before I could decoupage the interiors of the drawers and the doors! Never fear, I ordered myself the 2013 Gil Elvgren calendar, and am currently collecting pictures once again. By my calculations, I’ll have enough to complete the job by the end of May….stay tuned!

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