Tuesday, January 15, 2013

I upholstered these World Market barstools without sewing a stitch!

So, I bought a sewing machine the other day, from a lady on Craigslist.  It's a decent beginner sewing machine, practically unused, and I got it at a great price.  And I haven't sewn a thing with it yet, mostly because it intimidates me.  You see, I'm a bit of a perfectionist, and I'm afraid of the kind of monstrosities that might come out of the other end of that thing.

My mother is a fabulous seamstress.  She used to make these adorable little smocked dresses for my sister and me.  I'm not sure if she ever bought me a dress when I was a little girl-- my only memories are of the ones my mother made.  At the time, of course, I didn't appreciate it.  Here I was in my exquisitely-sewn Sunday outfit, looking at the girls in their frilly store-bought outfits with tulle and shiny satin bows, thinking, "I want a dress like THAT!"  In hindsight, of course, I'm glad my mother never gave in.  My dresses were passed down to my sister, and even my little nieces have worn a couple of them for photo shoots.

My mother asked me if I'd like to learn sewing several times as I was growing up.  My response was always, "Why do I need to learn to sew when I have YOU?"  And now, here I am, wishing that I had taken her up on the offer.  However,  I am determined to learn, even if it means teaching myself.  (We live too far apart for her to give me hands-on lessons, but I'm certain that a phone call or 200 will come out of this!)  I've been reading up on some blogs and scoping out some YouTube videos to help me ease into it.  One of these days.

Anyway, the good news is that this fabulous barstool makeover requires not a single needle -- just foam, batting, fabric, scissors, a utility knife, and a staple gun!

I had not intended to write a blog about this project (I didn't even have a blog two weeks ago), so I don't have many photos of the actual process, but trust me when I tell you that you don't need any.  My good friend, Pinterest, led me to this blog at "A LO and Behold Life," in which the same process was performed with similar barstools from Target.  If you feel like you need to see photos of the process, you can find them there.

Before and after:
What a difference!

Now, here's how you do it.

  1. Backless wooden barstool(s)
  2. Upholstery foam - I chose 1" thick regular-density foam (from Joann's Fabrics)
  3. Batting - I bought the cheapest polyester batting (from Joann's Fabrics)
  4. Fabric of your choice - Make sure it's upholstery grade, or at least "home decor" grade.  You want it to be durable enough for sitting.
  5. Staple gun with 5/8" staples
  6. Something to measure with - I used a T-square, but you could probably get away with a measuring tape or yardstick.
  7. Scissors - Make sure you have a good, sharp pair.
  8. Utility knife

  1. Measure the top surface of the barstool.  (Mine was 18" x 13".)
  2. Measure the depth of the barstool seat.  (Mine was approximately 1" deep.)
  3. Cut your foam to the exact top dimensions of the barstool seat.
  4. Cut your batting to the top dimensions of the barstool seat PLUS the depth of the seat on all sides PLUS about 2" on all sides.  (For example, my batting ended up being 24" x 19".)
  5. Cut your fabric to the same dimensions as your batting.  Important if your fabric is patterned, and you want it to have a nice, symmetrical look: Make your measurements outward from where you want the center of the barstool surface to fall.  You also need to take this into consideration when purchasing your fabric, to ensure that you have enough fabric to cover your stool(s) with the awesome, perfect pattern that you have in mind.
  6. Place the batting rectangle on a clean, flat surface (for me, this was the floor), and center the foam on top of it.
  7. Turn the barstool upside down on top of the foam rectangle.  (Make sure it lines up a closely as possible.)
  8. Grab your staple gun and start folding the batting around the seat, stapling it to the bottom of the seat.  Make that you pull it slightly taut all the way around, as this batting is what smooths your foam out and makes it look nice and neat.
  9. Once the batting has been secured to the barstool, cut off the excess and turn the barstool upright.
  10. Lay your fabric over the cushiony new seat.  If your fabric is patterned, and you measured according to the center of your pattern, you can either measure or eyeball to get the pattern exactly where you want it.  I eyeballed mine, and it turned out great!
  11. With the stool still upright and your pattern in place, bend over and staple one edge with just a couple of staples, to hold it in place.  Stretch the fabric slightly as you repeat this step for the other three sides. 
  12. Now, turn the stool over again so that it is upside-down, and use the staple gun to secure the fabric all the way around.  Make sure that you're stretching it evenly-- stop a few times in the process to turn the stool over and get a look at your progress.  If you aren't satisfied with something, a flat head screwdriver and a set of needlenosed pliers should remove the staples.  I don't have a great method to share for the corners -- I just kind of worked with them until they looked good to me.
  13. Trim any excess fabric that may be hanging down, use a hammer to nail down any staples that didn't quite make it all the way into the barstool... and you're done!
This whole process took less than an hour for two barstools, in my experience, and the transformation was JUST what they needed.  I had no idea upholstery could be this easy! I did it! And so can you!

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