I was definitely off my rocker … (finale and reveal)

I had stripped, repaired (part 1), sanded, ebonized, lacquered (part 2) and now I was ready for the final stage: upholstery.


By this time I had read my upholstery books end to end several times. I had ordered all the things I needed, and they were all here. I set to work.

I added the webbing to the seat, and starting snipping the old string off the springs, so I could re-use them. Somehow my hand slipped  while doing this, and I ended up snipping a large v-shaped slice into my finger. A deep large v-shaped slice. Note to self: upholstery shears are sharp. Very very sharp.

This happened to be on Labor Day just after our urgent care place closed, and there was no way I was going to the emergency room. I would sit there for hours waiting to be seen, along with the lunatic fringe that do strange things to themselves on public holidays. Believe me, try sitting in an ER on a public holiday, when you are an adult with a non-fatal, uninteresting wound. Your triaged place in the queue is right at the bottom, and much as I love people watching (and ER people watching adds a whole other layer of intrigue and horrified fascination) I decided against it.

I appealed to my beloved, and he bravely (extremely bravely as he hates the sight of blood) assisted me in applying 4 steri-strips to the wound. The next day I was at my Drs office so he could check out our handiwork, and get a tetanus jab. Ouch. Now I had a sore arm and a sore finger.

I waited for 10 days, while my finger healed. Then I very very carefully snipped off the rest of the old string, then stitched and tied in the springs.

Webbing and springs

I covered this with a layer of hessian, and started on the back rest. As soon as I started tying the springs in, however, the bottom rail split and I had to stop and glue it together again.

Reparing the bottom rail

It has been one of those projects. I got the back finished and started on the stuffing.

Adding the stuffing #1
Stuffing #2

I covered this in calico, then did the same to the front of the back, then the back of the back, then the arm rests, and finally I was ready for the cover fabric.

Ready for the final layer!

This was when I started to get excited. Things were really starting to take shape. I was excited, and – I confess – a little scared. What if I blew the whole thing at this stage? I had found this perfect tree silhouette fabric at Discount Fabrics in Berkeley, not long after I first bought the chair. I looked at the fabric in the store, and there, in my mind’s eye, I could see my finished rocker. Black shiny finish, the arm studs, the whole thing. That vision was what had sustained me through all of the labor to get to this point: the endless sanding, the bubbled lacquer, the cut fingers, the split rails. And now that vision was close to becoming reality. I was ready to add the fabric that had driven the whole project from the beginning.

I wont tell you how amazingly cheap it was. You will be sick with envy if I do, and I will spare you out of consideration for your feelings. It was double sided, so I first had to work out which way out to put it.

Definitely the silver background!

Originally I had thought I would put the black side up, but when I got to this stage I decided that the silver side looked W-A-Y better. How do I know these things? Well you have to listen to what the piece is trying to tell you. Let go of how you thought it should be, and go with what is being asked of you.

Then I had to decide where to position the tree trunks. One in the middle? One either side? One slightly off center?

Where to put the trunk(s)?

Slightly off center definitely looks the best, without question! Then it was a matter of cutting out the fabric and attaching it to the chair. This is nearly the best part!

I began with the seat …

covering the seat

Then the back rest …

Covering the back rest

I was beginning to get that excited feeling in the pit of your stomach, when you know you have made all the right choices. It’s like a little tickle of anticipation, while knowing that the end is in sight, and it is going to be good.

Then I covered the back …

covering the back

And finally the arms.

covering the arm rests

This was actually the hardest part of the final layer. Tricky and fiddly, and exactly why did I decide that it HAD to have studded arms. Every single one had to be individually nailed in. Tap tap tap. Tap tap tap, Tap tap tap. Over and over! And then some more. Ugh!

Then finally the cover fabric was done!

Finished, right? Wrong!

Onto the next job: applying the trim over the tacks. I decided I wanted to use black velvet ribbon to do this. I searched high and low, back and forth, here and there, and failed to find anything accept half yards at the end of rolls, which were absolutely no good to me. Of course, only I would be foolish enough to try and buy black velvet ribbon this close to Halloween. Fortunately I finally found some at the last place I looked: my local craft store, just down the road from my house. I had avoided this thinking they would definitely be out, and had headed for the big chain stores first. Big mistake! Someone had obviously thought the black velvet ribbon/Halloween thing through and there was a massive roll of it on hand. I could have kissed them.

I got the glue gun good and hot, and applied the trim.

Adding the trim

I added a dust cloth on the bottom, to neaten things up nicely.

adding the dust cloth

And trimmed under the arm rests:

trimming under the arm rests

And then finally, after many months of hard toil, a lot of swearing, disgusting dusty old fabric, way too much sandpaper, ebonizing brews, an injured finger, lacquer frustrations, split back rails, 100s of tacks, some beautiful fabric, velvet ribbon supply issues, my work was complete! This was definitely the best bit!

Before I do the reveal, however, here is a reminder of where it all started, back when my eyes met the platform rocker I had dreamed of owning across the yard of a local estate sale:


And this is what it looked like when it was finished:


Would I have taken on this chair if I had known what was in store? If I had realized what a massive project it was? Probably not, but I am very glad that I didn’t!  Sometimes those ‘Pfft. I can do that’ blinkers steer me in exactly the right direction, and take me places I would never have gone without them. I learned so much from doing this project, but most importantly how to check an item of furniture carefully before buying it to redo. Am I happy with the results? Oh yes, extremely!

I may have been off my rocker to take this chair on, but now I am most definitely back on it.


3 responses to “I was definitely off my rocker … (finale and reveal)

  1. Pingback: Full Metal Jacket | Quirk Street

  2. Great blog, beautiful fabric! The platform chairs are amazing and very comfortable. You did a great job, I started upholstering just like you, books and youtube were my teachers. I am on my fourth and fifth projects!

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