Each month (ish!) I hope to add a new Mini project article , hopefully offering a new challenge or just the thing you were looking to make! I try to mention specialist items as I go along, and contact details for suppliers can be found on the recommended suppliers page.
(or fancy a fancy chaise?)
Upholstery made easy! Don’t be put off recovering the perfect bit of furniture, here’s a quick project for you to practice the essential techniques in an afternoon!
Even when you find the perfect bit of furniture, the upholstery is usually the wrong colour or the fabric is poor quality. Re-upholstering an item can seem to be a bit of a daunting prospect, but it’s not really that difficult. All it takes is practice, and this chaise is the perfect way to start. Once you have mastered the basic techniques featured below you really can tackle anything!
Pictured above: Olga is sitting on the same chaise that this project is based on, all that is different is the paint, fabric and trimmings!
The great thing about a chaise is that the panels to cover offer several different problems, outside curves, inward curves, wrap-over arms and a button back – once you have mastered these, you can do a whole suite! I started with a basic chaise in mahogany with cream satin panels – nice enough but lacking in personality. (If you want to do the same piece of furniture as shown here, I have found it on the Minimum World website for £8.64 plus postage – https://minimumworld.com/df874-chaise-longue).
Pictured above left: the starting point – an untouched basic chaise in Mahogany and cream satin.
Pictured above right: The same chaise painted and reupholstered – you don’t have to make such drastic changes – but you have to admit its got personality!
STEP 1: Start by carefully removing the upholstered panels from the chaise. Try to keep them intact as you remove them, as they will become pattern pieces.
STEP 2: If your colour scheme requires, paint your chaise – in this case I have sprayed mine black. Leave it to dry overnight before attaching the recovered panels.
STEP 3: Lay the panels stripped from the chaise (still with foam and fabric attached) face down on the WRONG side of the fabric to be covered. Cut around each piece about 10mm bigger than shape to allow for covering the panel. I would recommend choosing a printed cotton for your first ventures into reupholstering. Prints used for quilting are ideal and you can pick a square of quilting fabric for a couple of pounds (quilting squares are called fat quarters if you are looking online) or a small pack of mixed pieces for not much more.
STEP 4: Start covering! Start with the simplest panels, the underarm and the low end back panel. Always start with the longest edges and do opposite sides – i.e. on a rectangle you would cover one long edge followed by the other long edge before doing the ends. This will ensure you are pulling taut against a glued edge and will give a smoother end result. Simply run a line of glue along the edge and fold over the fabric and press down.
When you get to the short ends of the rectangle fold over the fabric as for the long sides but pinch the corner so that it stands up. Leave it to dry then snip off the excess material at a 45 degree angle to the corner, and glue down any excess. Always keep an eye on your corners – keep them pointy! if you have any ‘unruly’ pointy bits touch them with glue and fold over apply pressure with a cocktail stick. it will be worth it in the end result!
TIP: Read through step 5 first before doing anything, then have a ‘dry run’ before starting to glue the edges
STEP 5: Chaise arm panel. Here we start to step up the degree of difficulty. This panel wraps around the arm section of the chaise and needs to have some ‘slack’ in the covering to accommodate the wrap. We also need to use a different corner technique for the front edge. Start covering the panel as before, two longest sides first. Then complete the end which will be next to the seat cushion with pinched corners as used in step 4. The final edge is the one which will wrap around the arm, check which corner will be at the back of the arm and finish with a pinched corner. The front corner needs to have the excess fabric folded and glued down flat (a bit like a hospital corner on a bed!) This type of corner will make a neater finish on the front edge, as there is no braid to cover it. Before the glue sets, Position the panel on the chaise and wrap it around the arm, ease the fabric on the end as necessary to accommodate the wrap.
STEP 6: Easy curves! As with the first panels covered, start with the long edge of the seat panel. Only glue up to the start of curved edge and corner. Next glue down the short end (the end which buts up to the arm panel). Finally run a line of glue around the curved edge, hold the panel in one hand and with the tip of your thumb on your other hand start folding over ‘arcs’ of fabric. Do this about three times then go back and pinch together the fabric between the thumb arcs (like on the rectangular panel corners). Work your way along the curve till you get to the end then trim off the excess material from your pinches. try and ensure that you have a nice even curve rather than a series of points.
STEP 7: The most complex panel of the piece is the buttoned back. However if you break it down into sections it’s not that intimidating. It’s important to note that this panel should have a flap of fabric hanging off the foam and card base. This is the section which wraps over the back of the chaise and is covered by one of the panels completed in step 4. Start with the longest straight edge (the base) and glue it down. Before using the ‘Easy curves’ technique in step 6, on the top edge put a nick in your fabric where the curve ends and the flap of fabric starts. Make sure the nick is at 45 degrees so that you can still turn under the fabric to make a neat edge to wrap over the back. After completing the curved top edge, finish the short ends with pinched corners and trim the excess off.
Do the easy bits first – the straight edges!Then add a nick to enable folding over and gluing down the top edge of the curve but not the flap which wraps over the back of the chaise.
STEP 8: To create the buttoned back, use a needle and thread and follow the stitch marks on the back side of the original panel. Simply put a small stitch in at regular intervals making sure to keep the stitches taught for a cushioned look. Then on the right side of the panel, put a drop of glue onto each stitch (PVA) and with a cocktail stick position a small domed stud (used for crafting and nail art) in place. Leave the panel to dry.
TIP: If the original chaise did not have a buttoned effect back, draw up a diamond shaped grid on a piece of paper and prick through the points onto the back of your panel with a pen, before stitching as per step 8. You can also use this technique to do the arms and seat panels.
STEP 9: The bolster cushion. Measure out the depth of the chaise from the back to the front (allowing for the depth of the back cushion) and cut a piece of 15mm diameter dowel to size. Cut a rectangle of fabric large enough to wrap around the length, and about 20mm longer.
Glue along the length of the dowel and roll the fabric around it, and glue down – don’t worry about the rough edge of the overlap it will be on the underside of the bolster. Position the dowel at one end of the fabric about 5mm in from one end and 15mm in from the other. Glue the end of the dowel, fold in and stick down the 5mm fabric end. At the other end, tie thread around the fabric to gather in the end, trim the excess and add a drop of glue to hold the thread.
Take a tassel from a piece of fringing (or make one) and attach it just under where the excess has been trimmed of the bolster end. Cover the trim point and tassel top with a bead cap or filigree(
Above: the bolster cushion should sit neatly at the base of the arm cushion once the panels have been reapplied.
TIP: Once again, Read through step 10 first before doing anything, then have a ‘dry run’ before starting to glue panels in position – also its useful to have some mini clamps handy!
STEP 10: Add the completed panels to the chaise, starting with the back. Glue the panel (but not the flap) and position it by placing the bottom edge where the seat joins the back and smooth it upwards – then jiggle it into the best position! Once you are happy with that, glue the folded under edges of the flap and fold over the curved back. Next add the seat, followed by the back panel which will cover the flap of fabric from the seat back. Glue the wrap-over arm panel and hold in position with a couple of mini clamps until dry. (don’t worry if you don’t have mini clamps – just do one panel at a time and hold each one in place till it sticks! Finish with the panel on the outside under the arm.
Above: mini clamps are a useful spare pair of hands when reupholstering!
STEP 11: Finish the recovered chaise with fine braids and fringing to suit your decorative scheme.
…and there you have it. Grab that tatty chair hidden at the back of your house and a bit of cotton and have a go! It does get easier the more you sit and fiddle on with recovering panels. The panel shapes on the chaise cover about every shape you would come across on other pieces of furniture, so you should be able to figure out any piece of furniture you have lying around to experiment with! Eventually start to experiment with silk brocades or jacquard. I would not recommend trying plain satin too soon, as its very unforgiving and marks easily with glue!
All of the furniture above was covered using the same techniques used on the chaise project.
NO SEW SEWING SCENE!
If you are not keen on sewing but would like to make a sewing scene – then this project is for you! The three pieces form the base for a great room scene, but as individual items they can be used in many different ways. The runner rail will work equally well in a shop, dressed with a bridal display. The seamstress would complete a workroom over a dress shop, the dressmakers model could be used as a window display in a fabric shop, as well as in the workroom scenario – the possibilities are endless!
DRESSMAKER AND SEWING MACHINE
I decided to dress up a bought doll as its an inexpensive starting point and its great to fiddle on with something not too costly so you can have a play and not worry about spoiling an expensive doll. (move on to spoiling an expensive doll when you’ve had the practice!)
Choose the doll carefully; start with a basic simply dressed doll. If she has some trimmings on carefully remove them back to just a basic dress. (I find a dressmakers stitch ripper is ideal for this) Add vertical strips of lace down the front then top with a large lace collar round her neck, by gluing small strips of scalloped-edge lace over the neck and around her wrists to make cuffs.
Tuck a couple of pencils in her hair, made from a slither of cocktail stick colored at the tip and down the length with a felt tipped pen. Add a pair of half moon spectacles tucked in her hair at ear height, for her to peer over.
Make a wrist pincushion by crumpling up a piece of paper tissue to a pea-sized lump, and covering it with a piece of fabric, gather it all in on the back and tie off with thread. Cut small pieces from a wire brush bristles (often sold as a suede brush – handy thing to have – lasts for ages if you are a miniaturist!) to make pins and push them into the tissue ball. Glue a narrow strip of braid around one wrist and glue the cushion and pins on to the top of the wrist to conceal the join below. You can make a tape measure from a strip of paper – if you are computer savvy, try printing out a line of letter L (bold) with the letter I between – something like this: liiiiiliiiiiliiiiiliiiiiliiiiiliiiiiliiiiiliiiii. (alternatively download and print one – look on the downloads page – I have made a sheet of sewing accessories especially to go with this project)
Glue the doll to her chair or stool. Take a quarter circle of fabric (I have used a matching piece to that used on the tailors dummy), turn under the two straight edges with glue – use a practice piece first to see if the glue will bleed through – if it does try ironing on some dressmaking interfacing first then glue.
Have a practice run for positioning, and then spray the back of the fabric with glue. Drape the fabric over the sewing machine, one of the two edges should slip under the foot of the sewing machine to make it look like it is being sewn, and the other edge should be parallel to the front edge of the sewing table, with just enough overhang to be held in the seamstresses hand.
The fabric hanging over the back of the table can be pinched into natural looking folds and will stay in position due to the spray glue. (If you don’t have or want to use spray glue, pinch and glue each fold individually).
Fix the lady to the sewing machine with one hand flat on the table top near the foot of the sewing machine, with the other holding the overhang in front of her as if she is feeding the dress through.
If you are doing a particularly well with this, try adding a thread on the sewing machine along the top and down to the needle position – it just adds the finishing touch!
Take a quarter circle of fabric, turn under one edge and spray glue the back. Fix the fabric to the shoulder then smooth down the remaining fabric to create natural looking drapes and folds, fix the fabric to the model base to stop the folds flapping around and getting mis-shaped. Take a rectangle of fabric; with the long side of the rectangle long enough to go up the front and down the back of the body form hugging the contours plus a hem allowance. Turn under (with glue) one of the long sides and both short sides. Spray glue the back of the fabric and apply to the body form, start at the bottom, centre front and move up and over the form, pushing the fabric into the shape of the form. Tuck in the open sides to wrap around the body form. If you are careful, with the spray glue on the back you can create pinch pleats to give the illusion of tailoring. Turn under a little at the shoulder to disguise the raw edge, and create some shape. Make a sleeve by taking a small rectangle of fabric and roll it around a pencil to make a tube. Glue the tube onto the model under the shaping created by turning under at the shoulder. Also glue the sleeve to the body at the wrist. Finish the model with a tape measure around the neck (see top picture)
RUNNER RAIL AND DRESSES
Making the the rail is quite tricky – that’s half the fun – and think of your sense of achievement when you’ve made it! I recommend using a gel superglue for a quick bond – because you don’t want to be holding the parts together forever while they set- but be careful with the superglue – or you could really be holding them forever!
1. Remove the mirror section of a brass framed cheval mirror, if it has ball finials like the one above remove them to enable extending the height of the uprights.
2 .Using a cocktail stick, fine dowel or plastic tube (model makers ‘Plastruct’) painted gold, join two pressed metal corner shaped filigrees. (Try ‘Eggers Delight’ for filigrees – see the recommended suppliers section for details)
3. Using fine dowel or Plastruct extend the height of the frame and conceal the join with a soft metal filigree wrapped around it. Then glue on the inverted upper section.
4. When everything is set and secure (and you have unstuck your fingers) add a stained and varnished piece of strip wood for the top shelf (if required).
5 To make a dress for the rail, take a rectangle of fabric and glue on any hemline trimmings, turn over one of the short edges then make a tube with the folded edge covering the other rough short edge.
6. Pinch in and glue some pleats into the top edge of the tube,
7. Glue on some ribbon around the waist, cinching it in slightly, with tails running down the back (The side with the join down its length)
8. take a rectangle of fabric, trim with lace one of the short edges to make cuffs. Turn under one long edge. Make a tube by wrapping the fabric around a pencil and gluing the turned under edge over the rough one.
9. Stick the tubes onto the top of the dress at an angle, but leave a little of the tube open to glue in a coat hanger (Cast metal from Phoenix – See suppliers) add a strip of lace as a matching shawl over the shoulders.
By experimenting with this basic technique you can create several variations on the dress styles – create sleeveless styles with braid glued over the hanger and tucked inside the dress top. And remember to make them look more realistic, glue the arms to the sides of the dress – like real clothes on hangers, and add accessories to the hanging outfit – just like they do in stores today!
I finished the rail with a hat box and pair of fancy shoes – you can make the hatbox from the cutouts sheet available on the downloads page.
Pictured below are two scenes from the Theatre Royal costume department where I used exactly the techniques shown in this mini project to complete the room.
Note the huge runner rail in the background packed with costumes and hats on the top shelf. Plus the additional accesories on the sewing machine, simply wrap coloured thread around cocktail sticks and cut into sections to create bobbins of thread, roll up a tape measure (from the downloads page) and place a pair of scissors next to them.
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