Recovered Chairs (& the dreaded sewing machine)

I actually started this project back in early November and it took me until right before New Years to finish it.  See the two chairs in our office?


They are a great height and shape for the space and I loved that we had two and they matched.  Would I like something else later on like a neat wicker chair like this?  Sure!  But for now these are perfectly fine except for the color.  As I mentioned, we had gone out and done some revamping to the master bedroom duvet and got some new curtains (still working on that!).  Well the ones that we had in there for a short time actually appeared to work really well as covers for these two chairs.  The only problem – some sewing would have to be required. (gasp!)

First things first I took the chairs apart with an allen wrench.  If you don’t have a set of these at home, get one – especially if you like IKEA.  Small lazy puggle for this work is optional.Before

Deconstructed Then I took a pair of scissors and cut the bottom hem and the grommet top off the curtains so I would have a rough cut of fabric.

Fabric 2

Fabric Layout

So then I was able to cut the pieces out for the seat and the back.  The seat was the easy part.  All you’ll need is the fabric and a staple gun.  I’ve got a light duty stapler that I picked up at Joann’s for another project.  Just pull tight and staple away!

Fabric Staple

I stapled the front and back of the cushion first then went for the corners so I could get them done tight and clean.  I just trimmed and folded the fabric until I had a nice clean line and stapled it into place.

Fabric Edges

And repeated in the other corners and edges until I was done.  Piece of cake!

Seat Done

The back is where I got held up for the month.  I’ll head out and grab a nail gun, a miter saw, a jig saw or whatever, but a sewing machine seems to scare me beyond all other mechanisms.  And all I had to do was sew two straight seams per chair!  Once I gathered my courage up, my sewing machine and me sat down and had a little chit-chat about tension strengths and correct bobbin threading and finally seemed to be on the same page.   Since I was so concerned about this step however I have no pictures.  I got so wrapped up in making sure I didn’t mess it up too badly.  But here’s what I did.

Think of this type of chair back as a pillow case essentially.  All you need to do is fold the fabric around one side and sew a seam at the top and along the side like noted here.

Before 2


I managed to do just that and the fit was nice and snug once I pulled the “pillow case” over the chair back.  A few more trimming and staples on the bottom being sure to work around the chair legs and I had me some newly covered chairs!

DSCN3436 Sewing LinesThey look much better in the room together now.

Office After

These curtains were $25 for the pair, but since I had bought these for another room and turned out they didn’t work, this was essentially a $0 project for me.  All I needed was a little courage to face the sewing machine!

Any of you have a tool you dread using?  Tips for other sewing novices?

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Dressing it Up!

Well, I fffi-iii-iiiinnneeely finished off that dresser and here it is!

DresserI actually am really pleased with how it came out!  I’m normally not one for such an antiquey looking antique, but in this one instance this is what the vision in my head was grabbing at and I went with it for our mudroom / entry room.  We’ve yet to put it in it’s final resting place because we have some work coming in that room (more on that later), but it’s all done and ready to move in when the time comes!

To finish the dresser off and get the chippy look,  I used a product that is actually very old, just new to me: Milk Paint.  I read Miss Mustard Seed‘s blog quite a bit and purchased one of her signature paints in Mustard Seed Yellow.  Milk paint is a powder that you mix with equal parts water to break it all up and get the consistence and color your looking for.  Marian has all sorts of tutorials on her blog, so check her out to learn more.

Milk Paint Milk Paint Milk Paint

I had a little trouble getting it to be a good consistency, but in the end it all worked out ok.  Milk paint will naturally chip away from your surface wherever it’s little heart desires, so you don’t always know how it’s going to look.  This is after the first coat:


And after a few more, you can start to see how it’s chipping off. Dresser Dresser

To get the look you want you can just rub at it lightly with a putty knife and it’s just rain little flakes on you.  The paint dries quickly and you can put multiple coats on 30-60 minutes apart, so this is a relatively quick process.  I painted, flaked, painted, flaked…and swept the floor.  A Lot.  If you have a shop or outdoor space to do this I would recommend it just for the flaking.  There were little paint chips everywhere.


You can see the difference in some of the progress photos vs the finished product that the paint didn’t always chip off in the same places each time.  After 3 coats of painting and scraping to the bureau and the drawers, I stained the top of the dresser using Minwax Dark Walnut that we have on hand from the bed project we did earlier this year.


As a finishing finish to the finish of the furniture (say 5 times fast), I applied a coat of Furniture Wax to the entire piece.  Since I was trying out Miss Mustard Seed’s product I purchased her wax for this as well.

Furniture Wax

Furniture Wax

It went on very easy with a clean cloth and then you just buff it to a shiny protective finish with another cloth after 5-10 minutes.  I put 2 coats on the top and one on the body of the dresser.  The furniture wax will also stop the paint from flaking any more, from what I understand.  It really gave the wood a nice rich tone afterwards and a little shine without poly or something.

The knobs I picked up on Joss and Main and I really liked how they complimented the style of this little makeover.



Ready for a before and after?



Dresser DSCN3263 Milk Paint Dresser | Mustard Seed Yellow

So what do you think??  Not bad for a little relic from the 1880’s, huh?  I’m not sure I’d milk paint anything else in the house, but I promise you it’ll be charming in our little entry room/mudroom when it’s complete!  Every use milk paint or restore a piece of furniture?  It was sorta fun and therapeutic, almost!

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Remember that dresser?

Yeah… this one.  That I posted about back in JULY!


Well, I finally got around to making some progress on it!  I had too before this crazy weather got any colder around here!  To refresh your memory, it’s my idea to refinish this cutie historical piece and put it in our entry/mudroom to hold tools, hats and gloves, dog leashes, etc.  I had a few different ideas for refinishing, but before I reveal my final choice (to the 2 of you who might not know and the other 2 of you who do… shhhhh!!) I’ll show you what I did to fix this piece up a bit.  First, Jake helped me bring this piece outside, because sanding inside is a big old mess.


Then I got to pulling out the drawers, cleaning it out and starting repairs.  At the back of one of the drawers I found this stamp from 1975.


I just think it’s neat that someone else was using this perhaps for odds and ends like I’m going to use it for and there’s this little bit of a history here.


For anyone out there wondering, the Kirtland’s Warbler is no longer an endangered species and is well on it’s way to recovery!  Yay for the birds!  Cute little fellas too! Back to the dresser… One of the drawers in particular was in need of some serious repair.

Broken Drawer

Luckily all the pieces were there and were still good strong wood, so it just needed a little TLC.  I simply laid the boards back in place and added some wood glue at the end where there was a split.

Broken Drawer

Then added some finish nails to keep those boards nice and secure and in place.

Fixed Drawer

I had to do a similar task on the other side, but this all took about 10 minutes and then I was off to the next bit.  The rest of the drawers were in pretty good shape, but the back of the dresser needed a bit more work.


Nothing a few new nails couldn’t fix though!  While I was fixing this part, one of the old nails popped out and really got me thinking about the history of this piece.

Old Nail

Look at that hand forged square headed nail vs the shiny machine made nails of today.  I couldn’t help but really start to appreciate that this piece and the wood that it’s made of is over 125 years old.   Seriously, remember I told you about the pin and cove joints and they were used in the US and Canada only during the 1880’s before machine made furniture really started coming into play?  Well, it also struck me that while I using my machine-made nails and electric orbital sanders, there was some man who cared for this wood, planed it, hand sanded it and pieced it together… and what a different era!  This guy was president:

Chester_ArthurChester Arthur Anderson.  Did you know that?  He was the 21st President after James Garfield was shot in 1881. Not sure he did the best, job but this dude had rockin’ chops, though didn’t he??  Crazy-town that this wood came from then.  (Say it with me… “blogging is learning.”)  I digress again… back to the dresser.


I patched up the back with a few nails and then got to sanding.  My idea is to stain the top and paint the body, so the top needed a lot of sanding, while the body only needed a good roughing up. I won’t bore you with a narrative of sanding.. you hold the sander and move it back and forth until the finish is gone or it’s distressed how you want it.  Rocket science.   I used 80 grit paper on the top to really cut through the old varnish and stain, then went back over with 120 grit.


DresserDSCN3143 DSCN3144Then on to the body and drawers for a quick roughing up and varnish removal!

Dresser Dresser

What do you think?  I actually am liking it like this, but will definitely be finishing it off.  Which color do you think I decided on??  I will tell you I’m going to try Milk Paint and will have a whole writeup on what I thought about it!

Are you refinishing anything you want to share? Are you a bird watcher? Know about any other odd US Presidents or are a history buff?  I think the mantra “blogging is learning” will definitely catch on…  Have a great weekend!

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