Sunday, 19 May 2013

Tutorial: Re-upholstering Office Chair Arm Rests

Well, well, well.

As you all know, I am new to this blogging thing. I am yet to establish an update schedule. This means I either get to surprise you with spontaneous posts.......or disappoint you with months of silence! (I'm hoping to aim for the first one.)

As a special treat, I've made a little tutorial!

Everyone likes a free online tutorial, no?

This one came as a result of me getting fed up with the arm rests on my office chair that sits in front of my PC. The right hand arm rest had these painful spikes right where I would rest my elbow and I had had enough of stabbing myself. I would later find out that the spikes were in fact upholstery staples that the cheapo chair manufacturer had decided to use to keep the wood (the base for the upholstery) together after it had splintered - instead of using a new piece of wood :-/ Ugh.

AND IT BEGINS! (anyone else excited? I am ~ first tutorial and all)

You will need:
- A fat quarter - a half yard (depending on the length of the armrest)
- Quilt batting of your choice
- Rotary cutter and cutting mat and/or scissors
- A measuring tape
- A regular office stapler
- A hammer
- Upholstery tacks
- Screwdriver

First, unscrew the armrests from the chair. Then you can decide whether you wish to keep the original upholstery (for added padding) or completely replace it.

I decided to keep the original upholstery as it was still in great condition and because I needed the padding to stop the stabbiness of the staples.

Now. While the original fabric is still on the armrest, measure the fabric dimensions and add about 1/2inch, just to be safe, as you'll be pulling the fabric tight and you'll want something to grab onto. Also, if you are keeping the upholstery, you'll want some leeway with the fabric to get around the existent staples or tacks. Once you have these measurements, cut two from your fabric of choice (as there are two rests) and two from calico, muslin or old fabric you don't want.

Next, in the middle of the calico, put the armrest squishy side down and outline one end, down the sides and roll it so the whole surface of the rest has been outlined. Measure roughly the dimensions of the outline and cut two from your favourite quilting batting. If you are NOT keeping the original upholstery, you might want to cut about 6-8 as they will provide extra softness.

As you can see, in the above photos, you pop the coloured fabric on top of ONE layer of batting, baste it (or pin it out, as I say) and quilt it. You can quilt it anyway you want. I chose to do the classic crosshatch pattern, but anything would work.

This is, if you cut the extra layers of batting, where you'll be using it. Lay the quilted fabric face down and place the layers over the outline of the internal batting. Then put the armrest facedown, and pull the fabric around to the back and staple it in place. Make sure the batting is flush with the edge of the rest (not being pulled to the back and not too short).

When stapling, staple each end, the middle and then the midpoints between. You will then need to tack the fabric on. This is the fun bit! I didn't have any upholstery tacks until i went rummaging through my dad's nails, screws and hardware. I found this little tin. Inside were little tacks that are from about the 1940s, and I think the tin is twenty or thirty years older. Needless to say, i was horrified when my dad suggested I use them. I felt like i was hammering away at a heritage building. It just felt wrong.
I got over it when they were the only ones we had and they were the perfect length.
 I find that if you stab a hole in the fabric down to the wood with an awl or particularly sharp/pointy pair of embroidery scissors (and of course I used the scissors before I thought of the awl) you won't have to hold the tack with your fingers and risk getting hit by the hammer. Just shove the tack in the hole and the layers of fabric hold it upright for you.
I'm liking the contrast of the white of the seat with the hot pink of the armrests. I don't think I want to cover the whole chair as it could be a little busy and overwhelming. It's a cute addition of personality to an otherwise boring chair and really brightens it up.
I think that's all! If I have forgotten anything or if you have any questions pop it in my comment section.
 Until next time.



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