This upholstery project is something like 11 years in the making. I’ve owned this 50s rocker since before I was married. My Mom and I found it at a sleepy antique store in eastern Colorado buried under linens.  It was just $35 and aside from the red vinyl in good shape.  I liked the clean minimal lines, the good solid bones, and the fact that it’s a rocker that doesn’t look like it was made for Whistler’s Mother.

Once we moved into our house, the red has always been out of place in our living room which is populated mostly with teals and aquas.  Through 8 years of kids, the vinyl which already wasn’t in the best state had now deteriorated.

I’m an admin in the Sew Much Talent group on Facebook and August’s monthly challenge was home dec.  I try to keep up with the challenges and this was the perfect chance to finally tackle a total redo of this chair.


I’ve dithered for so long on the fabric on this chair.  There are aqua samples of vinyl I carried around for years in my purse just waiting until I could muster up the nerve to take this thing apart.  I researched heavy duty machines so I could sew the vinyl.  I talked to my machine repair guy about my Singer 221 and could it handle vinyl (yes).  When it came down to it though, my Mom and I just went to JoAnn and I found this perfect teal velvet like fabric.

It’s a similar weight to my vinyl samples but it’s so so soft.  My 2nd son was with us and kept putting his cheek up against it in pure joy.  We’ve loved the red vinyl to pieces, but it’s never been cozy.  The teal was going to make for a cozy chair.

The breakdown

You know how demo day on HGTV is so fun?  So it is with upholstery.  There’s something fun about taking everything apart and uncovering the history of the chair.  Plus, inevitably, you find odd things INSIDE old pieces of furniture.  Where else can you find a tiny axe?

Upholstery detritus found inside of the chair. People, this is the best part of upholstery. What is with the tiny ax? 😂😂#whatlurksbeneath #upholstery #diyhomedecor #diyupholstery

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Pattern work

This was an interesting chair in that it didn’t have staples.  It was made with little nails and tacks.  I don’t know if that speaks to the era or this particular maker from Missouri.  After taking everything apart, I used the original pieces as pattern pieces which wasn’t difficult given that everything is a rectangle here.  I traced around everything with 2″ extra.  I should have added even more because there were definitely spots where we were pulling, heaving, tugging, and yanking to stretch the fabric enough to cover everything.


Under the vinyl there was a good layer of cotton padding.  On a more modern chair, there would be foam.  I was pretty relieved to find the cotton as old cotton doesn’t break down as hideously as old foam which yellows flakes off disturbingly.  The cotton was mostly just compressed.  To add some more cushion to the cotton and to cover the parts of the chair that had no padding at all, we decided to add Dacron under the outer fabric.

Dacron is a thick warm polyester upholstery wrap.  We had some leftover from my sewing room couch and it is awesome stuff.  It really makes for such a pretty final product.

The legs and arms were painted?

As the arms came off and I started sanding things down, I discovered that the arms were not indeed the light colored and stained wood I always assumed them to be.  Instead this unnamed maker from Missouri had painted this dark beautiful wood with a yellow beige paint.  It was definitely oil based and it was covered in several coats of varnish originally too.  Perhaps it was the style in that time, but my husband and I were totally puzzled as to why you would ever paint such nice wood.  And if you were going to paint nice wood, why on earth would you go for a yellow beige?

Stripping and staining the wood

Stripping the old paint off the arms was a nasty, slow, sticky, stinky process.  Over the course of a couple of weeks, I would hit the wood once or twice a day with CitriStrip, let it sit, and then scrape off the paint.  I used odorless mineral spirits to clean up everything when I got down to the bare wood.  Eventually, when I got down to the wood I started staining it with Minwax cherry, only to realize that I hadn’t stripped off enough paint.  So more time stripping the wood.  When I finally finished staining round 2, all the wood got several layers of polycrylic to protect the wood.


This fabric was so so easy to sew and there’s really not a lot of sewing on this chair.  I used a heavy #16 topstitching needle and upholstery thread.  The piping went in between the seams.  I did have to redo the seams on the vertical pieces so that they would extend down to the bottom of the chair and cover the side pieces.  The original notches on the vinyl were either not in the right place or the upholsterer had a lot more extra fabric that he was working with before it was trimmed away.  Unstitching upholstery thread is not fun work because the thread cannot be ripped or pulled out due to its strength.  I had to cut each thread one by one.  Still, there was only about 20″ on either side so it could have been worse.


My husband and I definitely did ourselves a solid when we got the pneumatic stapler.  It’s so fast and easy to staple all of the dacron and fabric down when all that air is propelling the each staple into the wood.  You know how in tornadoes you get weird things happening like pieces of straw being shot into wood fences?  It’s like that.  We’ve used hand staplers for our dining room chairs and an electric stapler for our kids’ Lego table and the difference is night and day in the ease of use and of the time needed.  Good tools really really help you.  It took us one night plus a couple of hours on Labor Day to finish putting it all together.

Upholstery is a hobby that my husband and I work on together.  For this chair, he really gets most of the credit for all of the nice clean edges.  Though he doesn’t work with fabric or sew in any capacity, he has a natural knack for knowing exactly how things need to be stapled and how we need to stretch the fabric to get a clean finish.

Back trim

The original chair had back nailhead tacks put in really not very well.  They weren’t terribly evenly spaced and there weren’t that many of them.  As I tried to put single tacks in myself, I quickly stopped criticizing the original upholsterer’s skill.  The tacks are so hard to put in straight and even.  I tried making a jig as in this post which did not work at. all.  In the end, I remembered that I had something like 10 yards of nailhead trim in my upholstery supplies.  This stuff is great.  The trim has faux nailheads and every few, there’s a hole for you to add a real tack.  We would have labored long and hard to get trim that ended up looking this nice.

Matching ottoman

We had an ottoman from the same era covered in a similar cherry vinyl.  As it turned out, I had enough of the teal fabric leftover to recover the ottoman as well.  When I went to break down the ottoman, I realized that the inside is covered in a layer of thick coir which is packed solid with sawdust.  There was no chance I was going to take that mess out of the protective vinyl that was keeping everything intact.  The sawdust made such a mess as it was.  Instead, I simply covered straight over the vinyl.

Overall, I’m glad we finally took the time to do this project right.  Our chair looks way more natural in our house and it’s become the cozy chair we always wanted it to be.

Have you ever upholstered anything?  How did it go?


baby booties

This is a bit of a bits and bobs sort of post.  Since the Fabric Mart contest, I’ve been sewing some random things.  All of these have been UFOs, badly needed items, or just projects I’ve meant to do but haven’t gotten around to yet.  Fall seems to tarry still here (it’s been in the 70s for weeks!  Spring in fall.), so moving on to cold weather sewing is just not happening.  Now is apparently a great time for sewing completely arbitrary things.  Top of the list are these baby booties for my baby girl and others.

Maggie’s Stay on Baby Booties

baby booties

My daughter is a master ninja when it comes to escaping from socks.  No foot covering of any kind is safe.  This child will rip them off in 3.5 seconds every time.  And she loves chewing on her toes as much as she loves ripping off socks.  With the colder weather coming (maybe?), I had to find a solution for keeping her feet warm.

The lovely Deborah of GBSB fame posted her makes of Maggie’s Stay-on Baby Booties from Beautiful Pie Shop on Instagram some time ago, and I took note.  The name of the pattern alone seemed a personal challenge for my toe-eater.

baby booties

People.  I love this pattern.  Baby R does gnaw on these, but she doesn’t fight against them.  Whether it’s the security of the KAM snaps or the feel of the soft fleece against her toes, she really likes these and she lets them be.  The inside snugs against baby feet with 1/8″ elastic that goes through a casing.  It allows for a custom fit which might be why they stay on.  Baby booties are generally one size and of materials that have no elastic-like recovery.

KAM snaps are the best!

This is my first time using KAM snaps, and I was pleasantly surprised.  First, it’s hard to not love the cute shapes like butterflies and stars and hearts.  The pliers are really easy to use too.  They’re SO much easier to use than the Snap Source setters that I’ve used for years.  The Snap Source setters require some brute force with a hammer, and there’s a good chance the snap won’t be aligned properly, leaving you to rip it out, damage your fabric, and repeat the Anvil Chorus.

baby booties

So I made a lot.  The 3-6 month size really only requires scraps.  My second son has a friend with a baby sister who is just a couple weeks younger than my daughter.  I made her a pair from this lilac floral print that I blockprinted with stripey hearts.

Beautiful Pie Shop has an adult size version of this pattern, and I’m totally nabbing it up for myself.  The boot style just looks so cozy and warm!

Random projects!

Sewing room upholstery

sewing room upholstery

Other than that, my husband and I did some quick upholstering of the sewing room chairs.  After spray paint and more of the fabric from the couch (plus contrast canvas backs), things are looking good in the sewing room.  The new foam that I added to the chairs also makes them way more comfortable and supportive too!

Car blankets

car blankets

These quick blankets have been sitting on my sewing room cart for a year and a half.  I originally meant them to be a Mom and son project when I was writing for UpCraftClub.  My oldest did sew 95% of his (the blue and green), but then we sewed down the corner of the pocket to the rest of the blanket and never got around to ripping out the mistake.  We made them from napkins.  There’s just one layer all sewn together with an added pocket with a velcro tab to hold a book or a stuffed animal.  car blankets

The one in browns has some blockprinting on it that I did with pink school erasers like I did with these leggings.

The seams don’t line up because the napkins were of various sizes.  I could have re-cut them to be the same size, but I didn’t bother.  Since I intended these as projects for the boys to sew themselves, I wanted it to be super easy.  Instead, the finished edges of the napkins are sewn together, pressed open and topstitched flat on the right side.

car blankets

They’re lightweight enough for summer blankets on car trips in the summer, but still hefty enough to be cozy.  The boys are also using them for fort building.

Opera nerd embroidery

I finished and framed this embroidery that I had mentioned ages ago, but I never got around to posting the results.  If you remember, I changed the color scheme of the original kit to match my own color palette and that of my sewing room better.  I’m not 100% sold on my color choices, but it’s WAY better than the 70s version.

sewing room embroidery


original kit colors

If you understand the opera reference that I added, you get major nerd points.  And if you get the opera reference without the aid of Google, well, we clearly have lots in common!

There’s Cora Leggings and a Watson bra in the works too, but those will get their own posts I reckon.

What are your favorite random projects?

Let’s keep the conversation going!  Check out my sewing dreams and inspiration on Pinterest, and keep up to date on my projects on Instagram and Facebook.


recovering my couch: Elizabeth Made This

Do you ever have a gigantic project that’s so big you’re a bit scared to start it?  Maybe you’re aspiring to make a coat, but you’re having visions of cutting out 50 some odd pieces (an accurate portrait) and having to keep them all straight.  Maybe you’re ready to pitch the gross 1985 hunter green and mauve curtains that came with your house in favor of your own much prettier, much more stylish curtains, but then you realize that you’ll have to wrangle 20 yards of fabric to do so.