August 28, 2013

How to Make a La-Z-Boy Recliner Less Ugly: Part 3

(Part 1 here, Part 2 here)

The finale of any upholstery project is always the most satisfying part. Actually, I guess the end result of any project is usually the best part, so I suppose that's a really obvious statement. But still true.

So, I left off yesterday with the cushion being the last part to do. Here's what it looked like sans fabric, next to a cute little drawing on the floor. This is the one part of reupholstering this recliner that I couldn't avoid sewing. Not that I'm afraid of sewing exactly, but it just slows me down a lot when I have to stop and do it. And maybe I am a little afraid.

This is one of the few parts of the chair that I used the original fabric to copy as closely as I could. Mostly, I reinvented the look and did the chair my own way, but this part had no alternative but to do it the original way, or nearly so. But it wasn't too bad, actually.

I sewed elastic inside the seams of the piece that connects the seat to the footrest. That made it bunch right instead of being all loose on the edges. Then I put the foam and batting for that piece inside it and sewed it to the piece used to cover the seat. I'm not sure I'm explaining this all that well. I should have taken more pictures, but really, every chair is a little different anyway, so it's more important to use common sense than copy other people's tutorials exactly, right? Speaking of which, I couldn't find a single chair on the entire internet that's the same style as mine that someone has reupholstered. Is it just too ugly to be worth it? Most people would say yes. I say why not try it and see.

Seat piece (with elastic bands sewn in to connect to the footrest).
Bottom of the chair after stapling fabric on seat cushion.
Top of the seat before attaching
After stapling the fabric on around the seat frame, I reattached the seat to the chair frame (fortunately it wasn't as time consuming or painful as removing it had been). I then stapled the bottom underside of the attaching piece to the footrest part.

Now, here's where I want to say "done!" but in reality, there is one tiny part I haven't finished yet. See the bottom of the back of the chair? There was originally a piece of cardboard there with fabric over it that was attached to cover up that metal bar and the rocking mechanisms. It got pulled off a few years ago and I need a big piece of cardboard to finish it. So . . . done for now!

Missing a piece here still
But it looks finished from the front, so let's just check her out. A bit asymmetrical, but aren't we all?

You may be thinking, "What a waste of time. You can't take the lazy out of a La-Z-Boy." And yes, you'd be right. It's still no bergère chair, or Eames, or whatever. But it's a big improvement, in my opinion. The color of grey is nice and the fabric is soft. It doesn't smell anymore. Most importantly, it works for our family. It goes in the girls' room and they love reading books in the cozy rocking chair. Jared loves being woken up by Ivy and spending the night in it (sort of). AND, I daresay, it is much less ugly than before.

And if you don't think it's cute enough, how about this little face?

One final before and after:

Cost breakdown:
Chair: free
6.5 yards of upholstery grade fabric: $70
Button kit: $6
Staples, etc: $4

So, was it a big enough change to be worth it? Anyone else have a chair like this that needs some work?

August 27, 2013

How to Make a La-Z-Boy Recliner Less Ugly: Part 2

If you didn't see Part 1 of How to Make a La-Z-Boy Recline Less Ugly, click here.

I wish I had been able to get better pictures of the process, but I get so absorbed when working that I forget. Also, it's pretty hard to take pictures when you're stretching and stapling fabric. So, yeah, I do my best.

After the seat back being done, I decided to move on to the chair frame, which included the sides, arms, and reclining footrest. This part went pretty smoothly and was easy enough. Rather than sew three pieces together (arms, sides, and front sides), I decided to staple each one on separately. While this helped take out the sewing, it also added it's own challenges, like figuring out how to cover all the staples.

Before I started the chair, I sketched out a plan for the order of applying each piece and how I planned to do it. This helped a lot. I didn't follow the plan, but almost. I was thinking about applying piping to some of the edges, so I drew that in, but then decided against it.

I did the footrest piece first and it was easy--just basic stapling around the edges with the reclining part out and the chair upside down. Originally, there was a semi-attached piece with gathered seams, but besides the fact that it would have been more work, I also thought it was ugly. The simple way looked cleaner and better to me.

I added the front sides, using staples around all the edges to secure, which was also pretty easy. It's important to watch the direction of your fabric if it has a texture or a pattern. Mine had a tiny nap in the velvet, so I made sure to keep it lined up vertically on all the parts.

The reclining handle was looking pretty worn, so I primed and painted it. The picture above shows the white primer, but I ended up painting it a darker grey and then covering it in a few coats of Polycrylic. For some reason, the screw that held the handle to the metal bar wouldn't budge at all. The drill seriously couldn't make it move, so I just had to keep it on, which meant cutting a slit in the fabric to go around the bar.

To get a smooth curve in the fabric on the sides, I cut a piece of cardboard in the right shape and then lined it up on the wrong side of my fabric and drew a line. I then used that line to keep the fabric in the right place while stapling. The rest of the edges were just stapled under normally. The side piece was long enough to curve around to the back and cover the back sides as well, but I didn't take a picture of that here. Whoops.

This shows the slit I made to get around the handle. I glued it closed with Fabri-tac and another piece of fabric underneath.

Here, you can see the side piece on and the arm in progress. Oh . . . the arms. What a pain. I had to be pretty inventive with this part. I took off the foam and batting off the arm (which wasn't actually connected to anything anyway) and stapled the fabric on alone because it made it easier, but it was still hard. I used cardboard on the outside of the arms for the straight line, which wasn't bad, but then I had to pleat the fabric for the front of the arms and staple it in a way that I thought might look good. I had to re-staple several times before I got it to look good with the padding in. After the point of the picture below, I put the arm foam and batting back in and stapled down on the inside of the arm while pulling tightly.

It was pretty much impossible for me to get both arms to be perfectly symmetrical, so they're not. It was close enough for me to be satisfied though. For the backs of these arm pieces, I tucked the extra fabric under the arm in pleats and glued it down. I will admit, the arms were frustrating and briefly made me wish I hadn't decided to do this, but it worked out in the end. (Advice: if you feel stuck, take a break for a day or two and try again later.)

As you can see with the footrest up, there is another piece under that had to be covered in fabric. It was kind of tricky geting the holes to line up just right. I used the old fabric as a template for this part, but it ended up being inaccurate and I had to redo it anyway. Fortunately it was not a very big piece of fabric since I actually cut it twice before I got it right the third time. Man, I feel so professional sometimes.

So, the seat comes last. Will it be hard or will it be easy? Only tomorrow's blog post can tell . . .

August 26, 2013

How to Make a La-Z-Boy Recliner Less Ugly: Part 1

While we all have our differing design opinions, I think one thing everyone can agree on is that La-Z-boy recliners are made for comfort, not looks; in other words, they're ugly. They're kind of the Crocs of the furniture world. Or, as Shakespeare once wrote, "all slouched and puffy, beautifying nothing"--or something to that effect.

But the thing is, they really are comfortable. We have a rocking recliner that we inherited from my parents and I haven't wanted to get rid of it because I'm pretty sure it's the only chair I could sit in comfortably for weeks after having my first baby. It was also the chair my mom lived in for almost the entire time she had cancer, so although I'm notoriously unsentimental, even I can acknowledge that it was a little bit personal in this case. And lastly, they're expensive chairs. But the upholstery was starting to tear in places and it had a perma-smell that made it impossible to leave as-is. (Not to mention the ugly factor.)

A true beauty, no?
I put this off for a long time because every time I looked at how the upholstery was done, I'd get overwhelmed and decide it would be too much work and I'd probably ruin it. Unlike other things I've upholstered, this was mostly sewn together and then stapled on in larger pieces. There were gathered seams everywhere and a semi-attached back and moving parts and blah, blah, blah. Too much work. But eventually, I decided I would reupholster it my own way instead of trying to copy how it was originally done.

I started by getting my fabric: a very durable soft grey velvet. I got 7.5 yards (but ended up with more than a yard leftover). Then I got this button cover kit. I knew I wanted to do button tufting on the back because it was the only way to get away with not sewing the seams. Since the back is concave, there needed to be something to pull the fabric back or it wouldn't work at all. Plus, I like the look of button tufting.

Making my circles on the fabric with the template from the kit. 

I was seriously surprised when the buttons turned out just right. I notched the edges of the circle with scissors all around to help the fabric go in smoother and it worked beautifully. It did take a lot of pressure on the buttons to get the backs on tight, but it was nothing my heel couldn't handle.

Then I started tearing the old fabric off my recliner (which got me a well deserved, "you're brave" from my husband). I had to reach in some pretty tight spaces next to metal gliding mechanisms to reach the screws to remove the seat from the chair. Sadly, that was probably the hardest part for me, and I had very bruised and scraped hands to show for it.

Fabric finally off!
I used a long upholstery needle to secure my buttons through the padding and stuff in the seat back. You have to pull really hard when doing tufting, FYI. I used some strong upholstery thread so it wouldn't break and then tied it to the back springs of the chair. Luckily, none of the button backs popped off like I was afraid they might. The diamond shape in the tufting naturally occurs when you place the buttons in the right pattern, but if you want more detail on how to do it, here is a good tutorial.

See the little white threads tied on there? 
After the fabric was stapled all around the edges

For the back, I used a piece of cardboard to make a straight line at the top for the staples to go into. This might seem weird and amateurish, but guess what? It's the way it was originally done. You'd be surprised at how often cardboard is used in upholstery. The fabric flips down and covers the cardboard, of course. It's much better than having a zig-zaggy line from staples alone.

For the sides, I reused the metal tack strips that were originally used there (they look like this). They're easier to use than they look. I also used them in the same place on my wingback chair upholstery and it makes the fabric tight and secure. Then I stapled the fabric at the bottom of the chair back and I was done with the first piece of the chair.

I was actually just trying to get a picture of the chair back here, but my girls just can't resist being on camera.
 So there you go! Part 2 coming soon . . .

P.S. Apparently La-Z-Boy is trying to revamp their image and add a little style to their furniture. They're now using the age-old tactic of having Brooke Shields as their spokesperson.
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