Reupholster an Ottoman: Part 1 – The Ottoman Wins 2

When I first started thinking about opening this business, I sent a text to all my friends, all five of my friends, and ask them if they had anything that they wanted something done with. I was very nonspecific, because I felt very nonspecific specific in this endeavor. It took one person about a week to reply to the text. ONE.  WEEK.  I was a bit crushed, because to me, either my friends don’t think I can do it, or they don’t have the need someone with my skills.  That means this business is not going to work. That’s what I thought then.  Keep reading (and read the last three posts or so…)

My friend said she had an ottoman that she’d like to have recovered/reupholstered. I called her and we talked about it and I really wasn’t sure that I was the right person for the job, because I have never recovered or reupholstered anything.  You know my sewing machine is broke, right?!?!  It’s my second machine in 8 months… My friend’s machine still works.  Thank God for her lending it to me!

After the client (notice how that changed from friend!  She’s still my friend, but I’m trying to sound professional here, people!!!) dropped it off, she told me that she wasn’t worried a bit about having me do it and she knew that I could, so that boosted my confidence…a little. I wasn’t expecting it to take me two months, but it did. Life happens sometimes! Or, in my case, you just don’t know what you’re doing!

Ottoman opened, before

Ottoman opened, before

Ottoman before

Ottoman before

My client had recently had her couch reupholstered, so she had all this fabric leftover.  It was a brown key pattern.  She also had a black, brown, blue circle pattern that I totally fell in love with.  I knew I wanted to be able to incorporate somehow; I just wasn’t sure how I was going to do it. She told me to funk it up and have fun with it. She said that she was done with the fabric so didn’t really make any difference to her how much I used. I, of course, didn’t want to be wasteful, but was glad that I have that information, because it became important later.

Brown Key Pattern Fabric

Brown Key Pattern Fabric

The ottoman was in two pieces, the top was hinged to the bottom.  The bottom was an open box for storage. The original fabric only went around the four outer sides.  I didn’t feel like I give it a very finished look. So I really wanted to try to work to see if I could figure out how to make it so that it was functional and cool at the same time.  She said I didn’t have to worry about lining the inside, but I wanted it to look cool for her.  I knew she was just going to store blankets in there, but I was determined to try to make it look fairly professional and totally cool.

This project was truly a comedy of errors. I did a lot of things three and four times (hence a six-week turnaround time) because I really wanted them to be right and the first three times never were.  I was learning.  However, it always ended up at the last time was the easiest way to have done the work. Typical for me!

Stay with me. This gets a bit tricky but I’m going to include all of my mistakes so that you don’t make them.

NOT THE WAY TO COVER THE TOP:

For the top of the ottoman, I thought I could just make a box out of fabric and cover it that way. I measured and re-measured, then sewed the four sides to the larger middle piece.  I used the fun black, brown, and blue circle print. I put it onto the top of the Ottoman, and it looked terrible. The fabric that I’d sewn was a box.  The ottoman had curvy corners.  Enter the beginning of the end!

THE WAY TO COVER THE TOP:

I went to school, and talked with a friend who has a husband who has done some reupholstering for them.  She said, well why don’t you just see if you have enough fabric to staple over the top.  Well, that’s seemed smart.  Luckily, I did have enough fabric, but just barely.

Pull tight!

Pull tight!

Finish folding over and staple

Finish folding over and staple

Make a fold (like wrapping a present) and staple.

Make a fold (like wrapping a present) and staple.

Here’s a few hints when you are reupholstering:

  1. If there is trouble with the wood being in place (like on mine), and you don’t have the metal pieces the professional upholsterers do, you can use an aluminum can cap.  That’s right!  It’s thin and will easily hold the wood.  (You can also use those caps as picture hangers.  It’s what hangs our giant growth ruler.  They are strong!)

 

Pop caps are very strong.  I used one to help keep these two boards together because I didn't have the kind of bracket most furniture makers use and I did have a pop cap.

Pop caps are very strong. I used one to help keep these two boards together because I didn’t have the kind of bracket most furniture makers use and I did have a pop cap.

  1. I had plenty of opportunities to nail staples in the wood.  I am not strong enough to use enough pressure to make a nice staple with a heavy duty stapler (I broke my light duty one during this, so I’d say you better use a heavy duty one.
Staple properly and this won't happen to you.

Staple properly and this won’t happen to you.

  1. When removing staples, you need to find a quick and easy way to do it.  It’s a big part of reupholstering an ottoman, so you better figure it out!  I made you my first video!  I hope you love it!  It’s short, don’t worry!

IMG_3615 (1)

NOT HOW TO COVER THE OUTSIDE OF THE BOTTOM:

I knew that I had the fabric I sewed into a box shape.  Remember, I sewed 4 sides onto the big piece and made a box?  That fabric had originally made for the top part of the ottoman, and I didn’t want to just waste that material.  I put it into the inside of the box. And guess what, it fit! There may have been a couple of spots where it was about a half-inch off, but really it was good for me. I thought I could stretch it enough to make it work.

The four sides and large piece I sewed for the top that didn't fit the top at all.  Here it is upside down, lining the inside.

The four sides and large piece I sewed for the top that didn’t fit the top at all. Here it is upside down, lining the inside.

Isn’t it fun when you mess up so bad and you can’t even figure out what you did to mess it up? How irritating.

My original (wrong) thought was that I would just sew the brown key pattern onto the black, brown, and blue circle pattern “box”.  Then, this would slip over the wood pieces and I would be able to staple the bottom.  Lots of sewing.  BAD IDEA.  When I finally got to the point where I was trying to fit it onto the ottoman, it became clear that this wasn’t going to work.  Somehow, I measured for the fabric that was going to go around the outside of the ottoman as the same length as what had gone inside the ottoman. I did not know that I had done this until the end. The inside is smaller due to the width of the wood.  Therefore, the outside was too small and didn’t fit.   Cool, right?

Here, we have the four sides sewn to the bottom (black, brown, blue circle fabric).  Then, tops of those sides are sewn to what was to be the outside lining.  See how it would just fit like a glove?!?!?!?!  NOT!

Here, we have the four sides sewn to the bottom (black, brown, blue circle fabric). Then, tops of those sides are sewn to what was to be the outside lining. See how it would just fit like a glove?!?!?!?! NOT!

I didn’t even know what was wrong at first. I felt like I didn’t have enough hands to hold both sides of the ottoman and figure out where the issues were. I didn’t even know where to start to fix it, so I just didn’t do anything. NOTHING FOR 3 WEEKS! I just didn’t know what to do.

Part of the reason I didn’t work on this for so long was because I was trying to figure out how I was going to sew 5 pieces of fabric together.  I had the two meeting of the key pattern.  Those were 4” short, so I needed to sew another one onto each side (stupid).  Then, there were the two black, brown, and blue circle pattern that needed to be sewn to those three key patterns (stupider).

I solicited my husband’s help.  He came down to the basement and we finally figured out what was wrong.  Thank goodness for nice husbands!  This is where I realized I had measured the inside of the box for the outside’s fabric.  It was an inch longer on each side, making my piece 4 inches short.

So my initial thought was that we were going to have to rip that all the key pattern out, I was going to have to cut new brown key fabric, sew it back together on the black, brown, blue circle pattern and then figure out how to do the corners.  This was a stupid idea too.  I was just full of stupid ideas on this one!

Well, what do we have here?  Looks like someone doesn't know how to measure!  This isn't going to be good...

Well, what do we have here? Looks like someone doesn’t know how to measure! This isn’t going to be good…

Do you know how to sew 5 pieces of fabric together?  No?!?!  It's ok, I don't know how to either!

Do you know how to sew 5 pieces of fabric together? No?!?! It’s ok, I don’t know how to either!

I called my girlfriend.  She brought her daughter over.  For some reason I the daughter is an expert so her because she is taking a sewing class that has taught her how to make a skirt. However I’ve never made a skirt so I think she knows more than I do. They came over and looked at it and the kid told me to rip it all out. But I really wanted to try to just add fabric to it another couple of inches on the ends and then figure out a way to sew five pieces of fabric together. Doesn’t that sound like a crazy person, because as I sit here and write this I think it sounds like a crazy person!

I took the piece (see photo above that is sitting on the floor) to school to get a second opinion. A teacher that I work with has a mother who taught Home Ec and is now retired so I figured that my teacher friend may know a little bit about how to do some of the stuff. What she knew what that I had to change something drastically in order to make this work. She thought maybe I just shouldn’t line the inside but I wasn’t going for that, because this is for a client and I want it to look really nice so that she can tell people that I did this for her.  And, it wasn’t going to beat me!  Ottoman – 1, Rachel – 0.

My teacher friend says I have to rip it out.

I ripped the brown key fabric from the circle patterned fabric.  RIPPED.  Not with a seam ripper.  RIPPED with two hands separating the fabric in a fast way to get it done.  RIP!!!

I ripped it out made a conscious decision that I was going to waste that fabric.  I came to grips with that, and then was able to start the step that was going to make the biggest impact.

And that ends it today, kids.  Yep, it’s like I work in Hollywood with this cliffhanger.  If this were a movie, what would you call it?!?!?!

Click here to find out how this blockbuster ends!
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2 thoughts on “Reupholster an Ottoman: Part 1 – The Ottoman Wins

  1. Reply sara mcvey Jul 18,2013 12:35 pm

    Love this post, Rachel! Everyone who sews can relate to this and has been there at least one, twice, ten times!!! I recovered the cushions on my antique wicker which are similar to your project and also used a staple gun and instead of lining the inside I cut another piece of fabric, hemmed the edges and attached it across the opening (not sure if that makes sense!). Not sure if you have checked out this blog http://www.pinkandpolkadot.net/ but she is the queen bee of slip covering on the internet!!!! Love her stuff and she also has an ebook called the Lazy Girl’s Guide to Custom Slipcovers…check it out! Only $10 and might save you a lot of headaches (and fabric LOL)! Great job for the first crack at it, though…trial and error and patience!!!!! xoxo

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