Author Topic: Taking up a new hobby: furniture restore/upholstery  (Read 2184 times)

Frankies Girl

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Taking up a new hobby: furniture restore/upholstery
« on: August 27, 2019, 11:57:19 PM »
I've always loved antiques and have a very basic base of knowledge. Not interested in the fancy sell it and become a millionaire, but nice stuff that won't break the bank and serves the function as intended. I've entertained the notion of buying/finding cheap or free stuff to fix up and sell, but honestly the marketing/selling/dealing with people really doesn't thrill me, so I'll likely just do it for myself unless I find stuff that just begs to be flipped. And there is the fact that younger folks (under 50) just don't like most antique stuff right now.

Picked up a lovely antique parlor set (2 identical chairs and a settee) from a neighbor - free. He'd planned on fixing them up himself and decided he just didn't want to spend the time and was tired of storing. Belonged to his wife's grandparents so we're estimating they're from 1900-1930s. I can't place them myself but figure they're basic middle class furniture for whatever time period they are from. I love the understated rope carving detail and the chunky paw feet

The wood is solid and sturdy and under the layer of grime, looks to be in good shape. Stuffed with straw and horsehair and obviously needs to be reupholstered since it's all original. I've watched some basic tutorials and going to keep an eye on the clearance fabrics/batting and coupons. Already own an good staple gun, and plan to start on a chair (smaller and no springs to deal with) to start.

Anyone do basic upholstery/furniture on here? Or have a clue of what the style/time period this set may be from? Tips? Just want to talk antiques?

lthenderson

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Re: Taking up a new hobby: furniture restore/upholstery
« Reply #1 on: August 28, 2019, 06:59:01 AM »
Haven't done any myself but I'm halfway to building an easy chair for my living room that will require me to do some upholstery. I figured it would be a good project to learn by watching videos which is how i pick up most of my new skills these days. Unfortunately my house project addition/remodel project has probably sidelined the finish date of my chair well into next year.

AMandM

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Re: Taking up a new hobby: furniture restore/upholstery
« Reply #2 on: September 17, 2019, 01:09:10 PM »
I could be your neighbour!  I had a somewhat similar chair that I refurbished when it was just a matter of a new layer of batting and fabric. But after a few years of use, the fabric and batting gave out, and the springs started poking through. I kept the chair for several more years, thinking I would learn to do proper upholstery, but never got around to it. Finally I gave it away, as we don't have room for another chair anyway.

I still think upholstery would be a terrific skill to acquire. It is astonishingly expensive around here--typically more than a brand new, good quality piece of furniture.

Mrsweisass

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Re: Taking up a new hobby: furniture restore/upholstery
« Reply #3 on: September 21, 2019, 07:16:42 PM »
My understanding is that the straw and horsehair are very durable. You might want to do a bit more research before ripping them out. Foam may also be worth your consideration.

Frankies Girl

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Re: Taking up a new hobby: furniture restore/upholstery
« Reply #4 on: September 21, 2019, 10:56:01 PM »
Yup. The consensus is to gently wash the horsehair and allow to dry completely and reuse. I'm game to attempt it anyway, but sooooo much information about all the proper ways to do this and lots more of not really proper ways... ;)

And I'm still trying to figure out buying a fabric I'd like enough to live with for any length of time that won't look horrible on this set. Still, little to lose and something outside my comfort zone anyway.

former player

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Re: Taking up a new hobby: furniture restore/upholstery
« Reply #5 on: September 22, 2019, 12:53:42 AM »
I think that's a great idea - it's such a shame that solid wood furniture is discarded in favour of chipboard. So environmentally wasteful - mahogany is an endangered species now so bringing old mahogany furniture back into use is a great thing to do.

There seems to be a trend at the moment for reupholstering older furniture in very big, bright funky patterns, which makes it look very much more modern and appealing to younger people.  I could see a big green jungle leaf pattern working well on your set.

Roadrunner53

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Re: Taking up a new hobby: furniture restore/upholstery
« Reply #6 on: September 22, 2019, 05:42:54 AM »
I think this would be a fun hobby. I have dabbled in covering some furniture in new fabric but I can't say I knew what I was doing. I just used the old fabric as a pattern. It worked okay but I wasn't dealing with antiques either. I would suggest you do a little research on the basics of upholstering. Here are a few books from The Library of Congress:
https://archive.org/details/upholsteringguid00mack/page/6
https://archive.org/details/upholsterywithnu00hasl

You can go to Internet Archive and look up old books there too. So you have to 'borrow' which I am unfamiliar with but you will figure it out. Maybe even go to your public library and see what they have to offer in antique methods of upholstery.
Here is a detailed book:
https://archive.org/details/furnitureuphols00john?q=upholster

Here is an interesting website:
https://lefebvreupholstery.blogspot.com/2014/06/my-furniture-is-stuffed-with-what.html

Good luck and have fun!

thecampguy

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Re: Taking up a new hobby: furniture restore/upholstery
« Reply #7 on: September 25, 2019, 11:18:51 AM »
Yup. The consensus is to gently wash the horsehair and allow to dry completely and reuse. I'm game to attempt it anyway, but sooooo much information about all the proper ways to do this and lots more of not really proper ways... ;)

And I'm still trying to figure out buying a fabric I'd like enough to live with for any length of time that won't look horrible on this set. Still, little to lose and something outside my comfort zone anyway.

Some quick tips that I found helpful when I started to reupholster things.

1. Be careful when taking things apart as you use the old fabric as a pattern to cut out the new fabric.
2. Depending on what fabric you choose... pre-shrink it before cutting it. it will prevent stretch and sag and the end product will look better.
3. Solid fabrics don't require pattern matching :)
4. Be brave and have fun!

moneypitfeeder

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Re: Taking up a new hobby: furniture restore/upholstery
« Reply #8 on: January 18, 2020, 03:54:51 PM »
Have you tackled the project yet? Any photos? The set may be American empire which has a "greater emphasis on curved arms, cabriole legs, and ornate, paw or claw feet" from 1800 to 1840, but also might be victorian-era. I've done several upholstery jobs in the past (and I currently have a parlor set to refinish too). Attached are pics of my someday project. One thing I can say that is helpful, is to take plenty of pics as you remove the layers. I went with new foam/fiber for comfort on my projects and since they would not be worth much even if the had been restored vs reupholstered.
« Last Edit: January 18, 2020, 03:57:44 PM by moneypitfeeder »

Frankies Girl

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Re: Taking up a new hobby: furniture restore/upholstery
« Reply #9 on: January 18, 2020, 06:40:26 PM »
@moneypitfeeder

That's a beautiful parlor set! Definitely going to be lovely when redone.

I've not started on my set yet as the weather and other life stuff got in the way, but it's still something I plan on doing at some point this year. I've been window-shopping fabrics and unfortunately keep gravitating to some high dollar brocades that just seem silly to use for a beginner project. I am restraining myself at the moment. Mostly been hitting up thrift stores and watching neighborhood social media for postings of free/cheap fabrics.

Been watching a number of youtube videos of beginners taking on sets like this as well, and learned quite a bit about what not to do, and things I can likely not worry about as much (love that this type of upholstery generally has a braid/trim piece that covers the staples/nails used so it's not vital to get them perfect!)

I have thought mine to be possibly Empire period, wouldn't think it ornate enough to be from Victorian era, but there's chance it was just a lower middle class set (less money means less fancy from what I can tell).

AMandM

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Re: Taking up a new hobby: furniture restore/upholstery
« Reply #10 on: January 21, 2020, 10:12:31 AM »
I found lovely upholstery-weight fabric at affordable prices by stalking Ebay. I was looking for a certain colourway of a certain fabric for my living room windows, so I set up a search. It took a few months, but I got enough in the end. I figure if I'm going to spend all that time and labour, I want to love the end product, so I'll be choosy about the material.

Here's a possibly helpful post about upholstery fabric by a designer. It's aimed at designers, and the price/luxury level is way high, but some of the principles are applicable to DIYers too: https://laurelberninteriors.com/2018/06/19/decorating-mistakes-fabric/


moneypitfeeder

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Re: Taking up a new hobby: furniture restore/upholstery
« Reply #11 on: January 21, 2020, 02:25:58 PM »
@Frankies Girl Thanks! When I ever get around to working on them I'll post a before and after thread.

I found lovely upholstery-weight fabric at affordable prices by stalking Ebay.

That's where I found the last fabric I used on a rocker, it was a lovely, heavyweight fabric with a pattern of poppies. Thanks for the article, it has really great info on choosing fabrics that I didn't know about before. Shame on me, I made silk curtains at my last house without adding interlining (I did line them).

Sun Hat

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Re: Taking up a new hobby: furniture restore/upholstery
« Reply #12 on: January 23, 2020, 03:49:52 PM »
I've refurbished many pieces of furniture this way - and now have a house full of beautiful quality furniture that I paid either nothing or peanuts for.

My attempts at upholstery have tended to come out a bit loose, but I do have some tips for the wood parts.

For a durable finish that is forgiving to apply, try tung oil and Danish oil. Tung oil has become my particular favorite, since you never get streaks, and the finish is water resistant enough that I've never had a water mark on a piece afterwards. Danish oil goes on similarly, but can have added colour.

As for colour choice - when in doubt, use a lighter shade, because you can always add a darker colour on top, but removing a dark tint is a pain.

If you use a chemical stripper, use a plastic putty knife and extra fine steel wool to pull it off. Metal putty knives can gouge the piece, but the plastic ones won't (the stripper will soften the plastic quite a lot, so don't let your knife soak in the stripper).

I used to refinish furniture on my patio, but found that the sun would dry the stripper and finishes too fast. Try working indoors (if you have a very well ventilated area) or at least in the shade.

If you have the option to avoid having to repair chipped veneer, do. Even if you add wood filler to level out the gaps, it'll absorb the colour and finish differently than the surrounding wood and forever catch your eye. I'm okay with using putty on legs and feet, but I now avoid it on table tops and surfaces that I have to see every day.

jeninco

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Re: Taking up a new hobby: furniture restore/upholstery
« Reply #13 on: January 24, 2020, 11:07:29 AM »
Thanks for the inspiration! We have a couple of barstools that need to have the seats re-covered, and as soon as we figure out what the cats won't destroy (hint: the black faux-leather they came with is full of claw holes at this point, so not that) we'll get on it. It looks like it'll be a pretty easy job to start out with.