Category Archives: Projects

Upholstery: Calah made cushions! And wrote about them! (Part 2)

Last week I talked about HOW the idea came about to make cushions for the top panel of the chairs that Matt brought back to life.

Now I need to show you exactly how I tried to do that.

Step 2: Making the actual cushion.

FYI, that one janky edge over in the top left-hand corner was all me.
But, have no fear, it won’t matter once they’re covered.

Matt cut the actual foam with a Turkey-carving-knife-tool according to my measurements with the added 0.50″. You’ll see one of two cut foams in the picture above.

Now I’m thinking, great! I have the foam…now I just need to cover them and… BAM! Cushion made! It’s that easy, right? So, I went about cutting, sewing, and stitching a cover to wrap them: in the front with the fancy fabric, and around the back with the secondary fabric. See below:

This is my machine. I have had it since I was a little girl. My mom and I used to go to the art and craft expos and bask in the DIY glow. One year, while walking around the vendor tents, mom and I decided that we wanted to learn how to sew. So, mom bought this machine and we signed up for sewing classes at Michaels (or Jo-Anne Fabrics(?)–it’s been so long). Since then, we have made pillows, skirts, pajamas, curtains and more. We used to go to the annual bird expo too… but that’s for another time. At one point in my childhood, we had over 50 birds.

Ok enough chit chat. Here is how I went about making the cushions:

Foam, fabric, and template! Lesssgooooo
Traced the shape of my cushion onto the fancy fabric. (This is with the template that is 0.5″ smaller which will compress the foam and fill out my soon-to-be cushion cover nicely.)
I cut the fancy fabric to shape in order to wrap around the foam. That arrow there is to remind me which way is up (remember that the top edge of the panel is longer than the bottom edge).
A perfect fit (I hope)

This is the secondary fabric that will be up against the panel and hopefully not too visible once the cushion is attached. In this picture, I’m just making sure that I have enough fancy fabric to reach the secondary fabric. I probably should have done that before I went and cut up the fancy fabric… but it looks like I have enough! *high five*

Check out that gorgeous corner! I sewed the cover inside out so that my seams were nicely tucked inside the cushion. All of the seams were 0.25″.

I mean… can we just take a moment and look at that seam!!!

Me: Calah, you did good.
Also me: I know right?!

This is the fancy fabric cover inside out after I finished sewing the corners down. 1 of 2.
And now this is the fancy fabric cover, right side out.
If it fits, I can hopefully sits.
Oh boy! It’s looking like I’m really going places now!

I turned the cushion over to see if I was on the right track. It’s a bit baggy, but that should resolve once I sew on the secondary fabric because the fancy fabric will be pulled taut against the foam.

Checkpoint: So you can see that the fancy fabric was measured, cut, and sewn into shape to wrap around the foam. I intentionally left extra material on the fancy fabric’s edges JUST IN CASE. It’s always good to have some wiggle room.

The next part was to add the secondary fabric to the back part of the cushion. It was at this point where I needed to make a decision: Do I, essentially, sew the foam into this fabric cover or do I do something else that is different and likely nicer looking but a method that I also wasn’t sure would work?

So I got to work sewing the foam into the fabric cover like so:

Also, pins are sharp. Be careful.

The secondary fabric is pinned into place and ready to sew!

Check out that lovely seam.

Same seam but right-side out. GORGEOUS
Ok, this is looking good…
Peek-a-boo

Now I am at the step where I needed to actually close the cover and encase the foam. My brain told me to go like this: sew the top and bottom edges (parallel seams) so that I could then gracefully shove the foam into the cover from the smallest possible hole. Make sense, right? I thought so, too.

Parallel seams done. The two ends are still open.

Lesson learned in this step: Pins are sharp.

I went ahead and did the same thing for the second cushion. Now that I had both covers, I just needed to get the foam into them and secure the finished cushion to the chair.

More on that next week.

Upholstery: Calah made cushions! And wrote about them! (Part 1)

Hi! Calah here! I am going to be sharing how I made cushions for the first time ever… from scratch… like a boss.

First, let’s talk about WHY I took all of this time to make them (total time = 3 weeks).

Matt resurrected two previously really ugly and orange Craigslist chairs (if you don’t know what I am referring to, check out the earlier posts in his weekly woodworking blog. They drop every Tuesday at 10 am PT.

Ok, so, Matt finished the chairs a few weeks ago and they are delightfully comfortable–EXCEPT for the top wooden part of the chair’s back–you know the place where your spine hits as your sitting in the chair? Maybe it’s because I slouch (my mom was always reminding me to stand up straight), but whatever the reason, if I could just have some cushion on that area I’d be able to sit in those chairs for forever. So Matt suggested that I make some cushions. I thought to myself, I never made cushions before, but how hard could it be?

Here’s that adventure divided into multiple blogs for your entertainment.

Step 1: How TF do I make a cushion??!

I had to decide what these cushions would look like–fabric, size, how they’ll attach to the chair, etc. For consistency, I wanted the cushions to be the same fabric as what Matt used for the seat of the chairs. To make things easy, we are going to call this particular fabric fancy. I will be using a second fabric, and we’ll call that one secondary (creative, I know). I didn’t need to have the entire cushion covered in this fancy fabric mostly because it is a bit too stretchy for my taste, and I was concerned that it might sag in the long-run after consistently being pulled taut (you’ll see what I mean)… and also, why have it up against the back of the chair where no one gets to see it?

Enter: the secondary fabric! Matt and I have a massive tub of our combined fabric remnants, scraps, and old clothes that might come in handy one day for patching and such. A deep dive into that tub produced the perfect fabric for this role! I don’t know what kind it actually is… feels like denim but isn’t… it’s durable… does not stretch… and it’s brown. Perfecto.

Excellent!

THEN, once I chose the fabric, I got measurements on scratch paper of every length, width, height, of that top board. I must have measured and remeasured those panels a million times to be sure that I had it right.

Here is what that looked like.
(I took scratch paper and taped them together to make sure the template was long enough)

So, in case you can’t see the notes on the paper, the actual sizes of the panel are: bottom edge length = 17.5″, top edge length = 18.25″, height = 4.75″ (see top paper in this picture). But, according to this YouTube video by SailRite, I should add 0.25″ to all sides of the foam when I cut it (I assumed this allowed for foam compression). So, the foam’s measurements would have, essentially, 0.50″ added to the length and width (see middle paper in this picture) . We were working with 2″ deep piece of foam, so that part was not going to change.

I decided that since I had the measurements and the fabric, the next best step was to make the actual cushion. Premature? Likely. I still wasn’t sure how I was going to attach the darned things to the panel.

But, more on that next time.

Woodworking: First-ever cushions project (final part)

The search for the fabric I’d use started with what I had in my fabric bin already. There were all kinds of soft fabrics and denims. Calah wasn’t keen on those but recommended some fabrics of her own. Lauren got involved and sent me inspiration like:

Dandelion Clocks by Sanderson

Looks cool, but at a minimum of $174 because you have to buy at least a 56sqft, it’s a little outside the price range.

Lucienne Day Riga Green!

Interesting in concept, but it’s £95 per metre–whatever that even means!

Feasible!

At only $24.99 a yard, it’s certainly the most reasonable of suggestions, but there’s no guarantee it would look good in person. I also didn’t know how durable it would be. I was thinking that I’ll do all this work, spill something on the chair, and then there’s a big stain and I’m sad.

I kept looking and found a metric that I hadn’t thought of: butt durability!

Think about it! You have a seat cushion, and that means people sit down. How many times can someone sit down and stand up before the fabric goes away altogether?

The industry has a different term for butt durability. That term is Double Rubs!

I found a fabric that is rated to 50,000 Double Rubs!

Richloom Studio Upholstery Vinyl Hensen Dove

The color and durability rating seemed to be consistent with what I needed, so I bought it. It feels like mid-century fake leather, so that seemed good.

The next step was to cut the fabric and turn it into cushions.

After careful measuring and adding on some extra, I had my first piece.

I stretched the fabric around the board and used Calah’s electric staple gun to put the first staples in place, starting from the middle and going out from there. But with the first staples in, I wanted to see if it even could look good.

I kept going.

I then remembered that I needed to drill an air hole so the cushion could deflate and inflate properly. But I got it in time.

Every so often, I didn’t hold the staple gun firmly against the board as a pressed the trigger, and I got some squishes. Every time that happened was a new unpleasantness.

It took a while, but I learned to press the trigger with my index finger only and smoothly while keeping the rest of my hand stable.

It’s not like it really mattered because it was a first go, and I’d have to redo the whole thing anyway.

Womp womp.

The corners are a real bear.

I reassessed and realized I had the opportunity to build in a way to keep the cushions in place while also being removable for cleaning!

I bought anchors.

40Pcs Anwenk 1/4″-20 x 15mm Furniture Screw in Nut Threaded Wood Inserts Bolt Fastener Connector Hex Socket Drive for Wood Furniture Assortment (with Hex Spanner)

and the corresponding screws

1/4-20 x 1-1/4″ Button Head Socket Cap Bolts Screws, 304 Stainless Steel 18-8, Allen Hex Drive, Bright Finish, Fully Machine Thread, Pack of 25

I also had to do a little more planing to get everything aligned just right.

I took the anchors out to staple the fabric in place. Once complete, I added a layer of thin fabric to the underside and replaced the anchors.

Ultimately, the result wasn’t perfect, but I’ll take it!

You might say, “Hey! That’s not the same chair as in the photos above!” You’re right! It’s a set of two, and this was a better photo.

Woodworking: First-ever cushions project (Part 5)

I had to find foam and fabric for the cushions. Without foam and fabric, it’s just a wooden seat. Now, we’ve all sat in comfortable wooden seats. Some of the most comfortable seats are just wood–especially if you’ve only had the choice between wooden seats and stone seats. But the comfortable wooden seats are not flat boards. And I just had flat boards.

The old foam from the gross, original seats maxed out at two inches in thickness, so I figured that was the way to go. I looked around for dense foam, but I’d gotten upholstery foam at Jo-Ann before for another project, so I was just comparing everything to Jo-Ann. Also Jo-Ann coupons generally are pretty good, and there’s no real competition anymore on a budget, so that seemed to resolve itself.

A yard of 2″ foam.

There are many methods for cutting foam. There are fewer good methods for cutting foam. Some videos and blogs advise using a razor blade because it’s so easy! Those people live in a universe that isn’t mine. Other people say that using a bread knife or offset serrated knife will do it just fine. I, too, was surprised at how strong the serrated knife lobby is.

Everything I came across on the topic advised to trace the boards first.

The only real thing to use to cut upholstery foam is an electric cutting knife. I’d never used one before, but they’re pretty nifty. I was surprised.

$15 is more than I’d wanted to spend, but meh.

The result looked to be pretty good, too!

The next thing I had to think about was batting. Batting is like mattress material?

Soft and cheap, but it is it worth it?

Since batting is new to me, my mind kept wanting to call it bunting. But bunting is this:

From iAmEricas Flags. iAmericas or I Am Ericas. Great.

Batting is supposed to add more cushion and complement the foam. It’s a nice touch. But it meant more to buy for such little benefit that the neither the original cushions nor the dining room chairs I recently discarded incorporated it. I passed.

Then there was the topic of fabric. More on that topic next week.

Woodworking: First-ever cushions project (Part 4)

I had struggled to get a clean, chamfered edge with sandpaper. I learned that I really should have been using a plane all along.

I found some planes specifically for chamfering on Amazon. YOU PROBABLY DO NOT NEED THIS PLANE.

Buying the plane wasn’t necessarily a bad decision because it taught me why I should not have bought this plane. It also reinforced the idea that if there are a bunch of products that look identical and have the same spelling errors in the descriptions, go for the absolute cheapest one because there won’t be a different.

It was $9.99 when I bought it. Now it’s up to $17.99.

It’s not that the plane itself is bad or that the concept is bad, it’s that the plane itself is bad and the execution is bad.

It’s not nearly sharp enough, the bubble level feature is beyond useless because it accomplishes nothing and makes you wonder why it’s there. And since it won’t break easily, it gives no immediate reason throw it away.

What attracted me to it is that it’s got a consistent 45 degree angle for chamfering. No attention has to be paid to make sure you’ve got a consistent angle, and you can take off material consistently along the edge because the blade encroaches on the corner at a fixed depth relative to the corner guides.

The problem is that the edge guides rub against the rest of the wood. That both leaves a mark and creates resistance that is annoying.

This plane was a better purchase. The blade is sharper (and easier to sharpen when that becomes necessary), and it’s substantially more comfortable to hold.

I started off with what I’d managed to get out of the chamfer-specific plane.

I then took more material off pretty quickly.

And then more. Rotating it as I went to get all the sides.

I’m very happy with the small plane for this kind of work.

The rounded edges made me feel comfortable that I could wrap fabric around without causing tears.

But which fabric?

More next week.

Woodworking: First-ever cushions project (Part 3)

I left off last week in my seat cushion project having purchased the plywood boards I wanted but without a way to cut them to size. In a complete nonadventure, I purchased the jigsaw blades from amazon.

I had done a lot of research into which blades I needed because jigsaw blades come in many teeth arrangements. I learned that a 10 TPI (teeth per inch) blade is good for plywood, so that’s what I used. I got a multipack, so now I have ample supply. Also I guess there is no immediate need to expand my DeWalt set to include a cordless jigsaw because I have all these U-shank blades. Longtime readers of this blog know how my DeWalt set continues to expand.

Finally equipped with the tools I needed to cut the boards to size, it became a matter of tracing and actually cutting.

Rather than measuring, I used the perfect stencil: the prior seat board! And, lined up, it looked pretty good to me. And I did the same with the other chair so I could knock out

I clamped the board to my table, which is a super important step when cutting so it doesn’t chatter away or get grabbed and stuck in the teeth of the saw and just go out of control.

Then to the cutting. Now, I hadn’t used a jigsaw in I don’t know how long, so I was hopeful that I wouldn’t screw things up. I checked that the blade was firmly in place because, as I mentioned, this is a U-shank blade. A T-shank blade is supposed to snap into place without such concerns. Like how my impact driver bits snap into place for a quick change without having to tighten a chuck. I’ve not used a T-shank jigsaw, but this is my understanding of it.

That went well. Apparently, I have no pictures of the first cuts, but I do for the second board.

Things were looking up. The jigsaw was very easy to use.

I had spent all that time researching how to get pre-cut boards, and all it took to get some in this shape was a few quick cuts.

I was well on my way, sure, but the edges were rough. I had to find a way to chamfer them. But with all my tools, I didn’t have any planes. And I’d long learned my lesson that trying to sand a corner is a tedious process that makes lots of dust and is unreliable for a uniform surface.

I began to research planes. More on that next week.

Woodworking: First-ever cushions project (Part 2)

A cushion is made of three basic parts: the cover we all see, the padded part we know is there, and the board that is the structural foundation.

I had figured that cushions are somewhat standardized, so I should probably just be able to buy new cushions instead of making my own. I spent hours trying to find sites that sold seat cushions. I found one that sells to churches, but the reviews were mixed at best, and the cushions weren’t the proper size.

I tried to find just the boards that had been precut to the proper size.

But there was no luck.

Finally I watched enough YouTube videos to be convince that I needed to cut my own boards.

Luckily for me, Calah has a jigsaw. Unfortunately, she didn’t have blades for the jigsaw.

But that was OK because I didn’t have any wood to cut.

The boards that had been used for the old cushions were 3/8″-thick crap plywood. Just three plies, and there were gaps all over the place. Knots in the wood added further inconsistencies and gaps.

Cushions don’t have to be pretty all the way through, but since the old boards had lost integrity, I wanted to start off with something better. It’s possible that the crap boards had only recently started to sag, but there was no guarantee of that being the case. Though, of course, I had wandered around to see if there was any abandoned plywood that had been used to board up windows in the area before deciding the best move was to buy new plywood.

After some research, I decided to go with 1/2″, 7-ply plywood from lowe’s. I ordered it online for curbside pickup along with jigsaw blades.

This jigsaw is designed for U-shank blades, but quicker-change, T-shank blades are the new standard. No matter, there were many packs of U-shank shown as in stock at the local Lowe’s, so I was fine ordering those.

But when I went to pick up my order, they informed me that they didn’t have the U-shank blades after all.

I left Lowe’s with the wood I needed but nothing to cut with.

More on this next week.

Woodworking: First-ever cushions project (Part 1)

This cushions series is related to the chairs series. Last week I shared that the frames turned out pretty nicely, but my college roommate’s reaction to a picture of them was that they “looked like a torture device from [2006 James Bond film] Casino Royale.” No link or picture. You can look that up.

My initial idea was to wrap the original cushions in a fabric. There are many YouTube videos that explain how easy it is to reupholster cushions simply by rewrapping them.

Given the work it seemed like it would be to entirely redo the cushions, that sounded ideal.

The cushions couldn’t be used as they were. The one in better condition looked like it had been stabbed a bunch of times with a paring knife.

The one that was in worse condition looked like it had been sliced open by Doug from Scrubs.

Wrapping the stabby one seemed like it could work! And I have fabrics galore for that to be a valid approach.

But first I decided to see if there was any significance to the markings on the cushions.

3101?

Tyson 23 x 20?

21 x 25?

What I didn’t want to do was destroy something that would be Antiques Roadshow-worthy.

Mind you, the chairs had been painted orange, and I had refinished them, including tearing through some veneer, but maybe there was something to these chairs after all.

I went to reddit with these questions. If anyone would know, it would be various reddit communities. The woodworking ones certainly are eager to o-pine.

There were various interpretations. None of them was correct. Also none of them indicated that the chairs and cushions had any value. I was free to do what I wanted.

I had fabric, Calah’s staple gun, cushions to reupholster.

But then I realized that the boards for the seats were sagging.

If I couldn’t trust the integrity of the seats themselves — and now clearly I couldn’t — simple reupholstery would not suffice.

I had to start anew.

More next week!

Woodworking: First-ever chairs project (Part 10 frame finale)

I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. The chairs were physically coming together nicely. I cannot overstate the level of relief because it looked so unlikely partway through.

My favorite finish is teak oil. I’ve written before about how I like that it protects the wood from within rather than a layer that rests on top like polyurethane. I also like how it pulls out the grain of the wood rather hiding it under a stain.

Yeah, it’s very clear where I sanded right through the veneer, but based on where I stared, I kinda like it. You know, in the way that I’ll be more careful next time.

Despite the darkness of the wood, I intentionally used the Minwax stainable filler so it would stand out. For future projects, I’m considering venturing into making my own wood filler, but that wasn’t something I wanted to do for these. The wood exposed that had been hidden by the veneer played a part in this decision.

The arm that had the tear-outs couldn’t stay that way.

I repaired the damaged arm with contrasting wood filler and sanded it smooth to be flush with the arm.

The light color serves as an accent there, too, and an intentional exposure of the flaws.

Ultimately, the chairs came out pretty nicely. I learned that this type of chair is called a ladder-back chair. I’m uncertain if this is more deco than it is modern or the reverse. I feel like it’s a good fit with a modern furniture style.

Additionally exciting was that this is what I’d expected upon breaking through the orange paint.

The rich, deep color of the wood and the accompanying glowing reflection in sunlight is just what I hope for whenever I use teak oil, and I was not disappointed here at all.

But there was something very obviously missing from these.

My venture into cushions starts next week.

Woodworking: First-ever chairs project (Part 9)

I decided to go with torx deck screws to replace the flathead ones I’d removed earlier.

While it seems unnecessary screws to hold the legs on if the dowels are glued properly, my expectation is that the manufacturer decided that it’s easier to mass produce chairs if you use glue and screws instead of glue and clamps.

I decided to mostly take that approach, too. I needed to use clamps to make sure things sat properly, but I used screws to hold everything in place and under pressure.

I didn’t expect to be able to rely fully on the screws to exert the same pressure as the Irwin clamps I got that exert over 300 lbs of pressure. The dowels would certainly sit properly as a result of the clamps, and the screws could take over holding them in place.

So I could switch focus to the cross pieces that have no screws to hold them in place. They’d have to dry with the clamps like normal.

With flathead/slotted screws, there’s major concern about slip-outs and head stripping. There’s nothing to keep the driver in place at high speed. With the torx deck screws, there’s no such concern.

Also it’s a good way to get rid of some dust.

With everything screwed in place, I reached for the wood filler.

And with every necessary thing patched, the next step would be light sanding and then teak oil.

More next week.