Oh go DIY-yourself.

So…we have these chairs.  Chairs that Chas bought BC – before Carrie.  They are GREAT chairs.  Definitely comfy, but not so overstuffed that they look like big marshmallows and make it difficult for you to stand up and get away from them.  Only problem – they’re red.  And I just am not that into them.  I could go on about the nuances of the fabric being the real reason I don’t like them…blah blah blah.  Here’s a picture.

Hello!! I'm a nice chair, really I am.

Oh, did I mention that another reason I don’t like these chair is that MY cat, before he was declawed (don’t be a hater, we did the laser declaw, it.was.awesome) used parts of the chairs as a scratching post.

After living with the red chairs for a few years, I finally decided I would slipcover them.  There was a great sale on Pottery Barn, and I really thought I had found these great slipcovers and they were going to make these chairs awesome.  A year or so later, and the chairs look like this:

THIS was supposed to be an improvement.

Seriously, they were horrible.  And FYI, it’s a total hassle to iron those puppies, so they rarely got ironed.  They were just all around sloppy and I hated them.  Soooooo, as I was cruising around some of my favorite home improvement blogs, I somehow found my way to a post where the author detailed her efforts at making a custom slipcover for a chair.  Turns out, she had put together a little “e-book” that would tell you all about how to do it.  She called it The Lazy Girl’s Guide to Slipcovering. Right about now, you’re thinking, um, HELLO, did you not learn your lesson with the pale yellow monstronsities currently ugly-ing up your living room?  HA!  I say, but this lady was going to show me how to make CUSTOM ones that would fit MY chairs exactly – and there would be separate covers for the cushions!  AAAAAAND, it was going to be uber easy – (she promised!) after all it was the “lazy girl’s guide” and it said all I needed were “simple sewing skills.”

Now to refresh your memory, I have owned a sewing machine for all of a year or two. I have used it for ONE project. Seriously, one.  I made this, kind of:

I had to get a picture of the kid in here somehow.

And by I made this – I mean, I made the hood, the tail, added some “claws” to the feet, and made a few other improvements to a pair of footed pajamas for Carter’s Halloween costume this year.  SO….as far as experience sewing, let’s just say…yeah I don’t have so much.  BUT, here’s how my logic goes when I want to try something new: “How hard can it be?  I went to law school, and I passed the bar the first time I took it.”  Yeah, I’m not kidding.  Let me assure you that sewing has absolutely nothing to do with law school or taking the bar.

SO…my mom wanted to hang out with Carter for a few days, and I thought, according to the instructions, I should be able to “knock out” these slipcovers (oh yeah, I was making two!) in a couple days, with some time for napping as well.  On Monday I went and selected my fabric – the book warned me against trying stripes my first time out, but what does she know?!  Remember..I went to law school!  I can match stripes up!  How hard can it be?!

Tuesday, I awoke full of excitement about my project and brimming with enthusiasm to hit the ground running.  I got out my sewing machine and a few other supplies:

A clippy for my hair, because I.MEAN.BUSINESS, and a cell phone so I could make panicked phone calls to my mommy.

I’m not going to describe the process in detail, but let’s just say it took me a FULL DAY, yes full day to just cut and pin the fabric together for the frame of the chair.  And OUCH those dang pins hurt.  SO….at the end of day one, this is what I had – a bunch of fabric pinned together on ONE chair.  Here, see for yourself.

I know you're impressed.

Wednesday, I woke with most of the excitement from the day before.  Today was the day I was going to put my sewing skills to use and sew.this.slipcover.  Oh yeah…until I broke (broke!) two needles in less than 10 minutes, had general sewing machine operation troubles, and oh yeah, had to keep putting the slipcover back on the chair because once you have 5 yards of fabric all cut up and pinned together, it’s kind of hard to keep track of which part you’re sewing.  So…..after all day Wednesday, I had a slipcover for the frame of one of my chairs.  No cushion covers, nothing started on the second chair.  I did think the chair looked pretty good though- and matching the stripes really wasn’t that difficult.  Now, pinning the fronts of the arms..entirely different story.  Here’s the final product – day two.

Oooooh I still have such a long way to go.

So, I called in the reserves on day 3, Thursday.  My mom was bringing Carter back, and I begged her to help me make progress on the cushions and 2nd chair.  She has much better sewing skills.  Apparently, this whole project would have been much easier if I had not had my heart set on having piping to accent the front of the arms as well as the cushions.  Oh yeah, and duh, of course I wanted skirts for the chairs….with piping.  Here’s my mom work work working away on the cushions:

I don't know why companies export labor. This seamstress works for CHEAP. As in hugs and kisses from the grandchild.

The sewing machine totally gave my mom fits as well.  At one point I was headed to the store to just buy another one, when my mom googled “my sewing machine sucks” or something like that and found a solution to our problem.  Lesson learned!  By this time, this whole DIY experiment was beginning to get old.

What do I care?! They're still not going to let me on the furniture.

This is what the house looked like as we closed up our sweatshop for the evening.

two cushions done (right) tomorrow we tackle the 2nd chair.

Friday arrived, and I’d be lying if I said that I was rip roaring and ready to get started on the final chair.  This was the chair that my mom kept saying would go “soooo much faster.”

And you know, it did go faster.  We actually finished everything but the skirt on the second chair on that Friday (I needed more piping).  It had been 4 days since I started my little project.    Mom came back on Sunday, and we did the final final stuff – and after she left, I sewed all the tie closures on the cushion covers.

In the end, things I learned:

1.  Take estimated timelines for online DIY projects with a grain of salt – just decide whether you want to do them badly enough and do them or don’t.  Miss Lazy Girl might be able to make slipcovers in a day, but obviously I don’t have her skills.

2.  Piping adds a LOT of hassle to otherwise simple projects. (but gosh it makes them look better)

3.  You can re-cover two chairs for less than $200.  Yes, that’s right – materials for this project cost less than $200 TOTAL.

OH…and the final reveal:

Chair Number 1

Chair Number 2

I have packed the sewing machine away for a while….but honestly, I’m already checking out the ottoman in our living room….the fabric is looking pretty old and icky.  (I passed the bar the first time!)

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This entry was posted in Cool decorating stuff, I will never get my house "tasseled out.", Projects and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Oh go DIY-yourself.

  1. Emily C says:

    Carrie,
    I’m still impressed!! There is NO way I would even know where to begin…

  2. Allie says:

    I’ve seen these chairs in the first two stages and never thought they looked bad. After going over to see the final, finished product they look fantastic. Great job Carrie….Todd might have a couch circa 1977 that needs a slip cover (or a trip to the dump) that you could help me “change”!

  3. chelsea says:

    Your chairs look AWESOME!!! But seriously…I know this upholstery guy….his name is Dennis. He lives in Bastrop….and he is awesome (and cheap). Let me know when you need his contact info for the next project!

  4. carriesemple says:

    Chelsea- You are SO sweet. And I would definitely like the name of your upholstery guy. I have a few other chairs that could use some TLC but are way above my pay grade as far as DIY goes.

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