Reupholstered chair… Time for the muslin!

From the very inception of this project, I wanted to do it for free.  That’s because I’m broke, cheap, frugal, a thrifty consumer.  Because of this, you’ve seen me reuse foam I had on hand.  I also have the muslin fabric and the final fashion fabric on hand.

The fashion fabric is a really beautiful piece of gray stretch velvet that comes from my belly dance costuming stash.  As any lady knows, stretch velvet will show every lump, bump and wrinkle of whatever body is under it.  That’s why it’s important to make a muslin for this piece.

I don’t have any cotton or other plain cloth available at the moment, so I’m using a piece of cotton cordory that made my first ever sewing project – a skirt in 1979! ( My mom, who is a seamstress, saves fabric like you wouldn’t believe.)  I’ll have to do a bit of piecing to get it all done, but it’s a sturdy fabric (despite being over 30 years old).  I’ll be using it with the reverse side as good, so I’ll get a smooth finish.  Once it’s on and everything is snugged up, the velvet will just flow over the top.

And now, a confession.

I own not one, but two sewing machines.  My Singer dates from 1986 and was a university graduation present from my Grandparents.  My Mom chose it, and it is a thing of beauty.  My Kenmore is only 4 years old or so, and I bought it when the Singer was ill.  It’s more utilitarian, with many less stitches.  It’s also mostly plastic, while the Singer is mostly metal.

That being said, here’s the thing.

I’m a hand sewer.

Yup, I prefer sewing by hand.

Nope, I have no idea why.  I CAN use the machines.  In fact, I’ve done some pretty good work with them.  I just prefer to hand stitch.

Yup, I’m probably nuts.

But there’s something about handling the fabric and manually making it do what I want that just calls to me.  So, I hand stitch.  Almost everything.

Confession over.

You needed to know that, only because you need to know that you actually DON’T need a machine to do a muslin – or a finished cover.  You just need a needle, thread, fabric and time.  But, your mileage may vary.

Here’s mine.  This is not necessarily the best way. But it works for me!

First, I pieced two pieces together to form the back.  Because this area isn’t going to take as much strain as the front or the seat, it was a good choice for placement.

There are two different methods of connecting the back to the front.  In the first, I’d use a third piece of fabric to run between the front and the back.  This long strip removes any need for pleats or gathers.  The second involves just two fabric pieces, and they need to be pleated or gathered to account for the shape of the chair.

I want the finished cover to be as sleek and elegant as possible.  No piping, no gathers, no frills.  Because of this, I’ll use the boxing method to join the front to the back.

I start with cutting a long strip to run from one side of the chair back, up over the top, and back dowh the other side.  This piece is about an inch wider than the depth of the back – enough larger to let me pin and sew.  This strip got pinned to the chair.

With that done, I move to the backside and pin my pieced section to the boxing strip, centering the seam and leaving enough at the bottom to staple down.

Starting at the center top, I pinned the back to the boxing strip.  To do this, I moved from left to right all the way across and down.  That let me moulding the fabric against the back for the best fit possible.  Notice that I haven’t actually CUT anything but the boxing strip yet.  That will wait until I get a good pin fit.

Once the back and boxing strip have been pinned, I outlined my sewing line with a marker.

Now, I can unpin the back and cut it.  I allowed somewhere between 1/4 and 1/2 of an inch for a seam allowance.

Once I rough cut it, I folded the piece in half to even it up.  I’m not worried too much about small discrepancies, but having the shape flow the same on both sides is important.  When I evened the shape out, the  seam allowance disappeared in some areas.  That’s nothing to really panic about.  I’ll just use an equal seam allowance all around the piece.  The foam will squash down enough to allow for this.

I pinned the fabric together with the curvy back side facing me.  That let me follow the curves and make sure everything was pinned fairly evenly.  However, to keep my boxing strip the same width throughout, I’ll actually sew with the boxing strip up.  In my case, the cordurouy I’m using acts as a really convenient guide for seam allowance.

NOTE:  If I were using a woven fabric for the final layer, I’d use this to mark the fabric now.  Because I’m using a stretch fabric, though, I won’t be using this for a pattern.

I won’t bore you with photos of me hand sewing the two pieces together.  I’m pretty sure you’re smart enough to figure that part out on your own!

I’d really love to see your comments on the projects I do and the ideas I have.  I learn more from critiques than praise, but, honestly, I adore praise (and who doesn’t?).

Thanks for stopping by.


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