Sunday, October 27, 2013

A New Twist on an Old Children's Seat

A Year Ago I Got These Chairs For Free and They've Been Sitting in My Garage Until Now

So, that's my title (not much room for interpretation there), but I'm really not sure what to subtitle this post... I'm wavering between these bi-lines...

  • The "Reason I Desperately Needed to Upgrade my Glue Gun" Project

  • The "This is Probably a Great Time to Commit a Crime Because My Fingerprints Are All Burned Off" Project

  • The "I'm Really Sick of Home Depot" Project

  • The "Should I Just Decoupage Something Directly to My Floor Since I Knocked Over the Whole Jug Anyway?" Project

This project needs a little introduction, because I didn't acquire these beauties by my usual means (Craigslist, Flea Market, or Tag Sale). No, no, not these. These, my friends, were taken directly from a dumpster (previously I've been known to save furniture from a dumpster, but this time I went a step further). Well, to be fair, they were sitting next to the dumpster, but they were most certainly on their way to the dump (I know that for a fact because I called the establishment and asked about them. And the manager was more than happy that I was willing to take them). And I took them.

But why, you ask? Why would someone take all those ugly old classroom child-size chairs? What would anyone ever want to do with those? Well, the answer is simple: I didn't know. But I do know that at the time I was fantasizing about opening my own shop, and the thought occurred to me that I could create a cool little kids area and incorporate those chairs... maybe I'd spray paint the legs or something (in fact, I did try spraying the legs on a few of them, but the result was never what I was looking for). And, alas, my shop is still nonexistent, and the chairs remain in my garage. All but one, that is!

Bear with me a moment while I digress... a few months ago, when my husband and I were having a small argument discussion, he referred to all of my "projects" out in the garage as CRAP. Now, he's usually very supportive, but it was true that I was consuming more and more space in the garage... and I can see that as being a little irritating, especially since a lot of my "Projects-in-Waiting" are literally just taking up space until I'm randomly struck with some bolt of inspiration. And sometimes that takes a while... case in point: these 12 or so kids classroom chairs that have been sitting in our garage for over a year (yikes, when I put it like that, I kinda can't blame him).

Fast forward a few months, and I happen to inherit some more supplies for the "Inspiration Waiting to Happen" category (thankfully Ben wasn't around to witness it). My next-door neighbor, a fine seamstress, bestowed upon me a gigantic garbage bag full of upholstery-grade fabric samples. She told me I could toss them if I didn't want them, but she had no use. This bag consisted of 100+ fabric swatches, ranging in size from about 4"x4" to 1/4 yd. I had no idea what I would do with them, but I took them (in classic Thrifter fashion). I figured I'd regret it if I didn't.

And here's where this project all comes together. One day I sat on the floor of my craft room and decided to tackle the fabric samples. I began putting them into piles based on size and potential "usability." I was feeling scattered and disorganized and a bit defeated. Here I was, sitting in a mess of fabric swatches, paper scraps, tangled yarn, and fallen pushpins (ok so it wasn't just the fabric I was tackling, it was my entire disaster zone of a craft room), and as I looked over at the ugly orange chair in the corner of my room, I started feeling even worse. What was wrong with me? Why did I accumulate all of this CRAP (yes, I said it! Clearly, he had gotten into my head.)? Why do I do this? And, suddenly, it hit me: one of those fabric samples would make a much prettier finish than the bright orange plastic of that hideous chair.

And so it began; the process is explained (and shown) below for anyone who may ever want to replicate something like this... but be forewarned: this project made a mess of my craft room. Not that that's anything out of the usual, but it did. And it still smells a little funny... I'm not sure if it was the excessive amounts of hot glue or the rope itself, but it's going to need some more time to air out. And I just about burned my fingers off. I literally had to buy a bigger glue gun because I was having to replace the stick on my mini way too frequently. And I had to run out to Home Depot twice during the project. Oh, and I knocked over my whole jug of Modge Podge, too. But all of that could be avoided with a little more planning and patience :)

BUT, on the bright side, remember that guy {my loving husband who's getting a bad rap today} who called my Projects-in-Waiting "CRAP?" Well, when he saw the completed chair, he said, "Wow! This is incredible! You could sell these!" And I thought that was pretty nice. So even if we don't always see eye-to-eye on my incessant DIY-ing, it feels pretty good when someone you love genuinely tells you that they like what you did :)

DIY Kids Chair Makeover Tutorial

  • Plastic and Metal Kids Chair (although other sizes would work, too!)
  • Home Decor Fabric
  • Modge Podge / Decoupage and Foam Brush
  • Fabric Batting (like this one from Hobby Lobby. I happened to use this kind because I had it leftover from quilts, but you don't need to get the most expensive kind)
  • Hot Glue Gun and Glue (lots!)
  • 2 Widths of Manila Rope (I needed two of the 1/4 size and one of the larger;I got mine at Home Depot: Everbilt Manila Rope 1/4" x 50'). I used the 1/4" width and the next size up for the finishing pieces. This was the same type of rope I used for the Nautical Hardware Tutorial.

Process In Detail For Those Who Like to Read:

1. "Upholster" the Seat of the Chair

  1. Apply a layer of Modge Podge to the seat of the chair.
  2. Place the fabric batting on top of the Modge Podge. Trim around the ends.
  3. Put more Modge Podge on top of the batting.
  4. Place your fabric on top of that layer (come to think of it, this is sort of like making lasagna).
  5. You have a choice now. You can trim your fabric a bit (I would leave an extra 1.5" or so from the edge) or you can leave it as it is (and that's what I did because I was afraid this whole process might now work and I wanted to be able to preserve the fabric).
  6. Using a combination of hot glue, modge podge, and/or any other appropriate adhesive, wrap your fabric ends around the sides and attach them to the bottom of the chair. Just make it stick-how much glue or time you need will probably depend, so just see what works here. You can see how mine worked out in the LAST process picture below.
2. "Upholster" the Back of the Chair 
  1. Now you need to tackle the back side of the back of the chair, which is tricky because of that big metal bar. What I did was try to surround the bar with some bunched-up batting to try to even the size out. It worked okay. I'm sure there's a better solution, but that's what I did. After that, proceed as below.
  2. Follow steps 1-4 above (now, I had enough fabric that I was able to drape mine over the whole chairback and could work with that single piece. If you need to use two separate pieces, just apply them separately).
  3. TRIM around the ends. This got a little tricky because it was scary to trim too close to the chair for fear that there would be a huge gap, so I erred on the side of not trimming too close, which I regretted later because there was too much fabric to deal with. So don't be scared to trim closely. Remember, you can cover up little mistakes later with the rope.
  4. Once both sides have fabric applied, it's time to finish the chair-back around the edges with rope (I like this part because I get to hide my many mistakes). Using your wider width rope and your hot glue gun, glue along the edge of the chair where both sides of the fabric meet. Go all the way around.
3. Wrap the Metal Portions with Rope
  1. This is really just like it sounds. Simply apply hot glue, the start wrapping the rope. This is the spot where you'll probably end up getting burned a few times :). Wrap wrap wrap wrap and continue to wrap for a while. It was also somewhere around here I ran out of rope.
4. Find Your Mistakes and See if You Can Cover Them Up
  1. The cool thing about this rope is that it's really good at "smushing" together and covering mistakes. So at this point I just looked around the edges of the chair for gaps that weren't filled, and I just hot glued rope right into them. I did it A LOT. I think you'll be able to see in the pics. 


Process In Pics For The Visual Learners:

So if you have a weird DIY {and free stuff} obsession like me, this just may be the project for you! Take it or leave it, I hope this post gave you some enjoyment at least.

But that's not the last you'll be seeing of these chairs, I'm sure. Remember, there are at least 11 more! So here's where you come in. IDEAS! What would you do with them? Please, help! I need some more inspiration coming my way :)


  1. What a cute idea! As for the rest of them, why not invite your mom friends over, ask them to bring fabric and rope and have a "make it take it" chair design party:)

    1. That's an awesome idea! Because even if I did have the time (or energy) to finish them all, what the heck would I do with them?! Love this. Will have to see if I can round up some crafters! Anyone in the CT area? Let me know!!

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks so much Maryann! Have a great weekend!

  3. Wow! What a fantastic make-over! Whodathunk? So creative!

  4. Thanks, Amanda! Have a great weekend!


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.