September 26, 2012

How to Turn a Cane Backed Chair into a Parsons Chair

Hello again! Going along with my quest for the perfect Dining Room Set I needed to find something to do with the cane backed chairs that came with my dining table.  I'm really not a fan of cane backed chairs, so I came across a blog post about how to turn them into Parsons Chairs! How wonderful!  You can view her original post here, but if you don't want to click, here's a tutorial on how I did mine.

First, here are the original chairs that we're dealing with.  There are 4 of them.

 
During one of the later steps, I discovered that these were built in the 1920s!!  And yes, that is the original fabric...it basically fell apart in my hands it was so old.
 
And here is the finished product!!
 
 
Quite a difference huh?! Now on to the tutorial!!
 
Supplies:
Upholstery Fabric
This was a LARGE chair, and I have 4 of them to do, so I bought 6 yards of fabric.  The people at the fabric store really were a big help with trying to figure out how much I'd need! NOTE: I did not use all 6 yards to complete these chairs.  I'm not really sure how much I did use though...there seems to be a lot left...hmm, curtains? :)
Spray Paint (I chose black)
A coarse sand block or sand paper
A fine sand block or sand paper
Wood stain
Q-Tips
Several Rags or old T-Shirts
Screwdriver
Staple Gun
Paper (I used newspaper)
Spray Adhesive
Cardboard
Masking Tape
Gorilla Glue (or really strong all purpose glue)
NOTE: Elmer's school glue will not work
Pillow
Measuring Tape
Scissors
 
How To:
These first few steps don't have pictures, because I did most of this before I started blogging. Sorry. :)
First take your screwdriver and remove the seat from your chair.  You will need to remove the old fabric from the seat of your chair if it is really old like mine. In most cases though, you can just recover the new fabric onto the existing seat cushion.  My fabric is very silky and somewhat thin, so I didn't want the old textures coming through.
 
NOTE: It is really important to use upholstery fabric.  This is something that you will be sitting on, not just something to look pretty. You want it to stand up the test of time and last longer than 1 use.  If you have children and they will be using these chairs...two words...SCOTCH GUARD. Actually, it's not a bad idea even if you don't have children, or if they will not be using it.  My husband spilled Cherry Coke on our chair about a week after I finished it.  It took him 4 hours to get it clean.
 
Then use your seat as a template to cut out your fabric for your seat cushion.  Make sure to add 2 - 3 inches around your cushion so that it will wrap around and secure easily to the underside of the seat.  I cut a very large square.
 
Starting at the middle of one side, attach the new fabric with a staple gun to the underside of your seat.  After the first side is in place, don't hesitate to pull and stretch the fabric across the seat before your staple.  Otherwise, you will have a very wrinkled looking seat cushion.  Set your finished seat aside.


 
So now, your chair should look like so:
 

 
Next take your coarse sand block/paper and sand off the "gloss" from your chair.  You only need to sand off the bottom half of your chair. From the "waist" down if you will. Make sure you sand off the back of the chair below the cane as well.  This will show in the finished product.
 
 
You do not need to take it all the way down to the bare wood, just take the gloss finish off.  This will let the paint actually adhere to your chair.  When all is sanded, make sure you wipe it down with a DAMP rag.  You want to make sure you get all the little sand bits off the chair.  It will ruin your finish if you don't.
 
 
After you've wiped the chair down, spray paint it in your color choice. Again, you will only need to paint about halfway up. No need to paint the top of the chair because you are going to cover it with material anyway.
 
 
I used Rustoleum Spray Enamel in Black Satin finish for my chairs.  I don't like a lot of gloss, but there are so many choices and finishes...get creative!!
 
All painted!
 


 
Don't worry about painting the inside of the chair because your seat will cover it.  You do need to paint the top of the seat portion though, in case your cushion doesn't cover all the edges. Make sure to let your paint dry.  My particular paint takes 24 hours to dry completely, so this whole process takes a few days.
 
***If you want that ever popular Pottery Barn look, then the next few steps are for you...if not, just skip ahead to the assembly steps!!
 
To distress your furniture, you will need your fine sand block/paper.  Give your entire chair another sanding all over.  Make sure to concentrate on the edges and creases to "take off" the paint from these areas.  The more you sand, the more worn it will look, again, this is custom so have at it!!
 
 
I don't like much distressing, so this doesn't take long for me.
 
 
Then wipe your chair down again with your DAMP rag.  You don't want fine colored dust all over you or your guests' clothing. :) 
 
Then take your wood stain and a Q-Tip. Dip the Q-Tip into the stain and "paint" all of the exposed areas that you just sanded off.  If you like, you can also take a clean rag and stain the whole chair by dipping the rag in the stain and applying it directly to the entire chair. Painted portion only of course. I used Minwax Wood Stain in Provincial.
 
 
 
Make sure to let the stain sit for a couple of minutes, then wipe it off with a DRY rag.  This will remove any excess stain, again, saving your clothing from ruin.
 
Here is the chair stained and finished.
 
 
Notice how the stain colored the wood to create less of a contrast. 
Yet, it still looks worn and expensive! :)

Let this stain dry another 24 hours or so and then you'll be ready to assemble your chair!!
 
***If you skipped ahead, stop now! This is information you will need to finish your chair. :)
 
You'll need to make a template with paper of the back of your chair.  This will help you to know the pattern to cut out your cardboard.  After you've created your template, trace it onto your cardboard. I used a shipping box that we had in our recycle area.  You will most likely need to break down a box to get a large enough surface to trace onto. There are a couple of "seams" in my box, but it won't show when you're finished.
 
 
Then cut out your cardboard "back." Next lay it on your fabric again to see how much you will need to cover the cardboard.  Again, make sure you leave about 2 - 3 inches around the perimeter so that it will attach well.  Cut out your fabric.
 
You can use spray adhesive or a small amount of glue on the front of your cardboard where the fabric will go.  Place the cardboard in the middle and press to adhere.  Wrap the piece of fabric around the cardboard back and secure with masking tape. Set this "back" aside with your seat.
 

Then, attach your pillow to the top of your chair with the staple gun.  I did cut the pillow at the top so that I could arrange the stuffing as I liked.  I wanted to make sure there would be enough fluff around the top pieces of wood.  Again, really pull on this pillow so it is attached well.  You want to staple it into the wood of your chair. 
 


 
 
Now for the fun part! Measure from the back of your chair by the cane all the way around the pillow to the other side/back of your chair by the cane. Add another 2 inches to this measurement.  This will give you the width of your material to cover the top of your chair.  For the length, measure from the front under your pillow (where the seat will sit) to around the top and under the wood, again by the cane.  Add another 2 inches.  Then you have how much you will need to cover this top.  Cut out your fabric.
 
Lay your fabric on your chair around your pillow and line it up where it is even on both sides.  Starting at the top center, staple the fabric under the top part of the wood next to the cane.  Do not continue the rest of the top yet, this is just to stabilize your fabric as you do the next step.
 

Then pull and staple your sides next.  Leave about an inch or so at the bottom of both sides so that you can finish the bottom easily.  Really make sure you pull your fabric before you staple.  It will make a difference in the look of your chair!!
 
 Continue to attach the top of your fabric. You can create a fun design, or just gather and staple. I decided to create a nice pleat in mine. I think it looks elegant. It's kind of like wrapping a present.
 

Now staple the bottom of your fabric.  Before you staple this, fold the "hem" under about 1/2 of an inch so that you will not have any stray strings or unraveling going on.  Again, pull and staple well.
Here is what it should look like now!!
 
 
Now take the "back" of your chair (remember your upholstered cardboard) and glue it to the cane part of your chair.  Make sure the edges are secure as well so that it doesn't separate from your chair.


Next take your seat and reattach it to your chair with the screws you took out before.  Don't worry about making holes in your fabric, because the screws will do that for you.  Make sure you tighten it well. 
 
 
Voila!! You are done!!
 




 
 
What do you think?!?!  Sit in it! Feel the softness of all your hard work!  Now how amazing is it that you just created a chair that easily would sell for a minimum of $80 brand new for no where near that?!  I got my fabric on sale at our local store and each chair cost me (with paint and all supplies) about $25 - $30 to make!!
 
I think it looks great at my dining room table!!  Leave a comment on where you will put yours!

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