Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Reproduction Coffee Sack Chair

I love reusing things and making them new.  I wish I'd actually been able to find an old coffee sack for this project.  From the hits you can get on Google when you type in 'coffee sack chair' you'd think these things are being given away at your closest DIY or thrift store.  Not so, my friends, not so.  What's a girl to do?  MAKE ONE, obviously.

And so I did. 

I was given a stack of old burlap sacks a few months ago.  I washed them, dried them, washed them, and dried them...and then hung them out on the line for ages.  They shed.  Worse than a collie.  Here's a tip for you: if you wash industrial grade burlap and then dry it in your clothes dryer, check your lint trap about every 5 seconds so your house doesn't catch on fire.  I'm not saying my house caught on fire, but it could have.  Seriously.

Here's what I started with:

It was an occasional chair (possible one of a set of dining room chairs that got lost) and it was in great shape.  There was even still plastic on it from the manufacturer.  Could I actually take this thing apart?  Was is sacrilegious?  If you think so, you should probably stop reading.  Obviously I took it apart.  With abandon. 

When I take things apart, I usually attack them with a combination of screwdriver, chisel, hammer, and brute strength.  Sometimes I also use pliers.   That's what I did here, too.  I started with the front - everything was in great shape, so I was able to reuse the original foam and keep the trim (welt or piping, if you will).  I even kept the old fabric on there!  Saved me time, and kept everything in line (ie: foam on the backboard).
I ironed out the burlap, cut out a piece generously larger than I would ever need and set about stapling and triming.  It's not rocket science, but, like anything, the more you do the better you get.  I'm pretty good at reupholstery these days.  A tip?  Throw a few staples in place on either the top or bottom of your piece.  Use your flat palm to smooth and stretch your fabric down to the opposite end of your seat (or whatever you are reupholstering), and staple in place.  Go back up to the top, throw down a few more staples, and repeat the process.  This gives a bit more of a 'balanced' stretch to the fabric.  Repeat this on the sides and you will avoid those awful 'over stretched' moments when the fabric has been pulled too tight - this is especially important when using fabric with stripes. 
About corners: there are lots of methods for corners.  I like mine.  I staple the top, bottom and sides most of the way, but leave a couple of inches unstapled around the corners.  I pull the corner piece over the seat corner (or whatever corner you are dealing with) and throw in one staple to keep it from moving.  Then I trim the fabric on corner, effectively cutting of a 'triangle' of material.  This gets rid of bulk.  Then I pull over and staple the two corners one at a time - I trim away the excess fabric of the first corner I staple and then the second corner usually lies nice and flat.

Update: Hey guess what?  Because this section is totally confusing, I made a separate tutorial about how to fold upholstery corners.  You can read all about that here.

I covered the seat and two back pieces in what felt like a few minutes.  It was probably more like half an hour.  Or maybe three.  There are no windows in the basement so who knows?
Because I didn't have a 'real' coffee sack and was using burlap to recreate the same look, I could paint on any kind of pattern I wanted.  Just my style.  I opted for a unifiying triple stripe on the front and back.  I measured a mid-point on the chair seat, sketched a line in pencil all the way up the seat and then eyeballed an about-an-inch stripe for the centre and marked with tape.   
I 'eyeball' a lot.  I'm sorry.  Not everyone can do this.  You can do the extra step of measuring an inch each side of the centre line to get an exact measurement, and then tape off. 

I used plain old latex paint in an off-white for the centre stripe.  I didn't use much paint, and applied with a daubber for stencils.  Also, since I'm too cheap to buy 'real' painter's tape (unless it will ruin a surface) I used regular old masking tape.  Easy.

Guess what? I eyeballed the other stripes. I'm such a baller. Just tape 'em off and paint 'em. 

I like making stencils out of Contact Paper (or Mac Tac).  I print off the image I want to use (in this case I made one up in Word, save it as a jpeg and blew it up using Block Posters), and I glue it to the contact paper.  Then I cut the design out with nail (or sewing) scissors.  I like them better than an exacto knife...much easier to handle and easy on curves.


Quick paint job...

I was able to reuse the contact paper stencil twice - for the seat and for the back.  I didn't want everything to be too matchy matchy so I staggered the stencil on the back.  Perfecto!
I did a quick paint job on the chair with homemade chalk paint.  Gave it a really gentle distressing, and then reassembled everything.  I reused the original piping as it coordinated with the large stripe on the burlap sack.   
Check out the makeover linked up below, plus lots of other great redos!

Update: In March 2013, I was featured on 'Better After' my favourite blog devoted to the best part of DIY - the makeovers!  Have a look and fall in love with Lindsey's website youself - click below...
  Furniture Feature Fridays


  1. This is so impressive!
    I was waiting to hear that you made the stencil with a silhouette like so many others do. I think the way you did it is perfect--especially for people like me who don't have that machine (or ever will).

    1. Thanks, Susan! I don't own a silhouette machine...maybe one day, when I'm rich. ;) I like the flexibility and freedom I have when I cut them out of contact paper. The contact paper is the best for stenciling! I have had very little bleed through which is especially important on fabric. I highly recommend trying it. Affordable, too!!

  2. Holy crap how impressive. I love this. I'm your newest follower.

    1. Thanks, Geri! I'm especially pleased with how this chair turned out! Glad you stopped by.

  3. That turned out beautifully! I'm feeling inspired.

  4. fabulous job Emily! love how you stenciled the burlap.


    1. Thanks, Gail! I didn't realise you'd 'featured' the chair on this week's Catch As Catch Can - my first time!! Oh la la! So cool!
      Thanks for stopping by and checking it out.

  5. Stopping over to pin this, it's wonderful and just the tutorial I needed for some intentions with my own chairs. Is the welting glued on?


    1. Thanks for pinning!
      I stapled the welting to the backs/seat of the chair first, and then if any of it was 'coming away' or not in line, I fixed it with my glue gun. But generally, no, this trim isn't glue-gunned, mostly because the design of this chair allowed me great access to staple it in first. I've glued other trim in the past.

  6. Emily,
    I just found you via My Repurposed Life. How gorgeous is this chair? I wonder, could you post more pics about your method for doing corners? I didn't quite understand, but am MOST impressed with your result.
    Jo Ann

    1. Thanks, Jo Ann! In fact, I was also impressed with the results - that doesn't always happen! Hahaha.

      Thank you for reminding me about the corners. I actually took a whole set of photos the other day to post a bit more about reupholstering corners. I'll get that up ASAP!

      Thanks for visiting!

  7. Beautiful job. I like the frame painted white. Could you give some more detail as to how you attached the piping? Is it just glued on?

    1. Hi Sara,

      Thanks for feedback! The piping on this chair was actually quite simple. The piping had a generous fabric allowance which I stapled to the chair. Before I attached each piece to the chair frame, from the front view of each piece (say, the seat, for this example), I would make sure the piping was laying evenly around the seat, then flip the seat over and staple the fabric allowance around the underside of the seat. When I placed the seat (and other pieces) back into the frame, the piping was pushed firmly against the cushions. I did add a touch of hot glue to a couple of places which didn't lay as cleanly as I'd like - but otherwise, it was all just staples and natural pressure! This can't always be done on other chairs because of the way the seat/backs etc. attach or lay in the frame. Other chairs I have done I have glued the trim to the chair after-the-fact. Just be careful not to use too much glue!

      Don't feel bad about using hot glue! I've seen PROFESSIONALS do this - and charge $400 for the most simple reupholstery jobs! If you're feeling adventurous and brave, try using a fabric glue like 'Fabri-Tac'. I avoid using it most of the time because I find it difficult to control - you might have better luck!

    2. Ah! Thanks. I just did a sort of similar looking chair and it turned out good - except for the piping. I did a terrible job. :( The piping is scaring me away from doing similar projects again.

      Beautiful job again!

    3. Don't be scared! You can do it!

  8. This is amazing! Thanks for the inspiration...