Thursday, July 12, 2007


As part of my continuing quest to finish redecorating the living room, I decided I had to do something about the huge black object which is my husband's office chair. It's probably the most offensive object in the room in terms of making it feel too black on one side because of the height of the back.

There's also an additional problem which my husband has had with this chair for quite awhile. The chair is made of black vinyl in a weak imitation of leather and his legs stick to the chair when he wears shorts. In order to kill two birds with one stone, I decided to try and cover it with something brighter.

In order to accomplish this, I investigated web sites about chair covers and found out all of the instructions and existing designs are for dining room chairs. None of them had anything to offer for someone trying to gussy up an office chair so I had to improvise and work out my own way.

When one combines the difficulty of winging a pattern for such a thing with my absolutely horrible sewing skills, it's a recipe for disaster so don't judge my pictures too harshly. In fact, as part of a disclaimer about my skills, I should reveal that I got a "C" in the home economics classes that required us to sew and all we had to make was a simple handbag design (an awful-looking one) and a simple skirt and I was a straight "A" student otherwise. In fact, I think the "C" was a pity grade. I can't even cut fabric straight. Everything always ends up with a ragged edge which is actually worse than most attempts to rip cloth.

I guess I was lucky that I didn't have a pattern to work with since I don't measure anything regardless. I just sort of drape fabric over things and start pinning then hack away the extra. I should also add that I don't know how to use a sewing machine which is okay because I don't own one. I have to sew everything by hand and my stitches are perfect so long as one is aiming for zig-zags and slanted lines.

The "pattern" for the back, as it were, is like a tunic or, more simply, a huge, long pillowcase with slits down the sides. I used a king-size sheet that my in-laws gave my husband when he visited in May. The sheet is one of several and is lovely but too big for our bed (the other ones are queen size) so I decided to re-purpose it. It also has the advantage of being large enough for the chair.

The bottom is a bit like an apron that lies flat on the seat and ties around the back. In fact, the hardest part was the tie because it is between 6 and 7 feet long and I had to sew all along the length of it.

I made the tie by cutting a strip off of the sheet length-wise then folding in the sides and then folding that in half. It was so long that I had to pin as I went (I don't have that many pins).

Unfortunately, I haven't figured out how to cover the arms yet. It's important that any cover I attach be removable for washing and I'm not sophisticated enough in my sewing skills to add things like zippers or buttons. I'm sure it'll also look better once I press it at the end of the process. For now, I'm just going to see how well it holds together with my husband's sitting on it. Given my poor sewing skills, I'm more than a little concerned that it'll start falling apart from normal wear and tear.

Despite all the work, dubious results and my stabbed fingers, I found the process of making this rather relaxing. Since marrying, I haven't made much with my hands and that's something I used to do a lot when I was younger. It makes me hope I can start doing some of these types of hobbies again on a regular basis as they really do help alleviate stress.


Helen said...

Could you use velcro to attach the armcovers? It would be easier than doing button holes, or putting in a zipper. It's a bit difficult to sew it by hand, but can be done...and can be cut to the size that you need.

Shari said...

That's certainly on my list of possibilities but I'm a bit dubious of my ability to sew it on with my level of incompetence. I guess I could buy a thimble and give it a go.

The main problem I have is that any covering should cover both the arm and the brace leading up to it which would mean one long tube over both or two pieces and, with my lack of precision, I'm not sure I could get it anywhere close to correct.

At the moment, a modified version of the back piece is floating around in my had(sort of a pillowcase with slits that drapes over the outside and is tucked into the inside) but I haven't really solidified if that'll work.

Thanks for the suggestion!

CMUwriter said...

For some reason I have always been good at sewing stuff. In college I was the resident seamstressguy and my roommates, including female ones, would bring me stuff to sew.

Shari said...

I wish I could get you over here to help me out!

Anonymous said...

Hot glue!!! While I once might have scoffed at the idea, Martha Stewart uses it a lot and it seems to do the trick for lots of things like this.

I've used both hot melt and low melt guns and haven't damaged anything yet -- that what I like the most about it.

I've done some upholstery and this is what I'd do:

Get some light batting to pad underneath the arm section--cut to right size.

Take the fabric you want to use on the arms and iron in the edges about 1/4" so that they're clean.

Use the glue gun to tack one side of the fabric to the long side length of the arm.

Once that cools and is securely in place, lay down your batting along the arm then starting in the middle of the fabric stretch it over the arm and tack it underneath with a small blob of glue (caution -- if you're working with hot glue you might want to use a popsicle stick or chopstick to press it into place so you don't burn yourself).

Once it cools in place, continue stretching up the length of the arm.

if you're worried about the glue not sticking, you could then put a couple of hand placed stitches in a few places just to secure.

The good part with this solution is that when you're tired of the cover and ready to get rid of it, all the glue is on the underside of the arms. There shouldn't be any damage, but if the glue leaves a mark, it'll be hidden :) Good luck, let us know what you end up doing-- best steph.